Fighting Poverty with Passion
Browse through VISTA biographies to learn more about our current members and our work in the New Orleans community. Also, remember to leave any comments, questions, or feedback you may have. We would love to hear from you and will be happy to share advice and insights!
Frankie Zito grew up in Arlington, Virginia where she developed a passion for learning, the environment, and cities and urban planning. In High School, she was very involved in her local and regional youth groups, which enhanced her commitment to community service. These interests pushed Frankie to attend Tulane University where she could study and immerse herself in the community in a new, exciting city. At Tulane, Frankie was involved in Greek Life, Relay for Life, and Tulane Hillel. Through all these organizations, she was able to continue giving back to the New Orleans community and beyond.
After spending a year as a member of the Tulane University VISTA program, where she served at Global Green, Frankie decided to switch roles and is now serving as the VISTA Leader. Frankie is excited for the opportunity to get to know each member personally and help them navigate through VISTA Service.
Chasity was raised in New Orleans, LA and is serving her second term with AmeriCorps, where she is currently working with Girl Scouts Louisiana East as their VISTA Outreach Coordinator. She has recently returned to her former college, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, as a non-traditional student, where she plans on obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Institutional community service has been a platform of hers since she was a little girl, where she would witness her grandmother selflessly assist individuals suffering with physical and mental impairments. It was through those experiences and assisting her grandmother while she helped others, that Chasity was taught compassion, humility, and to assist others as needed.
Chasity has recently signed up to volunteer for Second Harvest Food Bank and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Orleans, as she recently returned to NOLA after relocating out of the city for two years. Causes that she promotes and actively assist with include education and literacy, mental health, environmental conservation, and mentoring. A few of her passions and hobbies include horticulture, baking, reading crafting, photography, and taking diverse courses via MOOCs to acquire new skills and new exposures.
Kelli Kingston was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and was raised in New Orleans. After receiving her Associates Degree in Juvenile Justice, she continued at the University of South Alabama to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services with disciplines in Criminal Justice, Psychology, and Sociology in 2001. In 2011, Kelli received her Master’s of Social Work from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Kelli’s passion is advocating for abused and neglected children. She has held a volunteer position as a court-appointed Special Advocate for Hancock County Youth Court. She is currently a regular volunteer at NO/AIDS Taskforce for the New Orleans Syringe Access Program (NSAP).
This year, Kelli will be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for UNITY of Greater New Orleans. Under its umbrella, UNITY has 60 agencies that work to reduce, prevent, and end chronic homelessness in the New Orleans area. Kelli will work in building UNITY’s capacity to supervise volunteers, manage donations, and create partnerships with local organizations
Amaya Hampton serves as the Student Success Coordinator for Operation Spark. Through this position, Amaya assists prospective students with all aspects of enrollment, performs outreach to the community, handles all social media accounts, and helps participants with any needs they might have.
Prior to the start of her Tulane AmeriCorps service, Amaya served with AmeriCorps NCCC which is a 10-month program that sends young people around the country to do service projects. She did trail building, filed taxes, worked on several buildings, and assisted with the renovation of Habitat for Humanity ReStore. She was also a participant in the Future Public Health Leaders Program, a federally funded program that exposes college students and graduates underrepresented to the field of public health. Her placement was Detroit Community Health Clinic where she spearheaded the formation a youth program, created and facilitated health-related games for youth at a city event and made appointment calls.
She hails from Alexandria, Louisiana and holds a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Health Sciences from Louisiana State University. She has always had a passion for improving the health of underserved communities.
Talia Latch is an AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans. She recently graduated from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and International Development. While studying at Tulane University, Talia worked as a Service Learning Assistant at Tulane’s Center for Public Service. She also studied abroad in Thailand on a Development and Globalization program learning about environmental issues villages face in Northeastern Thailand. She is passionate about the natural environment and about helping people. Talia enjoys gardening, biking, reading, cooking, and also watching tv in her free time. She also likes to get out of the city and go hiking, camping, and just be outdoors with the trees and animals. Talia does not know what her career path will look like after her AmeriCorps VISTA year, but she knows she wants to continue with nonprofit work.
Nicole Nelson is unCommon Construction’s Program Associate where she cultivates a deeper relationship between donors, volunteers, and the organization. She moved all the way from SEATTLE for this opportunity, so you could say she is passionate about tool time for teens. Before that, you could find her somewhere in the Seattle-King County building affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity during her term as a construction crew leader. She likes handing volunteers band saws and saying “Go!”
When she’s not stewarding relationships you can find her volunteering for other organizations (chronic volunteer), biking, or playing with Charlie, her pet hedgehog.
Nicole recently relocated to New Orleans from Newport News, VA. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in May 2017 with a degree in Psychology and a certificate in Community Engagement. In college, she dedicated over 160 service hours to VCU ASPiRE, a two-year living-learning community that focuses on community engagement. She also worked as a research assistant for a study investigating metabolic syndrome in African American women. Nicole also co-founded “Sista Circle” a discussion group for college-aged women of color to discuss a variety of social issues.
Nicole will be doing her VISTA year with Friends of Lafitte Greenway as the Community Outreach and Development Associate.
When she is not working to build, program, and promote the Laffite Greenway as a great public space, Nicole enjoys spending time watching HGTV and rooting for her alma mater’s basketball team #gorams.
Heather Haylett is a graduate of the University of Idaho. She serves as the Communications and Membership Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA at Bike Easy. In this position, she fosters interaction between Bike Easy, it’s members, volunteers, ambassadors, and sponsors. Heather also works to increase membership through outreach and events. Aside from her day to day tasks, Heather enjoys providing assistance to Bike Easy in various aspects and troubleshooting arising problems. She hopes her work with Bike Easy helps to further the goal of safe streets for everyone.
After graduating with a degree in Philosophy, Heather spent four years in customer service honing her ability to identify and implement strategies that improve quality of service, productivity and profitability. In the past, Heather has organized and lead small teams to provide exceptional service while working under pressure. She believes that a well respected leader directs with empathy and optimism. Heather values harmony and seeks to hear every perspective and thus enjoys learning from others and takes a democratic approach when collaborating with peers. In her work, Heather strives to establish positive relationships.
Heather moved to New Orleans to depend on her bike as her primary mode of transportation and loves the view of the city from two wheels. She can be reached at Heather@BikeEasy.org
Brianna Cunningham graduated from Bucknell University, where she majored in Sociology and English-Literary Studies. From the city of Philadelphia, she moved to New Orleans to partake in the Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA program. In her first year, she worked as Program Assistant at StayLocal, New Orleans Independent Business Alliance. Currently, she is in her second term of VISTA and is now serving as Director of Communications at Network Volunteers, New Orleans one and only non-profit volunteer management organization. In her free time, Brianna likes to workout, increase her knowledge on personal finance, and go on adventures in the city. She is very excited to be in New Orleans for another year and looks forward to attending and volunteering at even more community events, building connections with more people, and exploring more in the city.
Aidan is originally from the city of Albany, NY (the most important city in the Empire State). He attained his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from SUNY New Paltz. This serene town is located approximately 20 miles from the Mid Hudson Buffet. As Aidan’s collegiate clock ticked towards its conclusion, he decided to act on his desire to leave his home state and apply to a position as a Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA. The rest they say, is history. Aidan followed his passion for educational equality and is now serving with the YMCA Educational Services, a free adult literacy program that serves residents of New Orleans. In his free time, Aidan likes to spend time outside wandering around NOLA’s beautiful parks, find cheap yet delicious places to eat, and ponder the complexities of human existence. He hopes his time in New Orleans will enrich his life and create a more robust understanding of how the world works. Aidan drives a white Honda Fit, and is usually playing classic New York boom bap out of this little car’s speakers. He hopes to own a dog one day and is excited for the remainder of his time in New Orleans.
Shoshana Gordon is an artist and graphic designer, with experience in the nonprofit sector, education, and grassroots organizing. As the 2016–2018 AmeriCorps VISTA member at Small Center, she assists with graphic design, communications, teaching, grant-writing, and project management. Shoshana holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Oberlin College, and is interested in how art and design can achieve human rights for all. Her studio practice includes drawing, animation, painting, printmaking, and writing. Shoshana was New Blankets’ 2016 Artist-in-Transit.
Antonio Alonzo is a community builder and social entrepreneur. He cofounded Dig Easy, a nonprofit compost pickup service and a food waste education project. Antonio chaired the Global Shapers New Orleans hub for the past 2016-2017 term, which is a World Economic Forum organization to engage youth in social impact locally and leadership convenings regionally and internationally. As a steering committee member of the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee, he works on policy efforts to improve equity, opportunity, and collaboration in our food system. For more than a year, Antonio has been organizing Freelance Friday, a once-a-month event for freelancers and entrepreneurs to get together to cowork and network. This year, he joined the Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans and has since awarded $20,000 to local organizations that are innovating the New Orleans workforce. In Antonio’s new role as Entrepreneurial Community Coordinator for the small business incubator Fund 17, he builds relationships and creates valuable experiences for stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Antonio’s background in entrepreneurship, community organizing, and philanthropy make this role the perfect outlet to apply his passions.
Haley Mack is a recent graduate of Tulane University where she studied Political Science, Sociology and minored in Spanish. Haley is currently serving as the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator with DiscoveryFEST Enrichment Program. This nonprofit aims to fill a child’s day with play, learning and discovery through low cost access to educational enrichment activities after school and during recess. Haley’s main responsibilities include recruiting and managing volunteers, publishing the monthly newsletter, and attending outreach events around the city. The second half of the school year, Haley will be compiling a city-wide resource guide that lists all of the enrichment activities available for children.
Haley is a transplant from the north side of Chicago, but New Orleans has felt like home to her since the day she arrived 4 years ago. It was in Chicago, while attending Catholic schools, Haley developed her profound sense of service. She had volunteered with organizations like StandUp4Kids and the Howard Area Daycare Center which shaped the type of the service she was interested in. She applied to Tulane because of their required service component and their commitment to bettering the New Orleans area. After a wonderful experience attending Tulane, Haley was not ready to break her connection with the university or the city that had welcomed her so easily. The Tulane Americorps VISTA Program has allowed Haley to continue pursuing her service goals while residing in one of her favorite cities.
In her free time, Haley enjoys trying new restaurants around the city and browsing stores online she can’t afford. She is notorious for filling her online shopping cart with no intention of ever buying the items. Haley also loves animals so when she’s not serving her community, she’s browsing the web for videos of puppies. Contact Haley for more information regarding her work at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Meg Nielsen graduated from THE Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts. She also studied at Bath University in England and Colombia College of Art and Design in Chicago. After working for a newspaper in Florida and as an Licensing and Art Acquisition Manger in Chicago, she decided that money isn’t everything and signed up with the Tulane VISTA AmeriCorps program. She moved to New Orleans from Chicago in August, just in time to experience the stifling (but manageable) humidity everyone warned her about. She is currently loving life in the crescent city and is working as a program coordinator for 504HealthNet.org, a non-profit connecting people in the greater New Orleans area to health care no matter their ability to pay.
Alex Lemon was born and raised in Sacramento, California, where she learned to thrive and work hard for things she was passionate about. She attended the University of California, Merced, the 10th and newest school in the UC system right in the heart of California’s Central Valley, where she honed her skill of thriving and applied her passion to learning about Public Health. After obtaining her B.A. in Public Health, she decided to apply for an AmeriCorps Vista position.
This year, Alex is working with the Louisiana Public Health Institute as an AmeriCorps VISTA as an Evaluation Fellow, where she is learning how to “Align Action for Health”. She is eager to learn all she can about poverty and inequity, and how we can be driving forces in creating a culture of health in communities.