Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Current VISTAs

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!

Tradition Cohort

Cale Brown
Cale is a proud New Orleans native who loves the city deeply. He was raised in the New Orleans East section of New Orleans and continues to be a resident of this area today. Cale has a diverse background in marketing, non-profit work, web design, fashion design, and sports products. Cale graduated from the University of Dubuque in Iowa with a BA in Business Administration. He is currently a Masters of Science candidate in Sports Product Management at the University of Oregon. Currently, Cale works for the Leona Tate Foundation at the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. With Leona Tate Foundation Cale works closely with Ms. Leona Tate on digital marketing and logistics for Leona Tate Foundation and the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum. 

Cathy Rice
Cathy is the Development and Program Associate at Youth Run NOLA. She grew up in Stone Mountain, GA and received a degree in Sociology with a Concentration in Social Work from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. New Orleans has always felt like a second home to her before moving here in 2019. She loves working and playing with young people, yoga, dancing, and podcasts.

Chris Henderson-West
Christopher is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He studied Political
Communication: Leadership, Politics, and Social Advocacy at Emerson College, in Boston, Massachusetts. At Emerson, he engaged local communities as a student activist and college organizational leader. He was able to learn the power of art as a tool of community and self-empowerment through joining the House/Ballroom community, often associated with the art of voguing. During this time, he also launched his own branding and design agency, Henderson-West & Company. Soon after, he spent a year in Washington D.C., to intern for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and two U.S. House Representatives. Feeling too far removed from the communities that he aimed to advocate for, he moved to New Orleans to begin working at Community Works through the Americorps VISTA program.

Clay Eggleston
Clay graduated from the University of San Diego in 2017, where he studied Political Science and Philosophy. He completed two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA, including the role of Organization Effectiveness at HandsOn New Orleans, with a focus on community revitalization and disaster management. Fun fact – Clay is an avid surfer! As a VISTA Leader with Tulane Americorps VISTA, Clay will serve as a resource and mentor to approximately 15 VISTA Members.

Grace Byrne
Grace Byrne graduated from Tulane University in 2015 with degrees in dance, neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology. Grace joined Vista members in May 2020 as the community outreach coordinator for UpTurn Arts, a creative arts after school program for 4-14 year olds located in Central City. Zer goals are to promote the development of creative skill sets that give everyone a chance to be expressive and productive as well as silly and unexpected.  Grace’s primary philosophy is that everyone should be allowed the space and resources to approach their work with honest emotional engagement, developed skill sets and be able to have fun at the same time.  Remembering to embrace the clown within ourselves is hard work requiring confidence and bravery that is seldom encouraged. Ze strives to emphasize the importance of that confidence in current and future work in community development, behavioral health and performance art. 

Maggie Rose
Maggie is currently serving with Arc of Greater New Orleans.

Melina Diaz
For the past two years, Melina has lived among sheep and horses in rural Kyrgyzstan. She was serving there with Peace Corps as a secondary education teacher/trainer, where she conducted workshops, clubs, and camps for local administrators, educators, and students. She received her BA in Integrated Communication from the University of Houston and plans to continue her studies in Fall 2021 at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. During undergrad, she worked extensively with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, sang with the internationally acclaimed Moores School Concert Choral, and interned with Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. While born and raised in Houston, Texas, Melina is absolutely thrilled to move to a new metropolitan and experience all that New Orleans has to offer. She is currently serving with STEM Library Lab.

Sharon Danjuma
Born and raised on the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Sharon has lived most of her life in California. Prior to coming to New Orleans, she spent two years in Arkansas building a School/Museum Partnership between Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and seventeen schools throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Sharon received her BFA from California College of the Arts and a MPAS with a minor in Urban Planning from USC.  She has spent decades working in the non-profit sector, and is currently the AmeriCorps VISTA member at Crescent City Community Land Trust working with the organization to build capacity to provide permanently affordable spaces in neighborhoods that are close to work, school and opportunities. 

Talia Boninger
Talia Boninger graduated with honors from Tulane University this past May with majors in Anthropology and Philosophy of Religion and a minor in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Through her minor, she became deeply involved in the New Orleans non-profit community and experienced firsthand the collective passion and enthusiasm that both drives a team committed to one mission and ultimately mobilizes systems change. Currently, she serves as the Special Projects Coordinator at the YMCA of Greater New Orleans and collaborates with the CEO and Development Director to ensure the continued funding and support of various community projects.

Tayler Harrison
Tayler Harrison is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and serves the Friends of Lafitte Greenway as the Design and Engagement Coordinator. She is a New Orleans’ native, and is proud to serve her community through planning vibrant, healthy, and culturally rich spaces. Tayler is an artist and writer with a background in architecture. She received her Bachelor’s of Architecture from Louisiana State University in May of 2020. Tayler is passionate about artistic and cultural expression and she is rooted in the enrichment of Black communities through art and design. She is also an avid foodie and thrifter!

Homelessness Prevention Cohort

Anaïs Decquir
Anaïs is Currently the Homelessness Prevention VISTA Leader for the Tulane VISTA Program. Anaïs is originally from New Orleans and is a victim of Hurricane Katrina. Anaïs serves in AmeriCorps to give back to those who helped her family during and after Katrina. Anaïs has a B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies with a Minor in Peace & Social Justice. Anaïs is very passionate about LGBTQIA+ issues, Women’s Issues, and other marginalized communities issues. 

Bailey Igoe  

Bailey was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC. Growing up He was always involved with music as well as service programs in his church and began performing with a band during high school. He went on to study Religious Studies at Appalachian State University with a minor in Nonprofit Management. He continually performed music with various groups during college and tried to surround himself with it as much as he could. His senior year he completed his senior thesis as a case-study on a form of Buddhist deforestation protest in Southeast Asia and went on to study there for a semester and further this research with direct study. After graduating He decided to become an Americorps Vista at Tulane as He was attracted to New Orleans by the music and culture and living somewhere very different from where He had grown up

Chasity Jacquot
Chasity is currently serving as the Youth Systems Specialist VISTA at UNITY of Greater New Orleans.

Emma Islam
Emma is currently serving as the Wellness Coordinator at Covenant House New Orleans.

Haley Khoury
Haley Khoury is originally from a small town outside of Akron, Ohio. After
attending Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, she worked in clinical research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for about a year and a half before moving to Dallas, Texas. Haley continued working in a clinical research setting until her husband, Jacob, graduated from medical school and was matched to Tulane for his internal medicine residency. Haley will be working as the Development and Volunteer Coordinator at Covenant House New Orleans, an organization focused on providing a robust variety of services to adolescents experiencing homelessness. In her free time, Haley loves to read, try new food, and cycle! 

Javonta Graham
Javonta is currently serving at Janes Place.

Peter Talkington
Peter is serving as the Donations Coordinator VISTA for the Harry Thompson Center. Peter serves the HTC in multiple ways, including acting as our Donations Coordinator ensuring that in-kind donations are properly inventoried and donors are thanked for their efforts. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in History. Prior to his work with HTC, Peter was an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. He is excited to be working with the Harry Tompson Center, doing his part in alleviating poverty and offering a helping hand to those who could use one.

Scott Knier
Scott Knier, an artist and Co Founder of Le Chat Noir Theatrics will be serving for a year with the Tulane VISTA Program. He has been spending his last 8 years writing for Opera, Musical Theatre, and American Folk Music. His work has been seen in Vienna, London, and Brazil, as well as in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and his hometown: Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Sarah Vergara

Sarah is the Volunteer and Development Coordinator for First Grace Community Alliance-Project Ishmael & Hagar’s House. She has a degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago and experience working with non-profits through direct and indirect service. After living most of her life in Chicago, she is deeply passionate about social justice issues and reducing systemic racism that keeps people in poverty. She looks forward to learning from the beautiful city of New Orleans and creating awareness and access to free immigration legal services and housing equity.



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