South Cumberland Plateau AmeriCorps VISTA Project
About Our AmeriCorps VISTA Partnership
VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America, and is a branch of AmeriCorps, a federal program that is often referred to as the "domestic Peace Corps." AmeriCorps VISTA programs fight poverty across America by placing VISTA members in service to nonprofit organizations to help build capacity and sustainability.
The South Cumberland Plateau AmeriCorps VISTA Project began in 2014 and is a unique collaboration between South Cumberland Community Fund and the University of the South. SCP VISTAs serve each year at as many as 20 nonprofit sites in Franklin, Grundy, and Marion counties.
Our VISTA Team
Director, South Cumberland Plateau AmeriCorps VISTA Project
Vicki was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended college at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in music. After spending much of her career as an international marketer in Munich, Germany, Vicki returned to the United States in 2019 and settled with her family in Sewanee. Having worked for multinational corporations as well as operating her own marketing business, Vicki brings broad marketing, organizational, and sales enablement experience to her role as VISTA coordinator for SCP AmeriCorps VISTA Project, and welcomes the opportunity to put her professional skills to use in her adopted community. She is fluent in German and is additionally a trained mediator with experience resolving conflict in professional settings. In her free time, Vicki enjoys playing the cello, running, reading, spending time with her family, and hiking on the Plateau.
Opioid & Substance Abuse Recovery VISTA
Sarah graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in August 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and VolsTeach-Math education. Sarah went on to receive her master’s degree in education in May 2019. Between her graduate and undergraduate studies, Sarah worked overseas in China and England as an educator, community outreach liaison, and educator ambassador. Before joining AmeriCorps VISTA, Sarah worked as an educator and virtual banker in Knoxville, TN. In her free time, Sarah enjoys traveling, arts and crafts, and reading.
Goal of Project: Sarah serves as the Opioid and Substance Misuse Recovery VISTA for Grundy Recovery Alliance Community Endeavor (GRACE), building the capacity of the organization to provide effective programming for adults in recovery. Sarah develops programming in the areas of outreach, education, training, referrals, medical services, counseling, coaching, and opioid/drug interventions.
Sustainable Economic Development VISTA
Dominic Gialdini, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor of science in recreation with an emphasis in sustainable tourism management and a minor in interdisciplinary studies, through the Weber Honors College. In August 2020, he returned to the U.S. after a two-year stint in Europe, where he lived in Denmark, Slovenia, and Spain as part of the Erasmus Mundus European master in tourism management program. While in Europe, Dominic served as an intern for the Alliance of Innovators and Researchers in Tourism and Hospitality (AIRTH), and upon his return stateside completed an internship with Solimar International Inc., an international tourism development consultancy firm. Dominic enjoys traveling, learning about community-based sustainable tourism (especially in the context of trekking and pilgrimage routes), and watching classic films.
Project Goal: As the Sustainable Economic Development VISTA, Dominic builds the capacity of the Grundy County Mayor’s Office to develop a thriving business community and create economic opportunity for low-income residents.
Hunger Relief VISTA
Sarah was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia. In May 2020 she graduated from Christopher Newport University with a bachelor of science in environmental biology and minors in leadership and environmental studies. Sarah worked for the residence life, sustainability, and community engagement offices on-campus. She volunteered with community partners in the area, including Habitat for Humanity and The Mariners’ Museum and Park. Sarah’s experience has influenced her passion to promote sustainability for the environment and local communities. In Sarah’s first year serving with the AmeriCorps VISTA program, she looks forward to interacting with the community and contributing to food distribution systems across the South Cumberland Plateau. Sarah’s pastimes include baking, hiking, and painting.
Project Goal: As the Hunger Relief VISTA serving at the University of the South, Sarah builds the capacity of food distributions systems across the Plateau. Additionally, she is a major contributor to the planning and realization of the 2021 South Cumberland Summer Meal Program, which serves free meals to Plateau children throughout the summer months.
Sequatchie Valley Head Start | Family Resiliency Education and Awareness VISTA
Jennifer Moeltner graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a minor in disability studies. Before joining VISTA, she worked in an after-school program for high-risk elementary students where she created and implemented a STEM program in addition to tutoring. During her service, she became aware of the emotional and mental impact poverty has on students and their caregivers. As a VISTA, Jen hopes to create opportunities that aid in successful futures for kids and allows their families to break the cycle of poverty. In the future, she hopes to use the skills and experience she gains from her time as a VISTA to help her create a successful anthropology field school for people with special needs and that promotes their inclusion in the study of anthropology.
Project Goal: Jen will build the capacity of Sequatchie Valley Head Start to support parents and early childhood professionals in creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children living in poverty in the South Cumberland region. To ensure that these children receive the educational, social, and emotional support they need to help their families break the cycle of poverty, Jen will develop a comprehensive two-generation education model incorporating policies, programs, and practices that utilize brain-based research to prevent and mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences.
Arts Inside | Incarceration and Post-Release Programs Manager VISTA
Morgan is a photographer from Jackson County, Kentucky. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in photojournalism and with a minor in history. During her undergraduate years, she worked as an editor for her university’s magazine and completed internships with several newspapers, including the Tulsa World and the Naples Daily News. She has photographed for The New York Times, The Guardian, National Geographic and other publications. She most recently completed an internship with The Marshall Project. Her interest in collaborative art and working with incarcerated populations led her to a VISTA position with Arts Inside.
Project Goal: Morgan will build the capacity of Arts Inside in Grundy County, Tennessee by working with organizational members, including ex-incarcerated individuals and their families who are active members of the organization itself, to strengthen existing programs and develop other initiatives. As a result of Morgan’s service, ex-incarcerated individuals and their families will have enhanced access to resources, services, and support in a variety of areas, such as legal defense, employment, and other needs, thus ensuring a greater prospect for reducing poverty and recidivism.
Grundy Safe Communities Coalition | Youth Coalition Development VISTA
Born and raised in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, Lynn attended Austin Community College and received her Associate of Arts in generals. She has volunteered in various capacities for most of her adult life, including Women of Today and her local Servicemen's Club. In her spare time, you will find her crocheting or drawing, and if she's not to be found, check the local hiking trails. Prior to becoming a VISTA, Lynn worked as an accountant for a property management company, while taking accounting classes at her local community college. Throughout her career, she has been in some form of customer service and wishes to continue and improve upon her path of giving back to the community.
Project goal: As a VISTA, Lynn will strive to help her new local community in Grundy County, Tennessee create a youth coalition for drug prevention. She will work with schools, churches, and other local groups to build their capacity in a sustainable program to help youth understand the health dangers and long-term effects of drug use.
ALONDRA RAMIREZ MARTINEZ
Manchester City Schools | Parent Information Center VISTA
Alondra graduated from the University of the South in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in German studies and a minor in international and global studies. As a student, she served as a Canale Intern with Sewanee’s Office of Civic Engagement, coordinating and leading after-school English as a Second Language (ESL) programs at Westwood Elementary School in Manchester, Tennessee. One program taught children while the other taught non-English speaking adults. As a VISTA, Alondra will help create a Parent Information Center where she will be providing a safe space to hold free ESL classes on a daily basis to continue helping the migrant community in Manchester in hopes of creating a support system that empowers ESL families to reach their full potential while in the United States.
Project Goal: Alondra will build the capacity of Manchester City Schools by creating a Parent Information Center for families whose second (or third language) is English. A primary goal for the Center will be the development of an adult language learning program for parents whose second language is English. As a result of Alondra’s service, the language and literacy skills of non-English-speaking parents and family members will be strengthened, which will in turn improve the academic performance of their children.
Growing Roots | Community Garden Network VISTA
Eleni Kapousidis grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina and attended the University of South Carolina. In August 2019, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in public health and a minor in biology. During her time at the University of South Carolina, Eleni became aware of the need for access to healthy food and education on living a healthier life for those living in poverty. As a VISTA, Eleni looks forward to contributing to the development of sustainable programs that will impact the health and lifestyle choices of the low-income residents of the Plateau. In her free time, Eleni enjoys horseback riding, drinking iced coffee, hiking and traveling.
Project Goal: As the Community Garden Network VISTA, Eleni will build the capacity of Growing roots as it serves low-income residents of the South Cumberland Plateau. In this role, Eleni will develop processes for volunteer recruitment and organizational communications, develop curriculum for workshops, classes, and after school programming, and create systems for sustainability and of program evaluation. As a result of Eleni’s VISTA service, those living in poverty on the Plateau will have increased access to healthy food and learn practices for well-being and healthy lifestyle choices, helping to break the cycle of poverty.
Mountain T.O.P. | Community Service Provider Network VISTA
Elliott is from central Indiana and graduated from Purdue University in August 2020 with a bachelor of science degree in public health. While at Purdue, Elliott was involved with the university recreation and wellness center, Food Finders Food Bank, and his housing cooperative. Throughout middle school and high school, Elliot has either volunteered or worked summers at Mountain T.O.P. In his spare time, he enjoys eating ice cream, foraging, thrifting, and watching Jeopardy.
Project Goal: Elliott serves at Mountain T.O.P. as the Community Service Provider Network VISTA. In this role Elliot targets the social determinants that contribute to overall health, further empowering the families that Mountain T.O.P. serves.