Meet Our VISTAs!

Ecolibrium3 places AmeriCorps VISTA members at local organizations to advance anti-poverty, community resiliency, sustainability, and equity initiatives. Meet our volunteers!

Meet the AmeriCorps VISTA members placed at Ecolibrium3

Reese Van Houten, VISTA Leader

Reese Van Houten is serving Ecolibrium3 as a VISTA Leader. Originally from the Great Lakes State, Reese grew up with a close relationship to her environment, inspiring her passion for sustainability. In 2020, she graduated from Oakland University with a B.A. in International Relations and a concentration in Urban Studies. Reese continued her education at Virginia Tech, attaining her Master’s in Natural Resources and Global Sustainability in 2021. Prior to AmeriCorps, Reese worked with the Center for Disease Control, researching the health outcomes of PFAS exposure through drinking water in Parchment, Michigan. During her time with the CDC, Reese was moved by the resilience of Parchment and found herself wanting to nurture the same sense of community through capacity building and human connection. In her free time, Reese enjoys practicing yoga and mediation, bird watching, and hanging out with her cat Bigfoot.

Claire Hardi, Eco3 Energy, Equity, and Economic Development VISTA

Claire Hardi is serving as an Energy, Equity, and Economic Development VISTA at Ecolibrium3. She obtained a Master of Public Administration degree from Northern Arizona University where she focused her research on policy preemption related to municipal housing, immigration, labor, and land use topics. Prior to her service with AmeriCorps in Duluth she obtained experience in the nonprofit and public sectors writing grants, preparing case studies, performing community outreach and data collection, and conducting various budgetary and geospatial analyses. While in Minnesota she is excited to learn more about the local water bodies and watersheds, visit the R. W. Lindholm Service Station in Cloquet, and view the northern lights for the first time. In her free time she enjoys hiking, going to museums, and spending time with her cat Gus.

Laec Lekander, Eco3 Digital Design VISTA

Head shot of Laec Lekander

Laec Lekander is currently serving as Ecolibrium3’s Digital Design VISTA. Being raised within the beautiful northern Minnesota, Laec had developed a deep sense of pride for his community and a desire to see his community grow and prosper. In 2021, he graduated from Lake Superior College with an Associates of Arts, and seeks to continue his education further to benefit his community. Prior to Americorps, Laec worked as a special education paraprofessional for both Northern Lights Academy in Cloquet and for Benton Stearns Education District in St Cloud. Laec seeks to make the most of his service year, aiming to learn and develop all he can to help the Duluth community. On his free time Laec likes to juggle several projects including (but not limited to) game development, cooking, art and learning new skills.

Meet the other amazing VISTA members we have placed in the community

Alex Mendoza, DSACF Community Disaster Resilience VISTA

Head shot of Alejandro Mendoza

Alejandro Mendoza, or Alex, is serving as the Community Disaster Resilience VISTA at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. He graduated from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2016 and recently a Master’s in Public Administration with a Concentration in Homeland Security in Waterbury, Connecticut. Alejandro enjoys exercising and teaching fitness classes. He also worked at Resaca de La Palma State Park, where he worked in landscaping, invasive plant removal, butterfly garden maintenance, and provided tours.

Andrew Pratt, Wilderness Health VISTA

close-up head shot of Andrew Pratt

Andrew, also known as Mauro, is an AmeriCorps Ecolibrium3 VISTA serving at Wilderness Health. He works with the team to support population health and health equity initiatives across nine different network hospitals and clinics in the Northland region of Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. Pratt was raised on a sheep farm in Ohio and speaks Spanish and English. He has a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in Bilingual Education Research and Teaching English to speakers of Other Languages. Over the years, he has worked in various countries and capacities in language education. In his spare time, he enjoys travelling, swimming, hiking and cooking. 

Brandon Thomas, Fond du Lac Band Business Systems VISTA

Head shot of Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas is serving as a Business Systems VISTA at the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He is a recent graduate from The Ohio State University. Brandon joined the team through the AmeriCorps VISTA program to develop a tech skillset within the healthcare space to help organizations improve their workflow and better serve their customers and clients. Outside of work, he enjoys grocery shopping, cooking, exercising, reading comics, playing games, and listening to music.

Ella Stewart, City of Duluth Energy and Sustainability VISTA

Head shot of Ella Stewart

Ella Stewart is serving as the Energy and Sustainability VISTA at the City of Duluth. She will be working to advance sustainability efforts throughout the City and community through research, data analysis, grant writing, and outreach. At the University of Minnesota Duluth, Ella graduated with degrees in Environment Sustainability & Geography, Political Science, and International Studies. She is hoping to further her skills before heading to graduate school abroad. In her free time, Ella enjoys kayaking, hiking, reading, and live music.

Isaac Mattes, Fond du Lac Band Food Sovereignty VISTA

Isaac Mates outside

Isaac Mattes is serving as a Food Sovereignty VISTA with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He is working to increase accessibility to fresh produce, culturally relevant foods and food sovereignty/independence. Recently he graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Multidisciplinary Agricultural Studies in the specialty areas of global resource systems, sustainability and geology. Isaac hopes to learn about sustainable agriculture and resource management. In his free time Isaac enjoys video games, reading sci fi and history books as well as getting to know the city of Duluth.

Jared Wilder, CHUM Shelter with Dignity Development VISTA

Jared Wilder is serving as the Shelter with Dignity Development VISTA at CHUM. He graduated from Georgia Southern University with a BA in Anthropology and the Arabic language. Jared loves learning about cultures and studying languages. He would like to serve his community in whatever capacity is needed. A major part of his studies was understanding violence and how it works against people, and his goal is to bring that understanding into account to alleviate it and its effects. In his free time he enjoys reading, writing, watching movies/documentaries, exercising, playing video games, and traveling. Jared can’t wait to explore the northern Minnesota area, apply his studies, learn from the people in Duluth, and serve the community with like-minded people.

Josh Sutherland, UWS Mental Health and Wellbeing VISTA

Photo of Josh Sutherland on bridge

Josh Sutherland is serving as the University of Wisconsin – Superior Mental Health and Wellbeing VISTA. Growing up in the Twin Ports area, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Superior (UWS) with a B.S. in Psychology, with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience, and hopes to pursue further education in Clinical Psychology. He works with UWS and the Miller Dwan Foundation to create innovative and holistic approaches to improving mental health in Northern Wisconsin. In his free time, Josh enjoys going for hikes, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and reading.

JōSif Nieto, Community Action Duluth VISTA

Head shot of Josif Nieto

JōSif Nieto is serving as a VISTA at Community Action Duluth. JōSif is from El Paso, Texas, and holds a Bachelor’s of Art degree from La Sierra University in California. JōSif has six years of experience helping non-profits with their graphic arts needs, and uses that experience to  accurately translate the values of an organization into an aesthetically pleasing and digestible visual representation of their core beliefs. JōSif has worked with the Nuñez Community Foundation, La Raza Roundtable, the San Jose/ Silicon Valley NAACP and many more. When he’s not at Community Action Duluth, JōSif is passionately pursing his arts and loves spending time exploring the city of Duluth with friends.

Kory Powell-Oliver, PRAIRIE VISTA

Michael Garvey, Carlton County Community Resilience VISTA

Head shot of Michael Garvey

Michael Garvey is serving Carlton County as a Community Resilience VISTA. As of May 2023, Michael graduated from St. Catherine University in St. Paul with a 4 year degree in English. Now that he has a chance to serve and give back to the community that he grew up in, Michael is excited to what differences he can make. He now serves Carlton County, and grew up in Barnum and later in life Moose Lake. Tackling issues of resiliency from a place where he gets to utilize the writing skills he learned during his time at college is very enjoyable to him. In his free time, Michael enjoys writing creatively, playing video games, and listening to music.

Miles Hansen, City of Duluth Transportation VISTA

Picture of Miles between trees

Miles Hansen is serving Ecolibrium3 as a Transportation VISTA at the City of Duluth. Originally from Washington D.C. Miles graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in history. At the city Miles helps work on studying and implementing polices that promote sustainable transportation and safe streets. He hopes to continue to learn about the filed of urban planning and local governance before eventually going further in his academic or private career. In his free time Miles enjoys urban walking, watching movies, and reading history books.

Simon Giese, Mentor North Community Partnerships Coordinator VISTA

Head shot of Simon Giese

Simon Giese is serving as the Community Partnerships Coordination VISTA at Mentor North. He recently graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and wanted to stay in the community. Simon is orginially from Eau Claire Wisconsin but has lived in Duluth for five years. Serving a nonprofit this year, Simon hopes to form connections with community partners and grow the capacity of Mentor North. In his free time, Simon enjoys biking, running, surfing, and fishing.

Sophie Stone, Fond du Lac Band Tribal Planning VISTA

Sophie smiling at camera

Sophie Stone is serving the Fond du Lac Tribal Nation as the Tribal Planning VISTA. She recently graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth, majoring in both Philosophy and Native American Indian Studies. Sophie is passionate about empowering Indigenous communities through cultural knowledge and long-lasting economic development, and helping others outside of those communities learn how to decolonize their thinking. In her free time, you can find Sophie reading, enjoying the outdoors, or learning languages.

Thomlin Swan, Zeitgeist Community Development Coordinator VISTA

Thomlin Swan is serving as the Community Development Coordinator at Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community in Duluth. Thomlin grew up on the shores of Mahicantuck “the river that flows two ways” (Hudson River) on Lenape land in New York City, and for the last few years has lived at Nahgahchiwanong “where the water stops” (Fond du Lac Reservation) on Ojibwe land in Cloquet, MN. Thomlin is an experimental theatre maker, documentary filmmakergraphic designer, parent, and somatic therapist in-training. Thomlin is interested in bringing a social justice lens and creative imagination to issues of community wellbeing and resilience in the north woods. Thomlin is thrilled to be joining the Zeitgeist Community Development team this year to help improve the Central Hillside neighborhood of Duluth, using the arts and creative, grassroots community practices to unleash collective imagining of what’s possible. 

Want to join a cohort of passionate individuals serving the community? Check out our open positions!