Meet Our VISTAs!
Ecolibrium3 places AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at 15 local organizations to advance anti-poverty, community resiliency, sustainability, and equity initiatives. Meet our 2020-21 volunteers!
Ecolibrium3 hosts ten AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers
Hayley Cormack, VISTA Team Leader
Hayley Cormack will be serving as one of two Ecolibrium3 VISTA Team leaders. After being evacuated from Tanzania where she was serving as a secondary education volunteer for almost two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hayley decided to continue national service by committing to a year of AmeriCorps service. Originally from Northeastern Ohio and a graduate of Marietta College with a major in environmental science, and minors in political science and leadership studies, Hayley has always been passionate about the intersection of environmental issues and community development. She hopes that she will be able to advance community solutions that push Duluth towards a more equitable and sustainable future. Hayley is excited to explore all Duluth has to offer and plans to use her free time to explore Northeastern Minnesota’s many trails and parks.
Caitlin Donnelly, LNPK Innovation Zone Developer
Caitlin Donnelly is serving as one of the Lincoln Park Innovation Zone Developers at Ecolibrium3. Originally from Syracuse, New York, Caitlin studied at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where she graduated in 2018 with a degree in architecture and a minor in theater. This is her first time living this far West, but she is excited for the change. She has been active in service and environmental conservation from a young age, volunteering at the Syracuse Rosamond Gifford Zoo in middle and high school and later as a Garden Educator with Grow Pittsburgh in college. Recently she has become interested in urban planning, especially at the intersection of design, sustainability, and poverty alleviation, and is looking forward to working with the Lincoln Park community to further develop these skills. In her free time she enjoys hiking, kayaking, drawing, and trying new foods, and is excited to explore all Minnesota has to offer!
Julius Venuti, LNPK Innovation Zone Developer
Julius is serving as one of the Lincoln Park Innovation Zone Developers at Ecolibrium3. He is originally from Manhattan, New York City and is a 2020 graduate of New York University, where he studied Metropolitan Studies and Environmental Studies. Growing up, Julius was always passionate about architecture and cities! As a child his all-time favorite video game was SimCity and now he believes that technology and green development are the future of metropolitan areas. In his down time, Julius is either working on unfinished music, working out, or reading up on what’s next for Smart Cities! He is excited to employ what he’s learned from his studies and experience with Ecolibrium3 as well as learn a ton from the local community and greater Duluth.
Joe Bott, Community Program Developer
Joe Bott is serving as the Community Energy Organizer VISTA at Ecolibrium3, working to address the energy needs of low income households within the Lincoln Park community. Joe considers Des Moines, Iowa, home, but has lived all over the country. Most recently Joe returned from Iceland where he was studying renewable energy, and looks forward to putting his knowledge to work within the community. He enjoys traveling when ever he gets the chance, whether that is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or riding mopeds through the jungles of Indonesia.
Christina Tangora-Schlachter, Resilient Housing Specialist VISTA
Christina Tangora-Schlachter works as Ecolibrium3’s Resilience Specialist. She has a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems and an Environmental Science master’s degree from Oregon State University. After a 20-year career as a process improvement and change management leader, Christina turned her focus to climate adaptation through environmental, social, and governance (ESG) action.
She is a certified Master Black Belt, has published multiple books, and has contributed to local and state climate action and adaptation approaches, green infrastructure projects, and net-zero strategies across the United States. Christina enjoys swimming, skiing, and hiking (with her dog), but her favorite pastime is traveling with her family.
Kelsey Kresge, Community Impact Builder VISTA
Kelsey is serving her second year in the AmeriCorps program as the Community Impact Builder VISTA for Ecolibrium3. In her first year, she redesigned Eco3’s website, assisted in the development of the Outside the Box program, and worked on some visuals for Eco3’s brand. Kelsey studied rhetoric and design at Hofstra University, where she found a love for visual communication. Originally from New Hampshire, she never expected to move to the midwest, but loves Duluth and its community. She knows all the karaoke spots in the city, loves taking walks around different neighborhoods, and is excited to spend another year here working with passionate people.
Melissa Hoang, Community Impact Builder VISTA
Melissa is serving as a Community Impact Builder at Ecolibrium3. She will focus on increasing the organizational capacity of Ecolibrium3 by strategically
building key systems including communications, data management, evaluation, and nonprofit funding. From Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Melissa is currently studying computer programming. When not planning her next backpacking excursion, she enjoys cooking for friends, roller skating on any smooth surface, and trying her best to win at strategy board games.
Luke Viscusi, Main Street LNPK Innovation Zone Developer
Originally from Long Island, NY, Luke Viscusi is a meeting aficionado, spreadsheet strategist, and architectural designer with a passion to pursue community-centric design initiatives. Luke firmly believes that architecture isn’t about the thing you build – it’s about the community you empower around the thing you build. He strives to help community members identify opportunities and address issues holistically so they can live in a place they feel they belong. As Ecolibrium3’s Main Street LNPK Innovation Zone Developer VISTA, his work will focus on the health, safety, and economic vitality of Lincoln Park. Luke previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in New Cuyama, CA, where he helped create a community action plan with implementation strategies for seven different community development priorities.
Cassidy Laib, Pandemic Recovery Coordinator
Cassidy Laib is serving as a Pandemic Recovery Coordinator at Ecolibrium3. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cassidy moved to Duluth in 2015. Cassidy studied at Lake Superior College in Duluth where she learned about sustainable small business practices and local agriculture before transferring to the Sustainable Management business program at the University of Wisconsin. Cassidy frequently visited the north shore growing up and started conservation work at a young age by assisting associations along the Gunflint Trail in regulating environmentally harmful infrastructure. At Lake Superior College, Cassidy worked as a Living Lab assistant for the on-site organic farm and directed the on-campus produce market. After interning with the City of Duluth’s Sustainability Office, she has become interested in finding ways to build community resiliency through equitable and sustainable business practices and community support programs. Cassidy believes that community resiliency is built through investment in human capital, and is eager to assist in the pandemic recovery while learning skills to build capacity in economically fragile areas. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, foraging, creating ceramics, and relaxing on the shores of Lake Superior.
Meet the other amazing VISTA volunteers we have placed in the community
Shenell Edwards, St. Louis County Public Health Specialist VISTA
Shenell Edwards is serving at St. Louis County Public Health as the Public Health Specialist VISTA. She will be working on community centered policies and interventions to increase Public Health capacities for Bridging Health Duluth. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Shenell (Cee), attended St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies, where she graduated with her Master’s in Public Health with a focus on Health Policy and Administration. Shenell is passionate about expanding public health infrastructure in the Caribbean to address maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates in the Lesser Antilles. She hopes to join the Pan-Health American Organization and the Caribbean Public Health Agency. Shenell chose to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA with St. Louis County as a means to “pay it forward” to a community in need. In her free time, she enjoys trail running, hiking, cooking and dancing to African contemporary and classical music.
Bekah Kropp, Food Justice VISTA - Community Gardens and Local Foods
Bekah Kropp is a recent graduate from Northland College in Ashland, WI with a degree in Sustainable Community Development. Throughout her college career she has developed a passion for addressing food insecurity and food access issues in communities dealing with food hardship. She has been working on various different farms for a few years now that focus on sustainability, community engagement, and organic growing practices. She loves growing food for her community, connecting over the pure enjoyment of eating and growing food together, and seeking out ways to make local food systems healthy, viable, and sustainable. She is excited to be onboarded as the Food Justice VISTA with Ecolibrium3 and the Duluth Community Garden
Leah Karmaker, Northeast RSDP Low Income Housing VISTA
Leah Karmaker is currently serving as the Low Income Housing VISTA with the Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership at UMD. She works as a community representative and a planner/coordinator/designer for two prototypes of sustainable low income housing to be built by the summer of 2021. Leah was trained as an architect and brings a passion for sustainable construction and spatial justice to this project. She is thrilled to be creating access to just housing and to be living in the Midwest for the first time. Leah also enjoys rollerblading, illustration, and listening to and playing music.
Anna Clough, Public Health Opioid VISTA
Anna Clough is serving at St. Louis County Public Health as the Opioid Vista. Anna will work to support harm reduction and prevention methods throughout St. Louis County, specifically serving in the Virgina, MN office. Originally from the Milwaukee area, Anna attended the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, with degrees in Global Studies, Spanish Studies, and a minor in Public Health. Anna eventually plans to pursue a Master’s of Public Health, as she is very passionate about expanding public health infrastructure in the US. She graduated in the spring of 2020 and is looking forward to getting to know the Duluth area. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, camping, reading, and spending time with friends.
Lily Strehlow, Energy and Sustainability VISTA
Lily Strehlow will be serving as the Sustainability and Energy VISTA with the City of Duluth Office of Sustainability. Lily cultivated a passion for sustainability and subsequent environmental work during the time she spent sailing with the SSV Denis Sullivan (Milwaukee, WI). First as a volunteer and then as a crew member she spent her first two summers after high school aboard the Sullivan, educating students and acting as the ship’s caretaker. Her interests led her to pursue a double major in economics, and a second degree she designed herself called environmental policy and water resources. Since Graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in spring of 2020 she has joined Americorps as a VISTA volunteer with Ecolibrium3. As a VISTA member with the City of Duluth she hopes to continue working on improving people to people relationships and our relationship as a species with the natural world around us.
Conor Henneberry, Food Sovereignty VISTA
Conor Henneberry is beginning his second term as an AmeriCorps Food Sovereignty VISTA for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Over the course of his first year, Conor assisted in the expansion of Fond du Lac’s food sovereignty initiative and helped expand the capacity of the Band’s Gitigaaning Farm through his management of the farm’s demonstration garden. Passionate about tribal sovereignty, food justice, and environmental sustainability, Conor plans to continue supporting the Band’s food sovereignty efforts into 2021 through a multitude of new and exciting projects.
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Conor moved to the Arrowhead Region after graduating with a degree in political science from the University of Iowa in 2019. In his free time, Conor enjoys climbing, backpacking, and helping critters cross the road.
Madison Nareski, Outreach and Policy Coordinator VISTA
Madison Nareski is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative. Madison is from Hagerstown, Maryland, and graduated from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania with a degree in International Politics and minors in Economics and Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys reading, swimming, hiking, and cooking. It is her first time in Minnesota, and she is excited to work in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and explore Duluth.
Aly Brewer, CAD Environmental and Social Justice VISTA
Aly Brewer is an Ecological Justice VISTA with Community Action Duluth. She recently graduated from Valparaiso University where she studied French, International Economics, and Global Service. During her time at Valparaiso University she also studied abroad in Namibia and South Africa where she developed a passion for environmental economics and justice. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, binge watching Masterchef, and spending time with friends. She is looking forward to exploring Duluth as well as learning and growing throughout her VISTA service.
Nikki Weiss, Public Health Outreach VISTA
Nikki Weiss is serving as the Public Health Outreach VISTA at Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (Great Lakes Hub). Her work supports community-based participatory research activities and public health programming in authentic collaboration with tribal communities. Nikki completed her PhD in anthropology at Ohio State University. Her dissertation examined non-Native narratives and perceptions of Native peoples. She also completed her master’s at Ohio State, and as an undergraduate she attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she majored in biology and minored in anthropology and chemistry. She enjoys learning, writing poetry, and spotting the best dogs.
Joel Bransky, Northeast RSDP Agriculture and Food Systems VISTA
Joel Bransky will be the Agriculture and Food Systems VISTA working with the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. He was born in Duluth and spent his childhood swimming in the big lake. After graduating college in 2014, Joel worked and traveled around the U.S, and recently spent two years teaching English at a middle school in South Korea. Joel considers himself lucky to have had the opportunity to explore and to learn to communicate with people of different backgrounds. This year, he will use those lessons to help Minnesotans grow and enjoy local food.
Julia Forberg, Community Disaster Resiliency Coordinator VISTA
Julia Forberg is serving as the Community Disaster Resilience VISTA for the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Julia recently graduated from Indiana University with majors in International Studies and Spanish. Her experience as an undergraduate researcher at the UN Climate Change Conference along with her internship at an environmental NGO in Santiago, Chile, helped her develop a passion for environmental issues, disaster resilience, and sustainability. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, and hanging out with her cat.
Katie Pease, Mentor North Capacity Building & Recruitment VISTA
Katie Pease is serving as the Capacity Building and Recruitment VISTA at Mentor North. Katie originally came to Minnesota from Oregon for college and is a proud graduate of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. While at St. Kate’s, Katie fell in love with the Midwest and decided to call it home. After working in a variety of fields, including extensive time spent supporting persons living with physical and developmental disabilities, Katie’s passion for social justice led her to making the decision to serve with the AmeriCorps. Katie is excited to explore Duluth with her partner Frank and their four-legged children. In her spare time, Katie enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and making connections with new people.
Liz Axberg, Community Outreach Coordinator, Duluth Art Institute
Liz Axberg is currently serving as the Community Outreach Coordinator VISTA for the Duluth Art Institute. She graduated from St. Catherine University in 2020 with a double major in Economics and Public Policy and a minor in Statistics. This position excited Liz because of her passion for using art as a tool for community empowerment and uprooting false neighborhood narratives, setting the seeds for grassroots movements, and ultimately alleviating poverty. She is not only looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with the Duluth community but also to enjoy the vast options for camping, mountain biking, trail running, and nordic skiing.
Stevie Twining, Community Development Coordinator VISTA
Stevie Twining is serving as the Community Development Coordinator VISTA with Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community, helping integrate systems and communication across Zeitgeist and facilitating collaboration between departments. Stevie grew up on a small farm just outside of Duluth and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019 with a degree in Psychology. She is an avid photographer and runs a small photography business to help support her art. Stevie chose to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Zeitgeist because it combined her love of the arts with her interest in community building and social psychology.
Kristina Seals, LNPK Youth Education & Experience VISTA
Kristina Seals is serving as the LNPK Early Education and Youth Experience VISTA, working to build the capacity of Lincoln Park organizations including the Duluth Children’s Museum and Ecolibrium3 by expanding partnerships, mobilizing volunteers, and piloting new learning activities that serve families in need with regionally focused programming. She currently attends the University of Pittsburgh where she is working towards a Doctor of Education concentrating in Out-of-School Learning. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education from The George Washington University. She also has an MA in Organizational Leadership and a BS in Sociology. She grew up in North Idaho but has lived in 10 states and Washington DC. She has worked in a variety of informal education settings including history museums, after-school programs, and public television.
Olivia Anderson, Tribal Health Research and Outreach VISTA
Olivia Anderson is serving as the Tribal Health Research and Outreach VISTA with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Great Lakes Hub. Her role focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of rural opioid public health programming in authentic collaboration with tribal communities. She is from Waukesha, WI, and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Gender Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her undergraduate studies, Olivia participated in many research projects focused on public health, socioeconomic inequities, and gender-based violence. She is passionate about using her research skills to address systemic inequities that impact the physical and mental health of communities. Olivia also enjoys hiking, crocheting, printmaking, and reading in her free time.
Laura Rivas, Food Sovereignty VISTA
Laura Rivas is serving as a Food Sovereignty VISTA with the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. From Long Beach, California, she graduated from Long Beach State with a major in Environmental Geography, minors in Environmental Science and International Studies, and a Certificate in American Indian and Indigenous Studies before moving to Seoul, South Korea as an ESL teacher for two years. She is excited to use her education and passion for environmental stewardship to reclaim sustainable, local food systems and increase access to healthy, traditional foods. In her free time, Laura loves embroidering, baking, and watching any and all horror movies!