While summer feels like an “off” season for some, our Serve Philadelphia VISTA Program is in full swing! We’re excited to have recently onboarded our new Serve Philadelphia VISTA Summer Associates and we want to introduce them to you.

Our VISTA Summer Associates work with City departments for 10 weeks on programs and initiatives related to fighting the injustices and causes of poverty. Meet our Summer Associates below!

Maddie Gee

Economic Research & Reporting VISTA, Department of Commerce: Madeleine received a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and Urban Studies with a minor in Criminal Justice from Temple University. She was raised in Philadelphia where she commuted to school in Center City since she was six years old. Her commutes sparked an early interest in urban life and how our environment affects our daily routines and future growth. Madeleine has always had a passion for the social sciences and discovered a passion for spatial data, cartography, and human geography while studying at Temple and interning with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Madeleine is excited to join the Strategic Initiatives Unit at the Department of Commerce and to work and collaborate with others to improve the local community with comprehensive research tools and guidance.

About the VISTA position: The Department of Commerce aims to serve as a primary resource for Philadelphia business data and research. The Economic Research & Reporting VISTA will provide additional capacity to investigate and understand the current needs of disadvantaged businesses and workers. The VISTA will be embedded in the Strategic Initiatives Unit, which supports data management, program evaluation, research, business advocacy, strategic direction, and policy.

Sam Hall

Program Data Analysis & Strategy VISTA, Department of Commerce: Sam graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Political Science from Temple University.  Originally from Massachusetts, Sam moved to Philadelphia to pursue his studies at Temple.  During his time in Philadelphia, he has undertaken a variety of roles within city and federal government. Sam is excited for his role within the City’s Department of Commerce.

About the VISTA position: The Department of Commerce aims to serve as a primary resource for Philadelphia business data and research. The Program Data Analysis & Strategy VISTA will help the Department review Phase 1 of the Commerce’s Digital Transformation Project and make recommendations for next steps to support capacity and efficiency of Commerce programs that serve Philadelphia’s workforce and disadvantaged businesses. The VISTA will collaborate with Commerce function units to identify data needs in order to improve the management of economic data and provide future recommendations.

Peter He

Workforce Development VISTA, Office of Homeless Services: Peter Yingzhe He was born in Hefei, China, and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, at 15, where he finished high school. He is now pursuing a BA in Political Science and enrolling in an accelerated Masters of Public Policy program at Temple University. Peter served as the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Temple Student Government from 2021 to 2022, where he conducted several programs to promote interaction between the Temple student body and North Philadelphia residents and helped international students demonstrate their voices. Peter developed his great interest in the public policy-making process when he was the Model United Nations’ club president in his high school. He is excited to serve as a Workforce Development VISTA to serve the homeless community in the city.

About the VISTA position: The Workforce Development VISTA will build the capacity of the Help for the Hurdles program by supporting projects and activities related to the operation and management of the program. The primary goal is to help those in shelter eliminate barriers to employment and housing resources.

Lana Mora-Mickens

AmeriCorps Emergency Fund and Support VISTA, Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service: Lana was born and raised in North Philadelphia. She is currently a student at Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2023, and is studying History and Education. Lana’s passion is in education and social justice in Philadelphia. She has spent the last three years in college working in local Philadelphia high schools and with nonprofits addressing the needs and desires of low-income and BIPOC Philadelphians. Lana is excited to continue her service in Philadelphia with the Mayor’s Office of Volunteer Services and Civic Engagement.

About the VISTA position: Service years are impactful experiences that prepare individuals to build successful careers in education, policy, health care, environmental stewardship, and more. However, service years aren’t always accessible to low-income individuals and people of color, yet evidence shows that they would benefit most from these opportunities as a career and educational pathway. By year 3, this VISTA project will build a data-driven, sustainable model for an emergency fund and support services strategy that will address the immediate emergency and financial needs of AmeriCorps members throughout their term of service. The outcome of this project is to sustain a pathway for individuals experiencing poverty to reach their career goals through service.

Cassie Navalta

Community Engagement & Neighborhood Data Collection VISTA, Department of Commerce: Cassie Navalta is a graduate of Temple University. She discovered her love of helping others through her experiences with the College of Public Health. She has previously worked as a community outreach intern in the Office of Congressman Dwight Evans and as a program facilitator with Girls, Inc. Cassie plans to pursue a Master’s of Public Health in the Fall and wants to help advance the health of all populations with equity.

About the VISTA position: The Department of Commerce aims to serve as a primary resource for Philadelphia business data and research. The Community Engagement & Neighborhood Data Collection VISTA will update the Commerce data set through in-person surveying of businesses on commercial corridors. The VISTA will analyze data results to recommend programs that would improve safety and generate wealth in communities.

Vaish Parameswaran

Landlord Engagement VISTA, Office of Homeless Services: Vaishnave Parameswaran is a sophomore Public Health student at Temple University. While she has just finished her first year at Temple, the more she studies public health, the more she enjoys it. Although she is only a VISTA Summer Associate, she hopes to serve and aid the Philly community the best she can. She hopes to gain new experiences and learn more about public health and serving the community through being a VISTA corps member.

About the VISTA position: The Landlord Engagement VISTA will collaborate with stakeholders to build a centralized landlord network through system coordination, research, project management, and marketing content creation.

Maia Peeles

RFC Community Initiatives VISTA, Regional Foundation Center, Free Library of Philadelphia: Maia Peele currently attends Ursinus College located in Collegeville, PA. She is a rising senior pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Sociology. As a Bonner Leader and Rotaract Club President, Maia is constantly engaged in service work. Maia is a Philadelphia native and is excited for the Vista Summer Associate Program. Maia looks forward to gaining new skills in partnership with the VISTA Program and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

About the VISTA position: Recognizing that the majority of Philadelphia nonprofits are not located in Center City, the Regional Foundation Center (RFC) would like to expand its reach to neighborhoods outside of Center City. There are nearly 9,000 nonprofits in Philadelphia, of which, 72% are outside of Center City zip codes. To better serve these nonprofits, the RFC aims to implement a pilot project, RFC in the Community. The goal of the project is to increase awareness of RFC’s services and resources through outreach, engagement, partnerships, and better data collection on the needs of nonprofits in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. The Free Library’s 54 neighborhood libraries are natural partners for bringing nonprofit services to community-based nonprofits.

Kyla Pritchett

Community Resource VISTA, Office of LGBT Affairs: Kyla Pritchett is a current sophomore at Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an Advertising major with an intended minor in Sociology. Kyla is a Philadelphia native who developed an interest in community and advocacy through her involvement with the Philadelphia Student Union in high school. She is eager to work with such a diverse community through the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and aid those in need of support.

About the VISTA position: Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts to lack the resources they need to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges this community already encounters – healthcare-related disparities, economic inequity, housing, and food access – have become more pronounced now due to the ongoing pandemic. Because of these disparities, the Office has created an online guide called “COVID-19: Resources for the LGBTQ+ Community”, which is updated regularly to include information specifically tailored for our city’s LGBTQ+ communities. Obtaining a VISTA team member to support the response to community members in need will increase our Office’s capacity to reach our city’s most vulnerable populations.

Kaitlyn Viola

Budget Community Engagement VISTA, Budget Office: Kaitlyn is a first-generation college graduate of Thomas Jefferson University East Falls. She graduated with a B.S. in Law & Society, and she will begin her Master’s Degree in Public Policy at American University in the Fall of 2022. Throughout her undergraduate career, she was involved in a multitude of projects, many of which she spearheaded, including creating an office to better address first-generation college students at her university, and fundraising to provide free LSAT preparatory classes for students at her university looking to pursue law school. Kaitlyn previously worked for the People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia as a Policy Analyst, where she completed research on education trends and statistics facing homeless youth in Philadelphia. Kaitlyn is beyond grateful and eager to begin as a Budget Community Engagement VISTA.

About the VISTA position: The Budget Community Engagement (BCE) VISTA will support the Budget Office by boosting capacity for, developing materials, and researching best practices for public participation in the City budget process to ensure City dollars are used more equitably for residents who have been historically marginalized. The BCE VISTA’s work within the Budget Office includes the mission of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion projects, and COVID-19 recovery efforts by directly engaging with residents to provide platforms to be heard, opportunities to collaborate, and power to decide. The BCE VISTA member will support the development of the Budget Office’s community engagement capacity by creating a best practices guidebook for the Budget Office.

Alyane Wollery

Food Security Initiatives VISTA, Office of Children and Families: Alyane Wollery is a current undergraduate student at Villanova University majoring in Political Science and double minoring in French and Global Health. Her passion for wanting to serve Philadelphia as a Food Security Initiatives VISTA is fueled by her witnessing the systemic barriers that families face when accessing affordable and quality food. Therefore, she desires to act as a catalyst for change on behalf of low-income and underserved communities because she believes in the importance of aiding vulnerable populations. Additionally, because of her interest in public health, Alyane recognizes the positive impact of healthy eating on one’s health. Because of this, she wants to help Philadelphians live healthier and happier lives.

About the VISTA position: The Office of Children and Families (OCF) developed a pandemic food security response that included over 100 food and meal sites serving students, adults, and older adults and a free food distribution map. COVID-19 continues to exacerbate food and financial inequities in historically disinvested communities. A VISTA will help integrate our food security initiatives into OCF department operations and create sustainable models that enhance OCF’s services and city-wide reach. They will complete site visits at the food and meal sites, research best practices in creating comprehensive, inclusive, and accessible community needs assessments, and will utilize the research to share recommendations and best practices to ensure responsive and culturally-relevant food security programs.