FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA Member Bios
Jennifer Vetter, FIRST VISTA Leader, Headquarters/Atlanta, GA
Jennifer Vetter comes to AmeriCorps with a wide variety of experience in the fields of higher education and nonprofits, especially as it relates to outreach, promotion and branding. Earning her undergraduate degree in graphic design from the University of Georgia opened up a world of opportunity. Vetter decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of New Hampshire, which led to an interest in AmeriCorps. Vetter is very happy to be a part of FIRST. Vetter is the Regional VISTA Leader for Headquarters.
Jason R. Barnes, FIRST VISTA Leader, Atlantic Region/Boston, MA
Jason Barnes graduated from Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA with a B.S. in Biblical Studies. Barnes has extensive experience working in non-profit organizations involving community outreach and working with youth. As the Tech Coordinator for Boston's B-SAFE program, Barnes was responsible for teaching computers and technology to 122 students weekly ranging from K2-8th grade. Barnes is the Regional VISTA Leader for the Atlantic region.
Casey Linden, FIRST VISTA Leader, Pacific Region/Kent, WA
Casey Linden is a graduate of Saint Anselm College, where he received a degree in Criminal Justice with a focus in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. During his studies, Linden served as a volunteer at Manchester NH Child and Family Services, where he received experience working on a personal level with homeless and at-risk teens. Linden served his initial VISTA term with FIRST at Headquarters in Manchester, NH, and has since relocated to Kent, WA to serve his second term. Linden is the Regional VISTA Leader for the Pacific Region.
Joel Croteau, FIRST VISTA Leader, Southern Region/Tampa, FL
Joel Croteau was a founding member of the FIRST robotics team, Team Duct Tape #2845. It was during this time with FIRST that Croteau realized his passion for helping students and furthering their education. While in FIRST , he served as his team's public relations and human resources director. Croteau hopes to reach out to other students the way that FIRST was able to reach out and help him. Croteau is Regional VISTA Leader for the Southern region.
Malcolm Strickland, FIRST VISTA Leader, Southwest Region & North Central Region/Kansas City, MO
Malcolm Strickland’s experience working with teams and helping them develop has molded him into the technical leader he is today. As a mentor for many different FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams, Strickland has demonstrated problem solving and time management skills to help teams become successful. Through time and volunteering, Strickland has helped run and create many different events throughout the Greater Kansas City region. Strickland is the Regional VISTA Leader for both the North Central and Southwest regions.
Katherine Urena, VISTA, Chandler, AZ
Katherine Urena received a B.A. in Economics and International Relations from Syracuse University. Urena has various experience in business and non-profit organizations which has provided her an opportunity to learn many skills such as outreach, grant research and data management. Urena strives to help and understand others, and enjoys learning about different cultures and traveling. Urena was raised in Bronx, NY and being from big family, has learned how instrumental the environment can be for a person’s development. Urena is excited to be a part of the FIRST team, because she understands exactly how powerful and life-changing, learning something new and exciting can be.
Susan Garduno, VISTA, Flagstaff, AZ
Susan Garduno brings many years of management and organizational experience to the FIRST VISTA Program, having worked in banking, daycare, restaurant management and parochial schools. She uses her skills to effectively advertise FIRST at all levels. Being a parent of an alumnus of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team 2486 “Coconuts,” she reminds us that even though her child graduated from FIRST, she did not. She has helped start teams at all levels of FIRST and enjoys supporting teams so that they are able to achieve their goals.
Lauren Jefferson, VISTA, Hartford, CT
Lauren Jefferson is a recent graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a major in Management Science. While at MIT, Jefferson worked with Engage the Power on a domestic violence awareness and information campaign designed to dispel myths about domestic violence and start a community conversation within the city of Cambridge, MA. Additionally, she organized two of the philanthropy events that her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, held in support of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and domestic violence awareness. As a Communications Leadership Development Program Intern for General Electric, Jefferson helped organize an annual fundraising event in support of the Petit Family Foundation.
Bryan Martin, VISTA, Washington, DC
Bryan Martin’s national experience in Visual & Performing Arts interweave a diverse set of sills spanning Design, PR & Marketing, Community Organization, and Event Coordination. Martin comes to FIRST following an ongoing commitment to support STEM Education. Through researching aesthetic motivations in STEM fields he intends to build broad motivating mathematics programs. Martin believes that mathematics relies on creative processes to make expressions of the abstract structural concepts we utilize in all aspects of technology.
China Genwright, VISTA, Dover, DE
China Genwright is a graduate of Delaware State University; where she received her undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics: Bioengineering. She has been deeply involved with the FIRST organization for the past two years as a robotics summer camp instructor, mentor, and coach of FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) teams. In her spare time, she also likes to volunteer at various FIRST tournaments and events for Jr. FIRST LEGO® League (Jr. FLL), FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). Genwright has high hopes for her year of service as an AmeriCorps FIRST VISTA. She plans to take on the challenge of site supervisor and establish a robotics team in every school district in the state of Delaware.
CJ Mustian, VISTA, Southern FL
Christopher "CJ" Mustian has extensive work experience in retail organizations, occupying leadership roles. Mustian is a FIRST Robotics alumnus having competed in FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC) at South Plantation High school. Mustian tutors children in math and technology while finishing his degree in Mechanical Engineering. After completing his degree, Mustian intends to work alongside NASA’s rover projects. Mustian has a passion to help others and wants to change the world for the better.
Jessie Poen, VISTA, Tampa, FL
Jessie Poen has an extensive history with FIRST. She participated in the program from 2008-2012, going from Team 1557’s secretary in 2008 to CEO of the team in 2012, and she also mentored new teams in the county. In 2012 she won the Dean’s List Award at the South Florida Regional. Now she volunteers at the Orlando Regional with the Roboshow, and also at the South Florida Regional and Championships in administrative positions. She is a chairman of the Florida FIRST Alumni Program.
Katrina Adams, VISTA, Chicago, IL
Katrina Adams hopes to continue with her passion of providing service to the less fortunate through positive community service. As the founder of STARR (Striving to Achieve Righteous Realities), Adams strives to make a positive contribution to society through education, positive entertainment, and productive community services. Being a native of Chicago, Adams feels confident that her contributions to FIRST will be not only be productive and supportive but compassionate and successful.
Mari Miller, VISTA, Chicago, IL
Mari Miller has extensive project management experience from qualitative and quantitative research projects, as well as from leading small production workgroups and not-for-profit service teams. She recently graduated from the University of Chicago with an M.A. in Social Sciences emphasizing Psychological Anthropology and Biopsychology in 2013 and earned a B.S. in Biology from UNC Charlotte in 2012. Miller is dedicated to facilitating discovery and inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM fields.
Ryan Tesnow, VISTA, New Orleans, LA
Ryan Tesnow has worked extensively with non-profit organizations for the past eight years in many different leadership capacities. As a volunteer coordinator for the YMCA in Port Orange, FL, Tesnow coordinated fundraising events and developed community partnerships to further the YMCA's mission. Tesnow also serves on the Junior Board of Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans, LA, where he specializes in volunteer management and coordinating fundraising events.
Ron Blassingame, VISTA, Boston, MA
Ron Blassingame is relocating from Cincinnati, Ohio to Boston for his first year of service as a VISTA. Growing up in a low-income community, similar to the one he is dedicating his services to as a VISTA, Blassingame has grown to love and respect AmeriCorps for their dedication to eradicating poverty in our country. He studied at Miami University where he was a Black World Studies major with a minor in Sociology. As a student he was involved in multiple student organizations and held an internship with the Office of Equity & Equal Opportunity where he developed a Social Networking Recruitment program to aid in the growth of minority student employees interested in campus jobs.
Mariah Noelle Villarreal, VISTA, Boston, MA
Mariah Noelle Villarreal is formally trained in public policy and entrepreneurship through the UNCFSP Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship and Global Entrepreneurship Institute Fellowship as well as the St. Mary's University Entrepreneur Scholars Program. Villarreal's work with FIRST is a continuation and strengthening of her trajectory of supporting underrepresented students in constructionist learning environments.
Milka Piszczek, VISTA, Rockville, MD
Milka Piszczek became a part of the FIRST community in 2011 when she joined FIRST Tech Challenge Team 5421 (formerly RM Robotics, now RM’d and Dangerous). Throughout high school she was active in STEM outreach, working with non-profits such as Kids Are Scientists Too and the Rockville Science Center where her responsibilities varied from recruiting volunteers, to writing science lessons, to refereeing FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) matches. She also spearheaded MoCo FIRST – an alliance of local robotics teams – which was able to successfully lobby the Montgomery County School Board to financially support teachers who supported science and engineering based extracurricular activities.
Dylan Fuehrer, VISTA, Kansas City, MO
Dylan Fuehrer has extensive experience with FIRST robotics. He has been a part of FRC for six years with responsibilities regarding the overall efficiency of all engineering products in the program. As the lead mechanical manager of a successful FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, he was responsible for shop safety and supervision of team members in and using machines and tools. Fuehrer has also served as a mentor/coach to several FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) teams in the Kansas City area.
Angela Mayes, VISTA, St. Louis, MO
Angela Mayes has been an AmeriCorps member four times. Mayes has been a tutor and mentor for the past five years in the St. Louis public school system and has tutored elementary, middle, and high school students in reading and math. Mayes was also responsible for initiating and maintaining the operation of, after school programs at Dunbar and Jefferson Elementary schools. In addition Mayes has worked with the University of Missouri-St. Louis as an AVID tutor at various high-schools and middle-schools throughout the St. Louis city area all while pursuing a Fine Arts Major at the same institution.
Malaika Mathenge, VISTA, Greensboro, NC
Malaika Mathenge’s experience begins in the youth at risk community, where she has a variety of volunteer work, helping to coordinate service projects for children ages 8-17. Alongside working to provide services that enhance at-risk youth development, she also took the role of coordinating programs with a holistic approach for geriatrics, mental illness and developmental disabilities populations.
Victoria Williams, VISTA, Greensboro, NC
Victoria Williams has extensive experience in research, leadership, and volunteering. Williams’ foundation in leadership was developed while being a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. As a member, she has performed countless hours of community/volunteer service and served in various leadership roles. In these roles, Williams was responsible for organizational recruitment, professional education, fundraising, and coordinating service projects and events.
Olivia Walsh, VISTA, Durham, NH
Olivia Walsh has been teaching swim lessons for over 5 years at various gyms and health clubs. As an instructor she was responsible for teaching safety and stroke development skills to children of all ages. Walsh has a background in the fine arts and education, and participated as a student teacher for schools and after school organizations that could not otherwise afford to offer arts programs. Her work both in the pool and in the classroom has helped bring important opportunities to children. She believes strongly in teaching safety, creativity and communication skills to children as a foundation to growth and learning.
Diego Lopez, VISTA, Manchester, NH
Diego has an extensive list of volunteer experience in the direct service segment of youth development, charity events for disease awareness, and community building. As Volunteer Coach for the Galt, Northern Special Olympics Team, he was responsible for ensuring the continued interest and progress of the athletes in each of the seasonal sports, as well as coordinating with athlete’s parents during Special Olympic events.
Alicia Brown, VISTA, New York City, NY
Alicia Brown has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Criminal Justice from the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Brown has extensive experience working with at risk youth in a variety of settings. Brown has demonstrated her commitment to serving and enhancing the lives of the youth, through therapeutic school settings, and outdoor leadership training.
Claytoya Tugwell, VISTA, New York City, NY
A recent graduate of Columbia University (M.A. Sociology; B.A. Political Science & African American Studies), Claytoya Tugwell is a youth development professional with over six years of experience working with underserved communities in advocacy, counseling, and mentorship roles. Born and raised in Jamaica Queens, Tugwell is a NY enthusiast and is proud to support FIRST NYC in expanding equal educational opportunities be they from low-income, first generation, LGBT, or communities of color.
Benjamin Baumgardner, VISTA, Upstate NY
Benjamin Baumgardner is an alumnus of FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Team 568 from Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. Baumgardner is graduating from Clarkson University with a B.S. in Engineering and Management. In college, he attended the FIRST Robotics Living Learning Community pursuing every opportunity to extend STEM robotic initiatives. He has collaborated with the Micro robotics Speed Team, and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) mentoring program. Baumgardner truly enjoys being a Clarkson robotics facilitator and getting students involved in FIRST.
Amanda Clapper, VISTA, Potsdam, NY
Amanda Clapper has headed up multiple programs in robotics while at Clarkson University. Clapper was the President of the FIRST Robotics Living Learning Community, Micro robotics Speed Team, and Team Leader for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) mentoring program. Clapper is currently an FRC Mentor and is looking forward to getting more students involved in FIRST programs.
Jordan Clark-Mand, VISTA, Rochester, NY
Jordan Clark-Mand has extensive work experience in college athletics in leadership roles. At Oregon State University, she directed 25 ticket office interns, oversaw the women’s basketball ticketing operations, and initiated new outreach efforts to bring more youth to home sporting events. At the University of Houston, she worked with underserved youth sport teams to bring them to home UH sporting events and give them exposure to collegiate athletes. This included organizing ticketing, transportation, game time logistics, and activities with athletes.
Blaise Holden, VISTA, Lake Oswego, OR
Blaise Holden is guided by educational activism. He seeks the cultivation of a better future through innovation and evaluation of available education systems to empower the leaders of tomorrow. Together, people can overcome the obstacles that have led to suffering and depravity. Opportunities that Holden has had the privilege to experience include: being a Fulbright Scholar researching educational video game design in Brussels, Belgium and a Fellow at the Berglund Center for Internet Studies at the Pacific University of Oregon. He has also served as the President of the Undergraduate Student Senate at Pacific University, and performed neuroscience research on the pathways involved with pain modulation at the Pacific University School of Pharmacy.
Alexander Yoon, VISTA, Lake Oswego, OR
Alex Yoon is a graduate of Oregon State university with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in General Science. In addition, he also minored in Anthropology and Chemistry. Yoon’s development in leadership has continued after his college years, where he served as the Regional Governor for his fraternity. Now, Yoon volunteers his service on the National Executive Board for Sigma Beta Rho as the National Vice president of Undergraduate Affairs. In this role, Yoon is responsible for managing, consulting, and supervising all undergraduate chapters across the country to ensure that their responsibilities and activities ate carried out in a timely and effective manner. Yoon will be joining FIRST and is very excited to share his love for science.
Amanda Gordon, VISTA, Philadelphia, PA
Amanda Gordon is a graduate from Temple University with a degree in Human Resource Management. During college, Gordon worked in the recruiting department of the Temple Athletic Department. Gordon also worked at the Salvation Army of Pennsylvania in the Human Resources department. Gordon is passionate about serving the community and is excited about working with FIRST as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
Jessica Lee, VISTA, Philadelphia, PA
Jessica Lee has a passion for volunteering and working with children. Having spent many years volunteering for military families at the Dover Air Force Base Youth Center, Lee has experience managing and helping with various events. Lee has previously served with AmeriCorps as a Youth Ambassador in 2012. As a Youth Ambassador, Lee was responsible for establishing a mentoring program at a charter school in Wilmington, DE, recruiting volunteers from the community and ensuring the success of the mentor-mentee relationships she created in the school.
Luke Farrell, VISTA, Providence, RI
Luke Farrell graduated from the University of New Hampshire. His career-path searches brought him to the FIRST VISTA program. Farrell has a strong desire to help and serve his country and to be in a position to better the lives and opportunities of those less fortunate than he. Farrell is proud and excited to be representing FIRST.
Dustin Maki, VISTA, Memphis, TN
Dustin Maki has a wide breadth of knowledge and aptitudes in mechanical, electronic, and computer systems. He is largely self-taught with concentrations in robotics and embedded systems. He is currently working toward B.S. degrees in Computer Engineering and Engineering Technology. As a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) he works with a team building competition robots and has served as robot chair and treasurer. Maki's work with FIRST began as mentor during quick builds, kickoffs, and summer camps at the University of Memphis.
Don Arntz, VISTA, Austin, TX
Don Arntz is proud to have been a member of diverse crews both nationally with AmeriCorps NCCC Western Region Class IV and locally in Austin, Texas with American YouthWorks Environmental Corps. He is a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Radio, Television and Film and has worked with undergraduate and graduate students studying South Asian language and culture at the University of Texas. As a technophile and former small business owner, Arntz hopes to help students learn and access technology in a way that was not afforded to him as a youth.
Justin Chapko, VISTA, San Antonio, TX
Justin Chapko’s experience in volunteering for a non-profit organization stems from being a student member of his high school FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 457. Chapko held the title of team captain for 2 years. Chapko also led the team into competitions and made presentations at events geared toward recruiting students and members to join FIRST Robotics.
Kimberly Holman, VISTA, San Antonio, TX
Kimberly Holman has a background in After-School enrichment and youth development. As a member of the CASE Kid's Day AmeriCorps program, in Houston, TX, she served as an after-school teacher for underserved youth in the Harris County area. She also serves as a leader in her church youth group. Holman has served two full-time terms in her previous AmeriCorps program. Her experience as an AmeriCorps member has greatly increased her passion and understanding of the need to be in service to others. As an after-school teacher, Holman was responsible for teaching STEM based curriculum, homework help, and tutoring.
Samantha Fleming, VISTA, Richmond, VA
Samantha Fleming graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with degrees in anthropology and international studies, and a minor in economics. Upon graduating, Fleming began teaching at a subsidized after-school program through a nonprofit called Forward Future Youth Services. She became the Director of Operations of this organization. In this role, Fleming was able to create after-school activity clubs, a mentoring program, and community outreach programs designed to educate the adult community.
Kelli Lucas, VISTA, Virginia Beach, VA
Kelli (Treff) Lucas is an alumnus and former mentor of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 1802 from Kansas City, KS. While in the Greater Kansas City area, Lucas worked as a key volunteer with all four of the FIRST Programs. While working with FRC Team 1802, Lucas focused on the business aspects of the team and influenced her to get her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Lucas is currently a distance learning student at Kansas State University pursuing a Master's in Youth Development. Lucas is excited to spend her 10th year with FIRST as a VISTA in Hampton Roads.
Navid Shafa, VISTA, Kent, WA
Navid Shafa has been involved with FIRST since 2007 and has worked with FIRST LEGO® League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams. Shafa is currently a Strategy and Design mentor for FRC 1983, Skunk Work Robotics. Shafa has a technical background in design and machining, and has helped produce software, products and accessories for Water-Jetting applications. Focusing on software/machine testing, Shafa has also worked on system monitoring hardware and software packages, which provide users with notifications on machine operations. Shafa designed and built his own Segway in high school. Shafa also enjoys volunteer work with food banks, the homeless and animal shelters.
Hilary Waite, VISTA, Kent, WA
Hilary Waite recently graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a double B.A. in European Studies and German Language. Prior to joining the Washington FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and FIRST team, Waite took upon various leadership roles at Model United Nations (MUN), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of diplomatic skills through UN committee simulations.
Ryan Headlee, VISTA, Fairmont, WV
Ryan Headlee is a graduate of Penn State and member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, a Reserve of the Air Force. After college, Headlee began serving at his local church as a leader in the Royal Ranger Program, a mentoring program for boys, similar to the Boy Scouts of America. Headlee gained leadership experience by planning lessons and activities, teaching, and distributing work between the leaders.
Michael Lyden, VISTA, Fairmont, WV
Michael Lyden enjoys working with and for youth, especially in educational settings. He has worked as a tutor, teacher, mentor, and youth director while in college at Marshall University. His strongest interests (and college majors) are in mathematics and special education. Lyden's volunteer interests not only involve youth development, but also housing construction and repair. He regularly goes on work teams in different regions of the US to aid in disaster relief; working with programs supported by the United Methodist Church.
Ryan Utzman, VISTA, Fairmont, WV
Ryan Utzman is an alumnus of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team 2614 from Morgantown, WV, and has served as a mentor there for 3 years. Utzman has also been involved with FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) as a Judge and Referee at local tournaments. Utzman is excited to continue reaching out to students through FIRST.