2019-2020 VISTAs

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Teresa Hauer

Database Manager and Executive Assistant at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona (RMHCCNAZ)

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Teresa served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member for one year in the Neighborhood Services Department. She worked on the Phoenix Community Action Response Engagement Services (CARES) program, which functions as a way for residents to report blight created by homeless encampments. Additionally, the CARES program connects individuals experiencing homelessness to services through a case management system that communicates with Community Bridges. She worked directly in the case management system, took calls from residents and individuals experiencing homelessness, and created resources that organized all of the available services. Outside of her day-to-day tasks, Teresa also helped organize the Healthy Giving Council, which unites service providers and community members to strategize and pull resources together so that our neighbors experiencing homelessness are cared for. She bolstered their social media and strategic action plan, and helped run meetings, as well as creating a resource map that could be handed out to individuals experiencing homelessness. Her favorite aspect of her year was that she took every opportunity to go on ride-alongs and attend key community meetings. Teresa experienced a shift as a CBI navigator, observed the Police response to individuals experiencing homelessness, rode along with the Tempe HOPE team, and got involved in the Phoenix Community Alliance. She also attended the Arizona Drug Summit, the Meaningful Access Symposium, and events organized by the AZ Housing Coalition. Teresa saw a wide-lens perspective of homelessness in Phoenix during my year, which offered a wealth of understanding and ideas for how we can advocate for better services and municipal response to the issue. 

Currently, Teresa work as the Database Manager and Executive Assistant at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona (RMHCCNAZ). Her time in the Phx CARES database offered lots of training in an area she wasn't very familiar with, which she is able to now use in her current full-time job. She also works directly with the Board of Directors and community leaders while providing support to her team in many other ways, so that they can ultimately provide a "home away from home" for families who may not be able to afford lodging while their child is receiving medical attention. They've seen families avoid homelessness by being able to stay with us in some cases - but more than that, they ​see a community of care and compassion thrive every day. ​​​

Dakota Leonard

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Dakota served as a HandsOn AmeriCorps VISTA for one year with the City of Phoenix Housing Department, supporting the Edison-Eastlake Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. She managed Aetna's $100,000 Cultivating Healthy Communities grant that provided subsidized GR:D Bike memberships for Edison-Eastlake residents. Through this grant, she worked to create more bikeable and connected neighborhoods by expanding the subsidized membership eligibility area, planning strategic placements for new bike share stations, recruiting new members, distributing bike safety equipment, and planning community events including bike rides, bike safety workshops, and a children's bike rodeo. She also facilitated the creation of a community garden project at one of the City public housing sites, in partnership with the Maricopa County Department Public Health. Dakota learned a great deal about how local governments and community partners can collaborate to create more green and sustainable communities.


Tarnisha Tilson

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Tarnisha is an Arkansas Native with a passion to serve marginalized communities through advancing economic and education opportunities. In addition, she is a dedicated public servant with a Master's Degree in Public Administration, and a career goal of creating Second Chance Programs specifically for those previously incarcerated. She served in the Office of Mayor Kate Gallego, focusing on the My Brother's Keeper Initiative. MBK is aimed to help young people of color to reach their full potential by providing them with education and employment resources. However, since COVID-19, Tarnisha worked with Business Workforce Development (BWD) to help with workforce recovery for young adults. VISTA was a wonderful opportunity because she got to give back to the community and learn about the operations of government. Tarnisha's next endeavor includes continuing her work in community service.

​​​Brandi Hall

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Brandi ​is an Arizona native with degrees in Environmental Science and Law. She joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program through HandsOn Greater Phoenix last September, in order to work as the City of Phoenix Food System Coordinator in the Office of Environmental Programs. Over the course of her year of service, Brandi helped organize and run the 2019 Phoenix Food Day & Healthfest, created a series of guides intended to assist Food System Entrepreneurs to navigate permitting and licensing requirements, and investigated where city food policies could be more streamlined. Brandi is hoping to continue working in Environmental Policy.