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Meet Our Staff
Filomena Acevedo, Senior Policy, Advocacy & Organizing Associate
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Filomena coordinates the East Harlem and the Bronx Food Action Boards (FABs), which mobilizes low-income community members cncerned about hunger and other anti-poverty initiatives in their communities.
She has worked for over ten years at the Morrisania Health Center with the City of New York. She also worked at the Department of Refugee and Services, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services. She has lived and worked in New Orleans, where she was selected as a Representative of the Children’s Health Insurance for Low Income Children (C.H.I.P) to address the State Legislature in Baton Rouge, which resulted in the children being awarded with health insurance. Filomena studied Sociology at Herbert Lehman College in the Bronx.
Paul Bennett, Director of Finance & Administration
(212) 825-0028 x209 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Bennett is currently the Director of Finance and Administration for the Coalition. He coordinates NYCCAH's administrative, financial, and office support work, processing a range of financial reports for federal, state and city offices. Paul also oversees the Coalition's operating budget and billing for various grants.
Paul has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector as a financial officer and consultant, serving over 200 organizations. Paul spent seven years at Nonprofit Finance Fund where he served as a Senior Consultant and Director of Analytics, amongst other roles. Prior to the nonprofit sector, Paul worked as an analyst focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the financial services sector. Paul has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU, and is an alumni of the Coro Fellows Program. He received an MPA from Baruch College and a BA in economics from Binghamton University.
Joel Berg, Executive Director
(212) 825-0028 x204 l email@example.com
Joel Berg is a nationally recognized leader, and media spokesperson in the fields of domestic hunger, food insecurity, obesity, poverty, food-related economic development, national service, and volunteerism. He is executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. He is also author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?,the definitive and most well-reviewed book on American hunger of the last decade.
Since 2001, Berg has led the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, which represents the more than 1,100 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City and the nearly 1.5 million low-income New Yorkers who live in households that cannot afford enough food. The Coalition works not only to meet these residents’ immediate food needs but also to enact innovative solutions to help society move “beyond the soup kitchen” to self-sufficiency. The Coalition recently launched pilot national service projects in 17 states from coast to coast, making the work of the organization national in scope.
Prior to his work with the Coalition, Berg served for eight years in the Clinton Administration in senior executive service positions at USDA. For two years, he acted as USDA Coordinator of Community Food Security, a new position in which he created and implemented the first-ever federal initiative to better enable faith-based and other nonprofit groups to fight hunger, bolster food security, and help low-income Americans move out of poverty.
In addition, Berg worked as USDA Coordinator of Food Recovery and Gleaning for two years, working with community groups to increase the amount of food recovered, gleaned, and distributed to hungry Americans. Also while at USDA, he served as Director of National Service, Director of Public Liaison, and as acting Director of Public Affairs and Press Secretary. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a policy analyst for the Progressive Policy Institute and as a domestic policy staff member for then President-elect Bill Clinton’s transition team.
Berg has published widely on the topics of hunger, national and community service, and grassroots community partnerships, including recent papers on childhood hunger and poverty, obesity, and practical solutions to end hunger as a Visiting Fellow for the Center for American Progress. He has also recently published papers on creating food jobs and other topics for the Progressive Policy Institute.
A native of Rockland County, NY, and a graduate of Columbia University, Berg now resides in Brooklyn. He is the past winner of the US Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Superior Service (one of the Department’s highest honors) and the Congressional Hunger Center’s Mickey Leland National Hunger Fighter Award.
Christine Binder, Child Nutrition Program Coordinator
(212) 825-0028 x237 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine coordinates NYCCAH’s Child Nutrition Program, utilizing advocacy, outreach, communications, and volunteerism to increase access to federal child nutrition assistance programs, including school meals, the Summer Food Service Program, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), both locally and nationally. Christine graduated from Oberlin College, where she studied American history and chemistry, and received her Master of Public Health Nutrition from NYU. Prior to joining NYCCAH, Christine worked to improve and increase access to child nutrition programs at WhyHunger and Slow Food USA.
Benson Chan, Benefits Access Associate
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Benson worked for the Chinese American Planning Council's (CPC) Chung Pak Day Care Center for 11 years as an Educator that provided Early Education for low income families from Manhattan's Chinatown. When Hurricane Sandy hit he wanted to do more for the residents of Chinatown. He joined University Settlement's Project Hope as a Crisis Counselor immediately after the storm. He provided immediate Crisis Counseling to individuals affected by Sandy utilizing Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) to help them recover and become more resilient when faced with crises. He also connected residents to their neighbors in order to build a stronger sense of community while assisting them in accessing disaster related services such as long term counseling, Disaster SNAP benefits, and applying for FEMA assistance.
Sheila Ramos-Corrales, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheila works on NYCCAH’s Nutritional Outreach Education Project (NOEP) and visits farmer's markets, Bronx supermarkets and community based organizations to prescreen clients for food stamp eligibility. She also assists clients with electronic food stamp applications and re-certifications as part of NYCCAH's Paperless Office System (POS) and Recertification Improvement Project (RIP).
Sheila attended Bronx Community College and Lehman College for Business Administration. She has worked for over 20 years in the nonprofit providing social services to the East Harlem community. Prior to working at NYCCAH, she worked at the Yorkville Common Pantry doing Single Stop services and administrative / secretarial duties for the Executive Director and Board of Directors.
Amanda Cowgill, Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Amanda Cowgill is Director of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Empowerment Corps, a national AmeriCorps VISTA project in conjunction with the US Dept. of Agriculture and the Corporation for National and Community Service. She directly oversees one AmeriCorps VISTA leader and daily strategic operation of 17 host sites with a total of 28 VISTA members working towards capacity building efforts around benefits outreach, fund development and volunteer generation.
Amanda is a former AmeriCorps member with the American Red Cross and VISTA Leader with the Ohio Community Service Council. As the AmeriCorps VISTA Program Coordinator with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, she managed a full time anti-hunger and anti-poverty program of 74 members and 5 VISTA leaders and during peak season, a 100 member AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate project working with the Summer Feeding Site Program.
Mira Dhar, Benefits Access Associate
(646) 755 3812 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Mira hails from Chittagong, Bangladesh and came to the US in 1998. She obtained her Associates degree from LaGuardia Community College in 2008, and her Bachelors from York College in 2013. Prior to joining NYCCAH, she worked for Sunnyside Community Services and Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, screening people for SNAP eligibility and performing application assistance. She joined NYCCAH's Benefits Access team in December 2013 and works out of three host sites in Queens where she continues to provide assistance with SNAP eligibility screening and application submission.
Miguelina Diaz, Benefits Access Associate
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Miguelina is part of the Benefit Access Team in NYCCAH. She dedicates the majority of her time to helping clients successfully complete the process of applying and recertifying for SNAP / Food Stamps benefits, ensuring that the correct amount of benefits are received in a timely manner. She also conducts outreach and pre-screenings at community-based locations, informing people of their potential eligibility for SNAP benefits.
Miguelina received her B.S. in Accounting from Hunter College. Prior to working at NYCCAH, she worked for the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene as a program assistant in an effort to increase healthier food access in corner stores. This included encouraging residents to demand healthier food in low income neighborhoods throughout the South Bronx and in East and Central Harlem.
Victoria Dumbuya, Associate Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Victoria Dumbuya manages the Coalition’s AmeriCorps*State program. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing this program which places 26 full- and part-time members at soup kitchens, food pantries, and anti-poverty organizations throughout New York City. She joined the Coalition in Fall 2006.
A graduate of Rutgers University, Victoria previously served as an AmeriCorps national service Team and Service Leader at Hands on Atlanta, a non-profit that coordinates tens of thousands of volunteers with service opportunities in over 400 organizations and schools throughout Atlanta, Georgia.
Rosa Encarnacion, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 l email@example.com
Rosa works as a Benefits Access Associate. In this position, she is responsible for conducting screenings for Food Stamp benefits as well as assisting clients in the electronic submission of food stamps and recertification. She studied at Hunter College in New York City. She previously worked as a Paralegal/Research Assistant for The Bronx Defenders. In this capacity, she was responsible for interviewing detainees before arraignments for a longitudinal research study in conjunction with Columbia University.
Xuya Fang, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 x205 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Xuya is a Benefits Outreach Worker for the New York City Hunger Free Communities Consortium project. She does outreach and pre-screenings for food stamps, WIC, school meals programs, and senior meal programs throughout New York City, especially in Asian communities. She graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Social Work. She is from China and has experience working on the micro-level, meeting with clients one-on-one for NGOs in China and the U.S. and at the macro-level, participating in policy work at the United Nations.
Denise Fernandez, NOEP Program Coordinator
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Denise is a member of NYCCAH's Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP) staff. NOEP offers free and confidential services to connect hungry New Yorkers with nutrition assistance programs, especially food stamps. In an effort to reach eligible NYC residents, Denise travels through out the city to educate the diverse communities about ways to apply for and receive food stamps.
Denise graduated from Skidmore College with a major in Government and a minor in International Affairs. She worked in the private sector for 3 years before joining NYCCAH's Benefits Access team.
Ella Fowler, Associate Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Ella Fowler is the Associate Director of NYCCAH's Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps Program. She assists in the daily strategic operations of the 114-member program working towards capacity building efforts around benefits outreach, fund development and volunteer generation.
Ella is a former VISTA Leader for the AHOC Program, serving in Denver, Colorado and overseeing the VISTAs placed in the Western States. She has also served two other VISTA terms in Petoskey, Michigan, where she oversaw her organization's Poverty Reduction Initiative and in Somers Point, New Jersey, where she oversaw her organization's marketing and communications. Ella graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Print Journalism Degree in 2010. She is originally from the beautiful town of Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Michelle Friedman, Communications Director
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Michelle serves as Communications Director for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, where she oversees the organization's public message. This includes executing media relationships, communications strategy, social and traditional media, as well as serving as web master. Prior to this role, Michelle worked as Communications Director for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Michelle began her career as a Press Officer for the NY State Senate Democratic Conference. A Maryland native, Michelle holds a B.S. in Communication Studies from Boston University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the New School. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Charlene Gonzalez, Benefits Access Associate
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Charlene joined NYCCAH’s Benefits Access Team in March 2014. She assists clients in submitting SNAP applications and recertifications, and performs mediation on their behalf when necessary. Charlene graduated from Hunter College with a Bachelor’s of Art in Psychology. She previously worked for the New York Common Pantry (NYCP) as a Bilingual Case Manager under the Help 365 program, where she screened clients for the pantry and assisted them with acquiring benefits and entitlements, such as SNAP, Medicaid and Social Security Supplemental Income, to name a few. She is devoted to reducing hunger and poverty throughout New York City while promoting dignity and independence.
Rebekah Gowler, Strategic Volunteer Program Director
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Rebekah is the Director of Strategic Volunteerism at the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. In this position, she manages the Ending Hunger through Citizen Service initiative, which supports individuals and organizations to rethink ways they can engage to end hunger – from food drives to advocacy, skill-based volunteering to fundraising. Previously, Rebekah was a Policy Analyst in the Center for Health Equity and Social Justice at the Boston Public Health Commission where she lead development of a workshop series for agency staff on utilizing racial justice strategies to reduce health inequities across the city. She has also served as a Policy Associate at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, where she worked on an investigation and legislative report of the community health worker workforce in Massachusetts. Rebekah received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Studies, with a minor in Women’s Studies, from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and Master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Health from Boston University. Rebekah began her career in public health social work as an AmeriCorps and VISTA member with the Community HealthCorps program in New York City.
Kristian Harrington-Colón, Benefits Access & Development Coordinator
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Kristian joined NYCCAH as a VISTA in 2010 and served his term of service supporting the Coalition's fundraising efforts. While still involved in development, he is now primarily focused on the many different ways that NYCCAH helps connect low-income New Yorkers with the benefits available to them. This includes helping to coordinate the production and distribution of the Guides to Food and Assistance as well as assisting clients with food stamps applications and recertifications and working to help New Yorkers know what benefits are available to them. Kristian is bilingual English-Spanish and also assists with translation of materials and communications. Kristian grew up in Bangkok and Mexico City and earned a double degree in international relations and Spanish literature from Brown University.
Helen Isakova, Benefits Access Associate
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Helen joined NYCCAH in November 2013, having worked for MetCouncil as a Food Stamp Specialist for two years, performed outreach through Far Rockaway and Queens, pre-screened clients and submitted them through POS, and helped people at Hurricane Restoration Center in Far Rockaway with FEMA organization. Prior, she worked as an assistant to Home Services Director for 18 years, assisting elderly, handicapped, Holocaust survivors and families with low income for handymen work in their residences, and providing communities, families and hospitals with furniture, and toys. Helen graduated from St. Petersburg Engineering Institute and had paraprofessional training in social work.
Erin Johnson, Benefits Access Associate
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As part of the Benefits Access Team, Erin manages the update, design, and distribution of the Neighborhood Guides to Food & Assistance, which help connect New Yorkers in need with food stamps, food pantries, and other free community resources.
Erin grew up outside of Chicago and received her BS in Design & Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at NYU focusing on urban agriculture and sustainable community development and is a member of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Volunteer Committee. Prior to NYCCAH, Erin worked at the NY chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and spent a year in Israel working with asylum seekers.
Lisa Levy, Director of Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing
(212) 825-0028 l email@example.com
Lisa Levy is the Director of Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing. In this position she advises all policy issues and manages all community organizing activities. As a legal services attorney, Lisa spent six years prior to coming to NYCCAH representing low income, disabled clients who were denied government benefits including SNAP, SSI, SSD, Medicaid, as well as in eviction and other proceedings. Lisa is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University Law School and received her Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Binghamton. She has professional and volunteer experience with other non-profit organizations as well as social justice and political campaigns, and is passionate about a variety of food and poverty related issues.
Fabio Martinez, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Fabio meets with clients at our community-based host agencies to submit electronic food stamps applications and recertifications on their behalf, utilizing the Paperless Office System (POS). He is also the lead trainer for new staff utilizing this process. Fabio has been with NYCCAH in that capacity for four years. Prior to joining NYCCAH, Fabio worked with a non-profit agency in the Bronx, where he managed a food pantry and soup kitchen and performed other administrative functions.
Reggie Miller, Associate, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Reggie Miller works for the Coalition’s AmeriCorps* VISTA Program. He provides oversight and assistance to the 15 VISTA members building the organizational capacity of soup kitchens and food pantries through volunteer management, grant writing, community organizing, and technical assistance at emergency food programs across the city and within the Coalition's office.
Reggie is a former VISTA who comes to the Coalition from a homeless services provider where he managed a network of over 100 volunteer-run emergency overnight shelters for homeless men and women housed in churches, synagogues, and community organizations. He is a graduate of Boston University.
Carrette Perkins, Director of Programs
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Carrette Perkins directly manages NYCCAH’s Farm Fresh Initiative Program and the organization’s Capacity Building and Technology Projects. Carrette also manages the Coalition's Information Technology infrastructures.
With a B.A. from Queens College, CUNY, and M.A. from The University of California at Los Angeles, Carrette brings a range of experience to the Coalition. She came to NYCCAH directly from a 2 year service in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, where she was a Teacher Trainer and also taught English as a Foreign Language, and prior to that, she spent a year as an Americorps VISTA. Before venturing into the nonprofit field, Carrette worked as an Editor at the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in their Corporate Communications department and as a Publisher's and Editorial Assistant at John Wiley and Sons.
Maria Remache, Benefits Access Associate
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Maria was born and raised in Ecuador. Since coming to the US, she attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and has worked for 11 years for different nonprofit organizations, including Sunnyside Community Services and Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Most of her experience has involved helping eligible NYC residents access the SNAP (food stamps) program. Maria joined NYCCAH in December 2013 and provides SNAP pre-screening and application assistance from several host locations in Queens.
Joshua Rivera, Policy, Advocacy & Organizing Associate, Craig Murphey Fellow
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J.O comes back to NYCCAH from serving as a VISTA Leader with the Governors Commission on Community Service in Denver, Colorado where he focused on early childhood literacy, disaster relief and overall program management. Prior to his VISTA Leader role, he was a VISTA member with NYCCAH's New York City-based program and a City Year Corps member in the South Bronx. J.O hopes to use his past experiences to be community organizer with NYCCAH.
Ivonne Salazar, Director of Development
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Ivonne Salazar is the Director of Development and manages the Coalition’s fundraising activities. She has seven years of experience working in development and non-profit communications and has extensive experience in grant writing, event planning, and project management. She has worked for multiple organizations including the International Planned Parenthood Federation, The Bronx News Network, and Mosholu Preservation Corporation, a community development organization in the Bronx. Ivonne graduated from Skidmore College with a double major in Sociology and Women’s Studies and completed The Developing Leaders Program at Columbia University.
Rasna Sethi, Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing Associate
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Rasna is one of the Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing Associate at NYCCAH. In this position, she is responsible helping develop and maintain the Food Action Board program, monitoring major policy and outreach developments related to NYCCAH’s work, and corresponding with elected officials, community organizations, and other leaders, individuals, and groups on issues related to hunger.
After completing two years of AmeriCorps service with NYCCAH, both as a AmeriCorps State member with the Benefits Access Team and AmeriCorps VISTA member with Cathedral Community Cares, she interned with the organizing department of the New York Hotel Trades Council and is currently a graduate student at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. She completed a dual degree in Communication and Economics from Rutgers University in 2009.
George Spira, Senior Accountant
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George Spira is currently the Senior Accountant for the Coalition. He coordinates NYCCAH's administrative, financial, and office support work, processing a range of financial reports for federal, state and city offices. George also oversees the Coalition's operating budget and billing for various grants.
Prior to his work with the Coalition, George spent over thirty years in the finance sector. He has worked on various projects for the Food Bank for New York City as well as St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church-Community Ministry.
Vanna Valdez, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 x232 l firstname.lastname@example.org
Vanna is a Benefits Outreach Worker for the New York City Hunger Free Communities Consortium project. Vanna began working at NYCCAH as the AmeriCorps Client Advocate for the Benefits Access team. Now as a Benefits Outreach Worker, she pre-screens clients for food stamp eligibility and works with partner agencies in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. Before coming to NYCCAH, Vanna worked at Cathedral Community Cares in the AmeriCrops program and served as the Volunteer Manager.
Vanna graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. She was born and raised (and still lives) in the Bronx.
Marie A. Vincent, Benefits Access Associate
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Marie A. Vincent is part of the New York City Hunger Free Consortium. As the Consortium makes every effort to reduce hunger in New York City, Marie travels extensively throughout the five boroughs and acts as a liaison between community-based organizations, including food pantries, soup kitchens, health clinics, schools, etc. and various public and private programs. Marie has an extensive background in advocacy, quality assurance, community outreach, customer service, event planning, and public relations.
Marie has a Political Science degree with emphasis on International Relations and French from the University of Central Florida. Prior to working for NYCCAH, Marie demonstrated her dedication to public service by working as a domestic violence advocate and continues to do domestic violence workshops in her spare time. She also volunteers with UNICEF, World Food Programme and Amnesty International.
Jim Wengler, Director of Benefits Access
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Jim Wengler has been with NYCCAH since July 2003. He manages projects that help connect low-income New Yorkers with the public nutrition benefits available to them, with a particular emphasis on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Jim is a graduate of Rutgers University and has 18 years experience in the social service field, previously working with agencies serving those affected by HIV/AIDS. He also spent a year in Nicaragua as a volunteer for an organization that served impoverished and orphaned children.
Lauren Cutright Cisneros, VISTA Leader
Lauren Cutright Cisneros is a native Californian who loves adventure. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where she majored in Development Studies with emphases on sub-Saharan Africa and agriculture and received a minor in Anthropology. She has served in various student government capacities throughout her college years and farmed abroad for a semester in Tanzania. She served her VISTA year in NYCCAH’s New York City VISTA program and has now returned to serve in the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps as a VISTA Leader. She believes strongly in the power of sweat equity, solidarity, community and playing in the dirt. An aspiring beekeeper, she believes in promoting the awareness of the intricate interconnectedness of how everyone participates in our existing food system and continues to believe that change is possible. “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
Simone Crowe, VISTA Leader
Simone is a VISTA Leader for the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps program, serving out of Portland, Oregon. In addition to supporting and coordinating VISTAs located in the western region of the U.S., Simone helps increase the capacity of the 130-member program. She conducts program outreach, manages social media, plans trainings, disseminates SNAP Employment & Training information to VISTAs and will soon launch AHOC’s InterCorps Council and Alumni Network. During her time as an AHOC VISTA with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Simone co-launched the volunteer program, fundraised and developed communications strategies. Simone graduated from Prescott College in Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Critical Social Research with an emphasis in Writing and Communications. She is committed to social justice, passionate about economic development and interested in community engagement and public policy.
Carilyn Daniel, VISTA Leader
Carilyn has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA since 2011. Prior to joining the CNCS AmeriCorps VISTA program, Carilyn worked as an instructor and curriculum developer for IBM and conference producer and developer/analyst with Wellesley Information Services. In addition to holding various industry certifications, Carilyn has conducted a multitude of certification classes and programming and software implementation presentations to organizations worldwide. During her 3 years as a VISTA Member, Carilyn developed programs to assist women and girls with the technological skills necessary to have successful careers with academic concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Her second year was completed as the VISTA Leader with the Building Together project sponsored by the STAR Center. During her service as a VISTA leader, she developed programs using social media to implement technical training to offer assistive technology awareness to the community. Carilyn serves in the Washington, DC office as a regional VISTA Program Leader with the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps (AHOC), a project of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH).