2018-19 Team

We are delighted to introduce our newest participants for Project Change. These young men and women represent a diverse reflection of our state and aspire to give something back to the young people of Maryland.

JennyJenny Mendez -Guerrero at MHP

Jenny Mendez-Guerrero is a senior at the University of Maryland studying Family Science. She was born in San Miguel, El Salvador and came to the United States at the age of 2. Although Mendez-Guerrero isn’t a Montgomery County native, she grew up in the DMV area–DC and Prince George’s County– and wishes to be a part of Americorps: Project Change in order to serve high need communities and gain experience working with nonprofit organizations. After graduating, Jenny would like to pursue a masters in social work and counseling.


EricEric Portillo at MHP

Eric Portillo was born and raised in Washington D.C and is beginning his first year as an AmeriCorps Project CHANGE member. He graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a degree in Theater, Film and Media Studies. He loves helping other and has in the past volunteered with Habitat with Humanity and Latino Student Fund. He has a passion for film-making and looks forward to working with students and his community.


Julius Williams at MHP 

Kathy Ghayour for  MCPS at Brown Station Elementary School Two Way Immersion Program 

Oneyda Hernandez for MCPS at Kemp Mills Elementary School 

Kimberly Jackson at Community Bridges

Candace MarshallCandace Marshall at Community Bridges-High School Program Specialist.  Candace is a graduate from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Public Health. During her time in Philadelphia, she had the opportunity to intern for both the non-profit and government sectors to address health barriers and limited resources in the urban city. Her work involved providing safe sleeping environments, facilitating SIDS risk reduction and infant care education to low-income families, in addition to program planning and website updating efforts to increase physical activity amongst middle-aged adults in the city’s parks. Candace also has experience mentoring and tutoring youth, participating in prevention intervention events, and conducting workshops and home-visits. She aspires to continue serving the maternal and child health population to combat health disparities, access to affordable resources, chronic diseases and health literacy amongst underserved populations locally and abroad. Born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, with familial roots from Ghana, she will be working with the high school after-school program as an AmeriCorp Member during her year of service with Community Bridges, to empower and guide the girls to their bright futures as healthy women. Candace enjoys baking, watching documentaries, and attending musical events in her free time.

Maria Arriaza-Polanco at Community Bridges

Sylla Salematou at YMCA Benchmarks

JauNelle HugeeJauNelle Hugee for MCPS at Takoma Park Elementary School. Jau’Nelle is a Washington, DC native that has a strong commitment to serving communities that are under-served and creating safe spaces for vulnerable youth. The passion and dedication she has for serving those in the greatest of need has led her to being an AmeriCorps Project Change 2018 – 2019 member. Jau’Nelle has a background in communications and community service but is seeking to advance her career specifically in early child hood education with a concentration on children with special needs. The alarming rate in which children are diagnosed with autism has created in her, a sense of urgency to obtain more knowledge and conduct research for how to create education plans that address this growing population in the public education system. Jau’Nelle is using this year of service as an opportunity to gain access into the Montgomery County school system to develop hands on experiences with students that have special needs, acquire mentorship with educators, and obtain access to educational resources that will propel her passion and her outreach in under-served communities. She is planning to complete this year of service and begin her second year to maximize her community outreach and implement her research to develop lessons and strategies designed for the success of students diagnosed with autism.



Raymon Diaz at Lead4Life

Daniel Diaz for MCPS at Saturday School

Jey Berg III for MCPS at Gaithersburg High School

Sonia Jouonang for MCPS at Gaithersburg High School

Jennifer Okosun for MCPS at Thomas Edison School of Technology

AmyTranAmy Tran at Hospice Caring :Amy Tran was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. She brings experience working with children as an intern at Cannon Road Elementary School. Amy is a recent graduate of University of Maryland where she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Amy is passionate about providing service for the non-profit sector and hopes to give back to the community.






April Hart

April Hart is an Alabama native, but has spent the last 7 years living in Helsinki, Finland, where she obtained her Bachelors of Social Work with an Early Childhood Education minor. April held the role of manager and teacher at an international school in Helsinki for the past 4 years. Through her years of teaching, April was, and remains, a passionate advocate of multicultural education. While in Finland, she also worked as a case manager for a European Union sponsored project, assisting teenage immigrants and refugees settle into their new communities. In this role, she aided her clients as they began the process of integration and acculturation. This year, April will be serving a year with AmeriCorps, working as a Program Leader for the Benchmarks program at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School. After her year of service, April plans to return to school to obtain her MSW. She enjoys running, traveling, foreign languages, and cooking.

Janelle Mack

Janelle Mack, an AmeriCorps Project CHANGE member joins The YMCA’s Youth and Family Services. She works as a Group Leader for Albert Einstein High School’s after school program. While there she is implementing a STEM program that exposes students to the various dimensions of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and how it can benefit their future as working adults. Janelle possess years of business management and leadership experience, a Masters in Administration of Human Services and a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology from Wilmington University in Delaware. With education under her belt, Janelle is pursuing her passion of entrepreneurship by developing her own STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based non-profit organization for students. A Queens, New York native, Janelle has written articles for the Carroll County Times and her alma mater, Wilmington University. She is a Mets fan who loves attending church and traveling to new places.

Ben Kostenbader

Ben Kostenbader is a North Carolina native, but has spent his prime years in Maryland. He obtained his bachelors of Science degree in Psychology at Bowie State University and soon after entered the workforce serving in Non-Profits throughout Prince George’s County MD and the Washington DC metropolitan area. He has served as a mentor and case worker for youth within the Truancy Reduction Court & Drug Court System for two years, and provided service coordination for infants and toddlers for the Arc of Prince George’s County MD. After concluding his involvement with Volunteers of America, where he last served physically incapable individuals, he wanted to make a difference on a greater scale by pursuing AmeriCorps Project Change. His placement is within Montgomery Housing Partnership where he is the executive assistant to the site coordinator of Great Hope Homes & Gator Program at Arcola Elementary School. He is also an assistant teacher for both sites catering to Pre-K through 5th Grade. Ben plans to go back to school to obtain his Masters in Professional Counselling Psychology. He enjoys socializing, outdoor recreation, and Abstract Artistry.

Brandon Martinez

Brandon, born and raised in Maryland, is partnered with Montgomery Housing Partnership. His role includes working and planning for an after school program. He’s been volunteering with MHP for 4 years almost. So even though he is just starting his first full time AmeriCorps year of service, Brandon has been working with kids is nothing new to him. He just wants to bring the best out of the kids he gets the honor of working with, and make a difference in their lives big or small. During his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and spending time with all his siblings when he can. The key to his heart is a 10 piece of Lemon Pepper Wings from Wing Stop.

Jennifer Hong

Jennifer Hong graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. While in school, she participated in organizations like UTeach Outreach and Austin Partners in Education where she provided tutoring and mentorship to student in under-served and under-represented areas of Austin, TX. Upon graduation, she completed a two year research fellowship at the National Institute of Health where she worked on a new way of body scanning, which involved functionalizing fluorescent nano-diamonds. She enjoys hiking and rock climbing, and hopes to go to medical school.

Merary Gutierrez

Merary Gutierrez has joined AmeriCorps Project Change for her first year, and is currently a part of Montgomery Country Public Schools ( MCPS ) Study Circles. She graduated from McDaniel College in Westminster Maryland with a Bachelor’s in Spanish. She was unable to stay for a fifth year to complete the educator’s coursework, but is working on obtaining a teaching certification through alternative programs. She attended schools in Montgomery County for elementary, middle and high school and is excited to give back to the county that provided her with an education. Her interests are in education, equity and diversity, as well as Latin American and Spain history and culture. Merary is excited for what the experience ahead of her will bring, and is especially looking forward to learning what goes on behind the scenes of running a school system.

Kate Ellis

Katie Ellis is working at Hospice Caring, Inc. in the Children’s Bereavement department. Her role includes facilitating bereavement support groups in schools as well as assisting with the planning and facilitation of the agency’s bereavement camp, Camp Caring. In August, Katie completed a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in San Antonio, Texas where she worked at a Catholic Charities Community Center. Katie graduated from the University of Dayton in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Spanish.

Deepna Anand

Deepna Anand was born and raised in Maryland and attended Montgomery County Public Schools. Deepna is in her first year as an AmeriCorps Project CHANGE member, working at Montgomery County Public Schools’ Study Circles Program. At Study Circles, Deepna is working to identify, examine, and eliminate institutional barriers to African American and Latino student achievement by engaging diverse stakeholders in honest and productive dialogue around race and equity. She studied psychology at University of Maryland, Baltimore. In her free time, Deepna loves to go hiking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. After completing her year at AmeriCorps, she hopes to continue her education by pursuing her masters in social work.

Jira Churchill

Jira is ecstatic to join YMCA Youth and Family Services for 2015-2016 working in Einstein High School with Montgomery County Public Schools. She has experience in education, community outreach, non-profit and fundraising. Jira received her MSEd in Secondary Education, in NY before relocating to Maryland in 2006. Always seeking for opportunities to integrate education into other facets of living, Jira plans to integrate healthy nutrition as a lifestyle option into activities by inviting nutrition speakers, introducing healthy eating menu options at favorite restaurants and inspiring students to re-imagine food as a nutritious fuel source benefiting active lifestyles and optimal for healthy growth.

Miranda Teel

Miranda Teel is currently a 3rd year Clinical Psychology doctoral student at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Washington, DC (ASPPDC). She has a Masters of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Substance Abuse and a Masters of Arts in Clinical Psychology. Miranda recently finished a year of clinical training at DC Superior Court where she provided therapy for female youth offenders. Miranda hopes to go into private practice and specialize in working with children and adolescents. She is working with Project Change at the Saturday School where she assists the Saturday morning school program and also works at Blair High School with seniors helping them prepare for college.

Emeli Oliva

Emeli Oliva was born in Los Angeles, California but raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. While in high school, she discovered her passion for teaching children. She graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in June 2014 and is now studying at Montgomery College. Although the youngest member in AmeriCorps she does not let my age define the work she does with Montgomery Housing Partnership, where she helps students with their homework and teaches pre-schoolers the basics to get them ready for Kindergarten. The things that mean the most to her is her family, community, and becoming a successful elementary school teacher whilst also seeking to receive her psychology degree.

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