2017 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.

ori-onaziOri Onazi at ACES
My name is Ori Onazi and I’m a recent Towson University graduate with a B.A. in psychology. I was born and raised in Nigeria but my family and I have been living in Maryland for the past 11 years. While in undergrad, I co-lead a college readiness program for Baltimore city high school students called Success After School (SAS) through ENACTS.org. Over the summer, I taught 5th grade students in the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) program in Baltimore city. I aspired to become a teacher, but now I’m looking forward to educating youth in a different capacity. I’m passionate about increasing the minority population in higher educational institutions, and I’m excited to be the full time member of the new Achieving Academic Excellence and Success (ACES) program.

 


screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-11-09-22-am-1Ellyce Ferguson
at Gandhi Brigade

Ellyce Ferguson is in her first year as an AmeriCorps Project CHANGE member, serving at Gandhi Brigade Youth Media as a Program Coordinator. She recently graduated from the Howard University in May 2016 with a B.A. in Journalism and is now looking forward to giving back to through teaching the fundamentals of Video Production. As Gandhi Brigade Program Coordinator, she leads a group of youth in the specialty of video production with a social justice related theme. While learning about diversity and social equality, they also develop leadership and job readiness skills. She is passionate about social justice, public policy, and hopes to build upon foreign policy in the future.

 

kemiKemi Barbarinde at Gandhi Brigade

I discovered the Gandhi Brigade Youth Media during my junior year of high school in 2008-09. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the arts, but it was through my participation with Gandhi Brigade Youth Media where I fell deeply in love with graphic design and media technology. I completed my AFA at the school of Art and Design at Montgomery College and am pursuing my BA in media technology and web development with a minor in marketing at the University of MD. My friend Richard Jaeggi taught me a lot while I was growing up, and as a product of the organization I feel it is a pleasure to teach youth all the values that Gandhi Brigade Youth Media has taught me. In my free time I work on design based projects, explore galleries and try out new restaurants.

 

hailyHaily Gonski at Hospice Caring

Haily Gonski is in her first year as an AmeriCorps Project CHANGE member, working with Hospice Caring. She will be working alongside the director of children’s bereavement services to facilitate bereavement support groups in Montgomery County Schools as well as assisting with the planning and facilitation of Camp Erin, Hospice Caring’s bereavement camp for children. Haily was born and raised in Connecticut but, attended the University of Maryland where she graduated with a degree in Psychology with a focus on child development. The past few years she has worked with children in various settings including preschools, family resource centers, and with Linkages to Learning. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, going to the beach, attending music festivals, and watching the Patriots.

 

rubio-dianaDiana Rubio at MCPS Kemp Mills Elementary

Diana Rubio is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, fitness aficionado, and aspiring doctor. Throughout her undergraduate and professional career, Diana engaged in community-based research and outreach with the hope of uplifting low-income communities. She revels in knowing that she will contribute to the revitalization of the Kemp Mill Elementary School Dual Language Program as an AmeriCorps member this school year.

 

 

divya-sahajwalla-photoDivya Shahajwalla at MCPS

Divya Sahajwalla is a Maryland native and a product of Montgomery County Public Schools. She graduated from Brown University in 2015, where she earned a BS in mechanical engineering with a focus on aerospace applications. She is working with Montgomery County Public Schools to provide math intervention and support at two elementary schools – Glenallan Elementary School and Capt. James E. Daly Elementary School. Divya is very excited to have the opportunity to give back to the school system that helped shape who she is today. Her hobbies include singing, running, and rock climbing.

 

justinJustin Harker at MCPS at Gaithersburg High School

Justin Harker is in his first year with AmeriCorps Project CHANGE and is working at Gaithersburg High School as part of the METS (Multidisciplinary Educational Training and Support) program. The program works with students who have limited or no previous schooling or large gaps in their education. Justin was born and raised in Montgomery County Maryland and is a graduate of Springbrook High School. He has an Associate’s Degree in General Studies from Montgomery College and Bachelor’s in Psychology from The University of Maryland, College Park. Justin wishes to continue his education and is applying to graduate programs in Counseling and Sports Psychology. Justin is a sports fanatic, loves football and baseball, and is an avid supporter of all DC area sports teams.

rosaRosa Diaz at MHP

Hello, my name is Rosa Diaz. I get referred to as rosy when you know me well. My birthday is March 09 which presumably makes me 20 years old and a Pisces. I am the youngest of four. Two sisters and one brother. What I love the most about that is, it makes me an aunt of five too! Two nieces and three nephews to be exact. Out of the many things that I value, Family is at the very top of my list for sure! I graduated from John F. Kennedy HS, class of 2014. Currently, I am enrolled in Montgomery College majoring in communications. One of my short term goals is to transfer to the University of Maryland within the next year or so.

 

carlCarl Taylor at MHP

Hello, my name is Carl Taylor. I was born in VA but spent my school years in Prince Georges County, Maryland. I have years of experience with Bowie Boys and Girls club as a coach, referee, and all around helper. I am currently not in school though I Attended Salisbury University as a Psychology Major where I am few credits away from my Degree. This is my first year as an AmeriCorps Project Change Member, Working for the Montgomery Housing Partnership at Good Hope Homes and Arcola Elementary School as a Teacher’s assistant with students from Pre-K to 5th grade. I plan on Graduating school and earning a master’s after i finish AmeriCorps.

 

Wendy Pintado at MCPS Saturday  School

Wendy is a Montgomery County Alumn who is every excited to give back to her community. Although she was born in silver spring, her family is from Guayaquil, Ecuador. She is currently a junior at the University of Maryland pursuing a degree in family science. She has done a great amount of community service in the past. She has volunteered as a mentor for Sisters in Action, at S.O.M.E soup kitchen, at Walter Pierce Park and for K-9 Lifesavers. She is very passionate about education and working towards closing the achievement gap. She wants to be able to mentor first generation students like herself who many times don’t have the resources in their life to seek advice to apply to college from their friends or family.She hopes to serve as a role model that inspires others to pursue higher education despite any kind of financial background. This year, she is working with Project Change at the Saturday School and also at Blair High school helping out in the ACES program.


almaAlma Velasquez
at YMCA Benchmarks Rock Creek Forest Elementary School

Alma is a Montgomery County native as well as a MCPS alum. Alma served her first year of AmeriCorps with Reading Partners Baltimore as a Literacy Lead, where she provided one-on-one literacy intervention instruction for children in low income communities. As a second year AmeriCorps Program Lead with Project CHANGE, she is working at the YMCA for the Benchmarks program. Alma graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Sociology. For fun, she enjoys reading fiction series like Harry Potter (Huge Fan!) and traveling. After her second year of AmeriCorps service, Almaplans on earning a Masters in Social Work.

 

ranishaRanisha Harris at YMCA Einstein High School

Hello all! My name is Ranisha Harris and I work for the YMCA Connections Rec Zone Program at Albert Einstein High School! I am from Baltimore County in Maryland and attended University of Maryland, majoring in psychology. I have been volunteering and striving to make a difference through youth engagement since I learned what community service meant and all of my experiences so far has led me to this! I would like to use the many informative and fulfilling opportunities that I have taken advantage of to become a High School Counselor and help students find their potential and make the most of it! In my spare time I like to go out to new restaurants, find great sale bargains, listen to new music, and just relax!

 

suzetteSuzette Brizuela at YMCA Einstein High School

Suzette Brizuela has lived Montgomery County her entire life but was born in Prince George’s County. She graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 2014. She is the middle child of three but feels as if she is the eldest sibling sometimes. Her mother is Salvadorian and her father was not in her life much. After graduating from high school she continued onto Montgomery College in Rockville studying Secondary Education English. She wants to be a middle school teacher. She is currently taking a year off to find herself and to rekindle her passion of helping others: which is why she is here at AmeriCorps. She found the program through her older sister who is an AmeriCorps Alumni.

img_7577-1Brandon Martinez  at MHP

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.

meraryMerary Gutierrez at  MCPS Study Circles

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.

deepnaDeepna Anand at  MCPS Study Cirlces

Deepna Anand was born and raised in Maryland and attended Montgomery County Public Schools. Deepna is entering her second year as an AmeriCorps Project CHANGE member, working at Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiatives Unit. She studied psychology at University of Maryland, Baltimore University. In her free time, she loves to travel. She has been to places such as India, Egypt, Poland, Israel, Her dream is to travel the world.  She is a MASSIVE Harry Potter fan, Wingardium Leviosa. After completing her year at Americorps, she hopes to continue her education by pursuing her masters in social work.


GRADUATING CLASS OF 2015-2016

 

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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