Lake Effect Leaders Alumni

Jessica Minsterman
Year of Service: 2011-2012
Host Site: Junior Achievement
Most Valuable Part of Service: Getting to work with other VISTAs in our project was the most valuable thing for me. I learned so much from working at my own site, but I also had the chance to experience many diverse organizations as well, so I left with a well-rounded understanding and familiarity with nonprofit culture. We built our own support system that got me through some tough times.
Career after Service: I searched for nonprofit and higher education jobs; towards the end of my term I was offered a full-time position with Junior Achievement at their main office in Pittsburgh.

Marisa Frey
Year of Service: 2010-2011, 2011-2012
Host Site: Allegheny College
Most Valuable Part of Service: The most valuable part of my VISTA experience was the incomparable job experience and professional development I got through my service.
Career after Service: I am currently the Coordinator for Student Service Leadership and Research at Washington and Lee University. I direct the Community-Based Research and Bonner programs.

Laura Banos
Year of Service: 2010-2011, 2011-2012
Host Site: Crawford Central School District
Most Valuable Part of Service: There were so many great things about my two years as a VISTA! The hands on, action-oriented experience in general was what I consider to be the greatest benefit. As a VISTA I was given the opportunity and responsibility to build capacity through meaningful service and felt strongly valued and connected in the Meadville community.
Career after Service: After serving as a VISTA, I returned to school to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration at Fels Institue of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. I am hoping to hone my skills in order to become an effective leader in improving the educational opportunities and experiences for all students, regardless of any outside challenges that they face.

Darcy Buendia
Year of Service: 2009-2010
Host Site: Allegheny Earth Force
Most Valuable Part of Service: The opportunity to break into the non-profit world. I was so lucky to get the position I did, I learned so much, and I’ve been building my career from that initial stepping stone ever since.
Career after Service: My VISTA year was environmentally-focused. I became interested in the environmental aspects of food and eating while creating youth programming. I went on to complete a Master’s in Sustainable Food Systems at Antioch University Seattle and now work at an anti-hunger organization in North Seattle.

Sam Rigotti
Year of Service:
2010-2011
Host Site: Bayfront Maritime Center
Most Valuable Part of Service: This is a twofold answer for me: being able to directly see the results of my work and the professional development provided. I wrote several grants and was able to see firsthand just how the funding was impacting and growing my organization’s capacity. Additionally, I worked on recruitment for a brand-new after-school program, and seeing students apply, participate in, and complete the program was very rewarding. The second part of this answer relates to the professional development opportunities made available to me through the VISTA project. Before my year of service, I had very little experience with the nonprofit community and no experience with grant writing. Attending various trainings and workshops gave me skills that not only helped me to become a more effective VISTA, but a more effective nonprofit professional overall after my term ended.
Career after Service: After my VISTA term ended, I pursued a Master’s Degree in Legislative Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. I received that degree in August 2012 and I am currently serving as a VISTA Leader with Connecticut Campus Compact in Fairfield, CT