Four new VISTAs!

Four new VISTAs started their year of service with the Refugee Support Network on Monday. Learn more about their backgrounds and what they’ll be doing during their VISTA year.

Akshika PatelAkshika Patel

Volunteer Program Assistant

Asian Counseling and Referral Service

Akshika serves as the AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Program Assistant at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). This organization provides a broad range of human services and behavioral health programs to local Asian Pacific American communities. As Volunteer Program Assistant, Akshika recruits, trains, and supports ACRS volunteers in order to provide supplemental support services and increase organizational capacity. While having been born and lived in London, she spent her formative years in Seattle. She graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and South Asian Studies, as well as with minors in Human Rights and Asian Language and Literature. In the midst of completing her undergraduate degree, she volunteered and interned with local non-profits and thus developed a passion for working with refugee and immigrant populations.

Erika GrantierErika Grantier

Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA

International Rescue Committee

 As the Community Engagement VISTA at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Erika focuses on growing the IRC’s volunteer and donor bases and educating the community on the importance of the IRC’s work. She also helps plan and execute Artvocacy and the Adopt-a-Family program. Erika is from Roslyn, Washington, and studied Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Montana. Before coming to the IRC, she worked at the Young Women’s Christian Association as a mentor and advocate. Her favorite books are the “Post-Birthday World” and “No One Speaks of Remarkable Things,” and if she had to eat one food for the rest of her life, it would be frozen raspberries.

 Kelly ClaytonKelly Clayton

Learning Center Coordinator VISTA

International Rescue Committee

As the new Learning Center Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee, Kelly will ensure the sustainability of the Learning Center programs by providing training and support for volunteers as well as increasing the organization’s capacity to provide improved programs.

While attending Michigan State University, Kelly became interested in refugee educational services when she volunteered at a local refugee center that provided ESL classes. After graduating with a degree in Comparative Cultures and Politics in 2012, Kelly moved to New York where she received her CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). She is very excited to begin her year of service and looks forward to a rewarding experience.

Nick Valera

Resource Development Coordinator

Somali Community Services Coalition

I will be working with the Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC) as their Resource Development Coordinator, writing grants, fundraising, facilitating strategic planning, and performing a needs assessment. I hope to increase SCSC’s capacity to serve the Somali and East African Communities of South King County with access to social services and education opportunities.

Graduating in 2007 from Seattle University, I completed two years of Peace Corps service in Cameroon, interned at a Human Rights NGO focusing on human trafficking, and traveled East and West Africa fairly extensively. Most recently, I am coming from an internship as an intake counselor at the American Civil Liberties Union.  I am very happy to be working with SCSC, drinking tea, working in an intercultural setting and not feeling at home, learning Somali, and being challenged daily with new experiences.

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