Our communities are safer, healthier and more prosperous when we know each other, help each other and work with each other. Through service and volunteerism, Arizona Serve connects passionate people to opportunities to make a difference in their community.
The mission of Arizona Serve is “to empower communities to address poverty through service and volunteerism.” Arizona Serve envisions that “healthy, compassionate, engaged, and vibrant communities are able to meet their own needs and create their own visions for a sustainable and just future.
What Does Arizona Serve Do?
The AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps VISTA members with Arizona Serve do groundbreaking and influential work. Our members do a variety of activities from volunteer management, to grant writing, and website development. We work with organizations with diverse missions and programs encouraging people to become engaged in the fight against poverty. What connects the work of all of our diverse members is the projects focus on working together to strengthen communities.
Who is Arizona Serve?
AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps VISTA members are a diverse group. VISTA members who are qualified to serve with Arizona Serve are nationally recruited, recent college graduates, retired and experienced individuals from the Boomer Generation, and various community leaders. VISTA members sign up with a host agency for a full-time term of service - 365 days. In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend calculated at no less than 95% of the poverty line, settling in and transportation costs, child care benefits (if applicable), and a basic health coverage plan.
Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving $1,500 or an education award of $5,645. Arizona Serve is currently managed by the Director of Arizona Serve, Ben Olsen, and Project Manager Vanessa Silverstein.
Current Arizona Serve Team
Ben Olsen - Director
Ben moved to Arizona from New York in 2009 to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with US VETS to help develop a job placement program for homeless veterans. In 2011 Ben joined the Serve team as the Program Coordinator in Yavapai County where he assisted with recruitment, member management and developing our Certificate in Civic Leadership curriculum. He moved to Tucson in 2013 to lead the expansion on the VISTA program to Pima County. Previous to moving to Arizona for VISTA, Ben attended the State University of New York at New Paltz where he graduated with a degree in economics.
Meg Riley - Community Schools Program Manager
Meg Riley has been a teacher in Arizona since 1999 working primarily with high school students learning English as a second language. She has served as department coordinator at Catalina High School facilitating testing, curriculum development, and student access to required coursework. Before moving to Arizona, Meg attended university in Vermont and graduate school in Minnesota. In addition to her work in schools, Meg has worked with parent and family outreach within the Tucson refugee community through CENTER, a Refugee Focus program.
Celia Robidoux - Program Manager
Values based leadership is what Celia Williams is all about. She has been involved in her community advocating for social justice on various issues since she was 12 years young. Service means a lot to her, and is a great responsibility she carries with her in her work towards a better community for all. Her passion for service and social justice comes from her family, friends and the two years of AmeriCorps service she gave with Public Allies Arizona, a program of the ASU Lodestar Center. Celia has put together over 25 different community service projects and continues to work with various community based campaigns and coalitions such as Youth on the Rise, as well as nationally such as Opportunity Nation, which is a national network of advocates who have personal experience with barriers to advancement in America. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Justice Studies with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Certification. Celia served as a nationally certified trainer and the chair of board development for the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) Phoenix Chapter where she led the vision and work on recruiting, training, and retaining the board of directors. She is currently a board member of PAtchwork, the Alumni network and board for Public Allies Alumni in Arizona.
Erika Stone - Program Manager
Erika moved to Prescott in 2008 to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Prescott Area Shelter Services where she developed programs and services for women and children experiencing homelessness in Yavapai County. Past roles in the national service world have included AmeriCorps State program management, national service event planning, and member recruitment. She grew up in Southern California, and graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Comparative History of Ideas. Currently, she supports the Prescott AmeriCorps team and enjoys connecting with community partners and new members in both Prescott and Tucson as the lead for Serve’s recruitment efforts. In addition to her passion for building community through national service, she loves exploring Northern Arizona with her partner, and relaxing at home with her two cats and a good book.
Molly Sheehy - Program Manager
A graduate of Prescott College, Molly Sheehy was pleased at the opportunity to give back to the Prescott community after completing her studies. She spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Yavapai CASA for Kids Foundation—an organization that provides much-needed financial support to children in foster care. Molly completed a second year of service as Arizona Serve’s Tucson VISTA Team Leader. After completing her year as a VISTA Leader, Molly was hired as a Program Manager in Tucson supporting Arizona Serve's AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps State teams.
Kerry Johnson - Team Engagement Coordinator
They say your future is determined by your past…my story is no different. While the nature and simplicity of Vermont will always be my home, I had the special opportunity of living and studying abroad in Central and South America for several years throughout my youth. From urban Honduras and Colombia to rural Nicaragua and Ecuador, I found a new home awaiting me. I developed a passion for the Spanish language and Latin American culture, as well as an awareness of cultural sensitivity and travel. After graduating from the University of Vermont with a BA in Spanish, and embarking on a path of Community and International Development, I was drawn to a position with AmeriCorps VISTA in Tucson, AZ, working with Hispanic women transitioning back into the workforce. This chance to be connected to the Tucson Hispanic community through AmeriCorps and to work with Arizona Serve has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for personal and professional growth that I’ve had the privilege of knowing. In the future, I hope to combine my talent and love for art with community development efforts supporting Hispanic communities, either in the US or abroad; but for now, Tucson is a great place to call home.
Kelley Villa - AmeriCorps VISTA Team Leader
Kelley Villa moved to Prescott in November 2014 to serve as a VISTA at Yavapai County Community Health Services. She currently serves as the VISTA Team Leader, supporting members in the Prescott area. Before moving to Arizona, she graduated with a BA in American Ethnic Studies from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. She grew up riding her bicycle and gardening in Alameda, California. Kelley also works as the market manager of the Prescott Farmers Market.
Alison Smetana - AmeriCorps VISTA Team Leader
Born and raised in rural South Carolina, Alison Smetana moved to Arizona in 2014 for a VISTA Position at Our Family’s Center for Community Dialogue. During her VISTA year, Alison worked to increase awareness about the Center’s affordable mediation program to low income communities, build partnerships with local organizations and strengthen internal data-tracking systems. She is excited to continue to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader with Arizona Serve. In her spare time, Alison volunteers with the Community Justice Boards and Tucson's Alternative to Violence Project's facilitator team. Other interests include biking around Tucson, yoga, drawing and cooking.
Andrew L. Pawlicki-Sinclair - AmeriCorps VISTA Team Leader
Andrew was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. He received his B.A. from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington where he studied human rights. He returned to Tucson in 2015 to serve as a VISTA as a Community School Coordinator at Santa Rita High School, part of the Tucson Community Schools Initiative Operation AmeriCorps grant. He is now in his second year serving as a VISTA, now as a VISTA team leader supporting AmeriCorps members in the Community Schools Initiative.
Ann Drazkowski - AmeriCorps VISTA Team Leader
Ann Drazkowski has worked with various community organizations in both the United States and Peru. After receiving her Masters in Public Affairs form the University of Wisconsin, Ann moved from Wisconsin to serve as a VISTA on the Tucson Community Schools Initiative in September 2015 for the chance to work on a locally grown initiative that could introduce a new method for combating poverty. Ann now serves as a Team Leader on the Initiative helping support both AmeriCorps State and VISTA members in Tucson as the continue to offer exciting new programs and integrate the Tucson Community Schools Initiative in eight Tucson high schools.