Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship announces 2016 fellows

Marcelle Alves - Photo by Larissa Stinga

The Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship program recently announced the appointment of 12 new Vision Fellows for 2016. According to a press release, since its inception in 2005, the Vision Fellowship’s primary objective has been to support Island-based individuals who are engaged in careers and projects that contribute to the overall sustainability of the Vineyard. The 2016 fellows join the existing community of 57 past and current fellows and their mentors and sponsoring organizations. Each individual selected has demonstrated talent, passion, and/or expertise in fields that are vital to the sustainability of the Island, and show the most promise for short- and long-term impact in areas that are a high priority for the program.

The 2016 Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellows:

Marcelle Alves, a senior at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), will study political science and Spanish as an undergraduate. Her goal is to become an immigration lawyer. This summer, she will intern with Island attorney Rebecca McCarthy and will focus on educating the Island community about immigration law and promoting discussion about the issues faced by immigrant families. Among other activities and accomplishments, Marcelle has been an active member of the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative and the Science Engineering Club.

Zachary Bresnick, also a senior at MVRHS, will pursue a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering with a focus on renewable resources. At the high school, Zachary developed and organized an Energy and Engineering Outreach Program for three years. The program introduces elementary students to different forms of energy and how they can be applied in everyday life. This summer, Zachary will intern with Island Grown Initiative under the mentorship of Keith Wilda. Among other accomplishments and recognitions, Zachary was selected as a representative of Dukes County on the Governor’s Statewide Youth Council, where he is currently helping to create and pass a bill designed to foster more equitable educational opportunities in Massachusetts. He is captain of the high school sailing team, assistant editor-in-chief of the High School View, and the leader of the MVironment Club.

Katy Plasse Decker will pursue a dual bachelor’s/master’s degree in psychology at Penn State’s World Campus. Katy works at Daybreak Clubhouse, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. The mission of Daybreak is to promote recovery, full community integration, and improved quality of life for people who have been diagnosed with any mental health condition that seriously impairs their ability to lead meaningful lives. She also works in marketing and program development at Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard. While earning her degree, Katy plans to design and implement a specialized education program for mentally and physically disabled people.

Connor Downing, a senior at MVRHS, will pursue a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry. As part of the MVironment Club at the high school, Connor worked on a project to create a science-based outreach program for elementary school children. Connor has been a varsity tennis player since his freshman year. He is a tennis instructor at Vineyard Youth Tennis. Connor plays violin with local orchestral groups and the All Cape Orchestra. This summer, Connor will work under the mentorship of Douglas Cooper, principal earth scientist, and Carla Cooper, senior biologist, at Cooper Environmental Services, LLC, where he will receive guidance and experience in environmental field survey, data gathering, record-keeping, and report preparation, all of which are essential to any scientific endeavor.

Lila Fisher will obtain a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Lila is a certified professional midwife and doula. She has recently returned from a two-month volunteer trip to Mother Health International’s birth clinic in rural Uganda, where she previously spent six months as lead midwife. Lila has studied traditional midwifery at Maternidad La Luz Midwifery School in El Paso, Texas, and thereafter with renowned traditional midwife Angelina Martinez in Temixco, Mexico. Lila is a volunteer at the hospital’s Breastfeeding Support Network, and a founding member of the Vineyard Birth Collective, which hosts a website connecting women to community resources.

April Knight will obtain a Ph.D. in international psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The international aspect of the program and the required travel will expose her to other cultures and their ways of addressing mental health issues. During her fellowship, April plans to develop a one-year pilot curriculum for grades 4 through 8 on soft-skill development. April works as counselor at the Oak Bluffs School. She also serves as an emergency services clinician for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

Sara Leandro will pursue a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, through its Virtual Academic Center program. Sara is a Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Counselor at Connect to End Violence, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. During her fellowship, she also will work to modify and implement two six-session, biweekly, psycho-educational art therapy support groups for adult women and adolescent girls who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.

Jonah Maidoff will develop a project-based social/environmental curriculum, Equator to the Arctic, that will provide opportunities for high school students to investigate real-world climate change issues, develop environmental skills, and propose solutions to the impacts of climate change. The curriculum will do this through hands-on study, and will give students, and the community in which they live, tools for understanding the changing climate, identifying local risks, and making assessments and plans for adaptation and remediation. Jonah is a social science teacher for the 7th, 8th, 11th, and 12th grades at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.

Brian Morris will continue his studies towards a master of science degree in rehabilitation counseling at UMass Boston’s School for Global Inclusion and Social Justice. He hopes to become a better advocate for those disenfranchised members of the Island community who are suffering from substance use disorder. He serves on the development committee of Vineyard House, for which he is currently building a new website. Brian also runs a monthly Lyme disease support group at Howes House. His prior career was in advertising, production and marketing.

Sara Poggi, a senior at MVRHS, will obtain a bachelor of science degree in nursing. She has had a mentorship at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and will intern there this summer. She has volunteered at Windemere since she was a sophomore. She has been a student teacher in the high school’s special education program since she was a sophomore. Among other accomplishments, Sara was captain of her field hockey team, vice president of the student body, president of SafeRides and a member of Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership.

Kara Shemeth will obtain a master’s degree in environmental policy and management from American Public University. Kara will pursue this degree in order to expand her professional career into Island conservation. Kara is a project surveyor for Schofield, Barbini & Hoehn, Inc. and a lieutenant /EMT with the Edgartown Fire Department. For two years after college, Kara served as an AmeriCorps Member in the National Civilian Community Corps, where she engaged in trail building, wildfire fighting, emergency responses and other community projects. She is also the founding member and currently serves on the board of Amity Island Running Club.

Astrid Tilton, a senior at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, will study environmental policy. In 11th grade, Astrid worked with Noli Taylor (2007 Vision Fellow), Program Leader of Island Grown Schools, and State Representative Tim Madden writing legislation to create Massachusetts Farm to School Month. She organized the first annual farm to school day, an opportunity for students, teachers, farmers and advocacy groups in Massachusetts to gather at the Statehouse and show legislators the value of connecting students to the source of their food. Currently, Astrid is working with Vineyard Conservation Society on an initiative to ban plastic bags in each Island town. Astrid is also a photographer who makes photographs with a purpose. One series documented the construction of the solar field at the Vineyard Haven landfill. She won a gold key from the Boston Globe Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her photograph portfolio.

The Vision Fellowship fosters communication and collaboration among the Fellows, their mentors, and the sponsoring organizations. The Fellowship’s areas of interest include: affordable housing; alternative and renewable energy; conservation and biodiversity; education, including environmental education; health care (including mental health), social services and elder services; Island cultures; shellfish and fishery management and conservation; sustainable agriculture; sustainable architecture/built environment; transportation alternatives; water (including nitrogen management and water resources); and waste (including composting and recycling).

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