Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship announces 2019 fellows

The 2018 Vision Fellows, from left: Brian Morris, Dr. Carrie Fyler, Curtis Fisher, Cindy Mitchell, Megan Carroll, Victoria Scott, Alley Estrella, Aaron Lowe, Rebecca Hodgson, David Vanderhoop, Peg Regan, and Haven Huck. Not pictured: Mark Turner. — Melissa Hackney

The Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship recently announced this year’s fellows. According to a press release, each of them has shown talent, passion and/or expertise in ‘“fields that are vital to the Island’s social and environmental sustainability.” The Vision Fellowship believes these awardees show great promise for short- and long-term impact in areas that are high priorities for the Vision Fellowship program.

The program, the release states, serves as a grassroots catalyst to empower promising, passionate people to become effective leaders in maintaining the unique qualities of Martha’s Vineyard for future generations. “The fellowship enables its fellows to learn new skills or refine existing ones in order to understand and address the unique challenges facing the Island’s environment and social fabric,” the release says.

The Vision Fellowship awards financial support for the education and professional development of Island-based emerging leaders. Fellowships may also be awarded for self-designed, Island-based projects and social enterprises. The fellowships emphasize the importance of knowledge sharing, collaborating across disciplines, community building, and mentoring.

The 2019 Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellows include Megan Carroll, who will develop and implement an afterschool science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach program for middle school and high school students that will focus on underwater robotics and marine sciences. The release says that her project will introduce high-quality, hands-on educational activities related to underwater robotics to aid students in understanding core STEM concepts. Megan has been a mechanical engineer at WHOI for 20 years. She has mentored students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and at the Charter School, and has participated in Engineers Without Borders, through which she traveled to Peru as a mentor to four college students who were participating in a greenhouse monitoring project. She has also served as a troop leader for Girl Scouts on Martha’s Vineyard. For the past two summers, Megan has taught a weeklong STEM camp to middle school students under the auspices of the Great Pond Foundation.

Rebecca Hodgson will earn a master’s of social work from Simmons University, where she is pursuing a dual concentration in trauma and interpersonal violence and children and families. Her interest in these concentrations is in response to identified Island needs regarding the lack of services available to address childhood traumatic stress. Hodgson earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and sustainable community development from Prescott College last December. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as a body worker and yoga teacher here for the past decade. Her goal is to become a licensed independent clinical social worker. She also has held mentorships at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ Early Childhood Program and the Island Wide Youth Collaborative.

Carrie Fyler teaches biology at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Fyler’s Vision Fellowship award will enable the high school’s tick lab, the only lab on Martha’s Vineyard that tests deer ticks for borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans, to continue its work. The tick lab was created in spring 2018 through the work of Carrie’s science honors research students. The tick lab’s mission is twofold: first, to create a valuable long-term database for a dire public health issue on Martha’s Vineyard; and, second, to train Island students in the molecular skills necessary to excel in college and the workforce. Fyler and her students will also lead a series of community lectures and workshops to help spread awareness of Island ticks and the diseases they transmit. She will also earn a teaching licensure required of teachers in the Massachusetts public school system. Carrie earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut in 2009. She has previously taught at San Diego State University, the University of Connecticut, and Montclair Kimberley Academy in New Jersey.

Haven Huck is earning her master of social work degree through Boston University’s Online Graduate Program for Clinical Social Work. She plans to specialize in trauma and violence. Haven has interned with Connect to End Violence, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, where she provided advocacy, accompaniment, and counseling services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. She currently is a domestic and rape crisis counselor with Connect, having been offered the position upon earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in human development and family relations from East Carolina University in 2018. Huck’s goal is to become a licensed social worker so that she may offer clinical services in-house at Connect, which will maintain continuity of care and significantly expedite the timeline for victims seeking clinical support. Among other things, Huck currently teaches classes in every Island school utilizing an adapted bystander intervention model that empowers students to stand up to injustice.

Aaron Lowe will further develop Island Grown Initiative’s Island Food Rescue program into a model for food waste collection, diversion, composting, and sale. Island Food Rescue was created as a pilot project under the Vision Fellowship–sponsored Island-Wide Organics Waste Management Feasibility Study, and was subsequently adopted by Island Grown Initiative. As part of his project, Lowe will increase the client base of the program and will also collect data from IGI’s in-vessel composter to help promote a longer-term goal of an Islandwide in-vessel composting program. Lowe’s project will also include public education around food waste and food equity, and will include workshops and consulting with restaurants to help them to mitigate waste, and to train their employees on waste diversion methods. Lowe is a 2018 graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in food and beverage management with a specialization in sustainability. He graduated from the Culinary Arts program at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2014.

Cynthia Mitchell, under the auspices of Island Health Care and in collaboration with a broad, Islandwide partnership of health, human, and social services organizations, has been awarded a Vision Fellowship to support the continued planning, creation, and launch of the Island Integrated Public Health Collaborative. According to the press release, the collaborative is being designed to “systematically and regularly collect, analyze, and prioritize data on community health status and needs; strategically plan health system delivery response; measure service delivery performance; engage patients, community members, and stakeholders throughout the process; and offer workforce training and development, including potential for shared services.” The collaborative will have an initial focus on data related to mental health, substance use disorders, and other behavioral health, including environmental and social determinants of health. In addition to serving as a West Tisbury selectman since 1990, Mitchell is the founding director of Island Health Care, a federally qualified community health center that provides high-quality, cost-effective, accessible care to all Islanders, regardless of ability to pay.

Brian Morris, together with a team partially described below, will use his 2019 Vision Fellowship award to conduct a thorough needs assessment to identify the optimal model of a peer-to-peer recovery drop-in center for Islanders dealing with mental health and/or substance use disorders. The core services to be offered are crisis response and focusing on an individual’s immediate basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter). The drop-in center model is nonclinical in nature, and will lean heavily on the tenets of a recovery-oriented system of care, a relatively new concept in the substance use disorder field. The team’s goal is to coordinate and integrate existing community assets in one recovery-oriented system. Morris is now a two-time Vision Fellow, having previously held a 2016 fellowship to assist as he earned his master’s degree from UMass Boston’s School of Global Inclusion and Social Development in 2018.

Morris’s core team for his 2019 Vision Fellowship project is comprised of Eric Adams, MVCS recovery coach supervisor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and board member at Vineyard House; Kevin Irwin, a recovery professional with extensive experience in creating and executing drop-in centers nationwide, and Patricia Bennett, a highly skilled Massachusetts licensed mental health counselor based in Chilmark. Brian currently serves as mental health and substance use disorder access coordinator at Island Health Care, where he works with patients as a member of a patient-centered medical home team to connect people in need or at risk with Island Health Care and other community mental health/substance use disorder services. Among other things, he also serves as a recovery coach in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and the Dukes County House of Corrections.

Peg Regan has been awarded a second year of Vision Fellowship funding to continue to pilot the Martha’s Vineyard Master Teacher Institute for Teaching and Learning. The institute will be held again this summer during the MVRHS’s trimester, an intensive summer semester in July and early August designed to assist students in catching up with skills in English and social studies they may have missed during the school year. The institute will provide eight to 10 teachers an opportunity to work collaboratively through a lesson-study approach to teaching and learning. The core of this model centers on a morning lab school for the students, which also provides an incubator for teachers to gather, teach, observe others, and design effective instruction methods. This project continues in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools to develop a professional institute to both improve teaching and to interest excellent teachers from off-Island in working with our students and faculty.

David Vanderhoop will design and implement a summer teen leadership training program through Aquinnah-based Sassafras Earth Education. The program aims to have at least 50 percent native youth and youth of color, and will integrate three areas: nature connection, caretaking the earth, and permaculture; decolonizing minds and hearts by taking a hard look at history and historic trauma surrounding Native Americans and people of color, addressing white privilege, and the persistence of racism; and healthy lifestyle choices, wholesome practices, natural exercise, wild/ancestral and local foods, and peaceful communication. Vanderhoop believes that integrating these three areas is important because connecting to the land is inherently tied to the identity and knowledge of native and indigenous peoples. In Vanderhoop’s words, “Native people have not received credit, acknowledgement, or respect in general, and our educational system reflects the same up to date. The same is true for people of color, who have seen their history vastly misrepresented and covered up. no wonder that many of our youth of color and native youth are struggling. White youth and teens need to develop the communication skills and the understanding of how we can talk to each other about issues like white supremacy and racism in a way that connects cultures and ethnicities, instead of ostracizing them.” Since 2005, Sassafras has offered nature connection mentoring programs to people of all ages, with a special emphasis on teens.

The Vision Fellowship program also welcomes four undergraduates. These students, according to the press release, impressed the committee with their passion and enthusiasm for their anticipated courses of study, their commitment to the Island, and their contributions to the community.

Alley Estrella is graduating from MVRHS this spring, and plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work. Her ultimate goal is to become a school adjustment counselor. In high school, Alley has served as a circle coordinator for the Restorative Justice Office by leading weekly meetings to address current issues arising at MVRHS and more broadly. She is also one of only a few students to complete all four years of Portuguese as a Foreign Language classes. Among other things, Estrella is a student athlete, student council representative, and a member of Peer Outreach.

Curtis Fisher, a 2018 MVRHS graduate, will pursue a dual major in environmental science and computer science in the honors program at Northeastern University. While in high school and since, Fisher has been actively involved with a technological initiative to develop and offer environmental testing solutions that allow low-cost, real-time testing of the Island’s complex water, forest, and agricultural systems. In high school, Fisher worked on the school newspaper, was part of the MVironment Club, the Minnesingers, the SoundWave Acapella group, and the Bell Choir, and won science awards from a variety of local, regional, and statewide organizations.

Mark Turner is a 2014 MVRHS graduate who worked as a licensed water operator for the Oak Bluffs Water District, where he learned to test, monitor, and record current levels of different compounds in the groundwater in order to ensure safe, clean drinking water. Turner is now a sophomore at UMass Amherst, working toward a bachelor’s degree that will give him the additional credentials and knowledge he needs to evolve in his career with the Oak Bluffs Water District.

Victoria Scott will graduate from MVRHS this spring. She plans to study biology, marine biology, and environmental science at Bates College. While in high school, Victoria interned with BiodiversityWorks, The Trustees of Reservations, and Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust. She is an accomplished violinist and tennis player who teaches tennis at Vineyard Youth Tennis, and was also co-caption of the girls’ varsity tennis team this past year. She has been fishing the Island’s waters since she was a child, and has been a weigh station volunteer for the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby since 2014.

Finally, the following undergraduate students who were awarded two-year Vision Fellowships upon their respective high school graduations have been awarded second two-year Vision Fellowships for their junior and senior years:

Zachary Bresnick is studying chemical engineering, sustainable energy systems, and computer science at Northeastern University; Daniel Gaines is studying biology, philosophy, public health, and ethics at Clark University; Camilla Prata is studying nutrition and psychology on a premed track in the honors program at UMass Amherst; James Robinson is studying political science and education at UMass Amherst.

For more information, including a description of the Vision Fellowship’s areas of interest, visit