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Meet the 2018-19 ACCESS Team

Applications for the 2019-20 program year now open!

African Services Coalition

Nidhal Mohsin

Nidhal is originally from Iraq, born and raised in Baghdad. She chose to join AmeriCorps to enhance her knowledge about community needs, as her graduate studies focused on community education. Nidhal returns to the ACCESS Project this year after a brief hiatus to serve for a third term. And she is considering a possible 4th term next year. Nidhal’s passion is education and she loves to cook and garden in her spare time.



Mollie Hedgecock

Mollie was born and raised in Greensboro, NC.  She lived in other places as well, but Greensboro is home and she is grateful to be serving in this community.  The AmeriCorps ACCESS Project is something that Mollie is extremely passionate about.  She heard about the program from a former AmeriCorps member and chose to join because she wanted to serve her community and serve a population that is oftentimes overlooked.  After this AmeriCorps year, Mollie hopes to stay on for a second term.  She still feels like she has so much to learn and enjoys working with other individuals who are passionate about serving and helping people by meeting needs in the Greensboro community.  Mollie is passionate about helping people!  There is nothing more fulfilling or life-giving for her than seeing someone else empowered and helping them to grow and meet their full potential.  She believes every person should be treated with dignity and respect.  It is her passion to live that out in how she serves those around her.  In her free time, Mollie loves spending time with her family.  This could be playing board games on a Sunday or connecting over dinner one night after a busy day.  She enjoys music and finding new artists – even better when they are local!


Catholic Charities Charlotte

Brandylyn Arredondo

Brandylyn is a self-proclaimed “Navy brat” and grew up on the American coasts and abroad in Russia and Germany. A little over a year ago, Brandy made the decision to dedicate her career to “understanding the process refugees go through when fleeing and fixing any problems they come across.” The ACCESS Project is a perfect fit for her because it allows her to understand what refugees are experiencing on the ground level before she goes on to graduate school. She has always wanted to help people, but never had the chance due to her own circumstances. After her AmeriCorps year, Brandy hopes to attend graduate school and earn her master’s degree in Applied Anthropology. She wants to learn how to use her research for the direct benefit of the communities she’s serving. Brandy is passionate about people, loves hearing the stories of others – whether it’s about their journey, their kids, or stories passed on by grandparents. Studying anthropology gave her the opportunity to “learn about other perspectives, why the world has organized itself the way it is, and to open [her] mind.” There are two things Brandy cannot live without – ballroom dancing and the outdoors. After college, Brandy entered the world of competitive international ballroom dancing and still loves it today. “Second,” she says, “you will almost always find me outside – hiking, running, camping, biking, exploring, etc. It gives me a great sense of freedom to be in the mountains.”

Leanna Herbert

Leanna is originally from Irmo, South Carolina. While attending Wofford, she lived in Spartanburg, SC until 2016. She then lived in Madrid, Spain for the past two years. She joined AmeriCorps after a few years of teaching ESL in Spain because she wanted to gain experience outside of a traditional classroom, while still being an educator and being part of that process. “I’m excited for the chance to experience a new city for a year and I’m hoping to learn a lot and gain experience in fields related to education, immigration, and resettlement.” She’s still weighing her options about life after AmeriCorps. She is considering graduate school to teach English, moving abroad again, or offering her skills to service organizations where she can do what she loves and feel good. Leanna is passionate about teaching English because of the doors that being able to communicate – in any language – can open. She loves celebrating the little successes as learners get more and more comfortable in their new language. This year, Leanna hopes to reach out and retain the volunteers who can make this happen for all the students served by Catholic Charities. “I love seeing people use language as a tool and helping them be creative with it!” When she finds herself with some free time, Leanna enjoys being outdoors, hiking, and camping. She also likes to find random events in whatever city she is in. She loves exploration through travel. “If I had unlimited funds, I’d travel the world hopping from one volunteer/work away experience to the next!”

Heaven Brown

Heaven was born and raised in Dallas, North Carolina.  She chose to join AmeriCorps because of her time as a volunteer with her current site, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte.  She was presented with the opportunity to serve ad knew it would be a role she would be happy to fill.  Helping disadvantaged communities is something she is passionate about and her AmeriCorps position allows her to that while learning about diverse groups.  After AmeriCorps, Heaven plans to finish her degree at UNC Charlotte.  She is passionate about education, equity, human rights, generosity, and being kind.  In her free time, Heaven enjoys reading and writing.


Center for New North Carolinians – Greensboro

Tawanna Maryland

Tawanna was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. She joined AmeriCorps to expand her thinking about other cultures. She is currently serving her 4th term with the ACCESS Project. After AmeriCorps, Tawanna hopes to attend graduate school and then open her own non-profit agency. She is passionate about her art and using it to teach. In her free time, Tawanna enjoys art, theater, and reflecting space.



Raleigh Bailey

Raleigh was born outside of Miami, Florida, on the edge of the Everglades, an area that no longer exists.  He moved away to go to college and never moved back.  He joined AmeriCorps because he believes strongly in the concept of community service and had time to do it after he retired.    He is passionate about human rights, justice, peace, immigrant and refugee protections, inclusion, freedom of the press, democracy, ecological protections, an equitable economy, and Dairy Queen Blizzards.  After his AmeriCorps year, Raleigh hopes to hang around, eat, exercise and travel, much like what he does in his spare time.  We would like to note that Raleigh actually started the ACCESS Project, having applied for an AmeriCorps grant when the national service program was initiated in 1994.  The success of the ACCESS Project led to the founding of the Center for New North Carolinians at UNCG.  The ACCESS Project continues to serve immigrants and refugees throughout North Carolina. 


Centro La Comunidad – Burlington

Dalila Garcia Maldonado

Born in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico, Dalila now lives in Burlington, NC. She chose to join AmeriCorps because “it is a great way to help people that weren’t as lucky as I was when I first moved to the US.” She also has a connection Centro La Comunidad, the agency where she serves. After completing her first AmeriCorps year, Dalila would like to find a job that help with the community and trains her for her major. She is passionate about proving people wrong and defending people against discrimination and racism. Whenever she does have free time, she enjoys doing school work, going for walks with her dog, and spending time with her boyfriend.


Church World Service – Durham

Siri O’Day

Siri doesn’t claim just one place as home. Although she was born in Louisiana, being part of a military family meant she also grew up in Texas and Missouri. “Any roots I have are in my family, not in a place.” About choosing to do a year of service, Siri says, “I see AmeriCorps as an agency dedicated to service and caring for their community. I wanted to be a part of something that valued sacrifice and service and I believe that’s AmeriCorps.” After completing her year with ACCESS, Siri plans to pursue graduate school and study either public health or genetic counseling programs. She is passionate about caring for others and wants them to know and see just how valuable they are. She wants people to know they are worth the time and effort. In her free time, Siri loves spending time outdoors, whether on an evening walk or rigorous hike. “I like smelling the fresh air and enjoying the peace of nature.” She also enjoys a good book or show, cooking and baking.

Elizabeth Lyons

Elizabeth grew up in Hampstead, NC near the coast and currently resides in Durham. She chose to join AmeriCorps to continue serving refugee and immigrant populations in North Carolina. This is Elizabeth’s second year with the ACCESS Project and she hopes to further support immigrant & refugee-serving community groups and assist the most vulnerable populations in our own backyard. When her AmeriCorps term is up, Elizabeth hopes to continue working in the non-profit sector. “I would like to transition to advocacy work and/or continue to work at my host organization, Church World Service, in Durham.” She is passionate about giving groups who are most in need a voice, assisting those who need it most, and paving ways for individuals who want to keep improving and striving in life but may not know how, especially those who are victims of human rights violations, gender-based violence, and human trafficking. In her free time, you will find Elizabeth hiking, walking on the beach, or getting lost on the cobblestone streets of a new city. She loves to explore, travel, and see what the rest of the world is like.

Michael Dinh

Michael was born in Winston-Salem, NC and grew up in nearby Kernersville, though his family is originally from Vietnam. He chose to serve in AmeriCorps because his parents immigrated to the US as refugees following the “end” of the Vietnam War. He says his mom doesn’t remember much because she was a child when she came with her family, but his father came as a teenager without any family, English skills, or money. Michael says that all his father had was “a dream and the drive to achieve it.” Fortunately for Michael’s dad, someone stepped up to help him. He was able to skip high school, work full-time in college, and often ate one packet of ramen noodles a day. “If no one had helped my dad, I may not be here today,” Michael says. “I joined AmeriCorps because I want to help give someone else a chance.” After AmeriCorps, Michael plans to attend medical school. He is passionate about health and fitness, having served as president of the Carolina Barbell club at UNC for two years. He is also passionate about service, learning, becoming a better version of himself, medicine, and the burn ICU at UNC hospitals where he works as a nursing assistant. In his free time, you will find Michael playing with his puppy, working out, playing the guitar, playing video games, and hanging out with friends.


Church World Service – Greensboro

Mariana Donato

Mariana was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil and moved to the US at the age of 23 to be an au pair. She chose to join AmeriCorps because she has always sought out opportunities to serve and help others. She has volunteered throughout her life but has never found an organization such as AmeriCorps, which combines her passion for helping people with her need to develop skills that will help her with her future career. After AmeriCorps, Mariana plans to finish her undergraduate degree and go into the social services field. She is passionate about helping people, protecting minorities, and advocating for a multicultural, tolerant world. Mariana enjoys spending her free time with her 4-year-old son. “He is my favorite playmate!”

Amber Handy

Amber was born in Greensboro, NC. As a child, she moved around Guilford County but eventually settled in Rockingham County, NC, where she graduated from high school. She joined AmeriCorps because she wanted to serve. She already had experience as a volunteer with the Glen Haven Community Center and wanted to expand that experience. After finishing her second AmeriCorps term, Amber hopes to serve one last term but has also been considering going to graduate school to study nonprofit management. She is passionate about people and cultures. “I love and celebrate our differences, as well as our similarities.” In her free time, Amber loves to play board and video games. She is also up for anything that matches with her mood or social opportunities. She loves reading, especially fantasy novels.

Jelena Milisav

Jelena was born in Belgrade, Serbia, moved to Greensboro, NC when she was a toddler and has lived here ever since. She wanted to help and make a difference in her community, so she saw AmeriCorps as an opportunity to do just that. She wants all people to come together as one and help strengthen our community. After AmeriCorps, Jelena would like to go back to school to get her master’s degree in either public health or social work. She is passionate about giving back and helping people in need. In her spare time, Jelena enjoys hanging out with friends and family and just being outdoors.


Glen Haven Community Center – Greensboro

Jennifer Gorman

Jennifer is from a small town in Western Massachusetts where she lived most of her life before moving to North Carolina. When she moved, she didn’t have a job or school lined up, only a place to live. She had never been to NC before. Four years ago, she simply packed up her car and hoped something would work out. Several years ago, Jennifer started researching both AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, interested in joining either program because she wanted to help others and learn about other cultures. But the timing was off. She wrote them down in her journal as bucket list items she would someday like to accomplish, and then forgot about them. In 2016, while pursuing the leadership challenge through the UNCG Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, she was introduced to the ACCESS Project and given the opportunity to join. “It was then that I knew what I was supposed to do.” After completing a third year with AmeriCorps, Jennifer plans to go back to school to complete some prerequisites and eventually apply to medical school. She would also like to continue volunteering at the Glen Haven Community Center, where she is currently serving, because she has made so many connections. She is passionate about people and helping to make a positive difference. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, and just enjoying the moment. She also likes black and white film photography – “taking a picture and watching it develop in front of your eyes is pretty cool.”

Pratishna Rana

Pratishna “Trish” Rana was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal.  She joined AmeriCorps after having volunteered with the Glen Haven Community Center.  She wanted to become a more important role in the community.  She heard about the work and impact AmeriCorps has, so she decided to become a member.  After she finishes her AmeriCorps year, she wants to take some time off from school and volunteer with the Center for New North Carolinians.  Trish is passionate about helping others and working with children.  In her free time, you will find Trish spends time with family and friends, plays with her dogs, writing music and singing, watching movies, traveling and reading.


Glenwood Library – Greensboro

Michael Auberry

Michael is a Greensboro, NC native, born and raised. He chose to join AmeriCorps because he enjoys helping people. After finishing his second term with AmeriCorps, he would like to become a music journalist or an author. He is passionate about music, writing, and helping people in the community. In his spare time, Michael says he loves “listening to music, writing, running, and watching Panthers’ and Hornets’ games.”



Amanda Regan

Amanda was born in New Jersey, but moved around a LOT growing up and has had the opportunity to live in numerous states across the country, including her favorites – California and, yep… North Carolina.  She joined AmeriCorps because she wanted a chance to make a positive impact on her community while gaining valuable experience in a new field.  After AmeriCorps, Amanda would like to continue her education and eventually find a career path she can settle into for a long time.  She is very passionate about human rights and environmental protection.  But above all, Amanda thinks she cares most about her cats.  In her free time, Amanda loves hanging out with her cats, watching stand-up comedy, taking naps, and trips to the mountains.

Latin American Coalition – Charlotte

William Henzler

William grew up in Spokane, WA and graduated from Whitworth University there. “After spending so long in school investing in my own future, I felt called to give back in some way,” he says. A friend introduced him to AmeriCorps and he decided to join to find fulfillment by serving others, as well as a chance to practice his Spanish fluency. “I have also come to affirm the belief that a society is only as good as how well it treats its most vulnerable members. Because new immigrants and refugees are part of this population, I wanted to practice what I preach and be part of the force that helps these people.” After AmeriCorps, William plans to find medically or research-related employment and eventually apply to medical school. He is passionate about promoting justice. Working against forces he sees as unfair, painful, or evil in the world gives him a sense of purpose and reassures him that there is still goodness in the world. In his free time, he enjoys walking around Charlotte, going on slow jogs, playing the ukulele, reading, writing poetry, and catching up with friends from college.

Rocio Arguijo

Rocio is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants born and raised in Raleigh, NC. She joined the ACCESS Project because it falls in line with her values and world view. Rocio says, “I think it is so important to embrace new members of our communities and make them feel welcome. This program is a wonderful opportunity to challenge myself to apply old skills and learn new ones in a new environment.” She hopes this year will help her determine the type of work that she will pursue after completing her undergraduate degree. She is interested in both teaching and non-profit work, so this hands-on experience will be “invaluable in determining [her] next steps.” Service has always been at the center of Rocio’s life and she makes sure that every endeavor she undertakes is “imbued with service to others.” She is specifically passionate about service with the Latino community. In her free time, you will find Rocio working with organizations that serve others, crocheting, and doing arts and crafts.


Legacy Crossing Community Center – Greensboro

Nozipho Viki

Nozipho was born and raised in Zimbabwe.  She then lived in Botswana for one year before relocating to the United States in 2010.  She chose to join AmeriCorps because she wanted to serve others.  When she first moved to the USA, she received help from AmeriCorps members who made her transition to the U.S. easier.  Thus, she was inspired to do the same for others.  While her mind is filled with so many ideas of the things she wants to do after her AmeriCorps, Nozipho intends on applying for a second term in order to build up her professional skills while serving others.  She is passionate about helping people.  It brings her so much joy to know that she is making a difference in someone’s life.  In her free time, Nozipho is a jack of all trades.  She like to braid hair, sew, and make DIY projects from thrift items.

Kathleen Herbst

Kathleen was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, but feels that Greensboro, NC is gradually becoming more of her home. Over the summer, Kathleen worked with Every Campus a Refugee and discovered a passion for working with the youth of that program. She joined AmeriCorps because it seemed like the perfect place to continue her service. After AmeriCorps, Kathleen thinks she may pursue a graduate degree in education. She is passionate about doing what she can to build, serve, and strengthen communities. She wants to empower kids to find their passions and do good in the world. In her free time, Kathleen can be found reading, hanging out with friends (or her cat), or going on walks.

Marwa Ohag

Marwa was born in Eritrea. She joined AmeriCorps because she has seen the impact the ACCESS Project has had on our community and because she was a part of the immigrant community that had been served. After AmeriCorps, Marwa would like to take the knowledge and experience she gains and incorporate into a career serving the community and leading others along the way. She is passionate about advocating for change and helping members of her community reach their highest potential. She spends her free time with her mother and sister.


Lutheran Services Carolinas – Raleigh

Sarah Benecky

Sarah was born and raised in Maryland until moving to Raleigh, NC. She spent four years in Chapel Hill for college and moved back to the Raleigh area to serve with AmeriCorps. She chose to join ACCESS because she wanted to support and empower immigrants and refugees in her own community. She finds joy in connecting people to important resources and supporting them during difficult transitions. Sarah also loves teaching English as a second language. After her AmeriCorps year, Sarah hopes to attend law school and focus on immigrant and human rights, while continuing to support her community. She is passionate about “fighting injustice and giving a voice to those who lack opportunities, resources, and face marginalization.” She is also passionate about languages, learning new things, and the environment. Aside from helping others, Sarah likes to spend her free time reading, cooking, and being with her loving friends and family.

Bryan Diver

Bryan is originally from Boston, MA but grew up (and is still growing up!) in Durham, NC. “I chose to join AmeriCorps to pursue my passion of helping members of the surrounding community in a constructive and service-oriented way.” After AmeriCorps, Bryan would like to continue serving the community, in whatever way that may be, in the not-for-profit sector. Bryan is passionate about people (including himself) becoming who they were meant to be. He also likes food and the hospitality that comes with it. In his free time, Bryan enjoys reading literature from the third and fourth centuries, as well as sharing a cup of coffee with loved ones.


New Arrivals Institute – Greensboro

Thu Tran

Thu was born and raised in Greensboro, NC but both of her parents originated from Vietnam. They immigrated to the US during the Vietnam War. Thu chose to join AmeriCorps ACCESS to gain more experience and to help others. “I want to take the experience I will gain here for my future career.” She also says that her parents’ experience had an impact on her wanting to join AmeriCorps. When they came to the United States, they didn’t have much help. Thu wants to make sure others don’t have to do it alone. After AmeriCorps, she hopes to continue helping others, especially in the medical field. Thu is passionate about giving back as much as she can. During her free time, Thu likes to relax, sing, dance, and explore other cultures. “Overall, I treasure family quality time the most.”


Oakwood Community Center – Greensboro

Imani Shamburger

Imani was born and raised in Newark, Delaware.  She chose to join AmeriCorps because she has a desire and a passion to help people.  She didn’t know how to do it.  Then one of her professors told her class about it and she just decided to join.  She felt it would be a good opportunity.  After her AmeriCorps year, Imani would like to pursue her purpose in the medical field.  She wants to continue helping immigrant families live the American dream they were promised.  She will finish her undergraduate year and then go on to medical school.  Imani is passionate about skin care and living an overall healthy life.  She loves to read, spend time with family and friends, and find new restaurants to enjoy.

Elizabeth Willard

Elizabeth is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but grew up in Mustang, Oklahoma.  She joined AmeriCorps because she wanted a way to get involved with immigrants and refugees in her community.  After AmeriCorps, she would like to serve in the Peace Corps working in the health sector.  Elizabeth is passionate about learning about human health in a holistic way and learning about new cultures different than her own.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and dancing.


Applications for the 2019-20 program year now open!