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Habitat News

AmeriCorps Week | VISTA Alum, Vaya

AmeriCorps Alum Vaya KielCurrent Habitat Communications Specialist, Vaya, was in a unique place when she first applied to the AmeriCorps program.

“I had completed my bachelors degree and was working my first professional job. On paper, I had a good job with a great corporation but every day I showed up I felt a little part of me was dying. I needed to make a change.”

Vaya, impulsive and not one for too much research, applied to AmeriCorps NCCC the moment her friend mentioned the program. “I was interviewed, accepted and on a plane out to California within months.”

Though Vaya was 24 when she began her service at the Pacific Region of NCCC, she had a lot to learn about life, interpersonal relationships and those in need. “My first two years in NCCC are responsible for the person I am today. Saying that I gained valuable life experience doesn’t begin to describe the lessons learned.”

After two years of life altering lessons in poverty, environmental education, disaster relief and more, she wasn’t ready to stop serving. “I moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to my family and took a position with Fox Cities Habitat. Little did I know that another life transformation was coming.”

AmeriCorps NCCC helped set the foundation for Vaya’s professional transformation.

“AmeriCorps VISTA and Habitat for Humanity provided me with opportunities I would never have had otherwise. I liked design work and they provided training on Adobe design programs. I liked event planning and they fully included and trusted me with organization wide events. I went from entry level kid to accomplished professional in one year.”


While VISTA was an important life experience for Vaya during her service in 2011, the most important impact from her service came after her term was completed.

“Thanks to my experience with Habitat, I got a great job after my term was completed. But it just wasn’t Habitat. Six months later I moved back to the Fox Cities and joined the team as a staff member and its been an incredible journey ever since.”

Vaya’s AmeriCorps work doesn’t stop there, she serves as the Host Site Manager for Habitat’s AmeriCorps members and facilitates monthly VISTApaloosa workshops.

“I had a mentor during my time as a VISTA and she continuously pushed me to set goals, work hard and always strive for more. Her faith in me was a large part of my professional success and I think it’s important to pay it forward. Whether its learning about budgeting, professional improvement or educating them about the needs of our community, it’s a small way I can do my part in sharing the gifts AmeriCorps and Habitat have given to me.”

Vaya recently celebrated her three year anniversary as a staff member at Fox Cities Habitat. She jokes that three years is the longest she’s ever stuck with anything. “I just hope Habitat is getting as much out of me as I get from the organization each day. It is such an incredible blessing to wake up everyday and be excited to help transform communities and improve lives.”

Vaya can be seen in the Habitat ReStore commercial on local stations daily. Yes, she did “get all this” from her AmeriCorps experience.

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