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HOLA is excited to welcome three new AmeriCorps VISTA members to our team! The VISTAs will serve with HOLA to strengthen administrative capabilities and increase HOLA’s sustainability for the future. In the second year of the three year program, the VISTAs will build on the hard work of their predecessors, working full-time in the Volunteer, Development, and Communications Departments to build HOLA’s capacity to affect change in our community. These enthusiastic new team members are eager to make a difference in the community and to support HOLA’s mission of providing underserved youth with exceptional programs in academics, arts, and athletics within a nurturing environment, empowering them to develop their potential, pursue their education, and strengthen their communities.

The VISTA program (Volunteers In Service To America) was established in 1964 as the domestic equivalent to the Peace Corps after the Peace Corps’ overwhelming success abroad. It is a federally funded national service program designed specifically to fight poverty by working with established non-profits to help the more than 46 million Americans living in poverty.

Meet our VISTAs:

Evelyn Benitez – Volunteer VISTA – Evelyn is an HOLA alumna and recent UC Santa Cruz graduate with a degree in Modern Literature. During her undergraduate career, Evelyn helped establish the academic-based sorority Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc., Epsilon Chi Chapter at the UCSC campus. In its first year, Evelyn served as president and since graduating, has continued to be an active alumna nationally. Evelyn is very family oriented and has three amazing siblings who inspire her to make a difference. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends, doing outdoor activities, and traveling. Evelyn plays soccer and she is currently playing in a softball league. When Evelyn wants to relax, she goes for a run and she is addicted to Sodoku. She is passionate about giving back to her community through volunteering, which is the reason she came back to HOLA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Kelly Thomas – Development VISTA – Kelly graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon with a B.A. in English Literature. Since graduating in 2011, she has taught English to language learners in Mexico, France and Massachusetts. She became deeply attached to after school programming first as an Enrichment Leader in San Francisco and most recently as the Assistant Site Manager for the KYDS after school program at El Sereno Middle School. There she ran a tutoring program and connected her students to the talent of local artists and writers. In her free time, Kelly writes fiction, rides her bike and discovers more of LA every day. During her year at HOLA, Kelly will be working in the Development Department.

Beka Smith – Communications VISTA – Beka graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications. She previously served in AmeriCorps as a Volunteer Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity and later worked for the organization as the Development and Communications Coordinator. Beka is a Wisconsin native and recently moved to Los Angeles. Outside of HOLA, she enjoys reading, writing and discovering her new community. Beka is spending her time at HOLA working in the Communications Department.


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  1. Margaret J Thomas says:

    i am so proud that my granddaughter, Kelly Thomas, has both chosen and been chosen, to work for such a worthwhile organization!

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