Ousmane Moussa Oumarou, Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County


A former Peace Corps language trainer and cultural awareness adviser, Ousmane is excited about a second year of service as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County. His personal motto is “To help others while expecting nothing in return is to help yourself,” and this year he hopes to live this out throughout continued recruitment of and support for volunteer mediators.

When he embarked on his first year of service last year, Ousmane observed,  “The goal of my professional life so far has been building bridges between people. Through my AmeriCorps service, I hope to use my skills in training, volunteer recruitment and management, and community mobilization to support projects that bring help and hope to people in need.”

This year, Ousmane cites his ability to maintain a good sense of humor and fluency in four languages as skills he brings to his service. At the same time, Ousmane hopes to develop additional skills and a professional network that will allow him to continue working in the nonprofit or government sector.

Heather Veale, Howard County Conservancy


Howard County Conservancy Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Heather Veale recently graduated from Towson University with a double major in Deaf Studies and English. Heather describes herself as “passionate about social justice, civic engagement, and leadership development, processes that I feel are always developing and shaping my generation.”

Heather’s commitment to these ideals, along with her passion for environmental stewardship, drew her to Howard County Conservancy. She explains, “I am so excited for this opportunity to connect with others, experience the beauty of the natural world, and feel like I am making a positive difference in the lives of those around me. The natural world is so quickly disappearing around us, and I think dedicating time to educating society, preserving the legacy of land, and modeling environmental stewardship is incredibly needed.”

After her year of service, Heather plans to attend graduate school, focusing on higher education student affairs. In the meantime, Heather says, “I am hoping to gain skills in recruitment, management, and retention, as well as learning about program health. These are transferable skills, I believe, that can apply to any long-term goal for my future.”

Milena Benitez, Maryland CASH Campaign


Milena, a recent graduate of Loyola University Maryland, lists her parents among her greatest role models. “They came to this country in 1990 with absolutely nothing and have been able to make a life for themselves and their family. They really are my heroes.”

About her decision to serve with Volunteer Maryland and Maryland CASH Campaign, Milena shares, “Loyola and my parents are two of the biggest reasons why I am doing a term of service. As a Jesuit university, Loyola instilled in its students the importance of giving back. Also, my parents always remind me of the importance of service and giving back to those who are less fortunate. They were able to come out ahead because of the selflessness of other people who were there to help them. I knew that I wanted to do some type of service, so I began looking at different service programs. The Peace Corps and AmeriCorps were the two main programs I looked at during my last year at Loyola. Once I found the Maryland CASH Campaign listing I knew it would be an unmatched chance to serve as well as gain unique skills and connections.”

When Milena talks about gaining skills and connections, she has a lot in mind. “There are so many things I hope to gain from this year of service,” Milena explains. “Recruitment of volunteers is one of the biggest skills I look to gain from this experience. Another skill is building partnerships and networking. A long-term goal of mine is to someday be doing some legislative work, and I think this experience will help me in creating connections that may help me make this dream a reality in the future.”

Kylie McBride, Education Based Latino Outreach (EBLO)


A recent Gettysburg College graduate, Kylie relocated to Baltimore just over a year ago and was eager to begin her career there. While earning a B.A. in Environmental Studies, Kylie says she “developed a strong interest in social justice and desire to lend my time and efforts to the community in hopes that even the smallest positive impact will be made.”

Kylie is serving as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Education Based Latino Outreach (EBLO), a Baltimore nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Hispanic youth and their families through educational opportunities and cultural programs.

Through service, Kylie believes she will get as much as she gives, saying “I believe that the skills I will develop this year will have a positive impact on the way that I view myself in a professional sense. In other words, I will have more confidence in my ability to endure through a tough situation, solve problems, and work with different groups of people to make change. I believe that all of this fits into my larger plan of making a positive difference in our world, either small or large, during my lifetime.”


Oluwabusola “Yinka” Gardiner, Clifton Park Baptist Church Christian Academy


A lifelong learner, Yinka is currently working toward her third master’s degree, having already received a bachelor’s degree from UMBC and master’s degrees from New York University and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

In light of this, it seems more than fitting that a student of Yinka’s stature is serving as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Clifton Park Baptist Church Christian Academy. The Academy provides innovative academic enrichment, leadership development and recreational programs to underserved elementary, middle and high schools students.  As Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Yinka will support the academic enrichment programs buy recruiting and managing instructors, tutors and other volunteers.

About her decision to serve, Yinka shares, “I understood the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator position to be an opportunity to further my outreach to the youth in our community. The Academy is seeking more adult and college-age volunteers to contribute their expertise in developing a wide range of courses offered at the Academy. That will provide a great amount of exposure for the young people.”

Throughout the year, Yinka hopes to sharpen a few professional skills, including public speaking, reporting, recruiting, interviewing, and giving orientations. “I also look forward to gaining new skills in volunteer program development and volunteer management,” she adds.

To sum it up, Yinka observes, “I believe doing well as a VMC fits into the overall fabric of my passion for service and volunteering. And career-wise, I’m looking forward to all the pieces coming together. I’m on the right track.”


Yasmine Eleazar, Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office Truancy Prevention Program

“I decided to do another year of service with Volunteer Maryland because one year just isn’t enough. I have started with something I just can’t stop now,” Yasmine explained about her desire to serve a second year as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office Truancy Prevention Program, which provides early intervention to improve attendance among participants at 10 Montgomery County middle schools.

For second-year Volunteer Maryland Coordinators such as Yasmine, now is a time to work toward new, ambitious goals. “Another year with the Truancy Prevention Program allows me to further assess the newly developed volunteer program, increase volunteer capacity and make sure it is strong enough and sustainable.”

Beyond her specific volunteer program goals, Yasmine sees service with Volunteer Maryland as a way to follow her chosen path. “I find joy in connecting with people and seeing the power of community. Volunteer Maryland set me off to a good start. I learned so much about myself, my community, and that while there are so many problems to solve out there, there are likewise many good people willing to work together to solve these problems.”

Gabrielle Caddell, SEED School of Maryland

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A lifelong traveler, Gabrielle took a leap of faith and moved from Oklahoma City to Baltimore to serve as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with SEED School of Maryland. A graduate of Westminster College, Gabrielle sums up her approach to life by saying, “I believe that as a human it is my life’s work to serve those around me. It is not our place to harm one another but our responsibility to uplift each other. As we continually learn how to focus that responsibility on those that surround us, it creates community, a key component of a joyful and fulfilling life. When service and community intertwine it creates compassion. Compassion leads to understanding. Understanding leads to action. Action leads to change.”

As she recruits Tutors and other volunteers who will provide after school services for SEED School students, Gabrielle hopes to live out her philosophy. Along the way, she hopes to sharpen her professional skills, including public speaking, writing and reporting. She knows her year of service will be both rewarding and challenging, and to that she says, “I want to be the person who understands challenges are not a reason to give up, but rather a reason to try harder.”


Jennifer Hizer, Deep Roots


A Virginia Tech grad with a degree in Natural Resources Conservation and Recreation Management, Jennifer’s previous work includes providing energy efficiency assessments and interning with the US Forest Service. Jennifer initially saw AmeriCorps as a way to further engage in environmental stewardship, but when she learned about Deep Roots, she was eager to serve. A nonprofit in Earleville, Deep Roots works with children who are disconnected through homelessness or other similar marginalization. “Deep Roots won me over with their mission,” she shares, “and as Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, I am looking forward to collaborating with their Board and staff to strengthen their volunteer program.”

Jennifer will maintain her connection to nature and animals thanks to her home menagerie, which includes a dog, a cat, two fish tanks, two leopard geckos, and potential leopard gecko babies on the way. As she manages this growing brood at home, Jennifer looks forward to building workplace management skills throughout her service year. When reflecting on her goals for the year, she shares, “This overall experience will give me the insight and confidence to pursue my long-term goal of working in park management.”

Joyce R. Plaxen, Olney Home For Life


Volunteering has long been second nature for Joyce Plaxen. The author of Adapt My World, a handbook that features “simple activity adaptations for people with developmental disabilities” Joyce has a palpable passion for bringing out the best in everyone, regardless of ability. This passion also shines through her involvement in Special Olympics of Montgomery County.

As Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Olney Home For Life, Joyce will recruit volunteers to provide transportation for Olney-area residents who are aging in place. About the need for such volunteers, Joyce observes, “Looking forward, the needs of aging seniors will grow to numbers we haven’t seen before. Aging in place will be more important than ever. This movement will not be just about transportation, but the need to make modifications to the home and adaptations will be imperative to keep the aging seniors in their homes.

“In my past work and service experiences, I have made a difference in the life of a person who was born with special needs. In the role of the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Olney Home For Life, I am looking to make a difference in the life of an aging senior, to ensure their independence, while holding on to  their dignity.”

Nicolletta Kakaris, Living Classrooms Foundation


After completing a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, Niki hoped to spend a year prior to medical school focused on service. Specifically, she wanted to serve in Baltimore City, which she has called home for her entire life. As Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with the Living Classrooms Foundation, Niki sees an opportunity to be part of an organization that as she puts it, “is invaluable to the revitalization of the city.”

This year, Niki will be recruiting Math Tutors, STEM Mentors, Teen Program Mentors and volunteers who assist with school-day programming at the Living Classrooms Community Center. As she does so, she’s “hoping to leave a lasting impression on a great organization, so that it continues to improve the lives of the community members it serves.” And what does Niki hope to get in return?  “I’m hoping to take everything I learn from this experience into my future service endeavors,” she says, “in medical school and beyond.”