New Harvest VISTA Leader: Welcome, Laura!

22 Dec 2022, by Admin in Harvest Blog, Harvest VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger

Laura Kozuszek will be focusing on developing long-lasting strategies as a Harvest VISTA Leader in the AmeriCorps Harvest VISTA Program at Harvest Against Hunger. This will include program outreach, engagement, communications, and recruitment to support the 12 host sites around the country. The overall goal of the Harvest VISTA program is to reduce food waste while increasing the amount of fresh nutritious produce available to people experiencing poverty by building capacity within sustainable gleaning, produce recovery, and other food system programs. Other aspects of her work will ensure that training of AmeriCorps members on the Harvest VISTA team are current, on-going mentoring is provided as necessary, and communicate of the impacts of the program to the community.

Laura enjoys working on national and global complex societal issues regarding the cross-section of the environment and human interaction. She has trained in various areas such as biology and business (obtained her B.Sc. in biology and minor in business in 2015 from Walsh University), working in disaster management, and certified as a PADI advanced open water scuba diver to give her a wide range of experiences. She is a recent graduate of Northeastern University where she earned her M.Sc. in Global Studies & International Relations with concentration in International Economics and Consulting and a regional area focus in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Now, Laura is not new to the world of AmeriCorps VISTA. She previously served from 2016-2019 as a VISTA Member and VISTA Leader with the Colorado Region | American Red Cross.  As a program development specialist VISTA member, she helped build capacity in their disaster preparedness programs across 16 counties in the Colorado Spring area. She was then promoted to expand the entire AmeriCorps VISTA Program across two states (Colorado and Wyoming). After three years with AmeriCorps VISTA, she spent 18 months working directly in the Disaster Cycle Services in the Texas Gulf Coast with American Red Cross – TGCR. Laura served on 10 national deployments in 2 years, including responding to the COVID-19 crisis as the regional lead for Community Engagement and Partnerships [supporting 51 counties and 9.5 million+ souls (people and animals)].

During her graduate studies, Laura developed a theory, the Zipper Theory, that introduces an increased resilience design framework that encourages various working professionals at all levels to work together to increase community livelihoods regarding island and coastal communities. This led to more research centered on how to best partner with island and coastal communities to design resilience and sustainability solutions to address the effects of the current climate crisis. In December 2021, she was invited to present on this research at the 2021 Sustainable Island Futures Symposium co-hosted by the University of Aruba & the Metabolism of Islands (MoI) and highlighted in Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “Next Generation of Resilience” Students Showcase in May 2021.

She currently resides on Anderson Island, Washington. In her free time, she loves to explore new places (visited 12 countries and counting!) and spending time with her husband and Lily, a rescued Tabby from the Humane Society – Pikes Peak Region.