Current Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows


Photo of Raleigh Addington

RALEIGH ADDINGTON - Graduate Program: Latin American Studies and One Health, LAS M.A. & M.P.H.

My name is Raleigh Addington, and I am excited to be part of the 2021 incoming Coverdell Fellows cohort as an MPH and MA LAS dual Masters student. I am originally from Colorado and have lived in many states and countries both with my family and through traveling, foreign exchange and most recently volunteering in Peace Corps Paraguay. Before starting here at the University of Arizona, I was a 3rd-grade teacher in Albuquerque, NM, and a foreign exchange program leader in Costa Rica, Fiji, Thailand, and Laos. I am passionate about learning from and with other cultures, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with friends and family. Aguije peê y pura vida. thank you and "good vibes/pure life.


Katherine Barbaree

KATHERINE GAIA BARBAREE - Graduate Program: Language, Reading & Culture, M.A.

Katherine is a Master’s candidate in the Language, Reading & Culture - Early Childhood Education program at University of Arizona College of Education’s Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies. She is thrilled to be serving as the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow with United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, supporting their “Connecting Children to Nature” initiative to leverage existing infrastructure and policy change to increase access of families and young children to healthy outdoor time and nature-based play. 

Katherine is committed in work and life to the building of bioculturally diverse and ecosocially just communities. She began her career in community and sustainability education over 20 years ago as an Environment Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. That experience of living and working deep within traditional indigenous Tasheleit communities in the High Atlas Mountains of North Africa inspired a lifelong love and reverence for both place-based sustainable culture and the unique and striking beauty of desert ecology–which she relates to through the lens of her own Greek (Peloponnese) and southern Italian (Sicily) ancestry.
Since that time, Katherine has worked in K-Adult educational settings in Honduras, Slovenia, and the Colorado Plateau. Along the way, she earned a Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, focusing on place-based education and ecological literacy, including a Permaculture Design Certificate from the Sonoran Permaculture Guild. She then left the Southwest for Northern California to delve deeply into regenerative agriculture, working as an urban community farm manager, a school garden teacher, and as the educational program manager for The Ecological Farming Association. She is delighted to now call the magnificent Sonoran Desert home, and is honored to be growing her own family’s roots in the Tucson Basin on the traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham.


Den Baseda

DEN BASEDA - Graduate Program:  Biomedical Engineering, M.S.

Den is pursuing a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering. He completed a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh North Carolina. From 2014 to 2016 he served as an education volunteer with the Peace Corps in Namibia, where he taught math and science to 4th-7th graders in a small town of Khorixas. After returning from the Peace Corps, he joined Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte as an AmeriCorps member working as a Refugee Youth Program Assistant, to support newly resettled refugee families. Since moving to Tucson, he started hand cycling and enjoys exploring the landscape of Tucson. Driven by passion for community service and staying active, he hopes to pursue a career that creates positive impact.


Meredith Brewer

MEREDITH BREWER - Graduate Program: Public Health, M.P.H.

Meredith Brewer served as a health volunteer with Peace Corps Guyana from 2018-2020. While there, she collaborated with teachers at the secondary school and midwives at the health center to increase youth-friendly health services and education in their community. Additionally, she organized a regional 3-day workshop for secondary teachers to expand their knowledge and skills to strengthen Guyana's national health education curriculum, Health & Family Life Education (HFLE). Meredith grew up in Illinois and received her Bachelor of Science from Bradley University with minors in International Studies and Health. As a Coverdell Fellow at the University of Arizona, she is pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health. Her career interests include focusing on adolescents and sexual and reproductive health. 


Blake Caldarera

BLAKE CALDARERA - Graduate Program: Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.

Blake’s introduction to sustainable development began on a ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. Here, he volunteered with the nonprofit Heifer International and practiced the ins and outs of holistic farm management. From 2018 to 2020, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the North-Western Province of Zambia. As part of the Rural Aquaculture Promotion project, he consulted fish farmers on tilapia pond management and led a variety of community education initiatives. Upon returning to the states, he continued fisheries work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the Mora National Fish Hatchery.

At the University of Arizona, Blake is pursuing a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture. Blake holds a B.S. in Biology from the University of Arkansas and a professional certificate in Sustainable Aquaponics Systems from the University of Hawaii. He hopes to incorporate his knowledge of biology and aquaculture into landscape design. Aspects of particular interest to Blake include integrated agriculture, water recirculation, and ecological restoration. Ultimately, he seeks to create designs that strike a balance between natural beauty and functional land use.


Stefany Calderon

STEFANY CALDERON - Graduate Program: Public Health, M.P.H.

My name is Stefany Calderon. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana from 2018-2020 in the health sector, designing programs and projects for youth development. After being evacuated due to the pandemic, I moved to Dallas, Texas where I worked as a contact tracer and an Environmental Health Specialist for the Garland Health Department. In the Health Department I assisted with the first COVID-19 mass vaccination events, as well as, performed compliance inspections. This upcoming fall semester, I will be starting as a Coverdell Fellow in the Master of Public Health program with a concentration in Public Health Policy and Management.


Aurea Cunanan

AUREA CUNANAN - Graduate Program: Public Health, M.P.H

Aurea served in Peace Corps Zambia from 2017 – 2020. She served as a health volunteer in Luapula province and then as a volunteer leader for Central province. She focused her volunteer efforts on comprehensive sexual health programs and encouraging life skills for adolescent boys. Her service as volunteer leader was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she helped facilitate the country-wide evacuation plan with PC Zambia staff. After returning to her home in Los Angeles, California she moved to Denver, Colorado to work as a project coordinator at a nursing workforce non-profit. There, she focused on rural healthcare and recruitment and retention of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners across 5 states. Aurea is pursuing a master’s in public health. She is hoping to focus on community-based health programs emphasizing diverse groups and historically disenfranchised peoples.

Aurea loves swimming in natural bodies of water, flower blooms, novel experiences, and justice. 


Nelisha Gray

NELISHA GRAY - Graduate Program: Language, Reading & Culture, M.A.

Nelisha Gray was born in Hyattsville, Maryland but grew up in Normal, Illinois.  She attended Northern Illinois University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement.  She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal from 2019-2020 where she taught English to 135 middle school students.  After Peace Corps, she continued her passion of working with English Language Learners by tutoring adults in her hometown at STAR Adult Literacy.  Nelisha is pursuing a Master’s in Language, Reading, and Culture to expand her knowledge and experience of working with English Language Learners.  In her free time, she enjoys reading, working on craft projects, and going on nature walks.


Rachael Hinkel

RACHAEL HINKEL - Graduate Program: Epidemiology, M.P.H.

Rachael Hinkel grew up on the island of Kaua’i in Hawai’i and attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where she earned her B.A. in Kinesiology. After volunteering for multiple public health initiatives that targeted underfunded schools in the LA area during her undergraduate chapter, she decided to join the Peace Corps upon graduation. She served in the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea from 2016-2019, working as a Maternal and Child Health Educator focusing on malaria prevention, sexual health, WASH, and business development projects in collaboration with local NGO, Ossez Innover. After the Peace Corps, while living in New York during the COVID-19 pandemic, she earned a Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Health and will be pursuing an MPH in Epidemiology while at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, specifically how they impact the health of women and children. In her spare time she loves playing with her two rambunctious dogs, tending to her house plants, hiking, reading, and traveling.



Kelsey Johnson

KELSEY JOHNSON - Graduate Program: Entry to the Profession of Nursing, M.S.

Kelsey is pursuing a Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MS-MEPN) degree at the University of Arizona’s College of Nursing. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. From 2012-2014 Kelsey served as a Health Extensionist volunteer with the Peace Corps in The Gambia, West Africa. While in The Gambia, Kelsey was able to support her local community through large and small projects including a village health group and a community wide water and sanitation project. She also collaborated with local and international organizations to co-organize a weeklong leadership camp, Camp GLOW, for students and teachers. Upon completion of her Peace Corps service, she worked at a domestic violence shelter where she was able to support women and children as they navigated the adjustments, successes and changes of life while at the shelter and after. She is drawn to working with women and children and is looking forward to continuing to serve and support individuals and the community as a nurse.

Kelsey is passionate about meeting people where they are and supporting them on their journey to achieve their goals. In her free time, she enjoys reading, eating, being out in nature and spending time with family and friends.


Ben Kowalski

BEN KOWALSKI - Graduate Program: Educational Leadership, M.Ed.

Ben Kowalski served as a Peace Corps TEFL Teacher Trainer in Canar, Ecuador from 2012-14. Originally from the Philadelphia area, he relocated to Tucson after his Peace Corps service and has worked in public education since 2015. His focus has been on refugee education and he worked with newcomer students in TUSD as an English Language Development teacher before moving to the Language Acquisition Department as an Academic Coach at the district level.

He looks forward to the knowledge and skills he will gain in the Master of Educational Leadership (M.Ed.) program and has future plans to work as a school administrator to continue to support students of refugee and immigrant backgrounds. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, cycling, mountain biking and camping.


Taren McGray

TAREN McGRAY - Graduate Program: Public Health, Ph.D.


Taren is joining the Coverdell Fellows as a second year Health Behavior Health Promotion PhD student, where her interests focus on the intersection between mental health and sexual/reproductive health in underprivileged global communities. Her passion was sparked during her time in Peace Corps Namibia (2016-2018), where Taren taught high school science and led school- and community-based sexual health education and outreach. While in Namibia, Taren created culturally relevant health communication materials and collaborated with Namibian stakeholders to standardize a national HIV/AIDS curriculum. Following her service, Taren worked in prevention services in Boston, organizing comprehensive health education events, managing a food pantry, and administering rapid HIV testing and counseling to minority and low-income communities. Taren earned her MPH in Global Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and has since worked as a Program Evaluator, partnering with numerous public health organizations. At UA, Taren’s current research examines how social support can be leveraged to improve health outcomes for survivor/victims of sexual violence and intimate partner violence among disadvantaged communities, particularly LGBTQ+ individuals. Taren is a proud Maine native and St. Lawrence University alum. In her spare time, she loves hiking, camping, gardening, live music, and playing with her pup!


Mateo Pomilia

MATEO POMILIA - Graduate Program: Native American Language & Linguistics, M.A.

Mateo has worked for a decade and a half as a conservation biologist in Latin America, southern Africa and the US. Mateo is enrolled in the Native American Languages and Linguistics MA program through which he aims to bridge Indigenous language revitalization and land conservation efforts. Mateo works as a program manager for the Forest Stewards Guild in northern New Mexico and serves as Treasurer for The Chaco Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to rural women's empowerment in southeastern Bolivia. Mateo holds a MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from the University of Leeds (UK) and a BA from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Mateo is a traveler, fly fisherman, and songwriter-singer. 


Taylor Simmons

TAYLOR SIMMONS - Graduate Program: Environmental Health Science, M.S.

Taylor Simmons is originally from Nashville, TN. She received her Bachelors of Science in Biology from Maryville College in Tennessee, and following graduation, she served in Cameroon as a Health and Education volunteer from 2019 - 2020. With the help of her counterparts, she facilitated food demonstrations, taught high school English, started a community garden, and had dreams of implementing grants won in the community when the COVID-19 evacuation took place. She continued her national service as a CAC AmeriCorps member at the largest composting facility in the nation, Sevier Solid Waste Inc. After her term as a Compost, Education, and Outreach Coordinator, she stayed on full time as the Health and Safety Director of the facility. She is pursuing her Masters in Environmental Health Science at the University of Arizona to research water, soil, and air quality and to promote environmental and health literacy in underserved regions. Her hobbies include hiking, running, reading, and spending time with her family and fur babies.


Rebecca Sustayta

REBECCA SUSTAYTA - Graduate Program: Public Health, M.P.H.

My name is Becca and I’m originally from the LA area. Shortly after graduating from ASU, I joined the Peace Corps as a Health Volunteer in Botswana (2019-2020). I was dually placed in my village, working with the District Aids Coordinator and a local Non-Governmental Organization. Unfortunately, my service was cut short because of the global COVID-19 pandemic and I returned back to California 10 months into my service.

Back in California, I worked as a Group Home Administrator for a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with co-occurring autism, intellectual and mental health needs. In July 2021, I moved back to Phoenix and started working as a Victim Advocate with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Beginning Fall 2022, I will be an MPH student on the Phoenix campus with a concentration in Public Health Practices. I look forward to the opportunities ahead and to continue exploring the beauty of Arizona!


Rachel Wesenberg

RACHEL WESENBERG - Graduate Program: Public Health, M.P.H.

Rachel Wesenberg served as a Community Health Volunteer in Peru from 2018-2020. She lived in the rural town of Chicche-Auquicancha at 12,900 feet elevation and worked on projects relating to maternal and child health and adolescent sexual health. In collaboration with the health post, Rachel trained local mothers as Community Health Workers (CHW) and educated families on nutritious diets aimed at treating and preventing anemia. She also taught alongside teachers at the high school to train students on leadership, self-esteem, healthy relationships, and sexual health.

At the University of Arizona, Rachel is pursuing a Master's of Public Health degree with a focus on global populations. She earned a B.S. in Public Health with majors in International Studies and minors in Urban Poverty Studies and Spanish from Saint Louis University in Missouri. Rachel is from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and is hopeful that the diverse and unique landscape, culture, and racial and ethnic makeup of the region will enrich her understanding of public health practice and positive social change.