My path to Public Allies (and beyond!)

30 Nov

Almost exactly one year ago, I began to consider what I was going to do after I graduated. I attended a panel called “Beyond the Cubicle” sponsored by my college’s career services department that focused on employment opportunities in the non- profit world. I went in not knowing what to expect, having never had a “real” job before, and came out knowing that I was going to apply to Public Allies.

I’ve always felt a little torn between my two primary interests: social justice and the arts, specifically literature. Sometimes, especially in the college setting, the connections between the two are not immediately apparent. For the most part, I indulged my love of literature in classes and seminars, while I explored social inequality in my community through extracurricular activities. So, when it came time to search for jobs, I found that most of my community experience came from things like voter registration drives, working in a local community garden and interning at a food justice nonprofit.  

Painting a rain barrel at the community garden

Being the nerd that I am, I am happiest in a classroom setting. I find that classroom discussions often yield the most valuable learning experiences – interpretations that I haven’t yet explored, perspectives that I haven’t yet seen and opinions, just waiting to be challenged. Yet, I often found that these classroom discussions offered little or no space to talk about the role that arts and humanities play in social justice.  

A picture I took freshman year of college to prove that I did, in fact, study.

At the “Beyond the Cubicle” panel an Ally from Public Allies Delaware talked about teaching visual arts classes in schools where funding for the arts had been cut. That was when it all began to make sense to me. Just as access to healthy food is a social justice issue, a quality arts education is something that should be, but isn’t, available to all. After being admitted to Public Allies D.C., I was placed at the PEN/ Faulkner Foundation. Their mission statement – bringing together readers and writers to promote a love of literature – resonates with my desire to make the humanities more accessible. I was especially drawn to the practice of bringing both books and authors into classrooms. That way, students are exposed to contemporary poems, fiction and literary nonfiction that they can take home, mark up, read and re-read at their own pace. They are also exposed to the authors who are, in fact, people just like them offering anecdotes, jokes and advice.

A year ago I doubt I could have imagined where I would be today, living in a new city and doing a job that seems too good to be true. But, I’m here, finally exploring the connection between the arts and social change and beginning to envision how I can work to effectively promote both.

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3 Responses to “My path to Public Allies (and beyond!)”

  1. Dara December 3, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Ariel,

    I found your post really inspiring–I feel like we just had a conversation after reading it! A lot of the feelings you’re describing is exactly how I felt when I found out about Public Allies and finally starting to do the work I was passionate about. I love how you talk about the organization you’re working for and I can’t wait to read more about what you’re doing in DC! It sounds awesome!

    • Ariel December 7, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Thanks, Dara!

      As you can probably tell from my comment on your most recent post, I am also super interested in hearing more about your placement. You might say that you have planted a SEED of interest (Sorry, I really like bad puns!!)

  2. imdelgado December 12, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Exploring the connection…. yes!

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