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Let your dreams be bigger than your fears & your actions louder than your words.

15 May

When I agreed to blog for Public Allies, I thought a couple blogs a month… no big deal! From the few amount that I have posted you would think that I hateee blogging. That is not true at all. I love blogging.. and knowing that I will have something to look back on this experience. It is actually a great reflection exercise…something that I learned to appreciate in the Public Allies program.

I unfortunately bite off quite a bit much more than I could chew…in a completely great way. Like trying to fit the whole cookie in your mouth or taking too much ice cream that an unexpected brain freeze follows… something that I have much experience doing, haha.

I found out that I was accepted into Teach For America. I will be teaching Special Education in South Carolina. I am so grateful for this opportunity… To actually be apart of closing the achievement gap. My training for the program begins at the end of May in Atlanta!

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Following my acceptance, it has been such a bittersweet couple months. At first, I thought that I could still be able to graduate early from Public Allies by serving 1700 hours a month early. However, with all the studying I am doing to pass both Elementary and Special Education Praxis exams, the interviews, prework for my training, and essentially moving out of my apartment and down south, I had to make the sad decision to exit out of Public Allies early.. without making the 1700 mark :(.

With that being said, I am sad that I have to leave the friends that I have made along the way. I have been so lucky to meet such fabulous people.

Public Allies Service Day 1

Those that I worked with at The Education Partnership quickly became “family.” From late hours planning distributions to early mornings coffee runs before large volunteer days, it all brings a smile to my face. Who know that I would leave Public Allies knowing how to maneuver fork pallet jacks in a warehouse!

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Photo By Jim Judkis

As for my fellow Allies, I would not nearly be as prepared for my next steps if I did not have this Public Allies experience. I learned that it’s not always just professional. It takes personal time and commitment to work with a group of diverse people and build a sense of community to reach an end goal. By connecting with other Allies on a personal level, they have been able to point out both my strengths and weaknesses..most of which I didn’t know I had.

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Even though I will not be graduating, I will always look back on this time in Public Allies as a huge stepping stone into my career. Last year I applied to Teach For America and The New Teacher Project and was not given a position. I applied to Public Allies, because I believed in the mission, and I also wanted to gain experience and fill the gap with something that employers were looking for that I was essentially missing. I knew I could Lead, I just needed that extra push and guidance.

Looking back to a year ago, I know I was not prepared and cringe to think how I might have made it through in a position without the Public Allies experience. I now have specific skill sets. I was given the chance to build relationships with not just others but essentially myself. I discovered what “my assets” are and I have this new sense of confidence that was not there a year ago…

Here’s to the late night meetings… the OARRs,
My supervisors who knew I could when I thought I couldn’t,
Public Allies who taught me that it is okay to say “no”,
The volunteers and kiddos that gave me a sense of hope for the future,
All those fun surprises found in the donation boxes,
Healthy Futures, Veterans and Military Families and Economic Opportunities,
…School supplies
and one hell of a good time.

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Pittsburgh’s Team Service Projects

9 Apr

Happy April! Just to give you an update on what has been going on in the South Side of Pittsburgh…

Healthy Futures! (My Team)

Team Healthy Futures in Pittsburgh is partnering with South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), a volunteer run organization that “maintains, fosters and improves the quality of life, safety and unity of the Slopes neighborhood” To all you outsiders, “Slopes” is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s “South Side full of hills, historical houses with panoramic views, and… steps (A necessity to get from A to B for the pedestrians/visitors).

SSSNA has made a partnership with Grow Pittsburgh and the City to replace an abandoned, littered baseball field with a community garden! Residents can rent out a plot to grow organic, fresh produces. A great asset, since most homes in the Slopes do not have adequate space for gardening.

My team is beginning to build a partnership with Voices Against Violence, a program that has a mission “to provide effective intervention and prevention activities in a proactive way that strategically reduce interpersonal conflict among youth and individuals to address issues that impact negatively on under served communities through innovative grass roots approaches that engage youth and community residents. ”

Our Objectives:

  • to create a sustainable summer gardening program for Voices Against Violence.
  • empower teens by teaching organic gardening, healthy food choices, and food security values

Our Outcomes:

  • enable behavioral change related to eating habits and food choices
  • assist in fostering strong work ethics and build skill sets
  • inspire lifelong community stewardship

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Photo By Lake Fong: Read article here!

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Veterans and Military Families!

Another team service project, Veterans and Military Families, will be organizing and hosting a BBQ for veterans and their families in the South Side of Pittsburgh.

This is not just any BBQ! They have been building partnerships with nonprofits and organizations to showcase the services available to veterans and their families that they otherwise may not know are out there. It will also be a great networking event, enabling veterans and families to connect with each other while the community shows appreciation for their past service and sacrifices.

Economic Opportunities!

The Economic Opportunities Team will be partnering with Hot Metal Faith Community Church to host “Souper Saturdays.” The Hot Metal Faith Community Church has a service called “The Table” …a “community kitchen with a heart to serve the South Side community.”

Economic Opportunities are building a program around that service, by providing monthly events where community members can come get a meal and receive services that will assist them in reaching economic opportunities. At these “Souper Saturdays” their will be free haircuts, resume & computer assistance, free hygiene products & clothing (professional wear) and organizations that explain how to apply for food stamps and other government assistance.

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Holding up their “Souper Saturday” Sign

As you can tell, we are quite busy over here! What are some other Team Projects across the nation? 🙂 (Thats if you have not shared already)

Meet Dee

2 Apr

Meet Dee. She is a Fellow Pittsburgh Public Ally working at Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy “to improve quality of life for the people of Pittsburgh by restoring the park system to excellence in partnership with the City.”

I am proud to say she is also on my team service project. I continue to learn a lot from Dee. I tend to over-think things and stress about the “small stuff”. She is a team member that can calm me down and think realistically about goals and outcomes about our project.

Together, with 6 other Pittsburgh Public Allies, we are partnering with a local nonprofit to engage youth in learning healthy lifestyle choices by facilitating service opportunities through organic gardening. (Expect a post later this week about the final presentations of each team service project this year from Pittsburgh!)

Cupcake wars!

13 Mar

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This past week I was honored to help out my fellow Pittsburgh Ally, Emily, at The Sarah Heinz House. The Sarah Heinz House, Emily’s placement organization, is a nonprofit/Boys & Girls Club, that provides children and teens with powerful role models and a safe, fun place to go after school, on weekends and during the summer. Emily is one of those role models, and it was truly touching watching her interact with the kids. They LOVED her, and you could see her mentoring skills shine. It was great to see first hand the impact she is having with the youth.

I was honored help her run the event, “Cupcake Wars” ….help out as in eating and judging nine cupcakes all made by youth! It was an incredibly sweet experience. 😉 I felt pretty sick after the contest… although it was totally worth the sugar high!

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Raffling Prizes:

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Full of hugs, smiles, and a whole lot of energy, I wish that every neighborhood had their own Sarah Heinz House.

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My Dinner:

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30 Hour Famine

1 Mar

The Education Partnership generally hosts volunteers every Saturday from 10- 2pm. This weekend, I had a surprise group of about 30 from a local church’s youth group.

They were one of the many student/youth groups all over the world who were fasting for 30 hours “in learning the truth about hunger, poverty, and injustice — then overcome it all with love.” http://www.30hourfamine.org/

Despite the fact that the volunteers were hungry, they were one of a couple volunteer groups that sorted over 8 pallets of school supplies in one visit.

The next 30 hour fast will take place April 27th – 28th. I plan on taking part in the event…I’m always learning about new causes/initiatives with each group I host!

I love my volunteers!

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Reflection

22 Feb

Synonyms 
Meditation, rumination, deliberation, cogitation, study, thinking, imputation, aspersion, reproach, criticism.

For Public Allies in Pittsburgh, mid year is fullllllll of everything stated above.  Reflection of what we accomplished… what we need to improve… our struggles and our successes. Reflections on diversity. Reflections on each other, our teams and whats to come.

To be honest, the whole process can be… well… uncomfortable. Not the negative sort of uncomfortable. Rather an intensive learning, “get out of your comfort zone to experience something new” kind of uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable you thank yourself for going through, sort of uncomfortable…

A perfect mid year retreat example: Comfort Zone Activity.
Before mid year retreat, Pittsburgh Allies were ask to step into a place where they felt they did “not belong” and have a conversation with someone/people in that setting.

Program Managers asked us to first write on a piece of paper what our comfort zone is. Then we were asked to write down our experience from the comfort zone activity.

Where did Allies go? Bars, Places of Worship, Homeless/Recovery shelters, Protests, Streets of neighborhoods in which they were not comfortable in for various reasons…

Overall it was a powerful exercise. It was interesting to see that some Allies’ comfort zone made other Allies uncomfortable, and vice versa. It made you think of what you may be able to learn from each others past experiences. Most importantly, as we described our experiences, we became aware of the assumptions we may have of this zone… allowing us to break down the barriers and learn what is holding us back from experiencing these places as well as the people in them.

Sadly I do not have any pictures of retreat… I left my camera at home… wahhh wahhh!

BUT I do have pictures of a mid year service day!!! Pittsburgh Public Allies beautified downtown Pittsburgh by picking up trash with Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

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Power tools

8 Feb

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation.”  — John F. Kennedy

Students gave thanks for receiving their donated school supplies:

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