Tag Archives: a day in the life

A New Dimension of Service: Public Allies & Queens Museum of Art

30 May

Check out the following blog post I wrote for the Queens Muse Blog as an explanation of the partnership between my PO and Public Allies…Trust me, it’s worth it to scroll down.

 is the School Programs Assistant at the Queens Museum of Art. For more from Pema follow her on Twitter @pemadb or check out her blog posts for Public Allies.

Public Allies at the Queens Museum of Art discussing their art inspired by a walk through Corona

Q: What do a charter school, a tenant’s right association, an LGBT center and the US Fund for UNICEF all have in common with the Queens Museum of Art?

A: They are all partner organizations for Public Allies New York.

Public Allies New York (PANY) is a leadership development program that places young people at non-profits with socially driven missions throughout the city. For those Queens Muse blog readers familiar with the organizations mentioned or AmeriCorps (of which Public Allies New York is a branch), it may come as a surprise that a museum qualifies as a partner. But when you think about the way that QMA is a unique public space that offers community based programming and exhibitions for those who might not have access otherwise, then it begins to make perfect sense.

QMA Family and After School Programs Assistant Harley Jones and I are both 2nd year Allies placed here for our 10 month fellowship in the Education Department.  By design, Public Allies has all of the Fellows juggling two different hats at all times: dealing with the full time placement aspect of working in the Education Department supporting school, family, and after-school programs, as well the other components of the “PANY-verse” that we are required to complete. That means training sessions, retreats, a specialization track, Three Ways, 360s, PMs, PISDs, TSPs and other acronyms and lingo that we Allies speak fluently. For example, a project that came to fruition from partnering with Public Allies is our Team Service ProjectObjects with a Story, a Teen art exhibit we are having in partnership with the Queens Library. Check out our work in action at the opening of Objects with a Story at the Queens Library at Flushing on May 5th from 4 —6 pm.

Another point of intersection was last week’s visit by 15 Public Allies in the Program Design specialization track, who came as a part of their weekly training to learn more about Curriculum Design from our Manager of School Programs, Lindsay Smilow. QMA Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl also spoke with the Allies, looking to them as the next wave of community leadershe mentioned the way arts organizations can benefit from learning about the way service organizations help communities. Successful examples of such learning at QMA exist in both Shaun El C. Leonardo’s Heart of Corona Initiative site-specific artwork, and artist Tania Burguera’s  Immigrant Movement International.

Public Allies encompasses a national umbrella of organizations that upon first glance may seem far removed from the art world. By becoming an 2011-2012 partner, the Queens Museum of Art established a new dimension of service for a new class of Allies.

Harley and I on Psychedelic Thursday – inspired by Queens International 2012: Three Points Make a Triangle


Do you love what you do all day?

24 May

What I do all day is pretty awesome. As some of you already know, I work at a case management organization called Devereux that serves children and families in need, specifically dealing with children in the dependency system (aka kids in foster care). Oh yeah I work for the sometimes not so liked Department of Children and Families, but not directly, see they privatized back in 2004 in FL and divided the work up to various case management organizations.

This whole foster care business has been turned into a dirty little secret that not many people in our country talk about or even know about. It wasn’t until I graduated college and became a Public Ally that I realized thousands of children were in the foster care system in just the Central Florida area alone. It’s been my experience that people don’t care to hear those nitty gritty details. People cringe at the thought of children being neglected, abused or abandoned by their very own family…and perhaps they don’t talk about it because they’d rather believe it doesn’t happen. I wish it didn’t.

I work as a Family Finder and Connections Coordinator. Most of the kids I serve aren’t even kids, they’re full grown teenagers who have spent most, if not all, of their life in the foster care system moving from foster home to group home to foster home to a relative to…well you get the idea. Some of these children were removed when they were little ones and lost all contact with their extended family members, brothers and sisters, childhood best friends and their favorite second grade teacher. Remember, when a child is removed, they are removed from everyone, not just Mom and Dad. Most of the teens I work with are 16 and 17 years old and can’t name one adult connection and it’s my job it change that.

This is the “Connection Tree” I have created. On the branches are all the foster children and teens that I have located family for. On the leaves are the names of those family members.


This is how I do it…

1) I read through all of their old DCF files page by page.

2) Run background searches and talk with the teens themselves to see if I can figure out who is in their family, where they live and find out if they can be a stable connection.

3) I call the family (those can get interesting), I write letters, I find them on facebook and send them messages and emails.

4) I visit people in jail if need be..

I do whatever it takes to find connections for my kids. I might sound brave but I wasn’t always this way. At first I was terrified to work with teens. I was scared they wouldn’t want me to be in their lives. I didn’t want them to think I was someone who was going to just come and go like all their therapists and case managers. Now it does take a while to earn the trust of a teen who has been foster care for over a decade, but it is worth being patient for. I know its sounds all fluffy, sweet and cute but I think the world of these kids. Mostly because the world doesn’t think much of them.

So there it is, that’s what I do all day as a Public Ally. I hope you enjoy your job as much as I do…and if you’re an Ally who does too, comment below and brag about it!!

A day in the life of a Public Ally: a walk in the park

3 May

7:30am – I start my commute from Brooklyn to Mets-Willets Point, home of the Mets, and also the train station for the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.  My walk through the park to the museum starts with the boardwalk below. Any unusual feature in the park like this just makes me assume it’s a leftover from the 1939 or 1964 World’s Fairs.

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A peak into my Outlook-scheduled day!

28 Mar

I am a huge fan of making to-do lists, synchronizing them with my Outlook calendar, and thus getting a ton of stuff done.  You want to know what an Ally does all day?  Here’s a peak into my very organized life (ha! Yeah right…I can pretend at least):

MCW calendar

Seeing all those little boxes on my calendar oddly makes me feel accomplished and satisfied!

8:00am  Check work email from home.  I often do this in case there are last-minute meeting cancellations or updates before I go in to the office.  Our offices are located downtown Minneapolis so it can be a hassle to get there.

8:30am – Drive to work.  I usually walk when it’s nice out, but today is threatening spotty showers and wind gusts that might just start my day off on the wrong foot.  Instead, I get to battle parking downtown!

9:00am – Settle  in with my morning cup of coffee, write to-do list, answer emails, and update my Outlook calendar (where would I be without my outlook calendar?!)

9:30am – Marketing Round-up: Update and re-format new website & edit newsletter.

12:15pm – Lunch time.  One of my resolutions this year has been to cook more and eat healthier!  My roommate and I stumbled upon a delicious brussels sprout salad.  I know what you’re thinking… I didn’t think it sounded good either, but it’s my new favorite food!  Incredibly easy to make, too.


Brussels Sprout Salad - mmmm!

1:00pm – Drive to meeting two of the week: The CEO’s/Executive Directors of our member organizations meet to discuss potential innovative collaborations they can form to improve their individual programs.  I take thorough notes at all meeting.  Luckily I type really fast!

3:00pm – Work from home: Start brainstorming and putting together plan for a spring “speed dating” event for our member nonprofits.  No, this isn’t an opportunity for all those singles out there to find a love connection.  Rather, it’s an opportunity for staff at our member nonprofits to get to know more of their colleagues and find potential strategic connections in their line of work.  Hopefully this breeds some new, fresh ideas!

4:30pm – More emails to respond to/send out!  (Let’s be honest, though.  My email is constantly open on my computer.)

5:00pm – Done!  Close my laptop up, charge it for tomorrow, and turn on some Friday Night Lights!

A day in the life part 2

19 Mar

A continuation of my previous post, ” A Day in the Life Part 1″ 


Wednesday Gathering at Eagle Rock School

Wednesday is intramural day at Eagle Rock School. Wednesday gathering lasts an hour, longer than the normal gathering on days when students have classes. Robert Burkhardt, the Head of School, always runs Wednesday gathering. Regular items on the agenda include:

  • 30 seconds of silence
  • Saying good morning in more than 30 languages
  • A reading of letters that anyone has written to Eagle Rock, including former students, parents, and visitors
  • Important announcements: Recently at a Wednesday gathering it was announced that Holly, the current Public Allies Teaching fellow in English and Literature, got hired the be the new, full-time English teacher at the end of her Public Allies service year. Woohoo Holly!

Public Allies Fellow Holly, in black, when it was announced to the community she would be the next English teacher

  • Golden Spirit awards: Gold painted dinosaur/animal figures given to staff and students  those who exhibited the best team spirit in the previous week of games.
  • Props: students write anonymous notes of gratitude to the community that are read from the prop box.
  • Robert hands out books for students to read. At the end of this part we always say: “Those who do not read are no better off than those who can’t”
  • Music gathering

After gathering, it’s game time! We all come to gathering wearing our intramural clothes. Each house sports a different color. Students at Eagle Rock are split into six houses: Ponderosa, Pinon (black), Aspen (white), Spruce (Green), Lodgepole (Red), and Juniper (Yellow). Every Wednesday the houses compete against each other in a variety of sports. Last trimester it was ultimate  frisbee and basketball. This trimester we had five weeks of water polo/floor hockey, and recently moved on to volleyball. The Public Allies fellows are also paired up by house, and I represent Aspen. I’m just gonna throw it out there that Aspen house went undefeated in floor hockey and water polo. Boo-yah.

Students, Valentina, Darnell, and Jonathon, representing their houses on intramural day

Wednesday afternoon consist of either a staff meeting or an instructional meeting. Personally, instructional meetings are my favorite. This is a time when all the teachers get together for internal professional development. We go over strategies on how to become more effective teachers. This year the teaching focus is how to incorporate HOTS (higher order thinking skills) into all of our classes to help students become critical thinkers.

The last part of the fellow day is advisories. To ensure that all students are on academic track, we have two staff members that oversee about 3-4 students, and we dedicate an hour every week to checking in with these students and supporting them academically and emotionally.

Thursday and Friday

Thursdays look very similar to Mondays and Tuesdays. More teaching, hanging out with students, and planning for classes. One class I am co-teaching is “Connections in Wood.” This is a service-learning course where students get to build projects, such as bookshelves for classrooms and a door for the Stanley Hotel (the inspiration for The Shining), and reflect on how they are able to apply their new WoodShop skills to improving their community.

The Weekend

We have an unconventional schedule here at Eagle Rock. Fellows either work Tuesday-Saturday, or Sunday- Thursday. This is because we have duty, which means monitoring students outside of class time. We do rounds around campus, and open up different buildings, such as the art room and the library, for student use. On Saturdays, fellows run current events, and an hour and a half long Saturday seminar. I’m on Saturday duty this trimester and run a seminar where students and I watch anime.

Human Performance Fellow Grace on Sunday morning duty in the library, looking official with her walkie-talkie.


I hope you now have a sense of what it is like to be a fellow at Eagle Rock School. Service is our life 24/7. However, service doesn’t have to be your day job for it still to play a big role in your life. So I would like to leave you with a question: How can you incorporate service into your daily life?

A day in the life part 1

8 Mar

All the Public Allies sites are unique, so I’m going to try and show you the daily life of a fellow at Eagle Rock School. Give you a little taste of life in our shoes.To sum up our experience in a few words is impossible, but I’ll try it in two posts. Just like all the Public Allies Fellows across the country, we live and breathe service every day at our sites. Fellows at Eagle Rock help have two main jobs: teach and form relationships with students. We don’t only focus on academics, we also emphasize personal growth and community engagement.


Monday through Friday, all staff and students attend gathering at 8:30AM. At gathering, students and staff have ten minutes to discuss a topic of their choice, whether it be personal growth, philosophies of happiness, or major learnings. Robert, the Head of School, also provides a question of the week for students and staff to reflect upon. Then we move on to announcements and music. Students and staff can sign up for a five minute music gathering. Another fellow named Zach and I have covered “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, and the English Fellow Holly and a student named Nija’ah covered “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees. This is probably one of my favorite things about Eagle Rock. Who wouldn’t want to start of their day with live music?

Students then attend classes from 9:05AM-11:35AM and then from 2:30PM-4:30PM.

morning gathering at Eagle Rock School


Fellows at Eagle Rock teach a variety of classes. At the beginning of the fellowship, each fellow worked specifically with an Instructional Specialist (IS) in their subject area. I am the service-learning fellow, thus I work with service-learning instructor and teach classes related to service and civic engagement. Now, we also have the freedom to collaborate with teachers in other fields. I am co-teaching a class called “Leadership for Justice” and will soon be co-teaching “Genocide and Human Rights.” Brandon, the science fellow, is co-teaching a class called “You Are What You Eat,” in which students learn about making healthy life choices through learning about what’s in the food that they eat and how it impacts their body. Lan, the Societies and Cultures Fellow, taught “Sociology of Violence,” where students explored how societal institutions shape our behavior and thinking.

Societies and Cultures Fellow Lan Dinh teaching "Sociology of Violence"

Every Tuesday, we also have Fellows Learning Seminar (FLS). This is our weekly check-in with our Public Allies Supervisor Mark about how we are doing. Every week we also do something different, whether it is related to teaching strategies, having courageous conversations, or working together as a team. It is one of the few times of the week we are all together, and can reflect on our experience.

Eagle Rock Fellows during FLS

I mentioned that on Mondays we are given a question of the week. To get a little bit of the Eagle Rock experience, reflect on our current question of the week: What is your fierce urgency of now?