Tag Archives: Ally Snapshot Blog

Can I really lead?

6 Dec

“Can you really lead, Ugonnah?” This is the question I asked myself after the first day of training when I did my first year of Public Allies. Like most people, I had a vague idea of what makes a leader. Vision, charisma, and the ability to convey your vision in a way to make others want to follow are considered to be basic characteristics of a leader. I am not disputing that they aren’t necessary, but it ignores the idea that says that leaders can be ever evolving and learning, which are traits I really value. Before Public Allies, I never thought that there might be an organization that would equip me with the tools of a good leader by highlighting the strengths in myself and learning to work on the attributes that I would like to strengthen. Sure, there are seminars and workshops that will teach me how to be more forceful and how to use words to persuade others to bend to my will, but that usually depends on changing fundamental things about me or taking an inventory of everything that is wrong with me, which, I can’t imagine, is a fun activity. I found that in my first year I discovered what social issues really spoke to me and was exposed to backgrounds, world views and opinions that made me examine how I see my surroundings. I did a lot of evolving and growing. I saw what I want , and held tightly the idea of “being the change I want to see in the world” as a way to decide my next steps. This second year as a Public Ally, I hope to develop the kind of skills (or maybe the assurance) that will allow me to be a leader and a force of good in my part of the world.

A little less than a month ago, Public Allies Pittsburgh held a training where we, Second Year Allies, facilitated a meeting with a panel of leaders in non-profits in the Pittsburgh area  and discussed the topic “Leadership: Managing with a Vision”. It was an amazing space where we were able to ask these different leaders what path they took to becoming leaders, what keeps them going, and how they keep their staff motivated. The quote that I will take with me from this experience was “Leadership is a process, when following a passion you can always move forward.” I want to follow my passions and grow with these passions, and if I am lucky enough to lead others to making a change where we can work together for a great cause. In my opinion, this kind of motivation keeps your intentions true, and when you feel on the brink of burning out, you can take steps to remind yourself on why you are working so hard. I am really excited about this year, and this panel was a great kick off to the kind of learning I want to experience this year. Public Allies extols the idea of ‘Everyone Leads” and being surrounded by people who genuinely believe it and also celebrates different kinds of learning and leading styles is one of my main reasons for signing up for a second year and will be something I can incorporate into every aspect of my life.


Corona: Then and Now

1 Jun

The Program Design specialization track visited the Queens Museum of Art the other week to learn about Curriculum Design with my supervisor Lindsay Smilow and Program Manager Max Chang. They started their training day with a walk through the Queens neighborhood of Corona. Keeping in mind the following questions they then created some great collages, throwing in the idea of Corona: Then and Now.

  1. What do you notice about the community? What stands out in terms of assets?
  2. What can you glean about the people through what you see, hear, smell, etc.? What can you glean about the history of the area?
  3. If possible, speak to one community resident along the way about highlights of the area and their experiences living in the neighborhood?

As you may have learned from my Queens Muse blog post – some of our Public Allies are talented artists! Here’s a neighborhood I created out of their community mapping inspired collages.

My 5 in 5

1 Jun

We sometimes refer to the people we admire as superheroes. Who’s your favorite super hero and why? If you were a superhero what would your power be?
My dad is actually a comic book collector, so I was raised with comics as my bedtime stories. Though I love comics, I don’t really have a favorite superhero, but rather love a group of super heroes called “Young Justice.” Forming because three young superheroes realize they work well together and can overcome obstacles and defeat bad guys they couldn’t face alone, Young Justice highlights the challenges and rewards that come from working on a team. It also deals with issues of trusting young people, something I believe adults need to do more, as the Young Justice is often criticized for being reckless and inexperienced without giving them credit for the amazing responsibilities that come with having super powers. If I had a super power I would want to be like Aquaman and have the ability to live underwater and communicate with sea creatures.

What super workday snack do you need to power you through the day?
I keep a jar of peanut butter in my bottom drawer. It really is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up!

Can you tell us about a superhero Ally in your current class?
Shawnice Jackson is not just a superhero, she is the definition of a servant leader. She leads with a quiet strength and passion and believes that everyone has the power to make a change in their lives, their communities, and the world. She is placed at Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) where she goes above and beyond her Ally job description every day. She recently applied for the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellowship to start an organization that would take boys from high-risk areas in Baltimore who are on the waiting list at BBBS and give them group mentoring and leadership development training. She supports me (and the other Allies at Public Allies Maryland) and encourages me to challenge myself every day! Shawn is a true superhero, leader, and friend.

What did you want to be when you grow up?
Ocean Conservationist and/or Dolphin Trainer (see: super power)

In what ways does your childhood dream job relate to your current job?
Though I still love sea life, I made the conscious choice to work with people instead. I feel that until I live in a world where everyone has equal access to education, health care, a living wage, etc. I can’t stop working for and with other people rather than sea creatures. Caring for animals and advocating for their rights and protection are noble causes; I just want to do those things for human beings first.

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

Brainstorming, gift-seating, and crafting at mid-year retreat

11 Apr

You’ve heard it before, especially from people who are much older and wiser than you– every year seems to go by just a little bit faster.  This year’s been no exception:

Our Public Allies term is more than half over!

Whoa…I guess times flies when you’re having fun (and working hard)!

To mark this event, all of the Public Allies from the Twin Cities gathered at our Mid-Year Retreat in early March.  To be honest, I was not looking forward to this retreat.  I highly value my weekends and my down time, so knowing that I had to be “on” for most the weekend was a little daunting.  As always, though, I enjoyed myself once it was over.  Here are some highlights:

Re-defining innovation – One of my favorite workshops was on rethinking the innovative brainstorming process.  “Is it always that the boss is going to have the best ideas?  Unlikely.”  If you want to replenish those creative juices, take a look at this video from the innovators at IDEO:

Gift Seat – Each of us got to give feedback to the other members in our team service project.  At first it felt like this could turn in to a modern-day episode of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” but the process was really enlightening.  We don’t celebrate each other enough!  The gift seat process was a perfect opportunity to tell each other our appreciation, as well as things they could improve upon, that’s not always offered in everyday life.

Arts & Crafts!  – When was the last time you got to sit down and do like they do in elementary school?!  That’s right – we got some arts and crafts time.  We sat down with old fashioned scissors, glue sticks, and colorful paper to make a scrapbook of our Public Allies experience so far.  What a great bonding experience (and a large mess to clean up…)!


Ending the day with gifts to each other – We started these things called “gift bags” at the end of our core week training at the beginning of our service year.  We each decorated our bags, and put little notes in each other’s gift bags with encouraging words, compliments, and other uplifting things.  The bags travelled with us to our retreat!  Below, Shameika takes a few moments to fill up her fellow allies’ bags to end our weekend.

Who Said ‘Glee’ Moments Don’t Happen in Real Life?

11 Apr

One of my favorite aspects of Public Allies is the fact that you meet so many incredible people through the program that you might not get the chance to meet otherwise.  Fellow Allies in the Twin Cities program incredibly musical!

At training a few weeks ago, our afternoon session consisted of taking a “community walk.”  Groups of Allies walked around North Minneapolis to really take the time to pay attention to what we could see, hear, taste, feel, and smell around the neighborhood where we all come for training.  The result?  A very “Glee” moment.  Take a look!

Mid-Year Retreat

27 Feb

Public Allies Connecticut spent February 16th and 17th at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, Connecticut for our Mid-Year Retreat! The theme of our retreat was Relaxation, Reconnection, and Reflection.

Public Allies Connecticut is divided into three teams centered in the cities of Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. First-year Allies work most closely with other first-year Allies in their city’s team. All first-year Allies attend Continuous Learning Fridays 3 or 4 times a month, but second-year Allies participate in separate Continuous Learning days once a month. So, while we are one big happy Ally family, there are members of our program that we see much less frequently than others. The retreat brought us all together again and allowed time for reconnection between our first-year Allies, second-year Allies, Program Managers, and Program Director!

Part way through the first day, some low clouds rolled in and gave us some light snow. Our Scavenger Hunt team posed for this photo around a Peace Pole at the Wisdom House… so peaceful and relaxed (and a tad cold)!

Our Hartford Team decided to do a skit that reenacted some of the funnier moments of our term thus far. Reflecting on those moments produced the laughs seen below.

Thanks to the Public Allies Connecticut Staff for a great retreat!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT