Tag Archives: core values

An Interview with Nakeisha Neal Jones

3 Apr

In honor of AmeriCorps week last month, I had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Director of Public Allies DC (PADC), Nakeisha Neal Jones. Nakeisha completed the Public Allies  program in Washington, DC. in 1997 and led the same program’s re-launch in 2010. As someone who has experienced being an Ally as well as a staff member, Nakeisha offers an inspirational perspective on the value of AmeriCorps.

Why Service Matters

“Service can build relationships between people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet,” explained Nakeisha. “From my own experience, it can also help you learn more about a community. When I got to college, I decided to volunteer to get off campus. I think it was really good for me because I felt like I lived at Duke and not in Durham.” Similarly, service has the power to change the individual as much as it improves the society. For instance, volunteering taught Nakeisha that “we’re all linked” and enabled her to “use that (philosophy) as a routine way to live. That gift is more valuable than some of things that I’ve done.”

Public Allies’ Assets

Nakeisha believes that PADC can help solve the challenges currently facing our nation’s capital.  Too often DC is divided between the “haves and the have-nots,” lacking a space for “unusual suspects to come together to solve local issues.” By engaging diverse groups that otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to work together, PADC builds sustainable solutions to community problems.

Public Allies’ Values

The value that Nakeisha uses most is “continuous learning,” or “the ability to question assumptions and beliefs, understand strengths and shortcomings, and commit to continued growth within a community context.” As Nakeisha explained, “it’s important for us to know why our actions are successful” as well as why we repeat the same mistakes. As change agents, we must study our errors and be open to altering ingrained habits.

From Ally to Executive Director

When Nakeisha was an ally, PADC challenged her “because there were many opportunities for me to reflect on what I valued and why. I realized that some of the beliefs that I held really weren’t as important as I thought they were. The group challenged me to deal with diversity, authenticity and community on a much deeper level that I had experienced before Public Allies. It was wonderful, but the change didn’t always feel good.” Nakeisha returned to PADC to rebuild an organization that shaped her own life path. Her experiences as an ally inspired her to “live the values, do what’s hard, and learn from mistakes,” philosophies that influence how she directs the program today.

The Future of Service

The goal for PADC is to imagine our community in 2023 and to ask ourselves, “What can we say that we had a hand in creating?” Hopefully, we will have built a “healthy, vibrant, relevant, and sustainable leadership pipeline for social good” that is ultimately using Public Allies values, tools, and relationships to solve long-standing community problems.

Final Thoughts

AmeriCorps and other service opportunities help generate a community-oriented culture where it is “normal to give time, talent, and money to other people or causes.” After all, “there’s a role for everyone. We all have strengths. If you’re doing something that’s helping to build a community that’s larger than yourself with whatever time you have, then I’m happy.”

~Angela Miller

Contemplating collaboration

12 Jun

On Wednesday, May 30th, the second year allies had the opportunity to facilitate training for the first year allies at Public Allies Maryland. The training discussed leadership, how we define it, what it means to be a “good” or “bad” leader and an “effective” or “ineffective” leader. We also gave them an assessment to discover their own leadership styles after discussing different academic theories about leadership.

However, one of the most moving parts of the training was when my fellow second year ally Shawnice presented the idea of virtue cards. She handed out a card to everyone as a way for us to reflect on our own leadership styles and characteristics; each card featured beautiful pictures of nature as well as a word. The idea behind this is that within every person there is a core set of virtues or values that represent the content of our character. I think the ideas behind the virtue cards really resonates with us as Public Allies because of the five core values that provide the foundation for the work that we do. The word I happened to get, just by chance, was cooperation.

Below you can see a picture of the “cooperation” card front and back.

Reading this card I kept thinking about one of the five core values in Public Allies: collaboration. It’s hard to tell if there’s even a difference between cooperation and collaboration. However, one important difference is that collaboration is done on purpose and is done across boundaries. Collaboration is really a special type of cooperating where you go one step further to include voices that are missing from the discussion and create partnerships in unlikely places. It’s more than just working together to meet a common goal, it’s building a strong team that focuses on the diverse assets each team member brings to the table, empowering others to lead, and working together to achieve something you couldn’t have done alone.

What does “collaboration” mean to you? Share it in the comments below!

Why you should join Public Allies

8 Jun

This is one in a series of Ally Snapshot blog posts on the theme, “Why Public Allies?” If you are thinking of service work, please read on. If you know someone who might be interested, please share!

You’ve heard about Public Allies, you’ve read the blog, checked out the website, googled around… and you’ve ended up here. I’m glad that you did because after being part of Public Allies Maryland for the past two years I will tell you exactly why you should join this truly wonderful and life changing program.

Before I answer your question “Why should I join Public Allies?” I want you to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I want to make a difference in my community?
  2. Do I see a need in my community and want to help even though I may not be sure exactly how to do it?
  3. Am I interested in learning more about the nonprofit sector and how I can build a career while making a difference?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you’re ready for service work. Why should you pick Public Allies over any other AmeriCorps or service program? What makes it so great? What sets Public Allies apart? Why should you join Public Allies?

The 5 Reasons You Should Join Public Allies

  1. Public Allies believes in you. At Public Allies they believe that everyone can lead and that leadership is an action you take, not a position you hold. This is the number one reason I joined Public Allies. I always knew I had the power to make a difference in my community and the world, but I wasn’t sure how I could do that and there weren’t many people out there who thought a receptionist at a veterinary hospital really had that much to offer. Public Allies knows that everyone has the potential and assets to make a difference.
  2. Leadership coaching and professional development trainings. Experts from the nonprofit sector and the community will be there every week to teach and answer your questions to help you develop the skills you already have and make you the next great leader you always knew you had the potential to be! It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to come together each week and learn as a community.
  3. Support. From your program managers, to your teammates on your team service projects, to your partner supervisors, and even the directors, you will be supported. They’ll be there to give feedback, they’ll be there when you’ve had an awesome day or the worst day, they’ll be there volunteering at your events, and cheering you on every step of the way! At Public Allies you really are family.
  4. True and intentional diversity. At Public Allies diversity is not just an ideal. Public Allies purposefully recruits diverse young leaders and works to promote and support leaders from all different walks of life. Diversity can mean so many things from racial, ethnic, class, background, perspective, experience, sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender, to educational and Public Allies intentionally works to include them all. On average, Allies are 67% people of color, 60% women, 50% college graduates (including some with graduate degrees), and 15% LGBT. Diversity is one of the reasons why I decided to join Public Allies because they don’t just talk about diversity or say we need diverse leaders; Public Allies actively does diversity and develops diverse leaders.To quote Susan Edwards from Everyone Leads by Public Allies’ CEO Paul Schmitz: Diversity is an action, not an ideal.
  5. More than 3,000 alumni (and counting!) across the nation working in almost every sector are waiting for you to complete the program and use them as resources to keep developing as a leader and a professional. The end of my second year is fast approaching and the closer it gets the more important our strong alumni network becomes. Check out the Public Allies Alumni page on LinkedIn to get an idea of what alumni are doing now!

These 5 reasons are just the beginning of the many, many reasons why Public Allies is an amazing program to take part in. I hope you’ll join us at the site closest to you and discover all the benefits Public Allies has to offer for yourself.

Calling all Allies & Alumni: What is the number one reason you joined Public Allies? Let us know in the comments!

Three lessons The Muppets taught me about Leadership, Community Building & Taking Action

27 Feb

This year The Muppets made a triumphant return to the big screen! I was more than happy to welcome them back as childhood memories of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show came rushing back to me full force. I love everything about The Muppets, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I love their googly eyes, furry faces, big mouths, and colorful plumage! But my love for The Muppets isn’t just felt deep.

There’s something more that makes them so endearing and gives them a home so close to my heart, but what is it?! Then it struck me, many of the values I have today can be traced back to the lessons I learned from the beloved Muppets of my youth!

In honor of The Oscars, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the important lessons I’ve learned from The Muppets—it may not win them a coveted Oscar, but they’ll be remembered longer than who won best screenplay.

Leadership

“You can be what you want to be, see what you want to see—believe in yourself. Some folks try to tell you there are things you shouldn’t do—you’re not strong enough or smart enough at all. But what seems right to them quite often might be wrong for you.”

What does this teach us about leadership? I believe that knowing yourself is one of the first steps towards being a better leader. You have to know what you stand for before you can stand for something or someone else. What Ray Charles and Elmo teach us here is that there may be people in your life and in your career that try to tell you what to think, how to act, and what to believe. By believing in yourself and understanding what you stand for, you will be able to hear what others are saying, and stay true to yourself and your values.

Community Building

“Cooperation makes it happen. Cooperation: working together.”

In this video (which I remember vividly from my childhood) The Muppets on Sesame Street sing about cooperation in a neighborhood and working together to build a community garden. It doesn’t get more grassroots than that! As more people become involved in the garden other community members begin to ask questions about how they can get involved and work together to build and maintain their community garden. What does this video teach us? That through collaboration and working together we can strengthen our communities. It also leads directly into my final lesson…

Taking Action

“If just one person believes in you, deep enough and strong enough believes in you, hard enough and long enough, before you know it someone else would think, if he can do it, I can do it.” The song goes on to add more and more people believing in “you” until “maybe even you can believe in you, too!”

This is one of my favorite videos from Jim Henson’s memorial service because, in rare form, you can see The Muppets and their “Muppeteers,” the “invisible” people who support them. While this video highlights the others before it: the importance of believing in yourself and using the assets of your community to make a change, it also adds something incredibly important: believing in others and taking action on your beliefs. If you support someone and believe in them you should tell them and show your support by taking action. After all, leadership is about an action many can take, not a position few can hold.

What lessons did you learn from The Muppets, Sesame Street, or other cartoons, movies, or books when you were a child? Share them with me in the comments!

Servant leadership

2 Feb

The Eagle Rock School philosophy can be summarized by what we called 8 + 5 =10.  It goes something like this:

Eight Themes              Plus                    Five Expectations

Individual Integrity                                      Developing an expanding knowledge base
Intellectual Discipline                                 Communicating effectively
Physical Fitness                                         Creating and making healthy life choices
Spiritual Development                               Participating as an engaged global citizen
Aesthetic Expression                                 Providing leadership for justice
Citizenship
Service to Others
Cross-cultural Understanding
Democratic Governance
Environmental Stewardship

Equals Ten Commitments

Live in respectful harmony with others
Develop mind, body, and spirit
Learn to communicate in speech and writing
Serve the Eagle Rock and other communities
Become a steward of the planet
Make healthy personal choices
Find, nurture and develop the artist within
Increase capacity to exercise leadership for justice
Practice citizenship and democratic living
Devise an enduring moral and ethical code

New students are quizzed on 8+5=10 when they come to Eagle Rock. All classes at Eagle Rock Rock are also categorized under the 5 expectations. Within the mission of Eagle Rock is to develop leaders who will use their education to change the world. Two days of the first week of the trimester are devoted to Eagle Serve. During these two days students and staff commit to projects either on campus or out in the community. Last September, students went to Rock Mountain National Park and cleared rocks and pebbles from trails to preserve the habitat of the Tundra.

Eagle Rock students performing service at Rocky Mountain National Park on 9/22/11. Photo taken by Public Allies fellow Tyler Bevington.

This trimester we focused on service on campus. Students cleaned buildings on campus, participated in peer mentor trainings, cleared trails on campus, and the Eagle Rock chapter of Peace Jam planned events for the trimester.  Through these activities on campus, students engage in various facets of the 8+5=10 philosophy. Through service at Eagle Rock we work to develop leaders who see leadership as a collaborative effort. Service is also not just limited to those two days of the trimester. Eagle Rock offers many service-learning courses, where students have opportunities not only to perform service, but also reflect on the larger importance of service in society. I think this is an aim that the Public Allies programs has as well – to develop leaders who see service as a way of life.  So as you read stories of service on Martin Luther King Day, it is important to also remember that he lived service everyday, and we can as well.