Tag Archives: Dara

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!

Spirit to Serve Day

5 Jun

On May 16th I participated in an event that I have spent months planning, organizing, worrying, and dreaming about called Spirit to Serve Day. On this day over 100 volunteers from Marriott’s Architecture and Construction team arrived at my placement site, The SEED School of Maryland, to complete service projects on our 52-acre campus alongside our 6th and 7th grade students. In total, over 200 people participated in the service projects and bringing the total number of hours served to over 600.

I won’t say that everything ran perfectly or event smoothly at times, especially when I turned around and saw students painting themselves rather than the fences. However, it was an amazing experience and the volunteers were able to see the direct impact of their work. Students were also able to work closely with role models who spoke to them about the importance of education when it comes to determining your career as well as the positive impact you can make in a corporation and as an individual in your community.

Working closely with the facilities and maintenance departments at SEED volunteers completed beautification projects, such as planting flowers around our welcome sign and student-built meditation garden; painting the softball backstop, a beautiful mural on our basketball courts, fences around the basketball court, and courtyard picnic tables; and cleaning out the auditorium in preparation for renovation. Now our fences look like they were built yesterday and construction was able to start early!

To honor their service and dedication to our school, we presented Marriott’s architecture and construction team with the Governor’s Citation for Service presented by the Governor’s Office for Service and Volunteerism.When I graduated from college in 2009 or even when I first found out I would be placed at The SEED School of Maryland a year ago I never thought I would be able to coordinate an event so large with so many different projects, collaborators, and parts. With the training I received from our Director (and my program manager) Laura at Public Allies Maryland in event planning from the wonderful people at Business Volunteers Unlimited, I felt prepared and excited for the challenge. I don’t know if I’ll have an opportunity like this again, but if I ever do, I’ll be ready!

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.

College access in Baltimore

7 May

Since October I have worked with the other second-year Allies at Public Allies Maryland on our Team Service Project (all the Allies at Public Allies Maryland are split into teams ranging from 4-6 people to work on a community service project in Baltimore utilizing the Asset-Based Community Development model) to address the issue of college access in Baltimore.

We know college access is a HUGE issue, so we looked at the assets Baltimore already had around this issue and decided to partner with a wonderful organization called Upward Bound. The Upward Bound Program provides Baltimore City Students with exceptional college preparatory services, emphasizing academic excellence, individual expression, and service to school and community. The program assists them in developing the academic and social skills necessary for success in high school and matriculation in post-secondary education.

When we met with Upward Bound’s Executive Director Greg Hunter we asked “What is the one thing you would do if you had unlimited time and resources?” And he said that he would put on a College Access Fair for Baltimore students not only in his program, but other organizations that work on the college access issue as well.

So, on April 14th, we hosted the first annual Upward Bound College Access Fair!! Our fair included representatives from local and out-of-state colleges, breakout sessions for parents and students presented by Bank of America and The Maryland Higher Education Commission, and all students received a free copy of From US to U: An Inside Look Into College from Those Who Know Best… College Students, thanks to a generous donation from the book’s author, Samantha Zipp-Dowd.

This was the first time I had planned a large event or fair before and I am already using the same skills at my placement site at The SEED School of Maryland for an upcoming service day. I never would have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for Public Allies. It was challenging and stressful at times, but at the end of the day I felt amazing knowing I had not only built capacity at a nonprofit, I had made a difference in the lives of Baltimore students.

Here are some pictures from the event:

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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.


“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!

Lunch, interrupted: An unexpected inspiration

22 Dec

This month, we have asked the ALLY SNAPSHOT bloggers to describe someone inspiring they have met in their Public Allies experience. Here’s one of the posts on this theme.

It was just your average Monday. It was 12:00 and I had just sat down to have my lunch when my phone rang.

“Ms. Goldberg your appointment is here.”

I paused and said, “I don’t have an appointment today.”

“Well, someone is here to see you.”

I headed out to the main entrance and saw a small woman with a warm friendly smile standing before me. She looked to be around 60 or 70 years old. I walked up to her and introduced myself.

“Ms. Goldberg, my name is Treopia Washington and I’m here from Bowie State University. I know I didn’t confirm an appointment with you, but I’ve been looking forward to speaking with you and I thought we might talk after my first meeting.”

I had no appointments that afternoon and told her I would be more than happy to meet with her. We walked over to a small conference room in one of the administration buildings at SEED. Little did I know this would be one of the best meetings of my life.

Ms. Washington had been referred to me by SEED’s head of school because he thought we could partner with Bowie State University by having their students tutor our students. During our meeting Ms. Washington and I talked about a lot of things, including education in Baltimore City, training new teachers, challenges with the traditional public school system, the power of positivity, and the ideas we both had about making a change for students in Baltimore. It was then that Treopia began to tell me her story, and how she hoped to share it with the students at SEED to teach them about overcoming adversity to attend and graduate from college.

Ms. Washington grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, at a time where schools were still segregated and Jim Crow laws plagued our country. She told me that she had always wanted to become a teacher because her family emphasized the importance of education and because her own mother was an elementary school teacher.

Treopia’s mother, Lothaire Scott Green, had already been a teacher for several years when she decided to return to the University of Arkansas to earn a graduate degree. Treopia was 13 at the time. She recalled the moment her mother received a box in the mail containing a master’s diploma, tassel, and hood. It also contained a letter congratulating her on her achievement. However, the letter went on to say that because she was black, she would not be able to attend the commencement of 1951. The passion and emotion in Treopia’s voice as she told this story nearly moved me to tears. Then she said her mother crumpled up the letter and threw it in the trash.

After hearing this story, it is no surprise that Treopia’s mother raised her to be an advocate for education rights, and that her younger brother, Ernest Green, volunteered to desegregate their local high school and became one of the Little Rock Nine. For those who may not know, the Little Rock Nine were the first black students to attend Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Her brother Ernest was the first black student to graduate from the school in 1958. At the time Treopia was 19 years old and a teacher in Baltimore City.

For some reason, in early 2010, the memories of the discrimination her mother faced came to the forefront of Treopia’s mind. She decided to send an e-mail to the Chancellor of the University of Arkansas. What Ms. Washington didn’t know was that she had put into motion a chance for the University of Arkansas to right the wrong so many years ago. The University invited Treopia to accept her mother’s diploma at commencement in May 2011 so that her mother’s accomplishment could be given the honor it deserved.

Treopia then said something to me that I will never forget. The lessons she said she learned from her life, particularly from the experiences she shared with me that day, are:

1. Conflict doesn’t solve anything.
2. Always take the high road, it will get you somewhere.
3. When you’re faced with a conflict, analyze it, figure out what you can do to resolve it, then do whatever you can to resolve it!

Since leaving public education, Treopia’s career has focused on creating equitable experiences for under-served populations—which is what brought her to The SEED School of Maryland to meet with me.

I can’t wait to meet with Treopia again. She’s back in Arkansas right now to spend time with her family as her brother Ernest receives an honorary PhD. I hope we can work together to inspire the students at SEED to achieve greatness no matter what obstacles stand before them.

Here’s a video about Treopia’s story