Tag Archives: Diversity

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!


Shining a Light on Youth Homelessness

4 Jun

“Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky”
~“You Gotta Be” by Des’ree


Right now Group Z, my Team Service Project, is in the heart of implementing our storytelling project. Our goal is to raise awareness about the realities surrounding youth homelessness through the power of storytelling. We are working closely with Alternatives, Inc, a creative arts programming and counseling organization for youth. We have managed to make great connections with a few organizations for Alternatives: La Casa Norte, Back on My Feet, Broadway Youth Center, and H.E.L.L.O. (Homeless Experts Living Life’s Obstacles, a group formed in connection with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Night Ministry.) To count, we have obtained between 15-20 stories from homeless youth and adults as well as from staff members of organizations across the city.

This project has been quite an eye opening experience. I have learned that each individual takes their homeless experience differently. Some feel overwhelming shame while others embrace their life experiences and use them to help mentor other homeless youth. One staff member from H.E.L.L.O. talked about some of her experiences being homeless in the 80’s. One story she shared was about how her co-workers had no idea that she was homeless but when they did find out, there were mixed reactions. The first group of co-workers completely distanced themselves from her despite how close she thought they were while a second group of co-workers embraced her whole-heartedly and were curious about her experiences. I cannot begin to imagine what that must have felt like but she seemed to take it all in stride.

Two amazing stories I heard were from Shaq and Robert. They do not know one another but both have been empowered through their experiences. Shaq is a musician who wants to be a voice for his community. He is currently residing in temporary housing in Chicago’s northwest side. He openly stated in his interview that he appreciated his experiences from being homeless over the past eight years. He learned to care for himself and felt as though he had matured greatly over that time. Today, he is focusing on job development with Jobs For Youth and music producing/creation.

Robert is located in a different part of the city. He is a youth leader for other youth who are homeless. Robert views those he works closely with as his family. In his interview, he referred to one of his mentees as his daughter. Like Shaq, Robert took his homeless experiences in a positive light. He finds great support from other youth who are homeless and wants to give back to his community by someday working with one of Chicago’s homeless youth organizations.

MLK Day of service part 1: the parade

6 Feb

Here in DC our day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began early.  We gathered in Southeast, layered in wool socks, long underwear, and our new Public Allies hoodies and prepared to take part in a local tradition: the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday parade.

Though the parade is a long-standing tradition — dating back to before the third Monday in January had even been designated a day of memorial for the late Dr. King — it has not always been held on MLK day, and some years it was not held at all.  An article in the Washington Post perfectly captured the atmosphere that morning, a mixture of reverence for the legacy of a hero and a sense of unity in celebrating the homecoming of a beloved tradition.

I could sense it, too, as my fellow allies and I walked the parade route, which traced Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from St. Elizabeth’s hospital to Leckie Elementary School.  Everyone, from the hundreds of people that lined the parade route to the many groups who had patiently lined up hours in advance in the frigid weather hoping to honor Dr. King’s memory in their own way.  I was struck by the sheer number of participants in the parade.  We marched right between a local small business that organizes birthday parties and a group of students from Sasha Bruce Youthwork who were gaining some service hours by marching.  There were marching bands, drum corps, cheerleaders of all ages, traditional Bolivian dancers, and, of course Public Allies DC.

The experience wasn’t perfect.  It was a cold day and our brand new sweatshirts, though incredibly stylish, were not the warmest form of outerwear.  But, after a little reflection, I remembered an anecdote that Dr. King told after his 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to the capitol in Montgomery.  He recalled a 71-year-old woman who, during the Montgomery bus boycott refused a ride:

one day, she was asked while walking if she didn’t want to ride. And when she answered, “No,” the person said, “Well, aren’t you tired?” And with her ungrammatical profundity, she said, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”  And in a real sense this afternoon, we can say that our feet are tired, but our souls are rested.

Granted, Dr. King marched 54 miles over 5 days, while we only walked 2 miles.  But the sentiment is definitely valuable, both for me reflecting on my experiences on MLK Day, and for all of us who experience setback.  That morning my feet were tired, but through walking in the parade, being a part of such a powerful tradition, and realizing that my presence was felt, I hope that my soul got a little rest.  Since then, I have tried to approach my work in a way that, even when my figurative feet metaphorically hurt, I keep my rested soul in mind.  My Public Allies experience has and continues to empower me to do work that I am truly passionate about, and that has to mean my soul (if not my body) is resting well.

Are you curious about how Public Allies DC spent the afternoon? Stay tuned for part 2 of my reflection on this years MLK Day of Service. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

24 Jan

We asked our bloggers to reflect and report back on their MLK days of service. Expect to read more from each blogger about our various service days around the network!

Monday January 16th was a day ON not a day OFF for Public Allies New York. I had the pleasure of helping to plan the art component of our day of service much like last year’s. We hosted 250 kids at IS 218 in Brooklyn along with the Police Athletic League for a Reflect and Act day of service. Inspiration for the stenciled t-shirts and wall mural projects came from the words of Martin Luther King Jr., and everyone was able to have a great time creating art and reflecting on the meaning of leadership, service and community.

MLK Memorial – Washington, D.C.

6 Dec

This past weekend, I took a road trip to Washington, D.C. with a friend and three other Public Allies from Connecticut. We left directly from our Continuous Learning day on diversity and institutional racism. Continuous Learning is one of Public Allies’ Five Core Values, so most Fridays the 29 first-year Connecticut Allies gather for a full day of training. I’ll use three pictures from last weekend’s trip to the newly opened MLK Memorial to briefly discuss three themes from recent Continuous Learning days.

On October 28, two Kingian Nonviolence Educators from the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence led a full day workshop on nonviolent conflict reconciliation for first-year Allies. The training consisted of a discussion on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence, songs and video from the Civil Rights Era, and conflict reconciliation role-playing activities. I’d been thinking about a trip to D.C. ever since the MLK Memorial opened, but this training really sparked my motivation to make it happen.

The second half of our November 4 Continuous Learning Day was led by our three Public Allies program managers and focused on team dynamics. We discussed the lessons a team can learn from a flock of geese, which proved both humorous and helpful. When I saw a flock of geese flying towards the MLK Memorial, I knew it was a moment that needed capturing. I think the picture turned out quite nicely, if I may say so myself.


Last Friday’s Continuous Learning Day was on diversity and institutional racism. Interestingly, while much of the training was focused on race and racism, the group conversations repeatedly turned to poverty and economic justice. This made me think of the Poor People’s Campaign that MLK launched in 1967, less than six months before his assassination. The quote in this third picture is from a speech of his a few years prior to the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign, but I think it does the topic justice.

MLK Day is less than two months away. Take action with 40 Days of Peace.

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Love at second sight

28 Nov

I was nine the first time I stepped foot in New York City. Fourth-grade school trip, actually. I can’t recall all of what I did or even how it went, but I do remember thinking: too cold, a bit dirty, and just a bit crowded. But then again, I was young, naïve, and absolutely certain that New York and I would never cross paths again. You see, I was a child of sunny and suburban South Florida and that’s all I’d ever really known. So now, 15 years later, it’s fitting and rather ironic that I would find myself making a grand return to the city that I once swore off. Choosing Public Allies, choosing New York of all places, ended up not necessarily being a hard choice, but one that arrived at particular time in my life where it felt just right.

When I was in college, it took me a long time to figure out what the word “passion” really meant. As I understood it, passion is defined as a “powerful feeling – a kind of yearning, or zest for something.” I remember as a freshman being told that it’s important to start to think about the very things that drive us, move us (and hopefully this in turn would become a declared major at the same time). So I went on a search and tried your garden variety of different classes and clubs. But it took until the end of my sophomore year for me to start to realize what I needed most.

It was 2008, the middle of an election year. I remember it fondly because it was when I had made my second-to-last major switch, moved off-campus on my own, and started to have one of those mid-college life crises. It was during that summer that I decided I needed to pay more attention to the world around me. I started asking a lot more questions. I started to challenge my thoughts and long-standing beliefs. I began tracking the candidates more closely — their issues, their positions. I started keeping an eye on the values that mattered to me personally: equality, acceptance, inclusion. That’s when it hit me.

I needed to get my hands dirty.  I needed to care more. I needed to do more. I started getting involved and invested in the dialogue and the discussion. I started to educate myself on advocacy work, LGBT rights, and social justice issues. I could no longer just be an observer of the political process, I wanted to be a part of it. I joined our student LGBT organization and began to surround myself with people who shared a similar interest in working to build more inclusive spaces. And after some three lovely years of doing just that, and after meeting some of the best friends of my life, I craved more. I needed to find a way of taking what I’ve done and bringing it to the next level.

That’s how I came to Public Allies. That’s why I chose New York. I knew that the combination of this program and this city would be the best place for me. To find opportunities, embrace new challenges, and hopefully prove my nine-year-old self wrong at the same time. We’ll see how it goes!