Tag Archives: learning

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!


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

Retreat from the City

10 Feb

Allies at Camp Greenkil

L to R: 2nd years Harley Jones, me, and Juliann DiNicola, 1st years Chui-Hung Wong and Kate Shaffer at Camp Greenkill. Photo Credit: 2nd year Ally Cea Weaver.

A chance to escape the bustle of New York City is always welcome and that’s exactly what we got to do when 54 Allies journeyed up to Lake Hugenot, New York for our Mid Year retreat this past weekend. Connecting with nature is always my favorite part of these trips since this was my third (yes third!) retreat with PANY. As a second year I thought it might be repetitive, but getting to walk around the frozen lake on a partner walk with everyone in that photo was actually a great time to relax and enjoy the company of fellow Allies.

The trip was also a big reminder that I’m a second year Ally and the experience is completely different. The second years were able to facilitate an Ally-Led Station – workshops where we get to share our interests – examples being Salsa classes, portrait photography tips (which I helped Kate above in blue to do), art making, and yoga.

Teaching photography

Teaching Photo 2

Teaching photography tricks with Kate. Photo Credit: Max Chang, PANY Program Manager.

We as 2nd years decided to create a workshop in self care and de-stressing, which turned into a big sister session for the first year Allies in answering their questions on how we were able to juggle our work at Partner Organizations, our work with Public Allies including trainings and Team Service Projects, and oh yes let’s not forget our personal lives.The main thread that I took away from that session was that if you want something to change at work, or if you are overwhelmed, be proactive about it! Yes your Program Managers are there to aide you on your journey but you have to help them help you in your anxieties and try and help find solutions. It makes sense but we forget this sometimes. And if all else fails, just host an awesome spelling bee like all of us in Cabin #4 did (below)!

Photo Credit: Janine Mascari, Public Allies 2011-2012.

I would love to know for anybody juggling many things at once: How do you manage to de-stress and take care of yourself?

Learn to love to love people: An interview with Robert Burkhardt

13 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.

That's Robert in the green vest and stocking hat addressing students and staff at Morning Gathering.

Wise. Caring. Motivating. Strong. These are only some words to describe Robert Burkhardt, Head of School at Eagle Rock School, where I work as an Ally. Robert has been with Eagle Rock since the planning phases in 1991, and he welcomed the first students who arrived in 1993. Eagle Rock is a Honda-Motor-company-funded residential school for youth who are in danger of not graduating high school. It’s a place where people believe in these students and provide them with an alternative education that is designed for them to grow both academically and personally. When I think about all that I love about Eagle Rock, it is mostly owed to Robert. Not only does he guide the school, but he participates in every facet possible, from music to sports. He loves to learn, and he transfers that love to students. Robert inspires me because he is someone who remains committed to his vision despite the ups and down. He doesn’t lose faith in himself or other people. So I decided to interview him, thinking that maybe you could catch some of his energy and see why I find Eagle Rock School to be such an amazing place.

Stephanie: What gets you up in the morning?

Robert: Well, sometimes the alarm clock. Almost always what gets me up in the morning is I absolutely look forward to working with staff and students here. And whether it’s teaching a class, or we got jazz improv that day, or it’s intramurals, I just enjoy this. Also, morning exercise. It was 1° this morning and we ran and it was fun. It’s nice to have students realize they can actually live through something like that. So the job and all that the job implies gets me up.

Stephanie: What do you believe is the connection between service and justice?

Robert: I don’t know that service is always connected to justice, but many times it is and can be when we give of ourselves to help others and we ameliorate situations of unfairness, or injustice, or poverty or degradation of any kind. And we give ourselves to turn that around, then we move, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, toward the arc of justice when that happens.

Stephanie: What do you love most about your job?

Robert:  I’ve been teaching Hamlet this fall and it’s wonderful. The kids have really taken ownership of this performance, and they’re gonna knock peoples’ socks off on Saturday night and I helped to be part of that. Look at this incredible view [points out the window to a view of mountains and snow]. Lizzie [Robert’s wife] and I went for a walk in snow the other day, the campus is beautiful, so there are all these many facets that remind me that I’m incredibly lucky. Honda’s gift to America is just utterly amazing, it’s staggering to think how much money they invested in this place so we can offer hope to people. Those are just a few.

Another picture from Morning Gathering at Eagle Rock School

Stephanie: Every Wednesday morning at Gathering you give away books. What’s the importance of reading?

Robert:  Well I can’t experience what’s going on in Bhutan right now. I don’t know what it’s like in Patagonia, Northern Finland, Namibia. There are these places I have not been yet, so I can read about them and I can see pictures, I can read about other peoples’ experiences. And in order for me to understand other people I need to understand as best I can the experiences that other people have had accomplishing something or being defeated at something. I just read a terrific biography about JFK by Chris Matthews, and a book about the history of the construction Eiffel Tower. I get ideas, I get inspiration, I get insight, and it helps me be that much more effective inside myself and in my interactions with other people

Stephanie: Two things I think I admire the most about you is that you love people, or more accurately, you love to love people, and you believe in them — especially the students here. How important a quality do you think this is for people to have?

Robert: Well suppose I were to say to you, “You know Steph, your haven’t got that much.” What kind of message does that send to people? It’s true that we all rise to some extent because others recognize us and help us with things. So it’s important for me. I like people, I love mixing it up with students a whole lot, teasing, challenging them. I love it when they develop and grow themselves ’cause that gives me inspiration to push myself further … If someone has done something really really dumb and they do it a bunch of times, it’s OK to say, “Hey, excuse me, what? Are you thinking at all?”

For the most part the folks here, the kids here, want to succeed and they want us to be their cheerleaders. Too many of them have come here without cheerleaders or with insufficient cheerleaders, and we get to say, “Come, you can do this, you can do this.” This morning when Issac and Taber [two Eagle Rock students] — the song they sang at the Gathering was really cool, an original song. I want to be the midwife to events like that, and I think that is part of my role here at Eagle Rock.

Stephanie: What advice do you have for people who would say the world is too far gone?

Robert: Get out of my way. That’s such a shortsighted thing. The world has been going to the dogs for a long time. You think the world is going to the dogs? Go back to 1939, September 1st, the start of World War II. Go back to 1929, when the stock market crashed. Go back to the American Civil War. We lost 600,000 Americans. There have been much tougher times than we have right now.

I think people are inconvenienced; they have been fed this pablum that life should be easy and all should be well. It’s not quite that way. Life is struggle, and we have to constantly create ourselves, create our conditions and reshape things so we can move the planet forward. If you’re going to give up … tell that to what’s going to become a butterfly and it’s locked inside in this chrysalis, and it’s trying really hard to get out and it doesn’t listen. And it says, “I’m going to be a butterfly.”

I want Eagle Rock and all of us who work here to give the message to people that we can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of other people. I can’t do anything about the economic situation in Italy, Greece, and Spain right now. There’s nothing I can do about that. What I can do is hope that the experience that students get here in their daily interaction with you, me, each other, help them become that much more effective in the world so that they can be independently healthy of mind and body. And then, world, do your worst; they’re still going to survive and thrive.

Stephanie: How do you assess your impact? How do you know you’ve done something?

Robert: When Matt Casper [former Eagle Rock student] decides to sail around the world. He’s called me up three or four times from his boat, I’m so honored he’s called me …  When Calvin King [another former Eagle Rock student] graduates from Morehouse … I was there, I know Calvin King’s story. He should be dead or in jail. It is the sum of the individual achievements of staff and students, when former fellows go off and start an organization … we made a difference in their lives, so that it’s possible for them to say, “I can do this.” It’s all that human achievement that is my most significant indicator.

Stephanie: Batman or Superman?

Robert: Superman, easy. Because although he has an Achilles heal, which is kryptonite, he wanted to be mild mannered and just wanted to report on things as Clark Kent. He wants truth justice and the American way, but he really just wants to help people in need.

Part 1: Feminism is not an ugly word

7 Dec

Definition of Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

And no, this post is not about bashing of the male species.

I’ve always been a quiet feminist, wanting to stand up for women but also not wanting to rock the proverbial boat when it comes to sexism. Often times the idea of feminism makes people uncomfortable and that’s why I want to remind you that it’s not an ugly word, it’s quite the opposite. In the month of November there were three instances that reminded me of the importance of feminism and challenged me to identify the role I can play as a newly not-so-quiet feminist.

1. I attended Foundation for Success’ annual winter event with one of my mentors. This incredible organization’s mission is, in short, strong women supporting strong younger women in the areas of personal development, esteem and financial resources during their undergraduate studies. What impressed me most about this foundation was the sincerity in their action to fulfil their mission. During the event, which was held at a foundation member’s beautiful home, attendees were able to meet a couple of the young women that had received scholarships and mentors through Foundation for Success. To my delight, I discovered one of the scholarship recipients is a mentor to one of my students at my placement organization. When I got the chance to speak with her later on she told me she had opted to become a mentor so she could “pay it forward.” This speaks volumes to the impact we as women have on other women to make positive choices for ourselves and our community.

Allies Jennifer (left) and Jessica read the MyRegion.org "Progress Report on Central Florida"

2. Shelley Lauton of MyRegion.org pointed out during a Public Allies Leadership development session that “a mother’s educational attainment heavily determines a child’s success.” Houston, we just lost cabin pressure. I am fairly certain I already knew about this concept to a certain extent but I don’t think it ever sunk in. This statement is energizing, shocking, and incredible all in the same moment. Why had I not fully comprehended the impact a mother has on a child’s success? This was a moment where I realized I had a huge “blind spot.” I work with children every day to help them become successful but I’ve never stopped to ask myself — was anyone there to help your mother succeed so she, in turn, could help you?

I’ve always put my focus and effort toward the next generation of women. This realization of this “blind spot” provided me with some much needed perspective on the limitations I had set on how I support women. I am now challenged to identify other ways in which I can support women of of all ages.

The feminism doesn’t stop there….. to be continued, look for part 2 soon.

How will you support the women in your life today?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

6 Dec

Manager of School Programs Lindsay Smilow asks, "Who here is an artist?"

My job here at the Queens Museum of Art is to give support to the education department’s K-12 programming and school trips. What this actually means is to bring over 16,000 children a year to our museum to experience the Panorama of the City of New York, the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, the scale model of the New York City Watershed, and our rotating contemporary art collections. Museum trips for children might not be as earth-shattering to them as we would like to think (as one colleague put it the other day, “The only thing I remember from museum trips as a kid was what I listened to on my Walkman and what my mom packed for lunch”). What makes the QMA different however, is engaging the kids with studio workshops that let their imaginations take free reign using materials they might not usually get their hands on at school or at home. I completely agree with Picasso that every child is an artist, and hopefully these much-needed arts programs for kids will help them stay creative and constantly imagining when they grow up.

My initial goal before I started my second year as a Public Ally at the QMA was to get at least one child to become a lifelong lover of the arts. There are many examples of kids coming back to our programs year after year as kids, then eventually becoming a Queens Teen, and then begininng to bring their own kids to Sunday workshops. I can’t measure this goal in one year but I’ll let you know how the journey goes. I would love to hear about how art has affected your education and am curious: What is your earliest memory of art-making or an art museum?