Tag Archives: PACT

Keeping Students from Falling Through the Cracks

13 Nov

Imagine for a minute you are back in high school. You have a single parent at home. You work to support your family. Sometimes you wonder if there will be food on the table when you get home for dinner. At school you have trouble focusing, and you often ask why you’re even there. You want to go to college, but don’t think you’re smart enough or have enough money to succeed, so what’s the point of trying?

For many high school students today, especially in struggling urban communities, this isn’t an exercise in imagination, but a daily reality. Add to this mix very tight school budgets and overworked school staff, and you begin to see why so many students struggle, and many fall through the cracks of high school and drop out.

There are, however, some programs in schools that try to fill those cracks to keep students from falling through. One of those programs is Student Space, a pilot program in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the result of a collaboration between the Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership (RYASAP), Public Allies Connecticut, and Bridgeport Public Schools.

The Student Space is a physical space located in Bridgeport’s three big public high schools: Bassick, Central, and Harding. The program is meant to connect students to resources they need both inside and outside the school.  It helps form collaborations between schools and community programs that students can access to help them achieve in school.

Darrel is one student referred to Student Space because of his low grades and poor attendance. The process starts when a Student Space staff member pulls him out of his gym class and walks Darrel to the Student Space, explaining why he was referred and that the program is there to support him. Darrel is given an opportunity to talk about his life outside of school and how he struggles to complete his work at home and doesn’t really feel connected to the school community. Darrel then mentions he enjoys writing poetry. The Student Space staff member tells Darrel he will look into getting a tutor for him and that he should come back to discuss planning a poetry event at the school.

This example highlights one of the most important aspects of the Student Space program, individual conversations. When we think about our daily lives, many of us don’t get a lot of time to sit down and talk while someone else just listens. A lot of our students feel the same way. That is why we focus on individual conversations so we can learn about what a student’s needs are and connect them to the proper resources.

As the year continues, we hope that our pilot program can begin affecting change both for individual students and for the school community as a whole. We hope through our support and our increasing connections to community agencies that we can help students who never believed they could succeed do just that. We know that these students have what it takes to make it, and we are going to work our hardest throughout the year to make sure that they do.


This is Why My Hart Beats

17 Jul

Below is my letter to the panelists reviewing my Presentation of Learning. It’s been a great year!

Dear Panel Members:

Thank you for taking the time to be here today. In the tale of my 22 months here in Hartford, this presentation marks the final chapter. You have all been central to my story and are central to the community that I have identified so strongly with.

During my initial Public Allies interview, I was asked, “How do you define community?” I hashed together a few thoughts and examples which I won’t bore you with. The truth is, I didn’t know. The only reason coherent sentences came out of my mouth was because in my first 7 months in Hartford I had began to grasp the concept of community. I want to remind you today that the term ‘community’ is abstract and difficult to grasp for most people in your community. All of us here have some understanding that ‘community’ means something different to each person, but do we understand that not everyone has had the experience necessary to define community for themselves? Just as an Oceanographer understands deep sea carbon sequestration and an Educator understands Piaget’s conservation of mass experiment and a Mathematician understands how to calculate the volume of a solid with rotational symmetry using disk integration and a Psychologist understands that there actually is no such thing as multi-tasking and a Philosopher can tell you that this list is actually an attempt at a logical statement…  a Public Ally understands community. And a good Political Scientist understands how important that is. There is an important distinction, however, between all of these seemingly analogous statements. Understanding community through my time with Public Allies gave me a passion for learning and work that was absent in all the other fields. That is a lesson so valuable that it may take me a lifetime to figure out what it’s worth, but I’ll wager it’s worth something close to a lifetime.

So now I close the book on my time here in Hartford, taking with me lessons and relationships that will last forever. I have confidence in my abilities, I think I’ve learned a tinge of modesty, I’ve developed new skills, and I’m beginning to understand who I am. I’ll never forget the community where all of this came to happen because, by my definition, my community here in Connecticut was the first community I was ever a part of.

Thank you for letting me ramble on, for letting me start sentences with conjunctions and end them with prepositions, and for being some of the most important people in my life.


Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Global Youth Service Day – Reflection & Planning

30 Apr

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) was last weekend, April 20-22! Although I’ve worked on other projects this year, GYSD is the central part of my Public Ally term of service. I am, after all, Our Piece of the Pie’s “2012 Global Youth Service Day Coordinator” … or I was. With the big day (April 21st) behind me, I’m experiencing an odd combination of feeling relief and feeling like I lost something very important. On my first day at Our Piece of the Pie, I was handed a massive binder left by last year’s GYSD Coordinator.

Since that day in September, everything I’ve worked on has been directly or indirectly geared towards a successful Global Youth Service Day. For the last month, I don’t think there is a single waking hour that I haven’t worked on, thought about, or talked about Global Youth Service Day… and I’ve certainly dreamed about it enough too. A few people have joked that I have a talent for turning any conversation topic into a discussion on Global Youth Service Day. I swear I’m not that self-involved… it’s just been the only thing bouncing around in my head! Regardless, a big THANK YOU is in order for all the people who have put up with me for the past month! The planning details are the boring bits of this whole story, but they give a glimpse at what I’ve spent the past months on. Here are some of the tasks involved in the GYSD planning process:

  • Find a venue for the main GYSD event, make arrangements with their staff, draft an MoU for the partnership, and understand the benefits and limitations of the facility
  • meet with community partners in planning meetings and one-on-one
  • creat and distribute flyers, permission forms, and other promotional materials
  • recruit youth volunteers at various schools and after-school programs
  • develop or support the development of over 30 service projects
  • work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Fire Department to complete necessary permits and understand all safety concerns
  • write a Proclamation and work with the Mayor’s Office to have the Mayor and staff attend events and service projects
  • write a press release
  • seek in-kind donations (made easy by a HUGE food donation from the ShopRite of Manchester, CT)
  • buy multiple van-loads of supplies from Home Depot, BJ’s (warehouse store), and elsewhere
  • and lots more!

It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s over now and the day was a great success! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and congratulations from others, but I always knew the toughest critic would be myself. I’m still totaling volunteer numbers, receiving photographs, reviewing surveys, and reading project reports; so I hope to only hear more good things! I’ll post a few more blogs on Global Youth Service Day events, projects, and outcomes over the next week!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

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

Mid-Year presentations of learning

9 Feb

On Friday, January 27th, the Public Allies of Connecticut came together for our Mid-Year Presentations of Learning. Each of us was given five minutes to present to the rest of our Public Allies class and we each received some feedback from our Program Manager and peers. You may find it hard to believe that a full day of presentations were exciting and kept us all on the edge of our seats, but it’s true and here is why:

1)      When it comes to any sort of activity associated with a level of creativity (such as preparing a Presentation of Learning), I’ve noticed that the Public Allies Connecticut staff has masterminded a managerial method made for motivating and maximizing meaningful manifestations of minions’ (us Allies’) i-magination. I think they call it MMMMMMMMiM or 8MiM for short. As an example, on the second day of retreat way back in September, we were given a large sheet of poster paper and some markers, and asked to, “make a map of our life.” When I asked for more details I was given a well-meaning smirk and shrug. Now, as someone with a highly procedural and detail-oriented mind (see ISTJ profile), I initially found this level of vagueness a bit annoying. However, I’ve come to realize its positive impact on my personal growth and the creative process. I have since forgiven the Public Allies Connecticut staff. The guidelines for our Presentations of Learning were similarly vague, although a few potential topic questions were supplied.

2)      The structured lack of structure described above also relies on our individual commitment to a level of effort that produces quality work; which I think we all showed last Friday.

Allies were encouraged to focus on what we’ve learned so far (i.e. not just a month-by-month recap of what we’ve done). Personal and professional growth was highlighted and we still got to see some of the awesome work our 2012 class has already accomplished!

For your viewing pleasure, I present Derek Santiago’s Mid-Year Presentation of Learning (by the way, “PACT” is how we refer to Public Allies Connecticut):

Fun times were had by all.

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Martin Luther King Day of Service

2 Feb

At Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), the main job of the Public Ally in my position each year is to coordinate Global Youth Service Day in Hartford, Connecticut. In early December, OPP received a grant from Youth Service America to be a Lead Organizer for Martin Luther King Day of Service. As a result, I was given the exciting opportunity to plan, organize, support, and track MLK Day of Service activities all over Connecticut. This added responsibility transformed December and January into demanding and hectic months, but the effort was well worth it!

Our Piece of the Pie partnered with Hands on Hartford and the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence to put together service projects and a Peace Vigil in Hartford over MLK Day Weekend. OPP’s AmeriCorps VISTAs and I reached out to non-profit organizations and schools planning MLK Day of Service activities all over the state (mostly focused in the Hartford-New Haven-Waterbury area) and put together a volunteer tracking system.  Through the Youth Service America grant, Our Piece of the Pie was able to support eleven MLK Day of Service projects organized by other Connecticut non-profits with $100 – $200 mini-grants.

For the MLK Day Weekend, Our Piece of the Pie reported over 1600 volunteers at 57 different service projects in over 20 different zip codes! The Beloved Community Peace Vigil planned by Our Piece of the Pie, Hands On Hartford, and CT Center for Nonviolence was covered in the Hartford Courant (pictures!).

We’re all connected in our work towards a Beloved Community! Here is a picture from Northwestern AHEC’s MLK Day (organized by Public Ally Jennifer Sweat!):Image

Since working with my AmeriCorps team last year to plan an MLK Day of Service and participating in multiple trainings and workshops on Kingian Nonviolence, I’ve become very interested in and influenced by Dr. King’s teachings. You may remember that some Connecticut Public Allies and I visited the MLK Memorial back in November. For my mid-year Presentation of Learning with Public Allies (which will be elaborated on in my next blog post), I used quotes from my favorite movies, songs, MLK speeches, and a quote from MLK’s D.C. memorial neighbor: FDR.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of Dr. King’s passages that I used in my mid-year Presentation of Learning:

“You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing.”

Any thoughts on this quote?

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

My path to Public Allies

21 Nov

Welcome to my Public Ally Snapshots Blog! While writing my first blog post, it has been very helpful to look at my path to Public Allies as a series of snapshots in life. In the interest of curtailing the length and tedium of my life story, I’ve selected three snapshots of my path to where I am now.

Snapshot #1: Age 6 (nickname: Philster)
My parents have always been very involved in their community. When I was six, my dad organized an environmental project in my home town of Issaquah, Washington. He planned this project from start to finish and it was a great success! So when somebody else took credit for my dad’s project on the evening news, my six year-old self was about to burst with anger. Even more shocking to the self-absorbed psyche of a six year-old was the indifferent reaction of my father. When I asked him what he was going to do about the injustice, he said something like, “It doesn’t matter who took credit. What’s important is that the project was a success.”

It was an important lesson and, even now, I often think about how to best balance selfishness and selflessness in my life.

Snapshot #2: Age 16 (nickname: Phildogg)
Just about every Wednesday as a 16 year-old, I would catch a ride out to Seattle to volunteer with some of my Key Club friends. We volunteered with an organization that served a hot meal to homeless people and provided cell phones once a week for their clients to call friends or family. The organization’s goal was to find a safe, temporary home for Seattle’s homeless and help pay for transportation to wherever that place was.

Leaving my suburban bubble each week for such a contrasting environment gave me a perspective and passion that I may not have otherwise gained. I began to see volunteering as more personally rewarding than just about anything. Unfortunately, it took me a few college majors too long to figure out that this discovery dictated my passions in school and career choice as well.

Snapshot #3: Age 22 (nickname: Philliam)
I decided to take some time off school, so I applied for AmeriCorps positions all over the country. Soon, I was flying one-way to Hartford with my life in two suitcases and without any keys in my pocket (by the way, as someone who pats their right pant pocket every hour or so to make sure his keys are still there, having no keys at all was quite discomforting). As the year went by and I met one Public Ally after another, I realized that was the gig to get.

So here I am!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT