Tag Archives: public allies

From Washington, PA to Washington, D.C.

21 May

As a child, I often told my mother that it was my dream to go to the White House and talk to the President about how I wanted to “change the world by helping people.” I was very young, but I understood at an early age the true power of the presidency. I knew that if I wanted my story to be heard, and if I wanted to make change happen, I had to go directly to the source of political power: the President. As I grew older, this dream grew distant, and I became apathetic about how I was living my life. Until recently, I had completely forgotten about this dream of mine.

On Friday, April 12th, my dream was revived as I joined 11 other AmeriCorps and CNCS members in walking through the gates of the White House. As I took my seat in the Roosevelt Room and then, as I shook President Obama’s hand and introduced myself, I felt a surge of energy and immediately recalled my long-lost aspiration. At that very moment in time, I was living my dream. I was participating in a roundtable with the President, where I and other service volunteers had the opportunity to share our personal life stories and our experiences of hardship and success in our volunteer work. I was invited to tell my story to people with true political power, people who have the ability to change lives in a very real sense. President Obama thanked me and the other volunteers for our service and spoke about the importance of volunteering in our communities. He encouraged us to stay motivated and to persevere when faced with setbacks.

After the roundtable had ended, President Obama took us on a private tour of the Oval Office, where we had the chance to see the Emancipation Proclamation, the Resolute Desk, and the Presidential Seal on the ceiling. When President Obama had to leave to tend to other matters, he sent us with top White House officials through the West Colonnade and the Rose Garden, where the flowers were in full bloom. We then walked to the South Lawn, where we met with White House Executive Pastry Chef, Bill Yosses. Bill guided us through the First Lady’s garden, which includes a bee hive and compost bins. There, he shared with us a story about the organic heirloom plants (including sea kale) whose seeds had been passed down from Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello. We were even invited to pluck fresh mint leaves right off of the plant to taste them.

Spending the afternoon discussing service at the roundtable with the President and the other volunteers was an invigorating and rejuvenating reminder of why I serve: to decrease suffering, to benefit others, and to make a difference in my community. Since my trip, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for the great outpouring of kindness from others. My community has supported me in every way possible. A brand new business suit was donated to me for my trip, as I couldn’t afford to purchase one on my own. My co-workers threw a Stars and Stripes themed surprise party for me and made a lovely little card for me, as well. Public Allies staff walked me through the process of forming my narrative and helped me to gain the courage to tell my story. My close friends and fellow Allies all gushed with excitement and pride over my achievement. It was truly a wonderful experience to receive such support from my community.

I was most touched by a message my sister sent to me just after I arrived in Washington, D.C. She said: “I’m so proud of how far you’ve come, Meg, from the first day when you were nervous and not thinking you were going to make the cut all the way to being one of 12 volunteers chosen to do what you are passionate about. I can’t tell you how honored I am to be your sister. You’ve made awesome leaps and bounds this past year, conquered your biggest fears, and you never once quit. Even when it became overwhelming, you still put your sweat and tears into everything you did. And now, doors are beginning to open to what you thought were unimaginable opportunities. I have so much faith in you and know you will excel in absolutely anything you do. You have the drive, determination, and passion to move mountains. I love you, and I’m so very proud of you.” I was moved to tears by my sister’s message, as I knew that I had become a source of inspiration for her.

After I returned from my trip, I had the chance to tell my story many times to many different people. Volunteers told me they were honored and proud to have me represent them at the White House, and clients at the agency where I am placed were excited to hear my story and pressed me to tell it over and over again until it felt real to me. Sharing my story with so many people actually became a source of strength for me; I used my vulnerability to make connections with others. I overcame the fear and shame I experienced about my life and my personal experience in poverty by making myself transparent. The authenticity and honesty transmitted through my message encouraged others to open up about their experiences, as well. Since I have started to share my story, I no longer feel shame about my past, and this has influenced other folks in my community to come forward and tell their stories too.

The impact that my trip has had on my personal life, my professional life, and the lives of others who have heard my story has been simply phenomenal. When I was a child, I thought that the only way my voice would ever be heard was if I got to tell my story to the President. Now that I’ve met President Obama and shared my life story with him and other folks in the federal government, I know this to be quite untrue. The real power in my personal narrative came from sharing it with my neighbors, my friends, my family, my co-workers. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to tell my story at the White House, but the real success came from me learning to share my story with my community.

This experience has been both humbling and empowering for me, and I am deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to share my story with so many wonderful people. My life’s journey from Washington, PA to Washington, D.C. wasn’t exactly an easy one, but I couldn’t have done it without help. So, thank you to those who have offered me unending support and kindness, especially over the last few months. It really means more to me than I can ever truly express.

-By Meghan Dillie, Public Allies Pittsburgh Class of 2013

You Get What You Give… and Sometimes Even More

6 Feb

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Let’s be honest. There are some days when we wake up feeling drained, tired on every level, and wondering what we’re doing with our lives.

I had a few of those days as I re-transitioned into my placement location after being on break for 3 weeks over the holidays. My position as the Health and Wellness Fellow at Eagle Rock School is a bit of a black sheep in relation to the rest of the fellows who are mostly teachers. Sometimes it’s difficult to communicate what I do with my time as my schedule is inverse of most of the staff. While they’re teaching, I’m making phone calls to parents, making appointments with therapists and learning centers, and checking in with my supervisor to ensure all bases are covered. While they’re making lessons plans, I’m with my students in one on one and small group conversations finding ways to help them cope with their emotions and whatever issues arose through the course of the day.

Sometimes it becomes frustrating when the majority of evidence of success is intangible, physically immeasurable, and frequently confidential because of the nature of the position.

That all said, without fail, my students show me every day why I accepted this position. They are love embodied. Unexpectedly, I find notes in my mailbox, messages on facebook, random texts, and emails telling me how much they appreciate what I do and they know that so often no one else sees what’s happening behind the scenes.

Before coming to Eagle Rock, I wondered how I would maintain my own grounding with no close friends nearby as I poured out every bit I could of myself to and for the students. Now that I’m here, there is no question that the love I give is the love I receive and more. They add incredible depth and meaning to my life, and any moments of frustration are rapidly dissolved by their transparent affections.

United in Service

30 Jan

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“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Saturday, January 19th, the city of Washington came together to honor Dr. King. Public Allies led a day of service, bringing together 250 volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. Our community that day included 125 Public Allies staff and corps members from Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Washington, DC. We were joined by over 100 high school students and teachers from Anacostia and Friendship Collegiate Academy. Our special guests for the day included Chelsea Clinton, chair of Inaugural National Day of Service, Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies, Senator Harris Wofford and Bill Basil, current AmeriCorps Director.

The day was divided into three units: Let’s Serve, Let’s Move, and Let’s Lead. In the Let’s Move station, Playworks corps members invited teenagers and adults to embrace the benefits of exercise, swirling hula hoops and running around the gym. In the Let’s Lead room, allies facilitated a discussion on the legacy of Dr. King, brainstorming how his teachings can shape our lives. The Let’s Serve unit focused on a number of hands-on projects, ranging from a mural painting to a food drive.

My team had just entered the Let’s Serve station, located in the school’s cafeteria, when Chelsea Clinton arrived. We gathered around the lunch tables as she gave an inspirational speech about how her upbringing emphasized the importance of community service. Her father, former President Bill Clinton, established AmeriCorps under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. After sharing her personal story with us, Ms. Clinton said that she was eager to lend a hand. She joined our group, helping to put together 600 bags of food for Bread for the City. Beans, noodles, and tuna fish were passed along an assembly line as we all joked and chatted, getting to know one another. The high school students on our team opened up, confiding in the former first daughter their goals and aspirations for the future. Several stated that they wanted to join AmeriCorps, others wanted to go to college or to join the military. All seemed encouraged by the message of the day: “We Still Have the Dream.” In other words, we, as a community, will support you as you pursue your dream.

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In my experience as a recent transplant to our nation’s capital, DC remains segregated by ward, class, and ethnicity. There’s Congress, and then there’s Congress Heights. Living here, it often feels as though there are multiple cities, intersecting only at crowded metro stations as strangers impolitely bump against each other in an attempt to quickly get out of the tunnels. Through events like the National Day of Service, Public Allies connects people from different worlds. For four hours on a Saturday morning, we were united by the idea that we all have the power to be change agents in our communities. But the effort has to reach beyond one day of action. I plan to continue working to bridge the gaps in DC, and I hope that you will join me.

As Dr. King argued, “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

For more pictures of the day, check out the Public Allies Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publicallies/sets/72157632576862845/

Opportunity’s Many Faces

21 Dec

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Opportunity means giving students different ways of managing not only their bodies, but their thoughts and emotions at Eagle Rock School. 

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Opportunity means building meaningful connections with students.

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Opportunity

20 Dec

Opportunity

Opportunity means being given a seat with decisions makers and being equally valued in that space. It is having room to expand and exercise my capabilities.

“Opportunity never knocks. It hangs thick in the air all around you. You breathe it unthinking, and dissipate it with your sighs.”
― Roy H. Williams

Chapter 1: Hello

26 Nov

Hi, my name is John and welcome to my journey as a Public Ally in the Twin Cities.  During my term of service, I will be talking about my experiences as a Public Ally, my cohort, my background and my personal goals.

It’s already been a month in at Public Allies Twin Cities, so let me catch you up on what has happened.

At the beginning of October, I met my fellow allies and over the past month we have gotten to learn so much  about each other. One of the funniest activities was going rock climbing at Fort Snelling Base Camp during training week.

Here is a picture of me at top of the wall at the Fort Snelling Base Camp:

My fellow Public Allies:

For my placement, I am at The Sanneh Foundation. Their mission is to use the appeal of sports, especially soccer, to unite diverse communities, helping at-risk youth develop into leaders and experience success.  The Sanneh Foundation is located in St. Paul and has reach across the Twin Cities and around the world.  Prior to Public Allies, I was already a volunteer at The Sanneh Foundation, so it was great to continue doing something I enjoyed while also be a part of Public Allies.

At The Sanneh Foundation, I am the Programs and Community Outreach Coordinator where I coordinate the various the programs the organization runs. Some of the programs are College Prep 101; where student athletes are taught about college, the importance of academics and community engagement and the NCAA recruiting process, and Sanneh Soccer; such as after school soccer programs and free soccer camps over the summer. And I get to play soccer with youth everyday.

Here is a picture I took at one of our events in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

There is so much more to say but I am going to leave it at this. I look forward to my adventure as a Public Ally and blogging about it.

‘Tis the season

20 Nov

If you had told me 6 months ago that I would soon be working at a non-profit organization and loving every minute of it, I would have looked at you like you were one twist short of a slinky. Back then I imagined that my holiday season would be filled with studying for stressful law school exams and prayers that winter break would finally arrive. Instead, I find myself surrounded by the smiling faces of my co-workers and the joyful presence of kids who deserve all the wonders that the season has to offer.

The cliff notes version is this: Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a lawyer. When I got to college I majored in legal studies and excelled in all my courses, but something was missing. My LSAT came and passed, my applications were ready to be sent, but my heart told me that something wasn’t right.  I decided to take a brave leap of faith, and instead of sending in those law school applications, I sent in an application to the Public Allies Miami program. I knew that I was starting a new chapter in my life, and something told me that Public Allies was exactly what I needed to begin my journey. Thankfully, I was right.

I was placed with the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), a non-profit organization that aims to transform the lives of children and families in Liberty City, Miami. Children here may be growing up in the midst of poverty and violence, but they are just as vibrant, beautiful, and full of potential as any other child in the world. Working with these kids brings a smile to my face everyday, but nothing highlights the positive impact that non-profit organizations have on the community quite like the holiday season. While most kids get dressed in fancy costumes and run through the streets on Halloween, kids in Liberty City don’t get the same experience. While many kids get all the presents on their wish list during December, kids in Liberty City are lucky to get even one toy. Non-profit organizations like MCI strive to change that, and seeing the look on a child’s face when they are handed a Halloween costume or a holiday toy makes it all worth it.

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MCI staff members handing out Halloween gift bags filled with candy, books, and school supplies at Charles R. Drew K-8 Center

As we begin to carry out our holiday initiatives like our Halloween Character Day event and Toys-for-Tots distribution, I realize that I have never felt more confident in my decision to take the path less travelled. Non-profits and the Public Allies program do amazing things for communities all over America all year round, but there is truly nothing more inspiring than being a part of this amazing community of leaders and change makers during the holiday season