Tag Archives: Stephanie

I, Too, Sing America

3 Jul

As a member of Public Allies, reflecting on the meaning of service is a daily occurrence. Public Allies pushes service beyond band-aid approaches into the realm of inquiry that seeks to address the root causes of different social issues. As Allies, we also leave the experience different than what we were before. For me, service is more than giving to others, it is also how I expand my identity as an American and a global citizen. Each service opportunity opens a gateway for me and for those who am I serving with, to expand notions of responsibility and community.

In high school and college, service was how I came to identify as an American. Volunteering with various agencies afforded me the chance to interact with communities in a way that left indelible marks on my identity. Through service, I began to understand the interconnectedness of people across this country, and that I had a responsibility that went beyond my own needs.

A reading of the poem I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes, at a gathering at Eagle Rock School reminded me of these memories that form my current identity. As an African-American growing up in this country, many times I felt displaced. Service served as my bridge to connect me with others with similar struggles and hopes.

Below, you will find the full poem.

I, Too, Sing America.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.”

Langston Hughes, “I, Too” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.


A day in the life part 2

19 Mar

A continuation of my previous post, ” A Day in the Life Part 1″ 


Wednesday Gathering at Eagle Rock School

Wednesday is intramural day at Eagle Rock School. Wednesday gathering lasts an hour, longer than the normal gathering on days when students have classes. Robert Burkhardt, the Head of School, always runs Wednesday gathering. Regular items on the agenda include:

  • 30 seconds of silence
  • Saying good morning in more than 30 languages
  • A reading of letters that anyone has written to Eagle Rock, including former students, parents, and visitors
  • Important announcements: Recently at a Wednesday gathering it was announced that Holly, the current Public Allies Teaching fellow in English and Literature, got hired the be the new, full-time English teacher at the end of her Public Allies service year. Woohoo Holly!

Public Allies Fellow Holly, in black, when it was announced to the community she would be the next English teacher

  • Golden Spirit awards: Gold painted dinosaur/animal figures given to staff and students  those who exhibited the best team spirit in the previous week of games.
  • Props: students write anonymous notes of gratitude to the community that are read from the prop box.
  • Robert hands out books for students to read. At the end of this part we always say: “Those who do not read are no better off than those who can’t”
  • Music gathering

After gathering, it’s game time! We all come to gathering wearing our intramural clothes. Each house sports a different color. Students at Eagle Rock are split into six houses: Ponderosa, Pinon (black), Aspen (white), Spruce (Green), Lodgepole (Red), and Juniper (Yellow). Every Wednesday the houses compete against each other in a variety of sports. Last trimester it was ultimate  frisbee and basketball. This trimester we had five weeks of water polo/floor hockey, and recently moved on to volleyball. The Public Allies fellows are also paired up by house, and I represent Aspen. I’m just gonna throw it out there that Aspen house went undefeated in floor hockey and water polo. Boo-yah.

Students, Valentina, Darnell, and Jonathon, representing their houses on intramural day

Wednesday afternoon consist of either a staff meeting or an instructional meeting. Personally, instructional meetings are my favorite. This is a time when all the teachers get together for internal professional development. We go over strategies on how to become more effective teachers. This year the teaching focus is how to incorporate HOTS (higher order thinking skills) into all of our classes to help students become critical thinkers.

The last part of the fellow day is advisories. To ensure that all students are on academic track, we have two staff members that oversee about 3-4 students, and we dedicate an hour every week to checking in with these students and supporting them academically and emotionally.

Thursday and Friday

Thursdays look very similar to Mondays and Tuesdays. More teaching, hanging out with students, and planning for classes. One class I am co-teaching is “Connections in Wood.” This is a service-learning course where students get to build projects, such as bookshelves for classrooms and a door for the Stanley Hotel (the inspiration for The Shining), and reflect on how they are able to apply their new WoodShop skills to improving their community.

The Weekend

We have an unconventional schedule here at Eagle Rock. Fellows either work Tuesday-Saturday, or Sunday- Thursday. This is because we have duty, which means monitoring students outside of class time. We do rounds around campus, and open up different buildings, such as the art room and the library, for student use. On Saturdays, fellows run current events, and an hour and a half long Saturday seminar. I’m on Saturday duty this trimester and run a seminar where students and I watch anime.

Human Performance Fellow Grace on Sunday morning duty in the library, looking official with her walkie-talkie.


I hope you now have a sense of what it is like to be a fellow at Eagle Rock School. Service is our life 24/7. However, service doesn’t have to be your day job for it still to play a big role in your life. So I would like to leave you with a question: How can you incorporate service into your daily life?

A day in the life part 1

8 Mar

All the Public Allies sites are unique, so I’m going to try and show you the daily life of a fellow at Eagle Rock School. Give you a little taste of life in our shoes.To sum up our experience in a few words is impossible, but I’ll try it in two posts. Just like all the Public Allies Fellows across the country, we live and breathe service every day at our sites. Fellows at Eagle Rock help have two main jobs: teach and form relationships with students. We don’t only focus on academics, we also emphasize personal growth and community engagement.


Monday through Friday, all staff and students attend gathering at 8:30AM. At gathering, students and staff have ten minutes to discuss a topic of their choice, whether it be personal growth, philosophies of happiness, or major learnings. Robert, the Head of School, also provides a question of the week for students and staff to reflect upon. Then we move on to announcements and music. Students and staff can sign up for a five minute music gathering. Another fellow named Zach and I have covered “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, and the English Fellow Holly and a student named Nija’ah covered “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees. This is probably one of my favorite things about Eagle Rock. Who wouldn’t want to start of their day with live music?

Students then attend classes from 9:05AM-11:35AM and then from 2:30PM-4:30PM.

morning gathering at Eagle Rock School


Fellows at Eagle Rock teach a variety of classes. At the beginning of the fellowship, each fellow worked specifically with an Instructional Specialist (IS) in their subject area. I am the service-learning fellow, thus I work with service-learning instructor and teach classes related to service and civic engagement. Now, we also have the freedom to collaborate with teachers in other fields. I am co-teaching a class called “Leadership for Justice” and will soon be co-teaching “Genocide and Human Rights.” Brandon, the science fellow, is co-teaching a class called “You Are What You Eat,” in which students learn about making healthy life choices through learning about what’s in the food that they eat and how it impacts their body. Lan, the Societies and Cultures Fellow, taught “Sociology of Violence,” where students explored how societal institutions shape our behavior and thinking.

Societies and Cultures Fellow Lan Dinh teaching "Sociology of Violence"

Every Tuesday, we also have Fellows Learning Seminar (FLS). This is our weekly check-in with our Public Allies Supervisor Mark about how we are doing. Every week we also do something different, whether it is related to teaching strategies, having courageous conversations, or working together as a team. It is one of the few times of the week we are all together, and can reflect on our experience.

Eagle Rock Fellows during FLS

I mentioned that on Mondays we are given a question of the week. To get a little bit of the Eagle Rock experience, reflect on our current question of the week: What is your fierce urgency of now?

To break another day

17 Feb

Upon our return from the trimester break* at Eagle Rock, the Public Allies fellow participated in fellows day away. Eagle Rock is an interesting beast. We fellows live on campus with the students(Yea, we live where we work). This has its benefits and its challenges. Sometimes days off don’t really feel like days off. So, Mark Palmer, our awesome Public Allies Director, took us off the Eagle Rock campus to get us mentally ready for the start of a new trimester.

The focus of our fellows day away was to work on goals for this trimester and to work on our Team Service Project (TSP). The  highlight of the day was practicing our karate moves.  Each fellow was given a piece of wood, and on one side we wrote our goals, and on the other side we wrote what would keep up from reaching our goals. Some of my goals included:better organization, patience, and using new teaching strategies. My obstacles included: fear, frustration, and fatigue. Once we had written our goals, Mark taught us the correct body position and technique to smash the boards. Needless to say, it was pretty awesome.

Public Allies Fellows at Eagle Rock school after breaking their boards

For most of the fellows, the process was therapeutic. It felt good to put all our frustration and fears into breaking the board. And when I get stuck, I try to remember that feeling of when finally (after many attempts) broke through my obstacles.

Watch us smash some boards in the hilarious video below of our fellows day away, created by Public Allies Director at Eagle Rock Mark Palmer.

* Eagle Rock School operates on a thirteen week trimester. Upon the end of the trimester students and staff take a three-four week break.

Servant leadership

2 Feb

The Eagle Rock School philosophy can be summarized by what we called 8 + 5 =10.  It goes something like this:

Eight Themes              Plus                    Five Expectations

Individual Integrity                                      Developing an expanding knowledge base
Intellectual Discipline                                 Communicating effectively
Physical Fitness                                         Creating and making healthy life choices
Spiritual Development                               Participating as an engaged global citizen
Aesthetic Expression                                 Providing leadership for justice
Service to Others
Cross-cultural Understanding
Democratic Governance
Environmental Stewardship

Equals Ten Commitments

Live in respectful harmony with others
Develop mind, body, and spirit
Learn to communicate in speech and writing
Serve the Eagle Rock and other communities
Become a steward of the planet
Make healthy personal choices
Find, nurture and develop the artist within
Increase capacity to exercise leadership for justice
Practice citizenship and democratic living
Devise an enduring moral and ethical code

New students are quizzed on 8+5=10 when they come to Eagle Rock. All classes at Eagle Rock Rock are also categorized under the 5 expectations. Within the mission of Eagle Rock is to develop leaders who will use their education to change the world. Two days of the first week of the trimester are devoted to Eagle Serve. During these two days students and staff commit to projects either on campus or out in the community. Last September, students went to Rock Mountain National Park and cleared rocks and pebbles from trails to preserve the habitat of the Tundra.

Eagle Rock students performing service at Rocky Mountain National Park on 9/22/11. Photo taken by Public Allies fellow Tyler Bevington.

This trimester we focused on service on campus. Students cleaned buildings on campus, participated in peer mentor trainings, cleared trails on campus, and the Eagle Rock chapter of Peace Jam planned events for the trimester.  Through these activities on campus, students engage in various facets of the 8+5=10 philosophy. Through service at Eagle Rock we work to develop leaders who see leadership as a collaborative effort. Service is also not just limited to those two days of the trimester. Eagle Rock offers many service-learning courses, where students have opportunities not only to perform service, but also reflect on the larger importance of service in society. I think this is an aim that the Public Allies programs has as well – to develop leaders who see service as a way of life.  So as you read stories of service on Martin Luther King Day, it is important to also remember that he lived service everyday, and we can as well.

It is inhuman to impede another’s progress

29 Nov

Have you ever had that moment when you read a passage in a book that rings so true to your life you can’t help but remember it long after you’ve finished the book? In You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers, a novel about two friends who find themselves in possession of $40,000 and decide to travel the world to give it away, one of the characters proclaims: “It’s inhuman to impede another’s progress.” This quote, as simple as it is, captures the philosophy behind why I do what I do.

My parents, African-Americans who grew up in Mississippi during the ’50s and ’60s, instilled in me a thirst for equality through lessons they bestowed upon me from their experiences. They made sure I understood that two of the greatest sins of humanity are the desire to control others through the suppression of facts and the act of denying someone their rightful place as an equal participant in the development of humanity. The ultimate tool to defeat these injustices is education. So when I meditate on why I now believe in the power of education for societal change, my thoughts always go back to my parents and how I was raised to believe that we are all capable of extraordinary actions.

I wanted to be a part of Public Allies because I knew I would be able to do work that aligned with my own philosophy about service. The mission of service is not to save people. Service is about working with people so that they can liberate themselves. In all my activities I have sought opportunities that kept true to this. As a field organizer on Barack Obama’s campaign, one of my main responsibilities was training volunteers to be leaders in their own community, who in the end deserve most of the credit nationwide for this success. When I worked for The Young People’s Project in Boston, I ran a workshop with youth on how their education can be a tool for social change. In the West Bank, I facilitated discussions with refugee youth on what they would want in a future Palestinian state.

I knew the Public Allies program would fit perfectly into this trajectory based on the core value of its mission statement: everyone leads. I knew that this program, and specifically the one at Eagle Rock School, is where I belong. I had decided to apply to the Eagle Rock site over a year before the deadline. That’s how sure I was that this program was the right fit for what I believed in and what I wanted to do. And now that I’ve been a member of Public Allies for over two months now, I’m still sure I made the right decision.