Tag Archives: TSP

Kick-Off and New Beginnings

26 Mar

After some unexpected set-backs, my service project with my fellow Allies is finally coming together. My group co-hosted a community event with our partner organization, the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society (IMAS) on the North Side of Chicago. The organization’s mission is “to foster the well-being and self-sufficiency of Iraqi refugees and immigrants in the Chicago-metro area: easing their transition to life in the United States, forging connections between Iraqi and American society, and facilitating the preservation and exchange of Iraqi culture”. With the Iraqi community in Chicago growing, IMAS  is eager to expand its programming and our project focuses on helping the staff build the infrastructure for new youth programs.

My service project team.

Our kick-off event was a great opportunity for interface with the community. Personally, I had very little knowledge of or experience with refugee groups from any background before partnering with IMAS. The opportunity to learn more about Iraqi culture and the refugee experience makes this project even more exciting. The journey began for me at the event, where I had an enlightening conversation with a community member. She approached me to ask for more information about Public Allies and my personal background. After a 40 minute conversation, I walked away feeling like I’d just met one of the most courageous women in the world. She has only lived in Chicago (and the US in general) for about 5 months, but has managed to find a new home and family here after losing her entire family in Syria. IMAS, she said, helped her come back to life. The people she has met are her new brothers and sisters. Of everything she said, one quote will probably stay with me forever:

“When people ask me how old I am, I say 5 months because when I came here 5 months ago I was reborn. It was a new beginning.”

Her attitude towards her experiences is inspiring. Personally, it reminds me to believe in the power of hope and the strength it can give you to start over.


A Lesson in Teamwork

7 Feb

As the Robert Burns poem, To a Mouse,  famously warns,  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry).  While I’d like to claim full acceptance and understanding of this, it’s a pretty difficult reality to digest.

We go through our lives being taught the importance of time management and planning ahead. Consequently, failures and problems are often blamed on poor planning or scheduling. As an avid planner, I was excited to begin working on a team service project with some of my fellow Allies. In my mind, as long as we ironed everything out from the start, the project would unfold beautifully.

Unfortunately, life is a bit more unpredictable than that and I experienced the value of something more powerful than any agenda or time task plan: teamwork.

As the Chicago site prepared for the launch of team service projects, my team was having communication difficulties with the organization we planned to work with. Eventually we received news that our project was no longer needed by the organization. After months of work, we found ourselves worried and discouraged.

This was a critical point in our team service project experience because the situation could’ve gone in multiple directions. The worst-case nightmare scenario involved unproductive meetings, bickering, and finger-pointing, but our reality was the complete opposite. Within a week we were contacting new possible partners and arranging capacity assessment meetings, while maintaining the lighthearted optimism I love about my team. Now, we are on our way to finalizing a new project plan.

This experience is a perfect example of why I have no doubts about completing a service year with Public Allies. Serving with amazing individuals on my team service project and within my class in general is changing my perspective on how things get done in an unpredictable, dynamic world. So, I challenge Robert Burns: The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry…Unless you trust the power of teamwork and collaboration.

This is a museum?!

17 May

One of my favorite aspects about Team Service Project (TSP) Fridays is the fact that we can try out new places to work. I’ve discovered so many new great coffee shops and untraditional work spaces that I’ll keep with me well past Public Allies.

Here’s one of my favorites: After meeting with our project supervisor, we decided to walk over to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  We were in for a surprise.  We found a little bit of “green space” inside the museum where we worked for a while.  Even though Minnesota isn’t very green in late March/early April most of the time, this was a little reminder of spring!  What a great looking (half of our) TSP group!


What do Domo, a lion’s mane, peace signs, and crumpled soda cans have in common?

14 May

Domo, a lion’s mane, peace signs, and crumpled soda cans are all images that will be used as part of the Bridgeport Beautifies component of our PA Beloved Bridgeport Team Service Project!

Kids at the Boys & Girl’s Club had a blast painting Domo (a Japanese character now popular in pop culture) and peace signs on trash containers that will be placed on the campus of Bassick High School (BHS) in Bridgeport, CT.

An incredibly talented BHS student designed a “Past & Future” drawing that will be painted as a mural in the student lounge at BHS.  The “Past” incorporates crumpled trash cans while the “Future” shows off school pride with an image of the BHS mascot, a lion.



We’re excited to do our final Bridgeport Beautifies event on Saturday, Cinco de Mayo!  Updates to come!

College access in Baltimore

7 May

Since October I have worked with the other second-year Allies at Public Allies Maryland on our Team Service Project (all the Allies at Public Allies Maryland are split into teams ranging from 4-6 people to work on a community service project in Baltimore utilizing the Asset-Based Community Development model) to address the issue of college access in Baltimore.

We know college access is a HUGE issue, so we looked at the assets Baltimore already had around this issue and decided to partner with a wonderful organization called Upward Bound. The Upward Bound Program provides Baltimore City Students with exceptional college preparatory services, emphasizing academic excellence, individual expression, and service to school and community. The program assists them in developing the academic and social skills necessary for success in high school and matriculation in post-secondary education.

When we met with Upward Bound’s Executive Director Greg Hunter we asked “What is the one thing you would do if you had unlimited time and resources?” And he said that he would put on a College Access Fair for Baltimore students not only in his program, but other organizations that work on the college access issue as well.

So, on April 14th, we hosted the first annual Upward Bound College Access Fair!! Our fair included representatives from local and out-of-state colleges, breakout sessions for parents and students presented by Bank of America and The Maryland Higher Education Commission, and all students received a free copy of From US to U: An Inside Look Into College from Those Who Know Best… College Students, thanks to a generous donation from the book’s author, Samantha Zipp-Dowd.

This was the first time I had planned a large event or fair before and I am already using the same skills at my placement site at The SEED School of Maryland for an upcoming service day. I never would have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for Public Allies. It was challenging and stressful at times, but at the end of the day I felt amazing knowing I had not only built capacity at a nonprofit, I had made a difference in the lives of Baltimore students.

Here are some pictures from the event:

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Objects With A Story: PANY 2nd Years Team Service Project

9 Apr

Fellow Public Ally Harley Jones at the Queens Museum of Art wrote a fabulous blog post on our TSP project, and I really could not have said it better myself. Check out the below to read her words on the exciting art exhibit we have brewing in May. And stay tuned to see the final products.

Queens Teens Create Objects with a Story

Harley Jones is a Public Allies 2012 fellow at the Queens Museum of Art, working as a School Program Educator as well as a Family & After School Programs Assistant.

Every Wednesday that school is in session, our Queens Teens travel from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria to the Queens Museum of Art. Around 4 pm they materialize, with backpacks, cups of ramen and massive donuts from a bakery in Forest Hills I’ve never heard of. An incredibly reflective and (too) smart (for their own good) paid corps of high school students, they work alongside Tim Miller, Manager of Family and After School Programs, and me, Family and After School Programs Assistant, engaging families with QMA’s permanent and rotating exhibitions in the museum’s galleries and art studios.

But for the next two months, their focus is primarily their own art. Each Teen will create a series of two and three dimensional mixed media works for a month-long May display at the Flushing Library. The inspiration for their pieces: a Queens community member whose story intrigues, influences, and inspires them. School Programs Assistant Pema Domingo-Barker joins us for the project, entitled Objects with a Story, as photographer and my team co-captain.

Below you’ll find an interview excerpt by Queens Teen Yocelyn Zare of community member Errol Quest. This Wednesday, we asked the Teens to identify the interview answers they found most compelling. From there, each Teen created a big, bold, preliminary project sketch; they mapped out their first concept, a literal and metaphorical rendering of one interview characteristic on either side.

Yocelyn’s first concept sketch. She literally illustrates Mr. Quest’s unrealized life experience on the left, and figuratively interprets his actual personality on the right.

YZ: Why did you want to become a teacher?

EQ: My mom. I was inspired by my mom, who was a teacher, and my grandmother was a teacher, and my aunt was a teacher, and a couple cousins. I think I was destined to be a teacher because I grew up among teachers, and I loved what they did, and I loved working with kids.

YZ: How did you want to influence kids with science, your subject?

EQ: Science is everywhere. Science is a part of our lives. And in other countries, they stress science more than in this country. I’m trying to encourage students to study. I’m trying to be a role model from the African American community, to show kids from my community that they can strive to become anything. If you look at the stereotypical scientist, it’s not me. It’s the old guy with the white beard and the white lab coat. I’m just trying to influence students to achieve.

Quinn Hu

Peter Keehn

Selena Matos

Miriam Jovanovic

Megan Basaldua

Aubrey Miller

Ian Tousius

Pittsburgh’s Team Service Projects

9 Apr

Happy April! Just to give you an update on what has been going on in the South Side of Pittsburgh…

Healthy Futures! (My Team)

Team Healthy Futures in Pittsburgh is partnering with South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), a volunteer run organization that “maintains, fosters and improves the quality of life, safety and unity of the Slopes neighborhood” To all you outsiders, “Slopes” is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s “South Side full of hills, historical houses with panoramic views, and… steps (A necessity to get from A to B for the pedestrians/visitors).

SSSNA has made a partnership with Grow Pittsburgh and the City to replace an abandoned, littered baseball field with a community garden! Residents can rent out a plot to grow organic, fresh produces. A great asset, since most homes in the Slopes do not have adequate space for gardening.

My team is beginning to build a partnership with Voices Against Violence, a program that has a mission “to provide effective intervention and prevention activities in a proactive way that strategically reduce interpersonal conflict among youth and individuals to address issues that impact negatively on under served communities through innovative grass roots approaches that engage youth and community residents. ”

Our Objectives:

  • to create a sustainable summer gardening program for Voices Against Violence.
  • empower teens by teaching organic gardening, healthy food choices, and food security values

Our Outcomes:

  • enable behavioral change related to eating habits and food choices
  • assist in fostering strong work ethics and build skill sets
  • inspire lifelong community stewardship


Photo By Lake Fong: Read article here!

healthy futures

Veterans and Military Families!

Another team service project, Veterans and Military Families, will be organizing and hosting a BBQ for veterans and their families in the South Side of Pittsburgh.

This is not just any BBQ! They have been building partnerships with nonprofits and organizations to showcase the services available to veterans and their families that they otherwise may not know are out there. It will also be a great networking event, enabling veterans and families to connect with each other while the community shows appreciation for their past service and sacrifices.

Economic Opportunities!

The Economic Opportunities Team will be partnering with Hot Metal Faith Community Church to host “Souper Saturdays.” The Hot Metal Faith Community Church has a service called “The Table” …a “community kitchen with a heart to serve the South Side community.”

Economic Opportunities are building a program around that service, by providing monthly events where community members can come get a meal and receive services that will assist them in reaching economic opportunities. At these “Souper Saturdays” their will be free haircuts, resume & computer assistance, free hygiene products & clothing (professional wear) and organizations that explain how to apply for food stamps and other government assistance.


Holding up their “Souper Saturday” Sign

As you can tell, we are quite busy over here! What are some other Team Projects across the nation? 🙂 (Thats if you have not shared already)