Tag Archives: volunteering

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!


Corona: Then and Now

1 Jun

The Program Design specialization track visited the Queens Museum of Art the other week to learn about Curriculum Design with my supervisor Lindsay Smilow and Program Manager Max Chang. They started their training day with a walk through the Queens neighborhood of Corona. Keeping in mind the following questions they then created some great collages, throwing in the idea of Corona: Then and Now.

  1. What do you notice about the community? What stands out in terms of assets?
  2. What can you glean about the people through what you see, hear, smell, etc.? What can you glean about the history of the area?
  3. If possible, speak to one community resident along the way about highlights of the area and their experiences living in the neighborhood?

As you may have learned from my Queens Muse blog post – some of our Public Allies are talented artists! Here’s a neighborhood I created out of their community mapping inspired collages.

A New Dimension of Service: Public Allies & Queens Museum of Art

30 May

Check out the following blog post I wrote for the Queens Muse Blog as an explanation of the partnership between my PO and Public Allies…Trust me, it’s worth it to scroll down.

 is the School Programs Assistant at the Queens Museum of Art. For more from Pema follow her on Twitter @pemadb or check out her blog posts for Public Allies.

Public Allies at the Queens Museum of Art discussing their art inspired by a walk through Corona

Q: What do a charter school, a tenant’s right association, an LGBT center and the US Fund for UNICEF all have in common with the Queens Museum of Art?

A: They are all partner organizations for Public Allies New York.

Public Allies New York (PANY) is a leadership development program that places young people at non-profits with socially driven missions throughout the city. For those Queens Muse blog readers familiar with the organizations mentioned or AmeriCorps (of which Public Allies New York is a branch), it may come as a surprise that a museum qualifies as a partner. But when you think about the way that QMA is a unique public space that offers community based programming and exhibitions for those who might not have access otherwise, then it begins to make perfect sense.

QMA Family and After School Programs Assistant Harley Jones and I are both 2nd year Allies placed here for our 10 month fellowship in the Education Department.  By design, Public Allies has all of the Fellows juggling two different hats at all times: dealing with the full time placement aspect of working in the Education Department supporting school, family, and after-school programs, as well the other components of the “PANY-verse” that we are required to complete. That means training sessions, retreats, a specialization track, Three Ways, 360s, PMs, PISDs, TSPs and other acronyms and lingo that we Allies speak fluently. For example, a project that came to fruition from partnering with Public Allies is our Team Service ProjectObjects with a Story, a Teen art exhibit we are having in partnership with the Queens Library. Check out our work in action at the opening of Objects with a Story at the Queens Library at Flushing on May 5th from 4 —6 pm.

Another point of intersection was last week’s visit by 15 Public Allies in the Program Design specialization track, who came as a part of their weekly training to learn more about Curriculum Design from our Manager of School Programs, Lindsay Smilow. QMA Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl also spoke with the Allies, looking to them as the next wave of community leadershe mentioned the way arts organizations can benefit from learning about the way service organizations help communities. Successful examples of such learning at QMA exist in both Shaun El C. Leonardo’s Heart of Corona Initiative site-specific artwork, and artist Tania Burguera’s  Immigrant Movement International.

Public Allies encompasses a national umbrella of organizations that upon first glance may seem far removed from the art world. By becoming an 2011-2012 partner, the Queens Museum of Art established a new dimension of service for a new class of Allies.

Harley and I on Psychedelic Thursday – inspired by Queens International 2012: Three Points Make a Triangle

Our Kids Can Lead

2 May

“I believe the children are our future,
teach them well and let them lead the way”
~ “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston

Group photo

On Saturday, April 28th, 2012 I had the privilege of volunteering for PA Chicago’s “Our Kids Can Lead” event in Oak Brook, IL. We were there to introduce service learning to youth grades 4-9. About 22 youth attend the event. The youth worked on one of four themes: Health/fitness, Education, Environment, or Animal Welfare.

I helped six 4th-6th grade students develop the Animal Welfare project. They had a lot of great ideas about our topic: Endangered animals, adoption, homeless animals, animal cruelty, pigs, marine animals, and giant pandas. We ran a vote and animal cruelty had the majority (5 to 1). The youth then decided what type of animals should we focus on within the topic of animal cruelty: It came down to endangered animals or pets. Pets won.

Then the youth talked about what they wanted to do to raise awareness about the problem of animal cruelty. They really wanted to spread the word and suggested the following: make fliers, put ads in the newspaper, get the news involved, word of mouth, host a party, have a rock concert, and run a carnival. They also identified some organizations and individuals they could work with on the project: animal shelters, pet food/supply stores, animal care and control, pet owners, offenders (of animal cruelty), ex-offenders, and other youth.

The group decided to do a skit for their project called “Animal Rescue.” It starts with the narrator introducing the skit and two pet owners (one good and one bad) walking their dogs in the park. A police officer sees the bad owner and takes his dog to the animal shelter. From there, the youth put up fliers raising awareness about animal cruelty and we finish with a song called “Pets Need This” by the Puppy People featuring the chorus of “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. Here are a sample of the lyrics:

“What do pets need?
Pets need love.
Pets need caring…”

…Don’t worry about a thing,
Cus’ every little thing gonna be alright.
Don’t worry about a thing
Cus’ every little thing gonna be alright.”

I loved working with my group. They were very bright and enthusiastic. I know they are great leaders for their communities. Here are a few more moments from the day:

Starbucks providing snacks.


The youth getting to know one another.


volunteering poster


Free Rys Rice

Team Free Ry's Rice's Education project presentation.


Inspriation 1

Youth talking about inspiration.


More photos at Public Allies Chicago Facebook Page.

Food for Thought: What was the first time you volunteered like?
When did you realize you wanted to help others?

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

Chicago Americorps Week

26 Apr

“I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”
~”I’d Like to Teach The World to Sing” by New Seekers

This past March for Americorp Week (March 10th-17th), I participated in two service events: one with City Year at Ryerson Elementary and one with my team service project group.

Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

The first set of photos in this album feature images of the murals that myself and other volunteers helped paint at Ryerson Elementary School on March 10th, 2012. I painted the image of the kangaroo and some of the words on the large wall mural. My favorite moment there was seeing the expression on the young students’ faces when they passed through the floors and saw what we had done to their school. They were so thankful for our assistance in beautifying the building. It was truly a wonderful moment.

 Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

The second set of images are from when my team service project group making food which was served to individuals who are homeless with the Night Ministry in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago on March 17th, 2012. As you can tell from the photos, we all had a fantastic time bonding over the food preparations. We managed to prepare food for 50 individuals, all of which was used that night.

There were also many other events which happened throughout this year’s Americorp Week. Check out more photos here: PA Chicago’s Facebook Page or at My Flickr account.

Food for thought: What are some of your favorite volunteer opportunities you have been a part of?

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