Sheila Bernus-Dowd was a Program Manager in 1996, and then later became Executive Director of Public Allies Silicon Valley. We recently caught up with her via Facebook chat.
MacArthur: When /where were you with Public Allies and how did you serve there?
Sheila: Well it was from 1996 to 2004? I was Program Manager/Training Director and then Executive Director.
MacArthur: at Public Allies Silicon Valley, right?
Sheila: maybe it was ’03? Yes, Silicon Valley!
MacArthur: When you close your eyes and think about that time, what image or images flash in your mind’s eye?
Sheila: I remember core training – all hands in during closing circles. Leaping off platforms with allies by my side. I remember each year the platform seeming slightly easier. I remember the pride I had when allies graduated. I also remember staff retreats being as intense at ally retreats and nationally loving the folks I worked with fiercely.
MacArthur: What are you doing now (personally or professionally)
that you are excited about — and how does your Public Allies experience relate to that (if at all)?
Sheila: Wow. Lots of what I do are direct reflections of the experiences I had at Public Allies. I am social media consultant – helping businesses and nonprofits think through how they build communities/reach people on line. Public Allies gave me the room to experiment, learn new things and apply them. Consulting lets me do the same. I work with many of the same partnersI did in my PA days. I also am a founder of a music festival – Left Coast Live. We are aiming to revive the live music/arts scene in San Jose. It has become more than an event, but rather a mission that draws on wrangling volunteers, community organizing and leveraging relationships with both community leaders and business leaders. I have become a social entrepreneur just like we’ve taught allies to do for years drawing on all my resources to pull off 115 bands playing in 35 venues in 1 night. Geez – was that too long?
MacArthur: That was perfect! ok — two word answers. Think of it as the “quickfire” round. Complete the sentence: “Silicon Valley is…”
Sheila: ever changing.
MacArthur: “My life after Public Allies is…”
Sheila: rich with experiences. I cheated there…sorry:)
MacArthur: I’ll let it go. Ok — one more: Advice you’d give to an incoming Ally.
Sheila: be open.
MacArthur: Thanks for doing this interview!
Sheila: My pleasure!