Video | An alumni profile

Esteban (Steve) Ramos, New York Ally ’00

If you’re reading this blog because you are wondering about applying to Public Allies, you’ll want to know some of our more than 3,000 alumni. They’re an impressive bunch of people who have some interesting things to say about their Ally experience.  We’ve introduced you to a few already — people like Patrick Carroll Tafarai Bayne, Raj Shukla and Nelly Nieblas. Each originally came to Public Allies for a different reason, and each took their experiences forward in a different way.

Today, we’d like you to meet Esteban (Steve) Ramos, who graduated with the inaugural New York class in 2000. He’s doing terrific work as the executive director of an organization called FYI — Fresh Youth Initiatives — in the Washington Heights Neighborhood of New York City. It’s the same organization that hosted him as an Ally. FYI and Public Allies have a lot of things in common, and one of them is a belief in engaging the community in its own solutions. In this case, FYI engages young people who have done a lot to make their neighborhood a better place. Inspiring stuff! Enjoy the video.

:: Learn more about Fresh Youth Initiatives here.


Snapshot | Greetings from Connecticut!

All Aboard for the new year!

Across the country, Allies are starting “Core Week”, which is a series of orientation activities intended to get the cohort off to a strong start on their year.  Most sites utilize an “adventure learning” component to build their cohort.   Here’s Connecticut in action, and click on their facebook fan page to see more shots.

Excerpt | Baltimorean of the Week

Our Google Alerts delivered a gift yesterday: a blog post naming one of our alumni an “Unsung Baltimorean of the Week.” It’s about Gary Williams, Public Allies Maryland ’10, who seems to make a big impression on the people around him. The blog’s author, Kevin Griffin Moreno, kindly agreed to let us excerpt his post.  Kevin’s blog, Unsung Baltimore, has a pretty cool mission. As Kevin puts it, “Baltimore is blessed with … residents of all races, ages, faith traditions, and economic backgrounds who commit themselves to piecing together the fragments and making our community whole. Though they don’t receive the attention, accolades, or acknowledgment they deserve, these neighbors are our region’s most vital asset.” A very Public Allies-friendly point of view! We encourage you to follow the link at the bottom to the full version of Gary’s story.

Gary Williams

Imagine this: you’re just out of your teens, one of only a handful of African-American students at Mercyhurst, a small liberal arts college in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, 350 miles from the west Baltimore neighborhood where you were born and raised.

You’ve just been made a residential adviser for one of the dorms on campus. One of the residents under your charge is a young white male named Andrew, whose grandfather was murdered by a black man, and who consequently makes no secret of his negative attitudes toward African-Americans…including you.

If you’re like most people, that would be an extremely uncomfortable, if not downright terrifying, situation to be in. But Gary Williams is not like most people. Instead of avoiding or antagonizing Andrew, Gary saw this encounter as an opportunity to confront the young man’s prejudices — and his own.

“At first I didn’t realize that he was watching me, my friends, my reactions,” Gary recalls. “I ended up changing his notions” about African-Americans. As a result, a connection was forged between the two; the more Andrew got to know Gary, the more his opinion shifted.

“Mercyhurst had a lot of kids from the suburbs and rural areas,” Gary continues. “There was this sense there that ‘real people don’t live in cities.’ I always had this view of college that you had to have a wide worldview, but a lot of students there didn’t. For many people at Mercyhurst, Erie (which has a population of about 130,000) was the biggest thing they’d ever heard of.”
In conversation, Gary projects self-confidence, cheerfulness, and warmth. He speaks animatedly and with passion, laughs a lot, and listens attentively. These qualities doubtless went a long way toward combating the ignorance and racial bias he encountered in college. But his willingness to engage with his rural white peers also forced him to examine his own beliefs.

“Mercyhurst was a crash course in conservative white America,” he chuckles. “I didn’t know a lot about small town life – I once asked a hunter friend if he bought his deer meat from the store — and it opened my eyes to my own prejudices about small town people.”

:: To read the the full post, click here.
:: You can find the Unsung Baltimore blog at  

Video | We’re ready to get started!

This is the new video we’re using for our home page at We hope you like it. Here’s the story behind it.

In August, Public Allies held a gathering of everyone in its network. Staff and operating partners from all 21 of our sites visited Milwaukee, Wis. (where we’re headquartered) to meet with board members and others. We had workshops on things like social media, Gen Y, alumni engagement, change management and more. We also did a little socializing, too (though of course it was all very professional, even the karaoke parts).

Anyway, we figured it was also a great opportunity to take some photographs of our staff. A wonderful photgrapher named Kevin Miyazaki donated his time to do this, and he was terrific.

We’ll be using the images to help the great wide world get to know us a little better. The 48 people in this video — actually a slide show — are program managers, site directors, executive directors, recruitment directors and second-year Allies, among others (including your humble Allies2010 bloggers). They are mentors, trainers, community leaders and entrepreneurs. They are among the hardest workers and the most committed people I’ve ever worked with, and I think we need to brag on them a lot more than we do.

Anyway, this video helps us get our “new year” started. Beginning in late August and continuing into October (depending on the site), our 10-month “Ally Year” begins with the arrival of the Allies who will work as apprentices in local non-profits and undergo a demanding schedule of training and team service projects for their communities.

Want to know who the people in this slide show are? Here’s a list corersponding to their appearance in the slide show, in groups of six and with their site noted in parentheses. Alas, we didn’t get a photograph of everyone, but this is a pretty representative slice of the Public Allies network.

Group 1: Myisha Brown (Ariz.); Jenise Terrell (National Office); Steve Sullivan (Chicago); Nelly Nieblas (National); Alison Peebles (Pittsburgh); Dexter Bland (Del.)
Group 2: Laura Bumiller (Md.); Diane Bacha (National); Pawan Bhardwaj (Chicago); Christina Dang (Silicon Valley); Reymundo Armendariz (Silicon Valley); Ebony Scott (Chicago).
Group 3: Un Jin Krantz (Cincinnati); Jennifer Brown (Central Fla.); MacArthur Antigua (National); Raquel Davila (Pittsburgh); Marilyn DeArmas (Miami); Merilou Gonzales (National)
Group 4: Roger Hesketh (Del.); Nekeisha Neal (Washington, D.C.); Michael Allen (National); Elysse Wageman (Milwaukee); RoseMary Oliveira (National); Alexandra Ponce Murillo (Silicon Valley)
Group 5: Gerri Odum (North Carolina); Casey Bridgeford (Indianapolis); Eric Maynard (National);  Khalia Brown Sanders (Cincinnati); Danise Sugita (San Francisco); Antonio Cardona (Twin Cities)
Group 6: Max Chang (New York City); Edward Gonzalez-Novoa (New York City); John Viet (Silicon Valley); Asha Loring (Miami); Megan Johnson (Indianapolis); Margrette Castro (National)
Group 7: Ava Hernandez (Milwaukee); Elizabeth Hammond (Conn.); Tyler Driscoll (Conn.); Karla Radka (Central Fla.); Kate Flynn (Milwaukee); Don Chojnacki (Milwaukee)
Group 8: Justin Knight (Washington, D.C.); Nicole M. Thomas (Milwaukee); Malkia Lydia (Washington, D.C.); Tynisha Worthy (Cincinnati); Megan Coombes (National); Antony “T.J.” Hughes (N.C.) 

We’re ready for our new year! We hope you keep reading Allies2010 to watch our progress.

:: See more of Kevin Miyazaki’s work at his website.

Video | Honk if you’re an Ally

Guest blogger Elias Cepeda (left) is a new program manager at Public Allies Chicago. One of his colleagues has been videotaping the activities of Chicago’s new class of Allies. This video shows one of their exercises. Elias was kind enough to put it in some context so you won’t be left wondering why a bunch of grown adults keep saying “vroom” to each other.

At first glance it resembles a slightly out of control inside joke – 30 or so people in a circle gesturing back and forth between one another, with sound effects. One after the other blurts “vroom!” or “oil slick!” or “pit stop!” while waving a hand, twirling a finger or putting both arms in front of their body. 

In fact, it’s a well-planned morning exercise on the fifth day of core training for Chicago’s 2011 class of Allies. Mari Meyer, the program manager who facilitated the activity, explains what  is going on: 

“We are working as a team to get our imaginary race car around our track and there are certain sounds and movements that are required to do that successfully. For example, a side twist push and ‘vroom’ sound allows the car to move, and then a screeching brake sound and a hand against the direction the car is coming from stops the car and turns it around.” 

It’s an exercise Meyer learned through her theater experience as a youth. The idea is to move participants out of their comfort zones.  The mix of physicality and sound takes into account different kinds of learners. 

If the activity looks and sounds silly to observers, they’re not alone. At least initially, many of the Allies themselves – all adults working on very serious issues in the community, full time – weren’t so sure about Meyer’s race car simulation. “At first people are skeptical, especially older people,” she says. “They think it is silly and think, ‘how am I going to look?’ But once they start getting into it everyone lets go and it gets funny, noisy and loud. People get engaged  and everyone gets excited when it’s their turn and they are able to add in their own creative expression.” 

Engagement, collaboration and creative expression, all towards a goal. Now it starts to make some sense. The seemingly unruly and silly exercise actually fits very well into the Public Allies paradigm. 

“So much of our program is about building strong leaders that are not only able to lead and work effectively, but also collaborate on a team. It is not only about being accountable for themselves but also about communicating with partners, peers, teammates and co-workers. That is so crucial to them  developing as well-rounded leaders. In the game, they have to think,  ‘how am I going to work effectively with all these other people to make this car go ‘round?’ ” 

:: Visit the Public Allies Chicago web page here.

Video | Hello, Chicago!

Meet the Chicago Allies and Staff in this quick video.

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