We can tell you about Public Allies all we want, but it’s especially insightful to get the Ally perspective. Lindsay Mays, of the inaugural class of Central Florida Allies, volunteered her story over at Yahoo Answers to help someone who wanted to get more info on the experience. We caught up with Lindsay to learn more.
AlliesNext: What inspired you to address that question on Yahoo Answers?
Lindsay: Everyday I receive “Google alerts” about anything Public Allies, I do this because I enjoy learning about how other PA sites are impacting their community. And aside from our Public Allies Facebook page, Google alerts is the next best way to see our impact nationally. On Sunday this particular Yahoo Answers was in the list of the “alerts.” I chose to answer the questions because I totally knew where she was coming from: “Wow, this looks like a cool experience, but I can’t exactly figure out what it is or how I would fit into it.” Sometimes we all just need a few more details to make the right choice for ourselves and our future. I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends serving with Public Allies Connecticut who I could call and ask any question I wanted to about this little thing called Public Allies. (and by little, I mean not little at all!) Had I not had Erin, I would have most likely done exactly what Emma did, when in doubt – “google it” (or “yahoo it” for this matter).
AlliesNext: What has surprised you about the Ally experience. (i.e. what is a difference between what you perceived the program to be and what is actual)?
Lindsay: Well, about the Leadership Training: The trainings were dynamic and truly geared to true personal and professional leadership development. At first, I did not know what to expect from this aspect of the program. But after 7 months: I have a certificate in Volunteer Management & Leadership Practice, met and learned from Foundation and Non-Profit Leaders, and experienced nearly every part our community from visiting homeless individuals living in camps to gleaning for our local food bank.
About The Allies: Coming into this experience I had the feeling I would meet some really amazing people but I had no idea how amazing and inspiring they would be! It’s one thing to “think” you will find people who want to see positive change in our communities and nation and quite another to meet them in person and work along side them. As allies, we laugh, we cry, we debate, we disagree, we agree and sometimes we agree to disagree. It has truly been an honor to serve Central Florida with them.
About my Placement: My biggest misconception about placement was that I would be just “helping-out” a “perfect” non-profit while I got all this great leadership training. Don’t get me wrong, I DO help, but I also support, collaborate, manage, lead, coordinate, create, and build. I’ve done things that scare me, I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve learned a lot. (emphasis on A LOT). As far the “perfect” part, sometimes the non-profit world can be beautifully messy especially when you work in direct service. No 2 days are going to be the same, you won’t have all the answers or be able to help every person in the way they specifically need. But in my experience It has been incredible to be a HUGE part of a small team and make an impact on the organization and who we serve.
AlliesNext: If you could give advice to yourself before starting the program, what advice would you give yourself?
Lindsay: Breathe! You have 10 FULL months to fully engage in this opportunity and make a difference in your community. You don’t have to see a change on Day 2 to believe it will happen. You will have tons of opportunities to participate in a range of different experiences, you can’t rush this incredible journey. Also, don’t get stuck on “finding your passion,” through service your passion will come to you.
Lindsay, thanks so much for taking the time to help out an applicant! Best wishes on completing your Ally year!