Halfway Home. Ally Reflection by Michael Grochowski

Milwaukee Ally Michael Grochowski reps for his placement, Pan African Community Association.

Reflections Halfway Through an Ally Year
In my first five months as the After School Program Coordinator at Pan-African Community Association (PACA), I’ve worked to give my students the best possible learning experience. With that big goal in mind, I’ve set out to:
  • create partnerships to increase our number of tutors;
  • build relationships with schools and teachers;
  • connect with parents to advocate for their interests at schools and in our space;
  • observe and research best practices in ELL teaching;
  • increase our numbers of books, board games and educational resources; and
  • transform our space with a new computer lab and a re-designed environment to most intentionally encourage student learning.

Everything I’ve done so far has been guided and influenced by Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). I could not have increased our number of service-learners and volunteers without the help of local universities. I would not be able to support the expectations and learning of schools without the communication of staff and teachers. I cannot do my best to reflect the values of our families if not for their high involvement and feedback. I would not have improved as an ELL tutor without welcoming classrooms and great instructors. And I most definitely could not have grown our collection of books, textbooks and educational resources or built a computer lab without the support of many community members in Milwaukee.

Moving forward, one of the big initiatives I plan to utilize this next semester is Individual Capacity Inventories, which are essentially surveys of people’s skills, passions and interests. I plan to welcome our next group of service-learners with a reflection on these qualities. I want the people in our space to feel valued for the people they are as they walk into our doors. While I will still maintain and build everything around my larger purpose of coordinating the best environment for student learning, I want my tutors to share even further in creating this experience.

Additionally, I have begun to utilize this same approach with our students. When the older students finish their work, they help other students in the subjects they feel most confident. I also encourage them to read with younger students, lead activities and play games. For our younger students, I provide prompts like “What are your gifts?” to get them thinking about the “gifts,” or talents and skills they can offer to one another and to their community. By building in opportunities for the older students and purposeful reflection for the younger students, my goal is to provide a learning space where they can share their assets and genuinely practice leadership.
I recently read in Everyone Leads that Asset-Based Community Development is the foundation on which all other Ally values are built. Reflecting on the first half of my Ally experience, I definitely agree.
Feel free to to connect with me if you read this post and would like to get involved with PACA. I am always interested in collaborating with people who have an interest in helping our students succeed. You can keep up with me at my LinkedIn profile, or at PACA’s Facebook Page
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