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.


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  

“Old School!” — PA in NYC for NCVS

PA Alumni dining out at PA Happy Hour in NYC

Sorry for the scant updates lately.  Admittedly, we’re heading into the twilight of recruitment season.  Only New Mexico, Twin Cities, DC, and Orlando are accepting applications for Fall 2010 (you can still submit to be an alternate for the other sites, however).   So, I wanted to take a post to reflect on the recent National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS), held June 28-30, 2010 in New York City.

I like to consider NCVS as “servicenerdpalooza” — it’s the largest gathering of national service folks, volunteer managers, civic Read the rest of this entry »

On Graduation, 13 years later.

Public Allies Chicago '97. That's me in the backline, between Rick Manabat and Jaime de Leon

We’ve reached the “graduation season” of the program year.  As my co-workers in the national office shared stories of attending Presentations of Learning, and our Operation: Congratulations effort has invited me to be reflective on my own graduation from Public Allies 13 years ago.  I rustled up a few photos from my shoebox, and tried to piece together memories like Guy Pearce from Memento.

I don’t remember much from that day.  I vaguely remember doing Team Service Read the rest of this entry »

Catching up with…Patrick Carroll, Delaware

Patrick Carroll, PA Delaware Staff Alumnus

Each week we catch up with an Ally or Staff Alum to see what life is like on “the other side” of the Apprenticeship.  This week, we catch up with Patrick Carroll, Staff Alumnus from Public Allies Delaware.  He’s currently the Executive Director of the Delaware Humane Association.  We recently caught up with him on Facebook chat.

MacArthur:  When and where were you with Public Allies, and in what capacity did you serve?
Patrick:  Executive Director for Public Allies Delaware from August 1999 to December 2005.
MacArthur:  When you close your eyes and think of that time, what Read the rest of this entry »

Video | Why Public Allies? Episode 7

Nelly Nieblas, Los Angeles Ally ’05

Director of Public Policy and External Relations

In this video, Nelly Nieblas talks about her route to Public Allies Los Angeles, to Harvard, to Washington, back to L.A., and finally back to D.C. as the newest member of the Public Allies National Staff. There’s lots more to her story than we could fit in a two-minute video, but we have a feeling you’ll see her here again.

Catching Up With…Tafarai Bayne, Los Angeles

Each week we catch up with an Ally or Staff Alum to see what life is like on “the other side” of the Apprenticeship.  This week, we catch up with Tafarai Bayne, PA Los Angeles Ally AND Staff Alumnus.  We recently caught up with him on facebook chat.

MacArthur:  Where were you an Ally or Staffer, and how long were you there?

Tafarai:  I was an Ally (at Public Allies Los Angeles) at Strategic Actions for a Just Economy.  I was on staff (at Public Allies Los Angeles) for about 4 years, and I currently sit on the board of directors.

MacArthur: Think back to when you were staff, what Ally had the biggest impact on you, and why?

Tafarai: I think personally it was a young man named Michael Agyin. He was the first LA Ally at least who was hearing impaired. We had to make alot of adjustments as a program and I had to really push myself.  It was already a learning process for me to just coach, but to coach a deaf ally was a whole ‘nother thing.  I had to constantly be on my toes. There were times where we conducted whole sessions with a pen and paper and didn’t speak a word…

MacArthur:   Wow.

Tafarai:   It really was a trip because I became so aware of language and communication and it’s impact on a person and a community —  how comfortable we get and how we always have to be open to the challenge of clarity.

Read the rest of this entry »

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