How my Mother and AmeriCorps made me a Better Man

Thanks to Kayla McKinney over at the ASU Lodestar Center blog for getting us hip to Michael Soto’s post on his AmeriCorps service, and its connection to his own family history.  Michael Soto just completed his second year Fellowship at Public Allies Arizona, where he served with the Arizona Citizens for the Arts.


Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to serve my country. My mother served her country by joining the Army at the age of 18. She served at Carlisle Barracks and the Pentagon in the Women’s Army Corps during the Vietnam War. As a child I remember sneaking into her bureau to pin her Army medals on my chest and parade around like a soldier.

Her service didn’t end with the Army. She was an example for me throughout my childhood, bringing me along as she volunteered at soup kitchens, with the LDS cannery, and in the Scouts. My desire to emulate my mother through service to my country only increased as I grew older.

Michael Soto, Public Allies Arizona 2009-2011.

When I was a junior in high school, I received a recruitment call from the US Military Academy at West Point. My mother tried to hide her excitement as she handed me the phone, but her eyes lit up. What mother wouldn’t proud for their child to attend West Point?

I wasn’t able to attend West Point, nor serve in the military. I am a transgender man, and for years I thought my gender identity meant I could not serve my country. Then, one lucky day, a friend told me about Public Allies, and I realized that I could serve my country — through AmeriCorps.

Today, I am about two-thirds of the way through my second term of national service in Public Allies Arizona and AmeriCorps. I’ve given approximately 2,900 hours of work for America since 2009. I can’t tell you what an honor it has been to serve my country. Public Allies and AmeriCorps have made it possible for me to accomplish my dream and serve the United States of America.

A few months ago, I was shopping at the local grocery market, wearing my AmeriCorps sweatshirt. I was lost in my shopping list, trying to find the steak sauce, butter lettuce and instant mashed potatoes. An older man walked up to me, squared his solders to mine, extended his hand and said, “Young man, thank you for your service.” I looked at him, like a deer in headlights, so he clarified: “My son served in AmeriCorps and I think our country needs more young people who believe in and work for America.” I agreed with him and thanked him, with a hoarse voice, a handshake and a nod.

I give my mother all the credit. She taught me, by example, the most important values in my life: service to my country, service to my community, and service to those in need. And I thank Americorps for being the answer to my lifelong wish of serving my country. I hope to teach my own children, someday, all that I’ve learned about service and citizenship.


Topical Punch: We Need More Women Leaders…

Political Cartoon, courtesy of Kap/Spain,

Our CEO, Paul Schmitz, writes for the Washington Post Blog, On Leadership.  His latest blog post examines the recent scandal featuring IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  He originally wanted to title it, “We Need More Women Leaders”, but WaPo redubbed it, “Why Leaders Personal Lives Matter.”

Click on the money quote below to get to the full blog post.

We need more women leaders. It is outrageous that we still have tremendous gender disparities in leadership. Even in the nonprofit sector, the sector that should be most inclusive as it works to improve our communities and quality of life, there is a glass ceiling and gaps in leadership and pay at the top.

LA Story: New Ally-written blog from the West Coast.

If you want the inside on what it’s like to be an Ally in Los Angeles, check out Power, Privilege, Allies written by 2010-11 class of  Public Allies Los Angeles.  Personally, I love a blog that has a tag titled “Trust The Process.”

Links We Like:

As the recruitment season winds down, we want to keep sharing with you resources and cool links that are relevant to your own leadership development.  Here’s another installment of Links We Like.

I had the opportunity to connect with Chris Golden, a talented emerging leader who has helped develop, an online platform that allows volunteers to record, track and share their service experiences.   Read the rest of this entry »

Ideas we Like: PA Connecticut’s Serveup

PA CT Allies facilitating a service day.

The notions of creativity and innovation are grounded in our core value of Focusing on Assets — what  are our strengths and gifts, and how can we re-align those to get a better result? To that end, let me introduce you to PA Connecticut Program Manager Tyler Driscoll, who has imagined Serveup, a mobile/web application that makes finding and engaging in service opportunities easier.

It will capture the experiences of community members as they engage in service and provide a space to share ideas about service and leadership in their communities.

We invite you to learn more about it at the Pepsi Refresh campaign website, where it’s in the running for a 50K grant.

Talkin ’bout the Now Generation

All gussied up for the radio show.

Rosetta Thurman, host of All Nonprofits Considered

I got the opportunity to talk about Public Allies and leadership development in the sector today with Rosetta Thurman.  It was a pleasure and privilege to have this opportunity, as Rosetta is definitely one of the influencers and thought leaders in the field. If you missed it, here’s the link to the podcast.

Hit the Links!

On the weekends, we round up some links on leadership, nonprofits, pop culture, and the intersections in between.

This week’s featured link:  PA Los Angeles’ Ashley Smith knows the Team Service Project (TSP) experience, as she’s done it twice — as a first-year Ally, and now as a TSP Coach as a second-year Ally.  Check out her latest blog update, where she reflects on the TSP Coaching experience.  (True Life)

After the jump, s’more links…

Read the rest of this entry »

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