Snapshot: Reconnecting with an old friend at Kaboom’s 2000th Playground Build

Just like old times: Paul and Michelle working together at Kaboom's 2000th Playground Build. Credit: Associated Press/Manuel Balce Caneta

Kaboom is one of our Partner Organizations at Public Allies Washington DC.  Their mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.  Yesterday, they just performed their 2,000th build at Washington D.C.’s Imagine Southeast Public Charter School.  Our CEO, Paul Schmitz, was on hand to lend a hand to the proceedings, as well as to catch up with one of our colleagues, Michelle Obama.


The Training Space: Central Florida

Public Allies Central Florida Allies break down volunteer management

Public Allies Central Florida has partnered up with the Rollins Center for Philanthropy for their leadership development training. One benefit is that PA CF Allies can earn a Certificate in Volunteer Management.

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.

Snapshot | Dainty … or determined?

This snapshot of Nikki, an Ally in San Francisco, was taken by Christophe Gonzales during a service day project. The “caption” below was written by Lauren LePage, a San Francisco Ally.

In her mid-year presentation of learning, Nikki performed spoken word, sharing with us a poem she’d written about feeling pressed on all sides. And when the pressure built up, she stopped trying; to be mediocre was easier.

But she wanted to press back. 

As her fellow Ally, I’ve watched Nikki press back, press back, and press on through. She is nothing short of fierce. In this photo, Nikki’s wearing a mask and gloves not because she’s dainty or nervous about paint smudges; she’s protecting herself from paint fumes. Because even though she was pregnant, she was determined to take part in our Cesar Chavez Service Day, determined to help create the mural at Anne Darling Elementary School, just as she was determined to fully commit to her placement, her Team Service Project (of which I’m proud to be a part), and her Critical Reflection project.

She pressed, she pressed, she pressed on back. And that’s not all she pressed on through…

Meet baby Kaya Seletute Arenal, born May 21, 2010, at 3:09 a.m. We like to refer to her as the Team HIP baby.

♦ ♦ ♦

Editor’s Note #1: You can see more photos from this service day at

Editor’s Note #2: Congratulations Nikki! Kaya is beautiful.

Snapshot | The Human Not

It's not what you think.

When we came across this photo on Flickr, we got curious. So we tracked down the photographer, Danielle King, a Miami Ally from 2008-09, who is now working toward her PhD in American Politics at the University of Florida. She said she snapped the photo at the Miami Allies’ mid-year retreat in January 2009. She went on to explain …  

So, on the second day, after tossing around a football in the morning, our Program Director and Manager decided that we’d do some of those leadership and communication building exercises that involved us all being awkward in front of each other. We all used to sort of complain about them, but secretly we all loved it.  

We split into two fairly arbitrary groups and linked hands to do the Human Knot (where everyone’s hands are linked over and under one another’s, and you have to detangle to where you’re all holding hands in a circle…no easy feat on four hours of sleep).  

My group finished really, really quickly (my buddy Rich said it’s because we had “superior communication skillz,” and he’d want me to put that z in there). And then we sort of watched as the other group struggled a bit. Actually, we watched and giggled and mocked for a few minutes. I never really put my camera down that weekend, so I snapped a few shots, one of which being this photo. After a couple of minutes though, we realized that they were having a really tough time, and so we each poked our heads over into the other group’s knot and started giving them instructions on how best to detangle. This sped their process up considerably, and afterwards, we all got a pretty nice pat on the back from Kenny, our Porgram Manager, for not just finishing early, but for recognizing that our fellows, and really, our friends, were having a rough time, and using our “skillz” to help them out.  

We all got on kind of freakishly well, and it would show in times like these.  

The photo includes Richard Benitez (’08 & ’09) in the blue polo looking judgmental, and the cluster of people includes Gila Yudewitz, Nate Lettman, Luz Agudelo, Garris Nickle, and I think a slice of Nardia Dixon’s head (all ’09). In case anyone else wants to check out further shenanigans from that weekend, here’s the Flickr link.  

Editor’s postscript: Danielle has a side photography business while she’s in grad school, it’s called Big Day Photo Studio: 

Snapshot: Application crunch time

Sometimes, being organized is a matter of survival.

Visit any Public Allies office right now, and you’ll see something like this. In some Ally communities, the deadline for filing an application has just passed. In others, it’s right around the corner. Either way, program managers are awash in application forms, interviews and recommendation letters. When last we tallied the numbers, Public Allies was having a record-setting year for applications. We’re excited about the possibilities ahead!

This photo was snapped recently at the New York office. And just in case you’re wondering, here’s a guide to deadlines in every community.

Weekly Snapshot: The Secret Life of Allies

Super hero Allies

By night: Asset-Based Superheroes in San Francisco.

Lani Cardenas, San Francisco Ally Class of 2009-10, photo-documents her Team Service Project progress every week. Since using one’s assets is a Public Allies mantra, Lani and her fellow San Francisco Allies started by identifying the assets on their own team. “We decided to have everyone draw themselves as superheroes, emphasizing their skills,” said team member Lauren LePage. “Lani drew the cityscape and took the picture – she photographs our group every week, wherever we are and in whatever form. And if someone’s missing, she draws or Photoshops them in.” Here’s the  before and after snapshots from this exercise: regular folk by day (below), “super heroes” when they’re working on their service project by night. Capes are a great look for you guys!

Top photo (After): Lauren is third from left (with pen and paper), Lani is fourth from left (with dino tail). Bottom photo (Before): Lani is fourth from left and Lauren is beside her wearing green.  (Snapshots by Lani Cardenas)


By day, who would know they can strengthen communities with their bare hands?

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