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

Everyone has strengths, capacities and assets…

Bah to your powerpoints! The venerable Jody Kretzmann presents Asset Based Community Development to the Chicago Allies during Core Week 2011.

 

During Core Week, Allies are oriented to their Apprenticeship.  Most likely, the first thing they are oriented to are the 5 Core Values of Public Allies.  These values define our leadership practice.

One of those Values is Focus on Assets:  that the strengths, capacities and assets of individuals and communities are the primary building blocks of sustainable community development.  During the Apprenticeship year, Allies are encouraged to looking at serving at their placement and in their community through this lens, and for many it’s a huge paradigm change.

The result of this practice:  their nonprofit develops a new way of working with those they serve, local residents are engaged to re-energize and re-purpose public spaces.  Ultimately, it’s inspiring the art of the possible.   To learn more visit the Asset-Based Community Development Institute website.

Last year, Connecticut Allies worked alongside local residents to beautify their neighborhood.

 

 

 

Presentations of Learning: An introduction.

 

[Above:  Andrew Nimmer talking about his 12 months of growth and learning while in the Public Allies Teaching Fellowship Program at Eagle Rock.]

One of the leadership practices in our training and learning program is the Presentation of Learning (or “POL”) .  Eagle Rock defines this practice as such:

Three times a year, at the end of every trimester, all students at Eagle Rock give Presentations of Learning (POLs). These are not about getting credit in courses; students either have or have not documented learning Read the rest of this entry »

More Core Week! From Delaware…

"They can see us waving from such great heights...come down now..."

 

From Public Allies Delaware’s Facebook Page

What a great way to cap off Core Training for the Class of 2012!  Yesterday was a warm but almost ideal day to spend swinging from a rope 30 feet in the air in Newark at the UD campus.  The “Adventure Challenge Experience” serves the purpose of developing strong team communication and challenging the individual Ally to achieve new heights (haha).  Dr. Roger Spacht led us through a days-worth of activities and ensured that our harnesses and helmets were fastened securely!

 

Core Week: The adventure begins!

At the start of each year, the Public Allies participate in Core Week.  Not only do Allies learn the “nuts and bolts” of performing the Apprenticeship (How do I fill out my timesheet?  How does Team Service Project work? etc), but it’s also a key opportunity for the Allies to form their learning community.  Many Allies cite their peers as the strongest source of learning during their Apprenticeship, and the beginning of that bond happens at Retreat.  Retreat is usually an overnight stay at a conference center, where Allies practice team-building on high ropes and learn about each other through the Life Mapping activity.  Public Allies Central Florida recently posted a gallery of their Allies presenting their life maps, and even in those brief snapshots, you can get a sense of their personalities.

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.

What’s Next, RJ Mercede?

 

Who’s next? RJ Mercede, Public Allies Connecticut is next! 

"The Bridgeport TSP Team celebrating the opening of the new Michelle Obama Community Garden at the Bridgeport Community Library. I'm in the center. It was at the end of our very long, yet extremely successful TSP Project -- Bridgeport Beautifies"

This is the fourth in a series of quick e-mail interviews with graduating 2011 Allies, who share with us…well, what’s next for them after graduation. 

So, RJ…What’s Next?   

Read the rest of this entry »

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