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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Staff Q&A | Meet the people who read your applications

Nicole Thomas

Nikki Thomas

Who she is: Director of Ally Recruitment & Alumni Relations and Program Manager, Public Allies Milwaukee, and a Chicago Ally in 2007 and 2008

Originally from: “I grew up as a Military child (moving every three to five years) and thus have lived in California, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Japan, Korea, etc. After all of that I consider California to be home because I was born there and ended up graduating from high school there. However, my family roots are in Chicago and the surrounding area.”

Her Ally experience: “I was an Ally for two consecutive years with Public Allies Chicago. My first year (class of 2007) I was placed with a scholarship foundation as an Educational Coordinator, and my second year (class of 2008) I was placed in the P.A. Chicago office as their Alumni Engagement Coordinator.”

Before Public Allies  “I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Biology while being a pharmacy technician ad working on campus as a student worker.”

What’s it like at your workplace right now? “Times are busy around our office; we are currently wrapping up an Ally Class while simultaneously recruiting for Ally applicants and Partner Organizations. Since our Ally application deadline just passed, my personal goal is to have over 200 applications reviewed by staff within two weeks, coordinate, communicate, and schedule at least 100 interviews with applicants and engage our PA MKE Network (Alumni, Board Members, Partners, etc) to assist with interviews, while ensuring that all of our fellows meet all requirements to graduate from our program.”

What made you interested in becoming part of Public Allies? “I can honestly say that all of the Core Values caught my attention, but Asset-Based Community Development drew me in as a new way to look at a community and be able to advocate in a more effective way for my own communities. What kept me involved was the experience of what diversity truly is; Public Allies’ version of diversity pushes beyond usual expectations. There is more to the meaning of diversity. Or participants come from different backgrounds, experiences, education levels, ages, abilities, political interests, ethnicities, ideology, sexual orientation, geographical locations, income levels, gender identities, religions, etc. (the list could go on). The beauty of it all is that everyone wants to learn and is willing to step out of their ‘Comfort Zone’ to do so. Every year, it never fails, I see that learning take place within myself and others.”

Bob Marley

On your desk: “Every time I feel defeated I look to this poster for inspiration. It reminds me that nothing comes easy and it’s worth it. It’s especially important because I received this as a gift from one of my fellow Allies during my first-year experience.”

Complete the following sentence: If you become an Ally, be ready to. . .  “grow personally and professionally through being accountable for your actions within your placement, Team Service Project, training and your fellow Allies.”

In 21 words or less: What are the three most essential ingredients for a successful Ally experience?

“Time management of  program and personal life.

“Networking with your class and partner organization.

“Push for growth and learn by sharing experiences.”

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