Video | Honk if you’re an Ally

Guest blogger Elias Cepeda (left) is a new program manager at Public Allies Chicago. One of his colleagues has been videotaping the activities of Chicago’s new class of Allies. This video shows one of their exercises. Elias was kind enough to put it in some context so you won’t be left wondering why a bunch of grown adults keep saying “vroom” to each other.

At first glance it resembles a slightly out of control inside joke – 30 or so people in a circle gesturing back and forth between one another, with sound effects. One after the other blurts “vroom!” or “oil slick!” or “pit stop!” while waving a hand, twirling a finger or putting both arms in front of their body. 

In fact, it’s a well-planned morning exercise on the fifth day of core training for Chicago’s 2011 class of Allies. Mari Meyer, the program manager who facilitated the activity, explains what  is going on: 

“We are working as a team to get our imaginary race car around our track and there are certain sounds and movements that are required to do that successfully. For example, a side twist push and ‘vroom’ sound allows the car to move, and then a screeching brake sound and a hand against the direction the car is coming from stops the car and turns it around.” 

It’s an exercise Meyer learned through her theater experience as a youth. The idea is to move participants out of their comfort zones.  The mix of physicality and sound takes into account different kinds of learners. 

If the activity looks and sounds silly to observers, they’re not alone. At least initially, many of the Allies themselves – all adults working on very serious issues in the community, full time – weren’t so sure about Meyer’s race car simulation. “At first people are skeptical, especially older people,” she says. “They think it is silly and think, ‘how am I going to look?’ But once they start getting into it everyone lets go and it gets funny, noisy and loud. People get engaged  and everyone gets excited when it’s their turn and they are able to add in their own creative expression.” 

Engagement, collaboration and creative expression, all towards a goal. Now it starts to make some sense. The seemingly unruly and silly exercise actually fits very well into the Public Allies paradigm. 

“So much of our program is about building strong leaders that are not only able to lead and work effectively, but also collaborate on a team. It is not only about being accountable for themselves but also about communicating with partners, peers, teammates and co-workers. That is so crucial to them  developing as well-rounded leaders. In the game, they have to think,  ‘how am I going to work effectively with all these other people to make this car go ‘round?’ ” 

:: Visit the Public Allies Chicago web page here.

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 »

Video | What are Allies getting done?

Earlier this year, 10 of the Public Allies communities took part in a “Fill-a-Flip Blitz.” Each used a company-issued Flip camera to videotape stories about what was going on around Ally Nation.

We’ve receieved Flip material from six of the 10 participating communities so far. It has been my job to log all the material and turn it into edited videos, and I gotta say it’s easy to feel like an underachiever as I listen to these interviews — with Allies, Alumni, staff, and the people who are working with Allies in their placements. There are so many passionate, capable people doing and supporting Public Allies work.

Anyhoo, some of the videos you have seen and will see on this blog come from the Fill-a-Flip project, and here’s one more. I spliced together snippets of interviews with 16 Allies as they described the work they are doing in their placements. The interviews come from Arizona, Chicago, Maryland, New York and North Carolina and were conducted in April. The Allies you’ll meet here are at or near the end of their placements now, and getting ready for Presentations of Learning (PublicAllySpeak for year-end reports) and graduation. Give ’em props for all they’ve accomplished! Their names, in order of appearance, with their Ally communities …

Ashley Brown, North Carolina; George Morse, North Carolina; Ben Garcia-Spitz, Chicago; Megan Anderson, Chicago (you may recall her from an earlier post); Ella Nguyen, North Carolina; Brandon Johnson, Arizona; Yasmeen Nanwalala, Chicago; Eduardo Cordon, Chicago; Tarnasia Lundy, New York; Kelsey Addy, Maryland; Robert Wheatfall, Chicago; Robbie Flick, Maryland (with his boss); Bola Odejayi, Maryland; Akil Meade, Maryland; Raquel Rodriguez, Maryland (with one of her mentees); and John “JD” VanSlyke, Chicago.

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