Public Allies

Public Allies Arizona: Burning You With the 5 Core Values

posted by
Chrisal Valencia
Member Events &
Volunteer Coordinator
Local First Arizona

Public Allies has played a very definitive role in my life. It has enabled me to gain experience professionally, to grow personally and most of all—ignite my love and passion to serve.

As I prepped for what I wanted to say to the next graduating class of Public Allies Arizona, I took a queue from my own days as an ally and reflected. I remembered that it was becoming a mom that inspired me to pursue a life and career that aimed to help better my community, and help shape an even better one for my daughter. My daughter Noelle turned 1 when I started my first year of Public Allies. Now she'll be turning 5 and starting school next month.

I feel as though every year she gets older and every year that I get older, I become even more appreciative of my own mom. Growing up, my mom had this wonderfully blunt but loving way of parenting. It was no frills; when my sisters & I suffered our teen angst-y issues or had drama there were no ‘Full House’ type moments. No conversations by the bedside with gentle music playing in the background like we watched so many times on television. It was more like to-the-point brutal honesty, but with honest-to-god love for her daughters behind it. It took me many years to realize and embrace this.

The best way I can describe it is sort of like icy-hot. You know in the long run it’s going to be good for you. But at first it burns & it’s a little painful. It’s not until later on that the warmth and relief comes. In fact whenever I referred to my work the entire 2 years of my time spent serving with Public Allies, my mom would worriedly ask me the same question (in a thick Filipino accent), “So Chrisal…when are you going to get a real job?” Ouch, burn. It wasn’t until last November after attending one of the events my organization holds that she finally understood and said to me, “Oh, so thisis what you do. Wow.”

Public Allies Arizona: Getting Things Done for America

posted by
Annie Bello
Public Allies Arizona

I quickly realized that Public Allies was no cop out when we were sworn in as AmeriCorps members. Back in September when I stood beside more than 40 committed Allies who had a variety of values, backgrounds, beliefs, and goals, but all taking the same oath I realized this was the real deal. We were committing to something that was bigger than ourselves for the sake of the greater good.

The oath reads:
I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities. 
Faced with apathy, I will take action. 
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond. I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.

Donning the Sweatshirt of Service: Reflections from a Second-Year Ally

posted by
Angela Soliz,

ASU Lodestar Center
Public Allies AZ Alumna /
Youth Leadership Development
Coordinator & Volunteer Coordinator,
ADL Arizona and GLSEN Phoenix

When I think back on my time with ASU Lodestar Center's Public Allies Arizona program, many different memories and candid moments pop into my mind. Particularly, I think of an image of a certain well-worn Public Allies hooded sweatshirt — our unspoken uniform of service. Every service day, there it would be. Rain or shine or paint, it would be there.

That sweatshirt is a reflection of my experiences in a lot of ways, and I think it's a symbol that unites a lot of us in the nonprofit sector, beyond Public Allies. It's a rather unassuming (some might even say unattractive) emblem of our collective pledge to do a service for this country. We take pay cuts, put ourselves out there, and take risks — all to make a difference. We all look similar in our sweatshirts, and the mission and goals of our work — to do good service, to help others, to create change — unite us even more.

But, inevitably, that sweatshirt comes off once we get home from a long day of service, and the visible link to one another and the tangible attainability of our work becomes harder to see.

Finding Pride in American Service

posted by
Dianna Schwartz,
Public Allies Arizona Alumna /
Program Associate,
New Global Citizens

About eighteen months ago, I was standing outside a Thai classroom in the open courtyard of an elementary school in Bangkok, watching from a second-story perch as Thai children "marched" in the center recreation area. As an American who had traveled extensively in Europe before, I often harbored the telltale sign of a Catholic — guilt — when representing my country on foreign turf.

The U.S., known for having a culture of excess, had often given me reasons to feel apologetic when interacting with foreign civilizations. I had learned to keep my head down, to speak quietly and thoughtfully, to keep my opinions to myself, and, when all else failed, to tell people that I was Canadian.

I was poised to enter a classroom and represent my country again, this time to forty third-graders who might never make it to the U.S. on their own. I had just been told that part of the value I brought as an English teacher was being Goodwill Ambassador, bringing U.S. culture to a generation of Thai youth. If they never travel abroad in their life, this will be all they know of the U.S. I watched the marching students below and mulled over that awesome responsibility, and, oddly enough, felt the dawning of a supremely foreign thought.

While we certainly have reasons to be reluctant to announce our U.S. heritage loudly, we also have reasons to be proud to call ourselves U.S. citizens. Not every country exports volunteers in the way our country does — the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Cross Cultural Solutions, Atlas Corps, Global Leadership Adventures... the list continues on ad infinitum.

Creating, Building, and Sustaining Nonprofit Communities

posted by
Hannah Humphrey,

Public Allies Arizona Alumna /
Outreach Coordinator,


What does it mean to be a community organization? Nonprofit professionals use the word "community" a lot. We talk about serving the community, building community, and engaging community. But sometimes we forget that "the community" is not just an abstract demographic.

I'm lucky to live and work in downtown Chandler, a community with an active merchants' association and a city that is very interested in creating a sense of place. What I've learned from Chandler is that community is not a place — it's a practice. This community works because we know our neighbors, because we look out for each other, and because, sometimes, we care enough to argue with each other. I see community when the barber shop next door to my office holds packages that were delivered when we were out. I see community when business owners get up early to go to a meeting about parking restrictions. I see community when someone asks me for a recommendation, and I can say, "Sure, I know exactly who can help you. They're just down the street."

If you're looking for ways to find community, the best strategy I've seen is Asset Based Community Development (thanks Public Allies!), which uses the strengths that already exist in a community to effect positive change. You can click here to read more about the theory, or you can start exploring the resources near you with an asset map.

"If you have to leave, why did you bother coming in the first place?"

posted by
Laura E. Tan
Public Allies Arizona
Program Manager
ASU Lodestar Center

As I've done every March for the past four years, I participated as a Team Leader in United Way's Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in the metro Washington D.C. area. ASB is a great opportunity for college students who choose to spend their spring breaks volunteering in communities across the country. Since 2006, nearly 2,000 students have participated in ASB, volunteering over 64,000 hours of service.

For part of this year's ASB service, my group got to work at an after-school program for at-risk kids, ages 5-11, to help them with their homework. Our team noticed that many of the older kids struggled with basic reading and math concepts, even though they are at an age when fundamentals should be well established. We were only at Beacon House for four short days, but after working hard with the kids, many of us got attached to our new friends.

One of the participants in my group, Shelina, formed a particularly close bond with an 11-year-old girl who, for privacy reasons, I will call Zee. At the beginning of the week, Zee told Shelina that she wanted to be a hairdresser when she grows up. After observing the girl's clear talent at math and science throughout the week, Shelina encouraged her to think about other careers that would make use of her skills. By the end of the week, inspired by Shelina's support, Zee began to consider the possibilities of being a math teacher or a fashion designer.

On Thursday, as they hugged goodbye, Zee had a particularly hard time letting go of Shelina, both figuratively and literally. As Shelina detangled herself from her, Zee wailed, "Why do you have to leave?"

How my mother and AmeriCorps made me a better man

posted by
Michael Soto,
2nd Year Fellow,
Public Allies Arizona

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.

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.