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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.”
And there’s the warmth.
While it was small moment, it was greatly validating for me.
So how does this relate to Public Allies? The one component from the program that has stuck with me the most and that I carry through all the work that I do are the 5 core values. Those are collaboration, continuous learning, a focus on assets, inclusiveness & integrity.
Learning about these values during an Ally’s 10-month term while important, can get a bit monotonous. So instead of explaining the textbook definitions I thought it would be fun to rephrase them, a ‘la my mom’s style. That icy burn that seems like it’s trying to knock you down, but in come the warm fuzzies just in time to lift you back up!
So here are those 5 core values with that icy-hot spin.
1. You are not good enough. (aka Collaboration)
As Public Allies and as many of us who work to make our communities better know, we can go much further when we come together. Lone wolf mentalities do not apply to the work that we do. We must work for collective impact, share data & information and understand that if we go beyond shaking hands & push to link arms instead, we can be stronger.
2. You will fail, perhaps epically. (aka Continuous Learning)
As an ally I learned that despite what the Internet memes tell you, yes failure actually is an option! But what the value of Continuous Learning instills in us is that a failure is not an end. What matters is how we respond, that we consciously continue to be vulnerable, garner the feedback of our peers, be resilient, be unafraid and fly in the face of failure. We must seek to grow from those failures as much if not more than from our successes.
3. You’re special…but so is everyone else! (aka Focus on Assets)
As leaders, we must always focus on what is special. We must see the strengths in our communities. Whether that means creating leadership positions for young & diverse talent, incubating new social entrepreneurs and start-ups, or even that rather than seeing certain youth populations as ‘at risk’ – that we instead see them as at the precipice of opportunity.
4. You have waaaay too many friends. (aka Inclusiveness)
We all have those friends who just seem to know everyone & have their social calendars booked months in advance. It seems exhausting. From my observations though, its not that these social butterflies are aggressively friending people. Nothing is forced. It’s their natural magnetism, their ability to genuinely relate and invite anyone they are around, in. In our communities these are the connectors. We should strive to be more inclusive as community developers. It’s not enough to send those we serve an invite to the party, so to speak. We should be inviting them to the table where the party is being planned. Further more we should question ourselves more and ask those we serve more questions. More questions to find out if what we thinkthey need is in fact what they know they want.
5. You are such a stick in the mud. (aka Integrity)
We must be accountable and honor those we serve, those we work with, and those we love. Integrity is key when building personal relationships, professional relationships and most of all—community relationships & trust. When faced with unjust acts like SB 1070, SB 1062 or the denial of marriage equality, we must stand together in the mud and we must not ever waver. We must stand for what is right & what is just, not only for ourselves but for all.
Overall, I challenge the new class of graduating Allies and all those who work in our communities to always being thinking in new ways. Even if it burns a little at first.
This blog post is an excerpt from Chrisal Valencia’s 2014 Public Allies graduation speech.
Chrisal Valencia is the Member Events & Volunteer Coordinator (& wearer of multiple hats) for Local First Arizona. In high school she was an Anytowner and President of the "Harmony in Paradise" Diversity Club. She went on to study Fashion Marketing in college, which surprisingly led her back to her passion to work in the non-profit sector. Her Fashion Marketing Career Advisor, of all people, referred her to the Public Allies program where she served 2 terms of service; one with the Civic Space Park Collaboration as the Community Events Coordinator and the latter with Local First Arizona, who she now works with full-time. Somewhere between all of that she managed to create her best work to date--her crazy yet brilliant, now 4-year old daughter.
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Read Annie Bellow's, "Public Allies Arizona: Getting Things Done for America"