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After graduating college and moving to Arizona, I was unsure of what path to take in life. I knew I wanted to continue my education but I was not ready to be back in the classroom setting, I wanted real-life experience. In my search for continued learning, Public Allies quickly became an appealing way to continue my personal growth. Going into the program, I had a general idea of where I wanted to go in my career but was unsure how to accomplish my goals. I felt as though I needed more professional and personal development to become a more effective community leader and social worker in my future. Public Allies helped me accomplish this.
Throughout the placement process, I was introduced to Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped (AFH) and immediately knew that it was the type of organization I wanted to work for. I have always been interested in working with individuals with special needs and AFH provided me the opportunity to serve a population I am passionate about. During my time at AFH, I learned so many important lessons from members. They taught me about positivity, friendship, hard work and countless other lessons.
As a community engagement coordinator, I developed a volunteer program and worked toward building community knowledge about AFH and its programs. While all aspects of my positions were exciting and challenged me to reach beyond what I believed I was capable of, by far the most rewarding experience was working to improve the quality of life for members at AFH. One of my favorite experiences was organizing an event with the Phoenix Fire Department. \Many members were huge fans of fire fighters; one young woman even said her last name is “fire truck.” Upon developing a relationship with the Phoenix Fire Department, I was able to get them to come to AFH and show a fire truck to members, as well as educating them about the roles and responsibilities of a fire truck. Every single member had a smile on his or her face that day!
Another memorable experience occurred while I was walking down the hall one day. I passed a young man who had a huge smile on his face. I asked him how his day was going and he responded “Great! Did you see me on Facebook the other day?” Through AFH’s Facebook page, we have worked to promote the programs we developed for members, and this young man was featured in the previous day’s video. I told him I had seen him and I thought he did an amazing job and that I was proud of the work he was doing. We continued to talk for a few minutes before his ride arrived and we both left in great moods. I also left knowing my work made a difference in his life that day and gained renewed excitement to continue the work I have enjoy so much.
My participation in Public Allies has been challenging and rewarding, but most importantly- educational. I’ve learned about ability to overcome issues, how to plan large-scale events, how to manage individuals and the impact that positivity can have on your work.
Ellie Slater was part of Public Allies' Class 12, placed at Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped (AFH)as a community engagement coordinator. Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.