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In September 2017, I applied to be a Public Ally after first applying for a student worker position with Public Allies Arizona. When I first applied for the student worker position, I really did not know what Public Allies was; I just knew they helped youth get involved in the community.
After my interview, the director sent me an email suggesting that instead of taking the student worker position, I should apply to be a Public Ally myself because they had an organization that was looking for someone with my skill set. I was beyond ecstatic. During my interview, I learned that the program worked with young adults who wanted to make a change in their community with different nonprofits throughout Maricopa County. I had recently moved to Arizona from Michigan for graduate school and was so excited to learn more about the nonprofit community in Phoenix. After I was accepted into the program, I interviewed with Opportunities for Youth and was offered their data analyst intern position.
Opportunities for Youth, an initiative that had just recently moved to ASU from Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA), is an organization whose mission is to “harness the power of cross-sector collaboration to create a comprehensive system of opportunity that reengages our Valley’s disconnected youth.” Through my service as a Public Ally at Opportunities for Youth, I have helped build a just and equitable society – a key part of the Public Allies mission – within Maricopa County. I have demonstrated this by helping to secure funding, bringing attention to gaps in resources for youth with disabilities, creating synergy between their Reengagement Center Action Team and streamlining their referral process.
I helped to secure funding by analyzing data the reengagement centers shared with OFY. Charts I created showed that collectively the reengagement centers reengaged 10 percent of opportunity youth in employment and 90 percent of youth in education. This information was important to give to our funders because the numbers show that the centers are effectively helping youth become reengaged in society. By showing this effectiveness, we encourage the funders to continue giving to OFY, and we can use this information to go out and find new potential funders.
During the fall, it was brought to the OFY team’s attention that Maricopa County had a high population of opportunity youth living with a disability. While analyzing the data from the reengagement centers, I noticed that this was reflected in our own data but we only had one reengagement center that really focused on youth with disabilities. As a result of this finding, the team decided we should look for organizations in Maricopa County who work with youth with disabilities and ask them to be a part of the initiative.
When I first started with Opportunities for Youth, it was apparent there was a slight disconnection between the OFY backbone staff and the Reengagement Center Action Team. Even though the backbone staff was supposed to be there to help lead the action team, this was not happening. Due to many transitions that OFY was going through, this seemed to have fallen through the cracks. One of my main priorities was to help fix this. I helped to create synergy between the backbone staff and action team by assisting the action team chairs with their data from the 12 different reengagement centers. I also established an environment of collaboration. I let the reengagement centers know that I could share whatever resources and opportunities they knew of with our network to help benefit the youth in our community.
Another thing I did to help build a just and equitable society is I streamlined the referral process between the 12 reengagement centers. Before the reengagement, centers were cold calling each other trying to get their youth into different programs but because they all have busy caseloads; there was not the necessary follow-up. In March, OFY brought on youth outreach interns to help the reengagement centers with their outreach. To make sure the youth got the help they needed, I created an outreach form on Google Forms that automatically populates to a Google Sheet that marked where the youth needed to be referred. The site supervisors were given a link to this Google Sheet so that they can check it on a daily basis and reach out to the youth that are referred to them.
Working as a Public Ally at OFY has opened my eyes as to what goes on in a nonprofit at the administrative level. Previously I had only worked in direct service so it is amazing to see how much of an impact can be made at the higher level as well. I have always known that I wanted to make a positive change in our society and I am so honored to have been given this opportunity.
Kendelle Brown was part of Public Allies' Class 12. She was placed at Opportunities for Youth as a data analyst intern. Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.