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Before becoming a Public Ally, I somewhat understood the nonprofit sector, since the year before I had served as a City Year Corps Member in Chicago through AmeriCorps. I was knowledgeable enough about the fundamental role of specific nonprofits, but I never fully grasped the role of nonprofit agencies and their effect on social justice issues as a whole.
Becoming an Ally enabled me to comprehend new perspectives regarding the fair and just relations between the individual and society. Further, it has exposed me to worlds and circumstances I’d never seen and were often difficult to witness. As a result, I have gained a new perspective on the importance of breaking barriers for social mobility and creating safety nets and economic justice. Consequently, my desire to play a role in transforming the world has truly been ignited.
Being a part of Public Allies in a state that was new to me challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and really immerse myself into every project put before me. I chose to see each project as a new opportunity. I told myself in the beginning of the program that, no matter what, I would always try to have an open mind and open heart.
Through this program, I have been able to gain knowledge not just about the social injustices that have been the undercurrent of society for many centuries, but I also acknowledged my own privilege. I recognized the roles I have played in both unknowingly perpetuating these injustices and desiring to level the playing field for those less fortunate in my own community.
Additionally, the network of people I have been able to meet allowed me to be part of a collective bridge to create sustainable changes and allowed me the opportunity to build relationships that will last a lifetime. I have gained a new level of respect for those individuals who play a lead role in efforts that lead to continuous collaboration and capacity building throughout the sector, as well as volunteers and staff who create the mass movement behind them.
In addition to continuous collaboration and capacity building throughout the sector, the American Lung Association (ALA) has broadened my skill set, enabling me to be a contender in the field. Through the American Lung Association, I was placed in the Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease team (CLRD) where one of my main objectives was to logistically prepare for our Lung Force Expo. The LUNG FORCE Expo is a program designed for patients, caregivers and healthcare providers to learn more about the latest trends, resources and research surrounding lung cancer, COPD, asthma and other lung diseases. In addition to co-facilitating the Leadership Committee for this event, I was responsible for identifying speakers from a variety of fields that would present on current health management skills that have the most impact on those whose lives are touched by these diseases. I was also responsible for securing, for the provider track, state-of-the-art medical topic speakers, for healthcare professionals.
I truly believe that education is the antidote for ignorance, poverty and war. The American Lung Association’s mission is to improve lung health and prevent lung disease through education, advocacy and research. We want to ensure our community members and partners know the resources and educational opportunities we offer to live a healthier life. We are saving lives one breathe at a time. I am unbelievably grateful to be a part of the ALA family where we all pick each other up and work as a unit to accomplish success. In fact, by recognizing and utilizing the strengths and natural leadership of everyone on our team, we are able to quickly build momentum for social change for the constituents we serve.
Michelle Jimenez was part of Public Allies' Class 12. She was placed at the American Lung Association as a Lung Health Programs Coordinator. Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.