Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
I have always been a very aspirational person, and I have always aspired to do something great with my life. As I grew older and approached adulthood, however, my abstract dreams of “greatness” needed to become something concrete and I still did not know what that looked like or meant. I didn’t know how I could turn ideas into action, but I wanted to learn. After graduating high school, I decided I needed to find the passion and leadership that would steer my future. Therefore, I took a leap of faith, took “the road less traveled,” and applied for Public Allies Arizona.
From the get-go, through each step of the admission process, I witnessed myself growing. To be able to meaningfully pitch myself, I had to grapple with who I was and what I would bring to the table. Though it may have been nerve-wracking in the moment, I loved having to interview with so many organizations and having to think on my feet. Through being tested, my confidence grew. I saw myself rising to each new challenge. I would eventually be matched to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona (BBBS), where I would become the Community Relations Assistant and—later—the Community Relations Specialist.
At BBBS, my work has consistently been about engaging and empowering others. Starting out, my main focus was recruiting community members to become change makers and role models in children’s lives—also known as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Through hosting informational booths at community events and presenting to local businesses and community groups, I have shared the mission of my agency with hundreds of people. I’ve had the chance to exercise my public speaking skills, increase my professionalism, and—most importantly—inspire others to do something great. The core of this work has been about opening people's eyes to their potential so that they can open a child’s eyes to their own. This creates a self-sustaining cycle of empowerment, which is critical to ending the disconnection and disempowerment that prevent individuals from living the life they are worthy and capable of.
Midway into my service term, my focus shifted to youth and family outreach, which I have come to love even more than my prior service objective. This work has entailed cultivating partnerships with school districts, city governments, community groups and nonprofits serving at-risk youth. I have done everything from implementing referral programs with local social workers and school counselors to spending time in affordable housing communities engaging directly with families and children. Any weekend, I might be out at a family outreach event or community resource fair, hosting an informational booth piled high with candy, talking with families about helping their children succeed, and connecting them to our program. Recently, I was out hosting a resource table at Save the Family, a local nonprofit that serves, houses and empowers hard-working families. In that few hours, I talked with dozens of moms and I got 34 referrals for youth. That means in one day’s work, I took part in changing 34 lives. I took part in injecting positivity and potential into 34 lives in just a few hours. One week later, I saw some of the kids already coming into our office to be interviewed so they could be matched to a life-changing mentor.
Through the experiences of this year, I have realized the dream of my lifetime, that every human being upon this earth gets to experience their extraordinary potential, their uniqueness, their magnificence and their limitless capability. I believe that potential is a human right; it is one’s right to themselves and their inherent greatness. My dream is that everyone is able to strive for their dream, that no one’s sight is limited by their circumstances and that no one’s future is limited by their past. I feel that my duty and purpose is to catalyze our progress in pursuing our possibilities, to elevate the heights to which we aspire and to maximize our facilities for effecting change. With every choice, I make, action I take and sentence I speak; I aim to create and spark the most impact possible. Working to strengthen our interconnected existence, I experience the power of collective impact on a daily basis. I see how our actions ripple through the lives of others. The more engaged I become, the more I grasp what I can become. The more I serve, the more I understand just how much I can contribute. Through the journey of Public Allies, I have learned to strive continuously, relentlessly and fearlessly, pursuing the height of both my individual potential and our collective potential. I commit myself to a lifetime of success, measured only by helping others succeed and thrive. Thanks to Public Allies, I am now, and forever, an agent of impact.
Emma Mones was part of Public Allies' Class 12. She was placed at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona as a Community Relations Specialist. Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.