Jamie Bisesi: Presentations of Impact 2020

Jamie Bisesi: Presentations of Impact 2020

I am serving in the 2019/2020 cohort for Public Allies. My name is Jamie Bisesi and I chose to become a Public Ally for many reasons. The main reason is to serve my community. When I first found out about the Public Allies program, I knew that it was a program I needed to participate in. This program facilitated me being placed in a nonprofit called The Opportunity Tree. Here I have learned the ins and outs of how to provide supports to individuals who have an intellectual or developmental disability.

I remember going through the application process completing all the required steps and feeling nervous but mainly excited. When I finally came to the end of the application process it was time for the matching fair. I knew beforehand who I would be meeting with and I was very happy. We were given a time slot where we could mingle and talk with other organizations we were not paired with to allow for an organic meeting. I, being a very shy person, decided to take advantage of this time. I have never been one to make the first move but something told me to go for it, and I did. I ended up meeting my current program supervisor and had a wonderful conversation.

At the end of the application process I was placed with Mary at The Opportunity Tree as the training liaison. Although this is a small moment, it was the most meaningful experience for me. The Public Allies made a safe place for me to be able to reach out; which allowed for me to match with my placement organization. After I started at placement I kept up that same momentum and I have had so many positive experiences. If the Allies didn’t give me the tools I needed to become a leader I don’t think I would have ever felt comfortable enough to do what I have done.

To sum up what I’ve learned about myself this past service year I would have to say confidence. Not just confidence in the way I have learned to advocate for myself but confidence in my professional work. Before I applied to become a member of the Public Allies, I was in school full time, working two jobs, and I was a single mother of two little boys. I had no real professional experience and no guidance when it came to office etiquette. My Placement Supervisor has taught me so much and I continue to learn from her. I always felt I knew what I wanted professionally but never felt worthy of seeking it out because of my lack of experience.

Since after becoming a member of the Public Allies I was placed in a professional setting within an organization that makes a positive impact on all of the clients it serves. My placement has taught me so much about how to remain professional while keeping a client first mindset and I feel like this has helped shape me into a confident person.

Being at a placement that serves adults with disabilities has been truly eye opening for me to say the least. A peek into the past will tell you that these individuals have been institutionalized, hidden away from society, and had their basic rights taken away. As a society we are on a slow path towards full deinstitutionalization and equal treatment for our members, but we still have work to do.

The work that my community has done to improve the lives of members has been amazing, but people who have a disability still face many challenges. For example, my placement runs group homes for the clients and sometimes the neighbors will complain about the home being in their neighborhood. Individuals who have a disability face discrimination when seeking jobs. Even when people from this population find employment, they don’t always receive a minimum, let alone livable, wage. This takes away the ability for them to live alone because they can’t make enough money. But what The Opportunity Tree does, and other organizations like it, is advocate. We keep current on policies, the laws and where we can get more funding for our members. We go out and build relationships with other organizations such as Ihop or ASU to allow for our members to work and receive payment for the amazing work they do. Discrimination and social injustice might never stop, but like The Opportunity Tree, I won’t stop advocating either.