Jordyn Walhof: Presentations of Impact 2020

Jordyn Walhof: Presentations of Impact 2020

Hello everyone, my name is Jordyn. First things first, I would thank everyone for coming if this was in person, so I want to thank you for logging on, clicking in, and listening to my experience as a Public Ally.

This is my first year as an Ally. I started the program in November of 2019 and I’ll officially be graduated in August. I was placed as the Volunteer Engagement Specialist at the newly named Arizona Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley. And in that position, my primary responsibilities were creating community partnerships, establishing a virtual volunteer process, and acting as a point of contact for individual and group volunteers.

I’m not sure if this is a universal feeling, but I had no idea what Public Allies was when I applied for the program. I had actually seen them at an internship fair, and I’m required to do a nonprofit internship for my college degree program, so I took an application. I also didn’t know how much commitment that it would take, how many times I would have to convince myself to stay in the program, how often I would ask myself why I couldn’t have signed up for a regular internship.

But see, I’m a big believer in Chaos theory – which a lot of you might know better by calling it the butterfly effect. Basically, it means that a small decision might affect the trajectory of your entire life. I definitely believe that walking up to the Ally table at the internship fair was one of those decisions.

Allies has given me a place to be completely myself, something which I am generally very bad at. I think that the community we’ve built throughout our time in the program doesn’t start with partner organizations; I think that it starts much more between the people in the cohort with you, at least that’s what it has been like for me. At one of the CSDs, I said “it takes a community to build a community” and I really believe that’s the biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten from Public Allies, that I have to be willing to work on myself in order to build relationships in order to build capacity.

I have always been the kind of person to use work or school to distract myself from other things that were going on in my life. My junior year of high school when one of my best friends passed away, it was debate. I spent literally thousands of hours on work that is useless now unless you were to ask me about immigration policy. When I moved to Arizona away from my family, it was my college classes, which just add up into a GPA I’ll use on grad school applications. And this February, when my younger sister was recovering from paralysis in a hospital a thousand miles away, it was my work at the Boys & Girls Clubs. But for the first time, I realized that I was finally working on something that mattered to someone besides just myself. I think that realization was a turning point in my term with Public Allies.

I’m sure the majority of us are somewhat familiar with what the Boys & Girls Clubs do, but what really drove the point home for me was the decision to keep the Clubs open during the time of social distancing and stay at home orders. I had accidentally trapped myself in Idaho by coming back the first week of March for spring break, but the Clubs were still operating, and my placement work was as plentiful as ever. I found it so inspiring that this group of Club staff, admin, and volunteers were willing to work harder than ever before and crawl through the chaos just to ensure that the kids in Phoenix had a place to be while schools were closed.

It's hard for me to put into words the amazing solidarity that I saw in the Clubs throughout all of this. I know now that the unity I witnessed isn’t an isolated incident for the Clubs, it takes an incredible amount of effort and unity to make sure that they run every day. And the volunteers that I got to meet and interact with were so willing to work that it made that aspect of my job easy most days. Now we have a whole new program for virtual volunteers which allows us to reach even more people across the country; we even have some international volunteers.

It’s crazy to think that everything starts with one decision, one action, or one person. But Public Allies has proven to me why that is true. Everyone that I met and worked with has their own strengths and weaknesses, but they all share the same passion for community. For me, what’s done is done. You can’t change the past or what you have been through, but you do have the opportunity every day to change what lies ahead. Every tiny choice you make adds up to create a life. And I hope every day it’s one we’re proud of.