Julie Swaine: Presentations of Impact 2020

Julie Swaine: Presentations of Impact 2020

My name is Julie Swaine, and I’m going to tell you the story about my journey with Public Allies Arizona. My story started in the spring of 2019. I was 23 years old, I had graduated from college the year before and I was living in my hometown on the eastern shore of Maryland, working a job at my hometown’s YMCA; a job that left me comfortable, but didn’t challenge me. By that spring, I had gotten tired of waking up at 4 a.m. everyday just to sit at a desk for 7 hours and get questions from nosy clients about when I was going to go get a job in my field and start doing something with my life. So I started looking for something new. I knew I didn’t want to stay in my hometown forever, but outside of that, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go. I did know that I was excited at any opportunity to expand my horizons.

After some searching, I came across something called Public Allies, a leadership program that trains young professionals to become active leaders in the nonprofit sector, and they had programs all around the country. I came across their Phoenix based program, and I was really interested. I had visited Arizona a couple years prior and I loved it. I loved the scenery, the culture, and the fact that I would save so much money by not having to buy humidity blocking hair products. I applied to Public Allies Arizona, and a couple weeks later, their senior program manager contacted me to set up a phone interview. After not one, not two, not even three, but five interviews, I got accepted into the program to be the Agency Engagement Specialist at the Human Services Campus. So, I packed up my Ford Focus, grabbed my two cats, and made my 2,012 mile journey across the country from my tiny hometown to the 5th largest city in the country. I won’t lie, my first few months of Public Allies were rough. Being far from home for the first time in my life brought on a whole lot of anxiety that I had to work through, but I was able to cope and adjust with the support of my fellow allies, program managers, and coworkers at HSC.

During my time at the Human Services Campus, I have worked to improve communication between campus partner agencies. When I started my term of service at HSC with two of my fellow allies, our placement had something called the SHERPA Table. The purpose of this table is to provide information about services on campus all in one area, almost like a one stop shop for clients to get answers to their questions. However when we came to the campus, only one agency was ever at the table and the table would often get cancelled with no communication. In the first couple of months on campus, I distributed a survey about the sherpa table to the campus partner agencies, and learned that many people did not know what the table was. The people who did know what it was had stopped coming to help out because of the lack of communication around cancellations. After a brief hiatus of the Sherpa table, it was brought back with us three public allies running it. I implemented change from an agency standpoint simply by piloting the use of Slack to facilitate communication between agencies about the logistics of the table. Every Wednesday and Friday morning, I would post a reminder in the channel of the times and location of the table that day. We also use the channel as a place for agencies to put any informational fliers or pamphlets that they would like displayed at the table. Since we made the changes that we have to the table, we have seen that more campus partner agencies come and volunteer their time to offer information about their agencies to our clients.

Public Allies has helped me to make change in my community not only through my placement with HSC, but also through my team service project. My team chose to do our project on the topic of healthy futures, and when we had our first brainstorming meeting, we were all in agreement that we wanted to do something with mental health. After more brainstorming, we came up with the idea of creating a youtube channel called “The Light is Green” to teach teenagers (or anyone who wants to learn) about how to practice self care to alleviate stress and anxiety. This project has been an amazing experience because it has given me the opportunity to put my time and energy into something I’m truly passionate about with like minded individuals who each bring something spectacular to the table.

Public Allies has brought me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and I am so incredibly grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had and connections that I’ve made along the way throughout the last 10 months. Public Allies brought me out of my shell, and showed me all of the potential that I can have as a leader in the nonprofit sector. And I’m excited to say that I’ll be starting my masters degree in social work at Arizona State University in the fall thanks to the coaching I received during this program. Thank you to my family and friends in Maryland for supporting me along this crazy cross country journey, thank you to my placement supervisor Gina and the rest of my coworkers at HSC for being patient with me as I learned the ropes, and thank you to everyone in my Public Allies cohort for supporting me along the way. I wouldn’t have made it this far without all of you and I can’t wait to see where the future takes all of us.