Kelly Liska: Presentations of Impact 2020

Kelly Liska: Presentations of Impact 2020

My name is Kelly Liska and this is my Public Allies Story of Impact.

When I began my journey as an AmeriCorps Public Ally, I was kind of directionless. I went to school for Conservation Biology, which I loved, but after college I knew that I wanted to move back home to Tucson and work to make more of an impact on social and environmental issues locally. However, although I knew generally what impact I wanted to make, I wasn’t sure what steps I needed to take to make my goals a reality. I had plenty of ideas about what I didn’t want to do with my career, but not what I did.

I decided to volunteer, and through my climate justice movement work, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an opportunity to apply for a position with the sustainability team at Local First Arizona through Public Allies Arizona.

2020 has been a crazy year, to say the least! But I am so happy to be a part of the first Tucson Public Allies cohort, and doubly grateful for my team at Local First, who have supported me in a myriad of ways over the last 8 months.

Through our Public Allies service, my cohort and I were able to practice taking the lead, delegating tasks, and collaborating to meet deadlines. I worked on a Team Service Project that focused on increasing engagement in Tucson community gardening, which taught me a lot about different communication and leadership styles. We also served Tucson by putting in some hours volunteering together to benefit the community.

It has been a whirlwind of learning and growing for me, personally and professionally. I am never bored in my role as Green Business Leaders Coordinator, and the multifaceted nature of working for Local First is the most exciting thing I’ve been a part of.

One of the main partnerships that the Local First Sustainability team is a part of is the Southern Arizona Green Business Alliance, with Tucson 2030 District, under which we operate a few sustainability programs for local businesses. Our programs - and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling every time I say “our programs” - help support local businesses who want to become more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change, global pandemics, and whatever other disasters the future has in store.

I was brought on to work specifically on the Green Business Leaders program, a certification for Southern Arizona businesses who want to take a step toward building a more regenerative economy, and get recognition for their sustainability efforts. We have engaged 29 (and counting) businesses and nonprofits who now have more chances to connect to other green businesses and get resources.

In such a turbulent time, with COVID-19 sweeping across the globe and long overdue racial justice struggles coming to the forefront of the American mainstream, Local First Arizona has pivoted gracefully to encourage safety in terms of public health, and continued its work to support businesses who are hardest hit by climate change, social injustices, and the pandemic.

COVID-19 has been linked by many experts directly to climate change and the ongoing exploitation of our natural world. Part of battling these huge, interwoven issues is finding resources and connections in a disconnected world, and everyone I’ve met and become close to at Local First and on the sustainability team are undeniably leaders in innovation and dedication to this pursuit. I have been gifted many mentors to look up to and learn from while I navigate climate and social justice grief, and still try to do good and look at the positives.

This role, along with nurturing strong relationships with my friends and family, has taught me about balancing work and life, cultivating my sense of gratitude and making connections that will help me achieve my goals.

My future is still somewhat uncertain. But I do know that continuing this work of creating community, focusing on localism and placemaking, and encouraging social and environmental responsibility will only carry me towards a good outcome. My goals are to incorporate art into my life more frequently, find new ways to connect with nature and the people I love, and not be afraid to fight hard for what’s most important in this world.

Nearing the end of my first term of service with Public Allies Arizona, I am beyond excited about my career, and grateful to have the chance to make an impact in my community. But the biggest impact has been on me. I want to thank everyone who has supported me, been open and welcoming, and offered examples of how I can create change, throughout this Public Allies experience. Because of Public Allies and Local First Arizona, I have finally started on my path to helping my community achieve justice, create transformative change, and prepare for the future.