Public Allies was one of the first organizations to become part of the AmeriCorps program, and has remained one of the most effective, life-changing, incredible organizations that continues to grow each day. I talked with Diane Bacha, the Marketing and Communications Director, to learn more about how to get involved and what programs are available to those interested in a career in Public Service.
Love and Water- Can you talk about the main mission of Public Allies?
Diane Bacha- Public Allies is about finding young adult leaders who want to do something positive for their communities and put them into a ten month apprenticeship with a non-profit where they not only do something important for the non-profit but they are learning core values of how to create community-based change. We are committed to diversity, not only in race and gender but in socio-economic backgrounds. We were one of the first model AmeriCorps programs, and have remained an AmeriCorps program to this day. We have a growing leadership training program and some specialized initiatives, but the young adult leader program is really the core of what we do.
L+W- I know that Michelle Obama is a huge supporter of Public Allies- can you talk about that?
DB- Barack Obama was on the national board for Public Allies in the early days, and Michelle Obama
founded the Chicago Public Allies office. She is a huge supporter of the organization. I’ve been talking to people who worked with her in Chicago, because the Chicago office quickly became one of the most successful sites because of her and the team she assembled. Everyone I speak to seems to feel she was really in alignment with the values of our program and understood the mission at hand.
L+W- I know you have many programs- can you talk about one that is exciting to you?
DB- We have one called Turning the Tide, which is a two year fellowship for people who want to have a career in human services work formed in 2007, and is just a great program all around. With that program we work with the Alliance for Children and Families to place people to support the next generation of leaders, which is focused on children and families. We are also in 21 communities that work on different initiatives. My job at the national office is to support all of them in what they do, but each community has its own programs based on what they need.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far working with Public Allies?
DB- We did a project that required me to collect stories that expressed who we are as an organization. We asked for sites to volunteer for this project, and mailed them all Flip cameras so they could document different things they were doing in their communities. I had a series of questions they had to answer, with rough guidelines. I think the most moving moment was when I was uploading all the material from the Flip cameras to my computer and listening to all these people talk about how a Public Allies program changed their lives personally or how it changed their communities for the better. People were inspired by each other, by the challenges at hand and by the realization that they could make a significant difference through this work. While they’re working through the issues they are trying to figure out, change is happening as a result, which is just incredible to both realize and witness.
L+W- What is the easiest way to get involved with a Public Allies program?
DB- The easiest way to learn about Public Allies is through the website, and the easiest way to have a dialogue is through the Facebook Fan Page. It is an exciting time to be thinking about service programs like Public Allies because there is an increased interest in Washington and in corporate America about engaging people in volunteerism and community work. Some of that comes from people realizing the potential of so many folks out there who want to work toward community change.
L+W- Is there anything else people should know about the organization?
DB- I think one of the most important things to understand is that Public Allies is for people who want a long-term commitment, rather than someone who just wants to take a year off to do service. Our programs focus on establishing long-term commitments for people who want to make public service their careers, so we help people identify and get specific about what they want to do, and then work with them on implementing those goals into their careers. That is what makes this organization so effective, both now and for the future.