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Public Allies program members celebrate.
1:09 p.m., May 25, 2010----Public Allies Delaware, a part of the University of Delaware's Center for Community Research and Service, is wrapping up its 2010 Public Allies AmeriCorps
program, in which 29 young leaders, or allies, have been making
contributions to the Delaware community over the past 10 months.
Established in 1994, Public Allies Delaware
places allies in paid professional apprenticeships at local nonprofit
agencies for a 10-month period. In addition, the allies come together
for retreats, community projects and training sessions to expand their
knowledge of nonprofit work.
The Delaware program was the first Public Allies program in the nation to affiliate with an institution of higher education.
When we affiliated with UD in June of 2000, all other Public Allies
sites across the country operated independently of local institutions
and were far more reliant on the national office based in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, says Christina Garrett-Morrow, director of Public Allies
Delaware. In 2008, the Public Allies national office mandated that all
Public Allies sites -- now 18 strong -- must operate with a local
affiliate partner. This is a result of Delaware's success. The
partnership assists us in achieving the organization's value of
asset-based community development.
In the past, various UD departments have hosted allies during their apprenticeship experience, including the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship
and 4H Cooperative Extension. Allies have also been able to collaborate
with multiple service initiatives led by UD faculty, including Kathy
Denhardt's Youth Street Outreach project, Steve Peuquet's Blueprint
Community efforts and Yasser Arafat Payne's Participatory Action
Public Allies is changing the face and practice of leadership in
communities across the state of Delaware, Garrett-Morrow says. This
has been an invaluable partnership that has allowed UD faculty and from
all the colleges to share their research and knowledge to enrich our
Allies' nonprofit leadership training program and, in turn, the
organizations and communities they serve.
As the 2010 Public Allies Delaware program comes to a close, here is an in-depth look at four allies and their experiences.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Meghan Erdman worked at the Brandywine Zoo.
Meghan Erdman at the Brandywine Zoo
For Meghan Erdman, a 2009 graduate of Dickinson College originally
from Millersville, Pa., the 10-month Public Allies program was the ideal
next step, as its mission statement fell in line with her values.
Public Allies has pushed me to have a more elaborate and diverse
understanding of communities and their issues, she says. The program
has helped expand my personal and professional network, and it has made
me feel more prepared and experienced with being able to handle issues
Erdman's background with animals helped her realize that a partnership with the Brandywine Zoo
through Public Allies Delaware would be a perfect fit. She had
previously helped establish an animal-assisted therapy program at the
Cumberland County chapter of the American Red Cross.
Erdman says she has enjoyed her experience working at the zoo,
especially because she can choose to spend time indoors doing research
or outdoors, educating the public and working with the animals.
Every day is a learning day at the zoo, she says. I was not an
animal science major so I'm always learning new things when I
incorporate animals into the zoo's programs. Other than that, the
schedule is never the same.
At the zoo, Erdman serves as an event coordinator. She has organized
many events for various occasions at the zoo, including holidays and
visiting school or senior citizens' groups, in addition to weekend
events for the general public. She also helps run the Close Encounters
program, where guests can get an up-close and personal glimpse at
All generations still need education on wildlife and conservation,
she says. It's fun to teach people and help them eliminate their fears,
biases or worries about wildlife.
Daneya Wheeler at UD 4-H Cooperative Extension
Originally from Queens, N.Y., and currently a UD student, Daneya
Wheeler first heard about Public Allies while she was attending the
Fashion Institute of Technology. When she transferred to UD a year ago,
she found out about the Public Allies Delaware program and thought it
would fit in with her plans to get involved with the nonprofit sector.
Wheeler's placement is with the 4-H Cooperative Extension
program on the UD campus. At 4-H, she has prepared a curriculum to
teach youth about self-image, decision making and drug awareness. She
also has received grants to conduct community events, including a talent
and fashion show at Servium Girls Academy and a fair and parade at the
Boys and Girls Club in Middletown.
I love being a Public Ally and working with kids, she says. It's
not just an apprenticeship. I not only teach life skills, but I learn
them as well and have learned a lot about myself. It's been a really
Her time with Public Allies has helped her realize that she loves to
teach kids and has the desire to have a career that is giving to the
Melissa Santasa at the West End Neighborhood House
Melissa Santosa joined Public Allies because she saw it as an
opportunity to do meaningful work and build her capacity as a leader,
and it gave her the opportunity to participate in activities that
benefit and connect people to their local communities.
Santosa's placement is as an employment assistant in the Education and Employment Department of the West End Neighborhood House,
where she teaches work readiness to young adults aged 16-22. She said
she has a personal connection to West End, as she attended programs
there when she was younger.
I was excited about my placement, because it would allow me to teach
students skills that would empower them to find and keep employment,
Santosa says the Public Allies program has given her connections that
have turned into friendships and working partnerships, as well as a
more informed perspective on how to be a community leader.
Colin Barratt, left, worked with Autism Delaware.
Colin Barratt at Autism Delaware
Colin Barratt, a 2008 UD graduate, came to Public Allies Delaware as a
way to continue pursuing his passion for community service. Prior to
Public Allies, he spent a year with the AmeriCorps state parks program
and served as a volunteer coordinator at Fort Delaware State Park.
At Autism Delaware, Barratt
works with adults who have Asperger's Syndrome and helps them learn job
development skills and techniques such as resume maintenance. He
provides them with opportunities to volunteer in the community and
coordinates volunteers at events such as Autism Delaware's annual Walk
for Autism and its celebrity golf tournament.
It's totally a different world, he says, comparing the two
AmeriCorps programs in which he has participated. Public Allies has
given him more experience in an office, has a strong team-building
component and offers lots of training for allies to become better
leaders, he says.
Prior to working with Autism Delaware, Barratt says he had never
worked with people with disabilities, but he liked the feel of Autism
Delaware when he was looking for a placement and was eager to try
Since he started, Barratt says the people he has worked with have
been wonderful. A defining moment for Barratt came when one of the
nonverbal adults he works with tried to speak to him for the first time.
Just to hear his voice was something special, he says.
Barratt says he thinks the Public Allies program is a great
transition program for college graduates, who may be unsure about what
to do after college, to discover things about themselves.
Public Allies has helped make be become like a walking billboard for
AmeriCorps, he says. I don't think it will end anytime soon.
Article by Jon Bleiweis
Originally published by UDaily.