D.C. Public Allies Train Young Adults for Leadership and Community Service

The Washington, D.C. Public Allies held its annual “Presentations of Learning” program at the Greater Washington Urban League on June 8th and June 15th. Public Allies is a 10-month community service and leadership development program under Americorps. The objectives are to provide leadership training for young adults, expand the depth and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations, improve economics, health and education and introduce its participants to long-term social change.

Over the 10 months, the Allies work fulltime at nonprofit organizations or government agencies, develop service projects and form leadership curricula. At the end-of-the-year “Presentations of Learning” program, the Allies shared their service projects, their experiences working with the community and their personal development.

Through PowerPoint presentations, the Allies individually expressed what they learned, the challenges they faced and what they took away from the program. Collectively, the groups presented their team service projects. The projects usually provide services that are beneficial to the community and have the potential for longevity.

One group made a social services resource guide more accessible for the community by creating a mobile app. D.C. residents now have a list of health clinics, food, financial and other social services in the area at their fingertips. Using Google Maps, residents may also easily locate the closest services.

Partner organizations included Bread for the City, the Office of LGBT Affairs, the Maryland Viatnemese Mutual Association and Live It Learn It. Many of the Allies worked for Metro TeenAIDS and developed curricula to teach D.C. youth about HIV/AIDS prevention.

A key component of the Public Allies is its dedication to diversity. With the District’s cultural variety, Nakeisha Neal, the D.C. Public Allies executive director, says they strive to have its members reflect the population.

“We believe leadership should look like the communities we’re serving,” Neal says.

The Allies’ backgrounds vary in regards to ethnicity, education, age and sexual orientation. Most are D.C. natives, but other Allies include students from outside states who relocated to the area for school.

Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens and have at least a high school diploma or GED. The majority of the 2011-2012 class are college graduates. Besides the minimal requirements, eligibility is based more on personal traits. Neal, an alumna of the program, says the Allies look for individuals who are selfless, open to being coached and those who are able to persevere through challenges.

Neal explains that the leadership training, a fundamental aspect of the program, benefits both the participants and the community.

“Ultimately, it’s not just about developing leaders. It’s about developing leaders that are going to help the community.”

The 2011-2012 class graduates on June 29th.

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