Obamas, Public Allies in the Spotlight

Service program receives more, positive, media attention while solving tough social problems for communities and offering professional growth for corps members.


Public Allies has received a lot of tough press among obscure blogs this year, but with established connections to the future President and First-Lady, the outlook in the media has just gotten brighter for the national, Milwaukee-based AmeriCorps program.

Here are just a couple news items involving Public Allies in the past week since the election:

The National Public Radio show Morning Edition mentioned Public Allies this morning in a discussion of Michelle Obama’s executive experience since graduating from law school. She was the founding Executive Director of Public Allies Chicago.

The San Francisco Chronicle published this article about social entrepreneurs’s hopes for the new administration. The New York Post ran an article on Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama chatted last week with a Newsweek journalist about her experience with Public Allies and the future of national service generally:

[Richard Wolffe:] You want to continue what you did with Public Allies (which trains young people to become leaders of community groups and nonprofits) as First Lady. What’s your thinking on how to go about that?

images[Michelle Obama:] Barack is talking about a deeper investment in national service; that’s been part of his platform. He’s been meeting with some of the leadership of the AmeriCorps national-service movements—the Public Allies, the Teach for Americas, the City Years of the World—and figuring out how do we use that model, expand upon it, and help use that as a more creative way to defray the costs of college for young people and get all Americans really engaged. What AmeriCorps showed me, during the time that I worked on it, is that all these resources of young people, and not-so-young people, as I call them—because AmeriCorps is not just for young adults but people of all ages—you can fill a lot of gaps with the help of community-service hours. The young people in my program worked as program directors. They worked with kids and they worked in parks and they worked with nonprofit organizations that didn’t have the resources to bring people in full time. So this is one of those clear win-wins. You can help kids pay for school, you can get needed man-hours into really critical things like the environment, senior care, Head Start—a whole range of things. And you get the country more focused on giving back.

Earlier this year, Fast Company named Public Allies and its President and CEO Paul Schmitz one of the top 45 Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World.

11/12/08 an article about Public Allies appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

11/13/08 in Canada’s National Post.

What is Public Allies?

Public Allies is a 10-month service and leadership program that serves in 15 cities across the United States.  Corps members — called “Allies” — serve with nonprofits and universities to “create, improve and expand services that address diverse issues, including youth development, education, public health, economic development and the environment.”

The monthly stipend (at $1300-$1800) is higher than many AmeriCorps programs, and Allies are eligible for the $4725 AmeriCorps education award at the end of the term. But the best benefit of the program may be its extraordinary training opportunities. This, from the Public Allies web site:

A rigorous leadership development curriculum delivered by community leaders, practitioners and educators, which includes:

  • Intensive weekly skill training and leadership development seminars
  • Critical feedback, reflection, and personal coaching toward individual performance and professional goals
  • Community building and team projects with a diverse cohort of peers
  • Presentations of learning at the end of the year to demonstrate how one met the learning outcomes of the program

Good news for Public Allies and for national service

Not only Public Allies stands to benefit from the media attention, but national service as a whole does as well, including efforts like Service Nation, the campaign for expanded funding for service.

Besides the media attention, no president has had as much direct experience with the challenges and opportunities of national service as President-Elect Obama, who was a founding board member of Public Allies Chicago. He stepped down from his board post before Michelle Obama joined as staff.

Read more

Read more about applying to Public Allies, its distinguished alumni network, hiring a graduating Ally for your organization, hosting an Ally at your organization, and the program’s legacy of achievement.

On Michelle Obama and Public Allies, check out the Public Allies factsheet, and look for this year’s Michelle: A Biography by Liza Mundy at your local library.

3 thoughts on “Obamas, Public Allies in the Spotlight

  1. Pingback: » Public Allies in the Spotlight « The New Service » Chronicle of Philanthropy

  2. Pingback: Michelle Obama talks about AmeriCorps « The New Service

  3. Pingback: Excerpt of Obama book - the Public Allies part « The New Service

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