Paul Schmitz Responds to Comments on National Service

Paul Schmitz—C.E.O. of Public Allies, and member of the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform working group for President-Elect Obama’s transition team—addresses comments submitted to in a video released yesterday.

Read more about the new administration’s stance on service.

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Michelle: the Public Allies Connection

Biography of Michelle Obama offers insights into her work with Public Allies.picture-161

Liza Mundy has recently published her biography of the future first lady called Michelle: A Biography.

USA Today excerpted the book earlier this month. Below are some pieces of that excerpt, regarding both Obamas’s work with the national service corps Public Allies.

If Michelle was helpful to Barack, the converse was also true. In the early 1990s, Barack was on the founding board of Public Allies, a new nonprofit whose mission was to train young people to work in the nonprofit sector, with the hope of producing a fresh generation of public service leaders. The Chicago branch needed an executive director, and Obama suggested Michelle. In 1993, she was hired. Barack resigned from the board before she took over. …

According to Julian Posada, her deputy director at Public Allies, Michelle was as hardworking as her husband. Public Allies would soon become part of the Clinton administration’s AmeriCorps program, and she was determined that the Chicago branch would succeed and excel, which it did. Among other things, she was a zealous money raiser, and left the organization, three years after starting, with cash in the bank. “There was an intensity to her that — you know, this has got to work, this is a big vision, this isn’t easy,” recalls Posada. “Michelle’s intensity was like: we have to deliver.” He was impressed with her sleeves-up attitude. “I’m sure she came from a lot more infrastructure. There was no sense that this was a plush law firm, that’s all gone. It’s like, ‘Who’s going to lick envelopes today?’ Nothing was beneath her.”

One of the first orders of business was recruiting “allies,” young people who picture-17would spend ten months working in homeless shelters, city offices, public policy institutes, and other venues for public service. Allies were recruited from campuses and projects alike. Michelle knocked on doors in Cabrini Green, a notoriously rough public housing project, but also phoned friends to ask if they knew any public-spirited undergrads at Northwestern. “We would get kids from a very very lily-white campus to come sit down with inner-city kids, black, Hispanic, Asian,” says Posada. In addition to recruiting and managing allies, she had to raise funds from Chicago’s well-established foundations, competing with more established charities. As such, she had to be in touch with the old-money world of private philanthropy and the no money world of housing projects, moving easily between almost every world that existed in Chicago. …

Many allies found Michelle inspiring. “You kind of know when you’re in the presence of somebody who is really terrific,” says Jobi Petersen, who was in the first class of Chicago Allies. “I owed a lot to her. She’s really fair, she’s calm, she’s smart, and she’s balanced and she’s funny, she doesn’t take any crap. I get a little bit angry when I hear the thing about her being negative. She is the least negative person I’ve ever met. She is a can-do person.” Peterson remembers a time when “one of the allies was despairing about how difficult things were, or the world wasn’t bending their way, and [Michelle] would come back and say, ‘You know what, today you have to get up and do something you don’t love doing. If it’s helping people, it’s worth it.’ She had a way of making you feel you could do anything. Humor, personal style, warmth, she can be strong and tough and not come across as nega-tive. She’s got timing. She can pass you one look and you’d laugh.”

Public Allies has enjoyed the spotlight since the election due to its history with the Obamas in Chicago. Paul Schmitz, the program’s C.E.O., serves on the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform working group for President-Elect Obama’s transition team.

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.”

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Podcast: City Year’s Col. Rob Gordon

Today we’re launching a new podcast series as part of the podcasts. Called “The New Service” podcast, the show will highlight service corps programs, people, and career paths.  It will be included along with the Careers Podcast feed.

Today’s guest on The New Service podcast is Colonel Robert L. Gordon, III, Senior Vice President of Civic Leadership at City Year. City Year is a national service program that enables people aged 17-24 make a difference in the lives of children and their communities. Corps members serve in one of 19 cities within the United States and South Africa. City Year is a national partner of AmeriCorps. It also plays a leadership role in the Voices for National Service and Service Nation.

Colonel Rob Gordon oversees programs that recruit and prepare new corps members, support corps alumni, and engage kids and teens in the work of City Year. He’s a graduate of West Point, Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, the National War College, and the Army Command and General Staff College. As a White House Fellow from 1992-93, Rob helped with the establishment of AmeriCorps.

I talked with Rob about how City Year develops its corps members as leaders; how the program is unique among AmeriCorps programs; and about its long-standing partnership with The Timberland Company. We also talk about Rob’s own career path, involving decades of service to his country.

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Shays for top Peace Corps post?

picture-21Support emerges for outgoing Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) to fill Peace Corps director role under the new administration.

Shays served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji (1968-70) and has been a career-long advocate of citizen service.

The entire Connecticut delegation to Congress is rallying for Shays to get the post, after Rep.-Elect Jim Hines (D) initially spoke out for Shays. From the blog at

“As I’ve noted many times, Chris Shays is a man of grace and courage who served the Fourth District well for many years,” Himes said. “As a former Peace Corps volunteer and a strong believer in America’s special obligation to work toward peace and freedom, Congressman Shays would do a wonderful job of representing our country to those nations of the world served by the Peace Corps.”

Himes recently defeated Shays in a re-election bid for Shay’s congressional seat.

Recently the National Peace Corps Association — currently waging a campaign for More Peace Corps — sent an open letter to President-Elect Obama asking for a Peace Corps director with direct experience as a Peace Corps staffer or Volunteer. Read more about their recommendations (PDF).

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Meaty Internships with Mississippi Teacher Corps

Teacher corps offers interns a chance to serve and learn in substantial ways next summer.

Mississippi Teacher Corps (which I also wrote about here) is recruiting summer 2009 interns. While the positions are unpaid, rising college seniors, juniors, and sophomores may be able to find funding through their college career centers. The corps is looking for 4-8 interns in 2009.

MTC interns offer substantial help with the program’s summer school where new corps members practice teaching, and interns take on meaty projects in MTC’s main office.

Interns are also expected to take on a research project for the summer that they present on before leaving; past interns have tackled topics like the connection between poverty and wrongful imprisonment; the importance of early childhood education; and the experience of several “Lost Boys of Sudan” here in Mississippi.

MTC offers its interns other learning opportunities: a regular speaker series, field trips, and  a two-day visit to the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, where they work on a project of the Institute’s choosing.

Apply here — deadline is March 1, 2009. Check out the video!:

The Mississippi Teacher Corps is a two-year program, designed for non-education majors, recruits college graduates to teach in the Mississippi Delta and other critical-needs areas, and offers a host of benefits, including teacher training and certification, a full scholarship for a master’s degree in education, job placement that includes full pay and benefits and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students in one of the poorest areas of the country.

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