Apprentices find purpose, motivation with Lodestar Center's Public Allies
Just before Beatriz Mendoza graduated from Arizona State University a year ago, she joined her engineering classmates in figuring out where to apply for jobs.
“While everyone else was applying to Honeywell, Intel, Microsoft and Apple, I was applying to nonprofits,” said Mendoza, who graduated with a degree in industrial and organizational psychology with a focus on consumer and human systems engineering.
“I thought, ‘I have to apply to something that means something to me,'" she said.
Mendoza is among 34 young people in Public Allies Arizona, an intense, full-time apprenticeship program that pairs participants with nonprofit organizations. Public Allies is part of the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, in the School of Community Resources and Development.
Mendoza worked with the Million Dollar Teacher Project, a nonprofit that placed her as a technology integration specialist at Granada Primary School in Phoenix. There, she created time-saving student-data spreadsheets for teachers and a simplified progress report for parents.
“I want to have many stories attached to my name and after the first year of working in a nonprofit, I have 40. I have 40 students in the class and that’s the greatest achievement I’ve ever done,” she said.
Mendoza and several other allies described their powerful experiences during “impact presentations” at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus on Wednesday. They made posters about their accomplishments and several spoke about how the 10 months changed them.
This was the 12th cohort of the program, which pays the allies to work at more than 20 nonprofit organizations in the Phoenix metro area. After completing Public Allies, which is part of the federal AmeriCorps program, the participants receive a $5,800 award to pay for tuition or professional development or to apply toward student-loan debt. More than 250 young adults have participated since the Arizona program was launched in 2006.
Since last fall, the current allies have planted zucchini at an urban farm, taught art to children at a museum, delivered meals to homebound elderly people and helped high school students fill out college applications. They sorted mail and entered data in computers. They overcame their fears of being overwhelmed and underqualified. They learned about teamwork and what it feels like when no one shows up to an event they organized. They had doors slammed in their faces and made someone's day with a few minutes of attention.
The allies come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are college students, some have degrees and a few joined right out of high school. One is a single mother who had been out of the workforce. Some chose Public Allies as a deliberate pathway, and for others, it was a miraculous opportunity.