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Program provides opportunity in challenging job market

May 05, 2009

As people across Arizona search for employment, they may be overlooking the opportunity of a lifetime to invest in their own future.  Public Allies is one of the most highly regarded programs for those interested in the nonprofit sector seeking to gain knowledge and on-the-job training. Participants in Public Allies are diverse in culture, education, and professional background, but all share the drive to become new leaders who strengthen communities, nonprofits, and civic participation.

Public Allies is an AmeriCorps program of the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation.  This unique program identifies young, talented adults from diverse backgrounds and prepares them for careers working for community and social change.  Allies, the term used for those accepted to the Public Allies program, serve 10-month, 40-hour-a-week, paid apprenticeships at local nonprofits and participate in a rigorous and rewarding leadership development program with a diverse group of peers who are also of and working within their home community.

Allies are at a variety of life stages, and don’t always consider themselves “leaders” in the traditional sense. Many are like Rachel Finch, a 23 year-old Ally at Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK), who never thought of herself as a leader, but through this experience realized that she had all the skills necessary to take charge and make a difference.  Another reason she was drawn to Public Allies was for the opportunity to experience a field before she invested in a degree.

“I’m getting all this experience in 10 months that I couldn’t get in a classroom environment,” says Finch.

Public Allies is for those who are truly dedicated, says Finch, who works at a spa when she is not at her 40-hour-a-week apprenticeship.  Despite her hectic schedule she says that it is definitely worth it.

“My favorite thing about Public Allies is the networking.  I get to hear from all the other Allies about how it is to work at their organization,” says Finch. “I’ve also learned very important tools like time and money management, organization, making positive connections with others, and a lot about what is happening in the community.”

Those who are accepted into the program receive priceless experience in a nonprofit organization as well as leadership development programming, with other added benefits to aid them in this time of personal and professional growth.  During the 10-month period there is a stipend of $13,500 and at the time of graduation from the program, a taxable educational credit of $4,725 is awarded to each Ally.  AmeriCorps health insurance is also issued to Allies during their apprenticeship.  Child care assistance is available if an Ally is eligible, as well as interest free loan deferment for qualified student loans.

Ally Jenn Sinkey, a 28 year-old single mom is also at AASK.  She is working on her social and community service degree and has another full-time job on top of her apprenticeship. The most important things that she says she has learned in this process have been how to be a better leader, and that she loves being out there with people and serving them in any way possible.  She believes that people should consider Public Allies to have the opportunity to serve in a tangible way instead of always just talking about it.

“Public Allies sets up the opportunities for you, and to participate is such a blessing,” says Sinkey.

The nonprofit organizations who partner with Public Allies reap numerous benefits from the partnership as well.  They get the opportunity to add a dedicated young person to their staff who is energetic and enthusiastic about the nonprofit sector.  The organization gets to create a wish list of projects they have hoped to initiate, but without the help of the Ally may not have the man power to accomplish.  Additionally, the cost of this great employee is much lower than that of any other full-time employee.

Steve Yamamori, Executive Director/CEO of Fighter Country Partnership, which supports and advocates for more than 6,000 airmen stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., is in the first year of being a partner organization with Public Allies.

“I feel Public Allies trains the next generation of philanthropists,” says Yamamori, “and we need this service now more than ever.”

Public Allies began 17 years ago in Washington, D.C., and grew the next year to Chicago thanks to the founding Executive Director, and now First Lady Michelle Obama.  It is now in 15 communities and entering its fourth year in Phoenix.  Last year, 63 percent of the 20 graduates in Phoenix received job placement at their apprenticeships.  With a national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this program is giving hope for the future for those passionate about community and social change.

“The success of Public Allies in the three short years it has been here in Phoenix is tremendous,” says Public Allies Arizona Program Director Michelle Lyons-Mayer. “It’s an extremely rewarding experience to give these talented young adults the opportunity to learn about the nonprofit sector, outside and in, while also obtaining valuable leadership skills.”

May 29, 2009 is the application deadline for the upcoming program year.  Applicants must be between the ages of 18-30, be a U.S. citizen, and be available for a 40-50 hour a week internship.  If interested in learning more or desire to fill out an application, visit:

The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation (formerly the ASU Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Management), is recognized as a national leader in undergraduate and graduate nonprofit education, research and technical assistance. The ASU Lodestar Center exists to enhance the quality of life in communities through the advancement of nonprofit leadership practices and provides knowledge and tools to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, professionals, board members, donors and volunteers by offering a selection of capacity building workshops, conferences, classes, and programs. For more information, visit:

Ashley Gilliam,
ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation