Program places apprentices in nonprofit groups
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Carlin Christy had always wanted to pursue a career in social justice, Bekezela Mguni wanted something that would settle well with her conscience and Alexis Miller just wanted to come home.Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette Carlin Christy, recently graduated from the Public Allies program, organizes school supplies for homeless children in a supply room at the Homeless Children's Education Fund's offices in the Strip District. She is now education coordinator for the fund.
Click photo for larger image.
All found what they wanted through the Public Allies program of Pittsburgh's Coro Center, an 8-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan educational institute.
The Public Allies program, one of eight at the center, targets young leaders between the ages 18 and 30, who commit to a rigorous 10-month program of full-time, paid apprenticeships in community organizations, team service projects and weekly leadership training.
Nonprofits applying to the Coro Center must pay a stipend of $1,400 a month to support the participants. The center reimburses nonprofits 15 percent of the stipend per month, or $2,100 over the 10-month period.
Participants graduated last month after 30,000 hours of service to 16 local nonprofit organizations. During the ceremony they received certificates from the Coro Center and Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, plus an AmeriCorps Education Award. At least seven graduates have been offered full-time jobs with the organizations where they held apprenticeships.
During her apprenticeship, Ms. Christy, 25, helped raise funds and resources at the Homeless Children's Education Fund for the 17 shelters it supports with supplies. She brought in 700 books over the summer.
"I like that they promote education the most," said the Hill District resident. "We don't forget that education is a building block for success for children."
Other accomplishments on her resume include working with gypsy communities in Madrid and translating for a human rights organization in Chiapas, Mexico. She also works on a radio program called "Rustbelt Radio" through the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of the news where she discusses social justice issues.
Ms. Mguni, 22, emigrated from San Fernando, Trinidad, in 1995. She works at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in education outreach and volunteer coordination, where she had been placed for an apprenticeship while she was in the Public Allies program.
She has been running a workshop at libraries and community centers which "looks at the issue of black hair with a historical perspective." The workshop covers the tools used in traditional hair grooming, and how they were lost when Africans were taken to America, and how African-American women view beauty.
"We don't force anything Afrocentric or Eurocentric," said Ms. Mguni, of Wilkinsburg. "We want women to think about where they developed their sense of beauty from [and] how they define beauty."
Ms. Miller, 26, is a fund-raiser for Pennsylvania Women Work! She moved back to Pittsburgh last year after teaching English in Takasago, Japan.
In May, while with Public Allies, she helped organize the first Beaver County women's conference, covering topics such as work force development. It was modeled after the annual Governor's Conference for Women, which was held in Pittsburgh last year.
"The women who worked in nonprofits in Beaver County felt like there wasn't anything like this for women in the county," she said.
Pennsylvania Women Work! helps job-seeking single mothers and housewives by training them in resume writing, interview skills and stress management.
For the Public Allies program, participants are interviewed to determine which type of organization would best suit them for an apprenticeship. Managerial staff from nonprofits then interview four or five participants who were best matched with them and pick who they like. Public Allies ultimately matches apprentices with the nonprofits, said Cynthia James, Public Allies' program director.
The Homeless Children's Education Fund in the Strip District applied because it needed another member to supplement its three full-time staff members, said Jennifer Banks Vickers, its managing director.
"When I interviewed [Ms. Christy], I knew she was the one," she said. "It seems we were her first choice, too, so it worked out nicely."
Members of the Public Allies program attend an eight-hour class each Monday. Tuesdays through Fridays they work at the nonprofit organization they're assigned to, said Lindsey Anderson, Public Allies' program manager.
Additionally, they are split into three groups of seven or eight, and each group is assigned a project submitted by a nonprofit.
Group members coordinate meeting times outside of their work and class.
For example, one group earlier this year worked with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty to compile a 12,000-person mailing list of patrons, said Ms. Miller, who was a member of the group during her apprenticeship.
The mailing list will be used to alert patrons about future events, said Bob Neu, the theater's executive director.
Applications for apprenticeships are available by sending a letter to 33 Terminal Way, Suite 429 A, Pittsburgh 15219, or filling out an application at the program's Web site, www.publicallies.org.
The application, which includes questions about previous community service and an essay, requires two references. Applications are accepted May through June.
First Published August 13, 2007 11:03 pm