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There’s No “I” in Team.. Exception - there is “Me”!

A Note On Team Service Projects (TSPs)…

Yesterday, I sat in a Conflict Mediation meeting with members of the Team Service Project (TSP) that I coach. As I sat there and listened to these individuals speak about their personal struggles and challenges, I was given the space to provide my personal insight, feedback and support. I gave out my hugs to these individuals, thanked my Program Manager for the support, and walked to my car. As I drove away, I reflected on the entire meeting and the TSP process in general. At once point, this statement passed through my thoughts:

I was a hot mess last year. Who am I to give advice to these individuals when I faced the same issues, if not at a heightened degree?

However, as a 2nd Year TSP coach, my insight and responsibilities to the team are completely different. In general, the Team Service Project is an opportunity for allies to learn and strengthen team building skills, understand our personal influence and power, see a project from start to finish and hone communication skills. Sounds good on paper, but this is not a perfected process. Members are unable to communicate their needs, accountability sometimes comes in the form of passive aggressive emails and not showing up to meetings and at some point, the community may not be benefiting from the project.

For myself, I am personally more invested in the process of the Team Service Project rather than the end product. As stated, effective leaders know how to identify assets & opportunities and how to implement solutions in collaboration with the community. The same mantra goes for the team; the hope for the TSP is that members are able to identify assets within themselves and one another and expand upon such gifts. You are matched with peers who may have different interests, perspectives and passions. However, these peers are able to provide feedback about your progress and leadership style that no one else can recognize.

Having gone through the TSP last year, I have a lens to the program as a supportive ally and an objective observer. 2nd Year TSP Coaches have a number of responsibilities that stem from their first year experience and expectation of heightened capabilities. 2nd Year TSP Coaches should do the following:

  • Be prepared (available to attend meetings and all functions)
  • Facilitate (the process in reaching TSP milestones/outcomes)
  • Serve as a reference (point the team in the right direction of resources without doing it for them)
  • Advocate (be vocal in the best interest of the TSP)
  • Provide Clarity when possible
  • Mediate conflict (interpersonally and towards project goals)
  • Advise & Provide Feedback (regarding the process, direction, focus, etc)
  • Challenge 1st Year Allies (in ally personal growth and towards being critical about the work)

Do I do all of these things right? Maybe not. Do I ask my team for support in understanding that I am also learning? Definitely. I am blessed to work with a team who are understanding and willing to engage with one another at personal and professional levels. The TSP process is in conjunction with their placement responsibilities, attending classes and all other ally responsibilities. These allies are pulling sixty (60) hours or so a week, and they are still available and ready to engage each week.

My team has been through a lot this year, yet I am proud of the progress they have made thus far. Below is a peak at what they are doing at Thomas Jefferson with a group of 9th Grade Students.

Project Title: PUSH HOPE (Holistic, Optimistic, Pedagogical Empowerment)
Members: Berlis Alvarado, Janitzia Villalobos, Rafael Lum, Sara Martin  


Our vision is that 9th grade students at TJHS will gain an awareness of the push out rate and understand that they can challenge/change the statistics that exist at their school. Students will use various forms of expression as a way to start dialogue/discussions to raise the consciousness about the push out rate in other students.


Our TSP will empower youth by providing popular education based workshops that critically engage students through dialogue and utilize various art forms as mediums to initiate discussions about the push out rate at TJHS. PURPOSE: Jefferson High school has a push out rate of 58%, compared to LAUSD drop out rate of 38%. The academic achievement of students at Jefferson High School is far below the standard set for the state of California. The community that Thomas Jefferson students reside in is the Vernon Central area, which is a predominately black and brown working class community. The Vernon Central community has a high rate of low educational attainment and high poverty indicators. However, Vernon Central has a rich Black cultural history that manifested in the jazz movement in the 1930s through the 1950s. Now, the Vernon-Central community has become increasingly Latino a trend through out South Los Angeles due to economic affordability for lower income recent migrants.


  • To bring awareness of the push out rate through by presenting on eight issues that were identified by the survey through creative activities.
  • To create a safe space where students can share/dialogue about their experiences on the issues relevant to the push out rate.
  • For youth to build confidence to express themselves through multiple art forms.
  • For the final art products created by the youth to be relevant and critically reflective about their experiences in dealing with he push out rate.
  • For the students to present their art form & articulate their reflective process to others.


The process towards implementation has definitely been a stressful one. I believe that Public Allies LA dedicates an entire eight out of ten months to the Team Service Projects because they are aware of the impact it can cause. In the past, our Team Service Projects have lead to the development of nonprofit organizations that are currently serving the community. Things don’t always pan out the way we expect, but the essence comes in working out those glitches. The passion comes from meeting twice a week to plan the bi-weekly workshops that my team is dedicated to delivering. The heart comes through when they sit in front of those students and ask them what their idea of community looks like. The dedication comes through when teammates are challenging their own assumptions and perspective as it comes to delivering a curriculum that is dear to their heart. The drive comes from a team who is willing to persevere when the current school situation is set up so not only do the students not trust them, they do not understand why the TSP even cares to teach to their class.

Get it, PushHope :)

"Kung Fu Panda" said it best..

As the recruitment years go by, PALA is constantly looking for more ways in which we can adequately speak to the program’s strengths, growth areas and moments of inspiration. No program is perfect - that is also to be said about its recruitment efforts - yet this is an attempt to ‘professionally’ speak about Public Allies Los Angeles with some bomb insight from a 1st year ally. As previously posted, I spoke with Damon (tall/giant gentleman in the rear) for a few hours about the different program components and how his experience has been in the program thus far. 

On what Damon plans on doing after Public Allies Los Angeles:

No matter if PA – this space is gone – this experience has opened me up to a new direction. I don’t know decisions, but I know the direction.

Damon’s thoughts on - The Program Components

At Public Allies, our Core Values happen through our program components. 


·       Placement & Practice

I am an Assistant Site Coordinator at CDTechLink. I had my hand in developing the program Tech Corps which is a 6 week training program that equips youth between the age 17-25 with skills in Digital Design, Business Applications, Computer Refurbishing and Leadership. Within the program, I serve as a case manager. In such service, I speak with the youth and see if they need support throughout and I also find pipeline resources for them afterward. To get applicants, I also help in the structuring and implementing of recruitment strategies. Aside from any program development, I serve as a mentor to the youth that come in and out of our lab and those that live on the block. I really enjoy what I do. I have the opportunity to see the change that board members philosophize about. I can be myself here. I can be free and not have to wear a façade. We can bring who we are into CDTechLink and get the job done.  As we build community, we build family inside this placement and as people come in, they see that. It brings a sense genuity, it resonates in the community. We are real people. 

Leadership happens on many different levels - from volunteers, to frontline staff to executive directors - because they exhibit integrity.  Nonprofit work requires people to be practiced, to be critical of the power structure and to have a lot of initiative.  Work with local respected nonprofit organizations to further social justice in a variety of fields and issue areas. Learn about how to do significant and meaningful community work on the grassroots level.  See our list of previous partner organizations for examples of the kind of work past allies have done.  

Continuous Learning

It’s given me the vocabulary to structure the emotions that I feel; to put words to my emotions and feelings. I didn’t know the words “systemic oppression” - I just knew I didn’t like the system. I just knew I felt oppressed. But I didn’t know how to put them together as systemic oppression as something that has plagued me and my community.

Great leaders are continuous learners that can analyze and quickly adjust to diverse conditions.  Allies take weekly formal classes from the Community and Economic Development Department at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Courses range in Community Economic Development, Nonprofit Management, Program Planning, Health Advocacy and Leadership Development.  Allies also take trainings in social dynamics, intercultural context and justice issues three times a month.  Best of all, you can expect to learn from seasoned and respected community leaders, professionals and peers.

·       Team Service Project

Integrity is a standard in which you hold yourself and you don’t waiver from it. By that definition, a lot of these individuals I see and service have integrity. Others may not agree with their self-set standard, but they are walking with personal integrity. It means staying true to the standard that you set for yourself.

Effective leaders know how to identify assets & opportunities and how to implement solutions in collaboration with the community.   Team service projects are an opportunity for allies to learn and strengthen Team Building skills, understand their personal influence and power, see a project through to community impact and hone communication skills. All of this is possible with the support and guidance of a 2nd year ally and a program manager.

·       Evaluation & Reflection

It was something I needed, but I didn’t know it until I got it.

A great leader understands their impact because they know where they stand in relation to others.  At Public Allies Los Angeles, you will learn to evaluate yourself via critical self-reflection and structured constructive feedback from your peers and supervisors. You will be matched with a Program Manager that will serve as your personal coach to assist you in thinking through the lessons and challenge you on your assumptions and defaults so that you achieve your goals by the end of the program.  You will also be matched with peers in your cohort to form a team that will provide you with feedback about your progress and your leadership style.  You will also be required to reflect on your experience and impact in the community by reporting every month to ensure that you are making a difference. 


Any last thoughts?

Taking a quote from Kung Fu Panda – Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift – that is why it is called the present.


True Life: I’m a 2nd Year - right?

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t question my decision to become a second year ally.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Public Allies. I had amazing experiences as a first year ally and left the year with new insights, personal challenges and triumphs. For ten months, I was able to analyze myself and my perspectives at angles I rarely would have imagined. I completed things that I never thought were possible. I desired a second year in the program because I knew there was much more to be learned and discovered if I opened myself up to the opportunity. However,  I am feeling a huge disconnection between myself as an ally and myself as an employee. Meaning, I don’t really feel like an ally 50% of the time and has become somewhat of a disenchanting experience.

What it boils down to is this idea that if I am using this opportunity to it fullest extent. Secondly, there are really big differences in being a second year verses a first year ally. However, there is one HUGE factor that plays into this disassociation that I have with being an ally —

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