Former First Lady Michelle Obama Joins Public Allies In Young Leader Workshop In Northern California

In celebration of her best-selling memoir, BECOMING, Mrs. Obama reunites with Public Allies as part of visit to San Jose, California.

San Jose, CA.  — On Friday, former First Lady Michelle Obama participated in a special youth leadership workshop event hosted by Public Allies, an organization she helped shape.  Public Allies is a national nonprofit focused on developing diverse community leaders (called Allies) in 25 communities across the country. The apprenticeship program recruits talented young leaders and provides them with leadership and career development while diversifying our country’s talent pipeline. Mrs. Obama has a longstanding and meaningful relationship with Public Allies, having served as the Executive Director of the Chicago Chapter in the 1990’s and remaining a strong supporter during her time in the White House and after.

Mrs. Obama joined thirty current Allies and program alumni, the legacy of leadership tenure, by participating in their weekly leadership workshop and training. “Public Allies was my favorite job. I meet Allies and Alums all over the country and they are doing amazing things and I know the future is bright.” she told the group. “It was at Public Allies that I first understood that I would always be ‘becoming.'”

“Public Allies is about cultivating the ‘Michelle Obamas’ of this generation — giving young adults at the start of their careers the leadership skills to be change-makers in their communities while creating a more diverse leadership pipeline in this country.  Today was inspiring and meaningful on many levels, welcoming Mrs Obama home to her Public Allies family,” said Jaime Ernesto Uzeta, CEO of Public Allies.

In BECOMING, pages 175-182, she writes about the significant impact her experience with Public Allies has had on her life and career:

“I’d been hired to be the executive director for the brand-new Chicago chapter of an organization called Public Allies. Public Allies [is] all about promise — finding it, nurturing it, and putting it to use. It was a mandate to seek out young people whose best qualities might otherwise be overlooked and to give them a chance to do something meaningful. To me, the job felt almost like destiny.

The most exciting part for me was finding the Allies themselves…..Who were the leaders? Who was ready for something bigger than what he or she had? These were the people we wanted to encourage to apply, urging them to forget for a minute whatever obstacles normally made such things impossible, promising as an organization we would do what we could …

….I’ve been amazed over time to see how many of our recruits did, in fact, succeed and commit themselves long term to serving a larger public good. Twenty-five year after its inception, Public Allies is still going strong with chapters in Chicago and two dozen other cities and thousands of alumni across the country. To know that I played some small part in that, helping to create something that’s endured, is one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve had in my professional life.

For the first time in my life, really, I felt I was doing something immediately meaningful, directly impacting the lives of others while also staying connected to both my city and my culture.”

Public Allies National Leadership Institute August 2017

A gathering of Public Allies staff, board members, and leaders from across the nation celebrated our organization’s 25th anniversary in Minneapolis last August 2017. Above are some highlights from our National Leadership Institute.

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Corey Benjamin (pictured far right) is the firstborn child of an immigrant father from Haiti, and an immigrant mother from Liberia who in the early 1980s fled to the United States after a violent government coup in her home country. Corey says that growing up he recognized the deep sacrifices and struggles his parents overcame to give him the opportunity to become the first in his family to attend college.

“Whenever I think I’m having it tough,” says Corey, a 2016 graduate of Public Allies AmeriCorps program in Washington, D.C., “I think back to the journey of my parents.”

Today, Corey is making his parents proud. He’s starting his second year of medical school at the University of Virginia, and is on track to become the first doctor in his family. Beyond his parents, Corey credits his Public Allies national service experience with helping to illuminate his path and showing him what’s possible in his life and work.

“My service experience made me a better leader,” says Corey. “It helped me figure out what I need to do.”

Corey says his Public Allies service experience—where he spent four days a week working at America’s Promise Alliance—really gave him a window into people’s lives and community impacts on their health.

“As a doctor, I’m going to advocate more for social services and things outside of the hospital that may affect patients’ health,” he says, adding: “It’s one thing to want to do good, but it’s another thing to do good.”

Learn more about Corey by watching this short video produced by Service Year:


When Hassan Dahir was barely a toddler, the central government of his country — Somalia — was overtaken by force and fell. During his boyhood years, Hassan’s country was dangerously divided between warring factions and violent armed groups.

When he reached his teenage years, Hassan’s mother made a difficult and fateful decision that would change his life forever.

“Al-Shabaab, which was the most dangerous religious group in Somalia, started to take teenagers by force in order to use them to fight their opposition,” Hassan says. “Therefore, before they could come to take me by force, my mother decided to send me outside of Somalia — anywhere I can get peace, security, and a better life.”

Since then, the road that Hassan has traveled has taken him to live in Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, and — since 2014 — Anchorage, Alaska. There, Hassan has become one of the first members of a new leadership initiative — Welcoming Communities Corps — which was born out of Public Allies’ 2015 strategic plan and started thanks to a partnership between Public Allies, Welcoming America, and AmeriCorps VISTA. His Welcoming Communities Corps placement is with the City of Anchorage.

The first cohort of Welcoming Communities Corps leaders includes a diverse array of U.S. immigrants and citizens working in places like San Jose, Detroit, and Anchorage. All are working to cultivate educational and employment opportunities for new immigrant and refugee populations.

For Hassan, this is deeply personal work. “I know what refugees face, because I am one of them, and I can feel what they are feeling and understand their plight,” says Hassan, who speaks Somali, Amharic, and English, as well as some Russian and Arabic. “I’ve decided to help refugees and believe my unique perspective can be helpful.”

What many aren’t aware of is that Anchorage has one of the most diverse refugee populations in the country, and includes people from Somalia, Sudan, Bhutan, Congo, Iraq, Burma, Ethiopia, Eritria, Russia, and Ukraine.

Hassan, who also worked for four years with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as an interpreter, is working on bringing a Civic Engagement Academy program to Anchorage to engage diverse members of the community in civic and public life.

“Anything that connects our diverse communities and brings us together,” Hassan says, “will benefit everyone.”


“I know what they’re going through, because I went through it.” This is how Felix Moran explains the value he brings to Opportunities for Youth, the organization where he is placed as an AmeriCorps Ally in Phoenix, Arizona. After going to prison at 17 for burglary, Felix struggled to get employment. But he was determined to  be a powerful force for good in his community — especially for the countless young adults like him who find themselves without jobs and higher education. That’s why he joined Public Allies, and why he is committed to effectively doing outreach to young people who are facing challenges as he once did. Read and watch his inspiring story. He is  just one of thousands of examples of why Public Allies, AmeriCorps, and national service are great investments!


Last September, Maria Todd began her 10 months of service as an AmeriCorps Ally with the organization Cincinnati Works, which helps individuals get on the road to economic self-sufficiency and away from poverty. In this story of hope and the power of service, Maria shares the story of a man, Hanif, whom she met right after he had been let out of prison. “Hanif had been in prison longer than I have been alive,” Maria writes. Yet thanks to his commitment and to the help he received, Maria writes that Hanif has succeeded in finding employment and “breaking the chain that could have led on and on for generations… Although he has made mistakes in his past, he has pushed to overcome them.”Read her story.