Our mission is to create a just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it.  We're proud to share this collection of stories featuring passionate leaders transforming their communities.
A couple of years ago Anna CastaƱeda was close to losing everything -- including custody of her children -- after she violated her probation stemming from a drug conviction. She knew then she must change her life's trajectory. Today, Anna is doing exactly that. As an AmeriCorps Ally in San Antonio, she's using her skills and assets to better herself, her family, and her community, as told in this  powerful story about her journey to Public Allies and Alamo Colleges. "It's not so much that we need people to be empathetic or to put themselves in our shoes," says CastaƱeda. "We need people who are already in those shoes."
A few days after completing his first year at Public Allies Los Angeles in the summer of 2014, Alberto Cazarez died tragically in a car accident. Yet the impact of his work lives on. In March, the City of Los Angeles announced a $30 million settlement in response to a class-action lawsuit that Alberto had initiated back in 2011 over the legality of gang injunctions. "Alberto embodied the true definition of Public Allies' values-based leadership," says Benjamin Torres, CEO of CDTech. "When he was faced with an injustice that he might only have experienced as a personal violation of his rights, he bravely chose to take a public stand against systemic oppression instituted through a racist, stereotypical practice of law enforcement that has criminalized men of color simply because of where they live and how they look." The money awarded from the suit will be invested in job training for gang members in Los Angeles neighborhoods like Mar Vista, where Alberto once lived, and where his memory lives on.
When Karl Valere was a young boy growing up on Long Island, he remembers a lot of anti-Haitian sentiment in the community. So much so that he'd sometimes tell people he was Cuban just to avoid being targeted with stereotypes. Those days are long gone. Today, Karl wears his identity with pride. "It took me a lifetime to understand what it means to be a son of Haitian immigrants who left their struggling, underdeveloped home to come to the land of opportunity," says Karl, an alum of Public Allies New York who is now pursuing a Master's degree in urban affairs. Karl's time with Public Allies not only helped him cement his commitment to working on behalf of immigrant and underrepresented communities, but gave him clarity on his own personal journey as a leader committed to profound social change. Read his story.
Imani Ray joined Public Allies directly out of high school, and is serving at Urban Underground, a longtime community partner working for justice and equity in Milwaukee. "It's really a powerful thing when you can see young people like Imani grow and flourish," says Sharlen Moore, Imani's supervisor, in this new video. Like all Allies serving nationwide, Imani receives a monthly stipend, benefits, and an education award that she can use for college. 
"Public Allies showed me firsthand the daily realities and systemic underpinnings of the inequalities that exist in Cincinnati and other places across the country," says journalist Nick Swartsell, a graduate of Public Allies Cincinnati, in an interview published by AmeriCorps Alums. Swartsell won a national journalism award for an investigative story exposing how Cincinnati's nine lowest-income neighborhoods are predominantly African American, and how the nine highest-income are predominantly -- in many cases more than 90 percent -- white.
"The biggest eye opener since being in the Public Allies program is that there is no need for our community to look outside the community for help," writes Celso Urbano (center), an AmeriCorps Ally in South Los Angeles, in a new essay for CDTech. "We, the people of the ghettos and barrios of Los Angeles, have what it takes to create a solution. We just need to communicate more and stop dividing each other because we are all humans. No matter what color or race we are, at the end of the day, we all have the same value."
When Pittsburgh Public Ally Bridgette Wright (2nd from left) meets people in need, her inclination is to want to help them through action. So when a homeless mother recently asked her for money for basic toiletries, Bridgette decided to organize a care-package drive to benefit Pittsburgh's homeless residents. With support from her organization and her Public Allies network, she led three drives raising $650 in food cards, and enough toiletries to fill 750 care-packs -- all delivered to hard-to-reach homeless encampments by volunteers on bikes. "It's terrible when I hear people talk about homeless friends like they are nothing, because they are people like all of us," says Bridgette, who has more projects in mind to help people in need. "I have always wanted to make a big difference with my actions. With the network I now have through Public Allies, it's enabled me to take bigger steps than before. I believe in myself this time, and I have other people who believe in me, too."
Ask Rae Harris (center) where she thinks she'd be if she hadn't completed two years of Public Allies, and she doesn't hesitate: "I'd probably be back working in a casino, just making money. I wouldn't be working on my Master's degree. And I would have forgotten about community." Before Rae joined the Public Allies Metro Detroit family, she felt stuck in her career and in her higher-education ambitions. That changed after joining Detroit's team of Allies and mentors. "It was so inspiring because you don't find a lot of people who want to get down in the trenches and help." Rae currently works at a substance-abuse rehabilitation facility, is half done with her Master's degree at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and is leading her own nonprofit that raises resources for Michigan residents in need. And she's now set her sights on a Ph.D. "I always knew I had a greater purpose." Read about Public Allies Metro Detroit's ambitious plans to have a lasting impact on the city by finding and developing leaders just like Rae.
Darrius Lightfoot, currently an AmeriCorps Ally, was featured on the front page of "Crain's Chicago Business" in April for his years of community organizing for trauma-care equity on the city's South Side. Darrius' activism for this cause, outlined in the Crain's story, began in 2010, after best friend and fellow youth leader Damian Turner was shot just blocks from a large medical complex that lacked adult trauma-care services. Thanks to the leadership of Darrius and other young community activists, the University of Chicago recently announced plans for a new trauma care center on their Hyde Park campus.
Two Allies serving in Washington, D.C., Allan DuBose and  Vernice Puryear, joined Bill Basl (center), the Director of AmeriCorps, to give personal accounts of their national service experience to the Delta Regional Authority's Board in February. The Authority oversees economic development investments in an 8-state region that includes Louisiana, Illinois, and Mississippi, and its board includes the member states' governors. Allan and Vernice serve at Teens Run DC and DC Promise Initiative, respectively.
More than 120 Public Allies alum representing 12 states gathered in Wilmington, Delaware April 30 for the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Alumni Leadership Summit -- the first of its kind. Led entirely by alum, with support from staff at Public Allies Delaware, the summit was an opportunity for alum from different graduating classes to connect, be inspired, and sow the seeds for new collaborations for a just and equitable society. See photos here, and read about it here.