They buildOn: Alexandria Ballard Welcomes Challenges

“Alex is amazing. She has just such a wonderful way about her,” says buildOn’s Missy Shields, program coordinator in New York. Alexandria Ballard’s optimistic personality and willingness to take on a variety of challenges was one of the reasons she was nominated Staff Member of the Month in February.

This year the New York office had a huge turnover rate, so Alex became a major team player in training and mentoring new staff.  When the buildOn team received the Youth Engagement Zone grant, she was redeployed to recruit students to get involved and has been running a lot of the programs related to the grant.  In March she organized a service day with only two weeks notice. The event had approximately 160 buildOn members working on five different community projects across the Bronx. It was a big deal because a film crew and several people came to witness the event. “Alex did an incredible job and it was a big success,” Missy said. “That summarizes how she is with everything.”

Years worked at buildOn: 2 years

What were you doing before you joined buildOn?

I had recently graduated from University of Michigan and I had a summer internship in New York. I was working with College Summit, which prepares high school students for college. And I started working with buildOn in October 2009.

What do you bring to buildOn?

I think I bring a lot of positive energy, being optimistic, and I think it’s important to have that for this job. Sometimes it’s challenging when dealing with a lot of issues in the school, but we’re able to still be positive and motivate the students, and think of creative ways to recruit students and keep them in the project. And whenever I’m in the schools I’ll say hi to everyone and people know me for being an energetic and enthusiastic person. I have a great presence in the school and it’s because of my positivity and ability to make the program work.

How has buildOn changed your life?

I’ve never looked at the importance of education abroad in the way that I see it now since I’ve never been outside of North America. I’ve never been able to see the disparities and challenges within third world countries in other parts of the world. I’ve learned not to take the things that I have been blessed with for granted, such as a family that loves me, and an education that so many people don’t have. I’m fortunate to have buildOn to know these things, and to share that with other people.

What are some of your favorite memories working with buildOn?

The year-end celebration. It brought everyone together from the entire region. We were at a recreation center and we had a DJ and food. This is a regional project where the students are highlighted for their service and commitment. There are three awards that we give out to the students during that time. It felt like a party, and they dressed up really nice for it. I’m looking forward to it being even better this year.

Also, with the New York staff we had our Secret Santa giveaway. We were in a small café in Chinatown where we meet at every Friday, but we decided to do it differently that Friday. We were able to give each other small gifts that we made on our own… the gifts had to be handmade gifts. Matt (Pryfogle) was my Secret Santa and he made me this bag out of colorful tape.

Complete this sentence: buildOn is… a family. Is a group of people working together to make a difference in the lives of not only high school students but the community as a whole; to be mentors and role models and communicate the confidence within themselves to boost their self esteem, to be leaders in their community.