Public Allies Class 8 Highlight: Courtney McClendon

Courtney McClendon graduated from Howard University with a degree in Courtney McClendonBiology and was ready to change the world. Only problem: “Being a young college student you don't really know much…about life in general.” Like many young people, Courtney didn’t know how to focus her talents and energy into meaningful work. Fortunately, after some research, she found Public Allies and returned home to Indianapolis to complete a term of service. Her search for a partner organization led her to Little Red Door Cancer Agency.

Courtney was immediately drawn to the organization and its focus on public health and advocacy. “This is an organization that looks at the wholeness of the individual because it's not just the physical aspects of cancer that hurts you.” This was a fact that Courtney and her family knew all too well. “My father had cancer, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, he unfortunately passed away when I was sixteen and we personally felt the detrimental effects that cancer has on a family.” Courtney recalls how her loss and passion for health fueled her fire to be an asset for this organization. In her role, Courtney helped to re-energize the agency’s youth tobacco education program, HURU. Doing this required a new understanding of time management. “In undergrad...I worked well under pressure. Procrastinate until the end,” she recalls.  Things were a little different at LRD. Courtney recalls, “We had deadlines to get things done. We had to present to the CEO. We had a really strict timeline of everything we had to get done.” The work required a lot of growth, but Courtney was happy to learn more about time management and create a great product in the process.

Amanda Wolfe, Director of Client Services, never worked with Courtney, but she has seen the legacy of her work and the success of other Public Allies at Little Red Door. “Allies know they can pursue their ideas and passions and try new ways of working and doing. Their work, therefore, is innovative and impassioned and their growth is monumental.” This growth is not only visible on the outside, Courtney and other Allies see themselves changing. “[Public Allies] really helped me gain confidence and convey my feelings and thoughts better,” says Courtney when recalling all of the public speaking that was required in her position. Not only do Public Allies allow organizations to grow their service capacity, they also positively impact the culture too!  “My PAs bring fresh perspectives and idealistic enthusiasm to the work, which is contagious.” says Amanda. “And, because being a top notch professional and human requires constant self-reflection and evolution, the PAs have brought all of us at LRD opportunities to reevaluate our thinking with the addition of new perspectives and ideas, and thus the opportunity to constantly improve ourselves and our work in the community.”

Courtney is now loving life as a nurse at Riley Children’s Hospital. She learned a lot about caring for other people, but the clients at Little Red Door taught her even more about taking care of herself! “Looking at their resilience in spite of everything that is happening reminds me that self-care is so important,” she says. Courtney continues to support LRD and even serves on their young professionals council! “I’m thankful that there is an organization like that helping the clients that they do, and I’m thankful that they still let me be involved, even though I don’t work there.”

Little Red Door has had five Allies at this point and plans to continue to develop professionals through the apprenticeship. Looking forward, Amanda wants the future Allies to gain as much as they can from their experience. “I hope my Allies leave with confidence in their own competence. I hope they understand the value of taking risks and the necessity of failing if you are going to grow. I hope they leave valuing collaboration and teamwork and diversity. I hope they believe their ten month investment in LRD brought as much to them as it did to LRD. And I hope they gain appreciation for public service as a vital sector of our society and empathy for the diverse individuals who might access public and charitable services.”