As JPEF celebrates our 10th anniversary this year, we’re catching up with some of the people who have been impacted by our work. Allishia Bauman was featured in one of JPEF’s first initiatives, the 1 in 3 exhibit at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, which highlighted the stories of students who struggled to graduate from high school. At the time, about 1 in 3 students in Duval County wasn't graduating on time. Today, our graduation rate is more than 85 percent, and Allishia is the Chief of Staff at City Year Jacksonville, which deploys 100 highly skilled AmeriCorps members to serve in 10 Duval County Public Schools.
Looking back on yourself 10 years ago, what were the struggles you faced at the time?
Ten years ago, I was just beginning to process the turbulence in my life. I graduated from high school three years before, but never processed my challenging circumstances. When I was in high school, I didn’t have the luxury of focusing on school. I had to worry about where I was going to live, how I was going to get to work, when I was going to eat. Being forced out of my home at 16 meant that life looked very different for me in high school. So when I told my story for the first time, out loud, 10 years ago... it was hard and healing. It forced me to face things I had buried.
What was it like to be part of the 1 in 3 exhibit? What did you learn or how did you grow through this campaign?
The campaign was what I’ve been calling a crucible for me. It is the door that began to open all doors. As I mentioned, this began my healing. It helped me understand I wasn’t alone at a time when I felt very alone. But it also energized me to find ways where I could give back to my community much like it had given to me. Telling my story as a part of the campaign was healing for me but it also expanded my village even more. Because of the campaign, I had the push and support from strangers to become a first generation college graduate.
I also began my nonprofit career. I learned the power in leveraging your passion and joy to make a difference in your community. I learned how powerful a difference even one person can make in the life of another. The campaign helped me grow up in ways I can see even 10 years later.
Where are you now? What is your life like?
I am more conscious and present in my life than I ever have been. I am joyful, adventurous, and whole. I have a beautiful family including my husband Joshua of five years and bonus daughter, Esperanza.
I serve as the Chief of Staff at City Year Jacksonville, where I have been the past six years. I am a volunteer for several organizations in our community including the Women’s Giving Alliance, TEDxJacksonville, and a Star for The Beaches Fine Arts Series Dancing with the Stars.
I also serve on the National Service Council for New Politics and am in several programs including Valor and the Coaching Fellowship. Currently, I am exploring backpacking and hiking for the first time. All In all, my life is full and ever growing.
What difference did your education make in your life?
It saved my life. There really are no words that can capture the importance of education for me like that. Education and the people in it saved me and helped me come into who I was truly meant to be.
What are your hopes for our public schools in the next 10 years? If you have children, what do you hope they’ll gain through their education?
My hope is that we can remove unnecessary politics and boundaries from a system that should be designed to nurture and grow young people and nothing else. My hope is that instead of the community becoming more divided and pulled away from our public schools that we come together to uplift the importance of our schools and young people in them. My hope is that we don’t have to be so concerned with safety and resources and can focus on growing young lives to their fullest potential so they can truly live their best lives.
I hope my bonus daughter learns to understand that her education is foundational to her life’s fullness. I hope she learns that it’s the one thing no one can take away and that it will propel her to be the best version of herself in life. I hope she learns that her education will help her live a full life that could look however she wants it, not anyone else. Education is power.