News and analysis
August 04, 2014

Public Allies Names Antipoverty Activist as New CEO


Adren Wilson

Public Allies, a national organization that trains young people for nonprofit or public-service jobs, announced today that it had named Adren Wilson, a veteran antipoverty activist, as its new chief executive. Mr. Wilson will take over from Paul Schmitz, who announced in November that he planned to step down this year.

Mr. Wilson, a native of rural Louisiana who grew up in poverty himself, will leave a post as Gulf Coast regional director at Single Stop USA, a nonprofit that connects low-income people to job-training, community-college, health-care, and other safety-net services.

His previous jobs include executive director of the greater New Orleans chapter of New Leaders, a group that trains school leaders; national director of youth and student leadership at the Children’s Defense Fund; and assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services, where he helped organize community meetings in every parish to discuss ways public policy could help low-income people.

Public Allies, which operates in 23 communities, places young people in nonprofit apprenticeships with stipends paid by AmeriCorps, the federal national-service program.

Mr. Schmitz, who founded the Public Allies Milwaukee chapter in 1993 and became chief executive of the national organization in 1999, will remain with the group as an adviser through December. After that, he said he plans to teach, consult, and work on a second book about nonprofit leadership. Mr. Schmitz is author of Everyone Leads: Building Leadership From the Community Up.

Mr. Wilson said in an interview he will work to identify ways current and former Public Allies participants can have "a greater, more direct impact in the communities we serve." He also stressed the importance of bringing together a diverse group of people to tackle social problems.

Recalling that he grew up without running water as one of five children of a single mother, he said people often dismissed his mother because of her extreme poverty, and "they were missing out on all the contributions she could make."

See The Chronicle’s profile of Public Allies and story about Michelle Obama’s involvement in the group.

Send an e-mail to Suzanne Perry.