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Nanis Rodriguez leads Public Allies Wisconsin into the future

Milwaukee native and program alum shares how she landed the role and her hopes for its progress
Nanis Rodriguez, Executive Director, Public Allies Wisconsin
Posted at 7:05 AM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 08:05:45-04

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. — Nanis Rodriguez is, in every sense of the word, a powerhouse.

Born and raised on the South side of Milwaukee, she is a product of the city’s public schools, before heading to Marquette for college.

She says that transition was a big culture shock.

“What does it mean to be a Latina at Marquette? What does it mean to be lower working class at Marquette? And that was also a time when I was stepping into what it meant to be queer,” said Rodriguez.

The youngest of three children, Nanis says she credits her mother, Gloria, with encouraging her to look beyond herself.

“We were raised by a single mom who is the light of my life. My mom is, I think, one of the prime examples of what it means to be in a community, to love your folks, to take care of your family, right and not just blood family, but the people that you bring into your life and what it means to work hard for yourself, for your folks,” said Rodriguez.

That being part of the community pushed her to explore how she could continue that work and led her back to the program that she credits with starting it all, Public Allies.

As its new executive director, Nanis is now guiding our region’s future leaders. She says the nonprofit’s mission is to create a just and equitable world, along with the diverse leadership to sustain it.

“We take local leaders, who may often be overlooked because of their race, their gender, their class; all of these other things, and we help them get their foot in the door,” said Rodriguez.

As a 2009 alum of the program, Nanis says the program changed her life. She worked in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and focused on getting restorative justice into different schools across the city.

That work, she says, was the catalyst to diving headfirst into the nonprofit and education spheres, with stints at NAMI of Greater Milwaukee and UWM, before applying for this role at Public Allies.

“It felt really scary but it also felt like a really wonderful opportunity to come home,” said Rodriguez.

As she navigates this next chapter of her life, Nanis says she is most excited to share these experiences with her wife, Amanda, and daughter Alis, and give her, what she calls, a world where her voice will be heard.

“I want to be able to show up fully. I want my daughter to see that. I want to be able to be Nanis in all of her complexity and passion and feelings and all of those things. And all of the ways that I still need to learn in a space that's going to honor that. And I think for me, Public Allies really does that,” said Rodriguez.

For more information on Public Allies Wisconsin, click here.

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