Allison sisters doing great work in DC

Most of us know that Jay Williams, former Youngstown mayor, is now the U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development in the administration of President Barack Obama.

But there is another Mahoning Valley native also serving in a leadership position for the nation’s first biracial president.

Ashley Allison was included in the November issue of Essence magazine in an article titled “29 Powerful Black Women Calling the Shots in the Obama Administration.”

Allison, 33, is deputy director of the office of public engagement. She has a law degree and a master’s degree in education. She is a graduate of Ursuline High School and Ohio State University.

She said in the article, “The most-inspiring moments come in times of quiet reflection on my walk to and from work.”

According to its White House website, the Office of Public Engagement is the “embodiment of the president’s goal of making government inclusive, transparent, accountable and responsible.”

The office creates and coordinates opportunities for direct dialogue between the president and the American public.

The office helps open the two-way dialogue, ensuring “that the issues impacting the nation’s diverse communities have a receptive team dedicated to making their voices heard within the administration and helping their concerns be translated into action by the appropriate bodies of the federal government.”

As part of making the government accessible to its citizens, the office acts as a point of coordination for public-speaking engagements for Obama and the various departments of the president’s executive offices.

The website said the office also removes obstacles and barriers for engagement and works to improve public awareness and involvement in the work of the administration.

According to her profile, Allison serves as the liaison to the faith community.

Before joining the White House, she served as the national director of Partner Engagement and Outreach at Enroll America.

She served as constituency coordinator for the 2013 presidential inaugural committee, focusing on women and faith outreach.

In 2011, she joined Obama’s re-election campaign in Ohio as a regional field director and then became the state’s African-American vote director.

Allison has worked as a freelance journalist covering Brooklyn, N.Y., news and has been an advocate for fair housing. She was a New York City teaching fellow, working as a special-education teacher in the New York City Public School System.

While Allison is distinguishing herself on the political end in D.C., her older sister, Kena, also is having a significant positive impact in the nation’s capital.

Kena Allison, 35, is a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award. According to its website, the award was established in 1987 as an initiative of the Milken Family Foundation.

The Milken Educator Awards program rewards and inspires excellence in the world of education by honoring top educators around the country with $25,000 unrestricted awards.

The award targets early- to mid-career education professionals for their already “impressive achievements and, more significantly, for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future,” according to its website.

Kena is a physics teacher and instructional specialist at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington. She also has received a Harvard Fellowship for Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness in High Schools.

According to the Milken Award’s biological sketch of Kena, she plans field trips for students to study the aerodynamics of roller coasters and also created a “Physics of Sports” project, where students pick their favorite sport and relate back to her how the laws of physics apply to that sport.

She also is an Ursuline graduate and graduated summa cum laude from Bowling Green State University with a degree in biological sciences.

She had thought about becoming a doctor but chose, instead, to teach. She received her master’s degree in teaching from American University.

The sisters are the daughters of Valley residents Dr. Bennie and Fawn Allison.

Congratulations to two fine young women serving as positive role models, especially for other girls who aspire to do great things and make a difference in their community.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at