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City Year honors three outstanding alums

Awards season is in full swing, and that includes here at City Year!

We recently hosted our annual alumni awards at City Year National Headquarters in Boston—the first in-person award event we’ve had since 2019—to honor three extraordinary alums.

Derek Qiu, City Year New York ’19, received the City Year Distinguished Young Alumni Award (for alums who served within the last five years); Dustin LaFont, City Year Baton Rouge ’11, received the Alumni Achievement Award (for alums who served more than five years ago); and Macey Amissah-McKinney, City Year Sacramento ‘13, ’14, received the City Year Staff Alumni Impact Award.

Pictured L-R: Kim LaFont, Dustin LaFont, Jim Balfanz, Mithra Irani Ramaley, Frank Tantillo.

City Year CEO Jim Balfanz, who is a 1994 alum of City Year Boston, was on hand at the awards ceremony to congratulate the winners, alongside Frank Tantillo of Truist, dozens of City Year staff, award recipients, friends, family and members of the alumni community.

“I just want to say that all of City Year’s 40,000 alumni are doing amazing things,” Balfanz said.

“But there’s only 131 out of 40,000 have won the award that our three honorees are getting tonight. … [The honorees have demonstrated] an extraordinary level of impact. And they’re all just getting started, which is great for us and great for the world.”

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Explore the impact of City Year’s extraordinary alumni.

“Young people are our nation’s most precious resource,” Balfanz said. “Coming out of the pandemic, our mission has never been more important. The work has never been more impactful …. And it wouldn’t be possible without our partners.”

City Year 2023 Alumni Leadership Awards presented by Truist

Truist is supporting the work of City Year’s student success coaches in eight U.S. cities this year: Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Memphis, Columbia, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia. Over two years, more than 12,000 students have been supported.

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City Year AmeriCorps members are student success coaches.

Truist Managing Director in Technology Corporate and Investment Banking Frank Tantillo thanked the alumni award winners and emphasized how Truist’s stated purpose is aligned with City Year’s mission.

“The company’s North Star is to inspire and build better lives and communities,” Tantillo said.

“We are each committed to ensuring that all people in all communities have an equal opportunity to thrive and succeed at their chosen endeavor. And this is why we are so proud of our national partnership with City Year.”

The City Year Alumni Leadership Awards, presented by Truist, are City Year’s highest alumni recognition. The awards recognize outstanding alums who have continued their commitment to service and demonstrated extraordinary achievement, contribution, or commitment to advancing social justice and strengthening communities. Since 1995, 134 alumni have been honored with these awards.

Celebrating this year’s honorees

Distinguished Young Alumni Award: Derek Qiu, City Year New York ’19

After graduating from Rice University in 2018, Derek Qiu spent a year serving with City Year New York as a Team Leader at Isaac Newton Middle School in East Harlem.

Through City Year’s strategic partnership with Deloitte, Derek participated in the Deloitte Mentorship Program and eventually joined the firm where he currently works as a consultant.

In 2021, Derek gave back to AmeriCorps members by providing them with job opportunities in the private sector. Derek founded the Deloitte Career Catalyzer program, a dedicated recruiting pipeline through which more than 20 City Year corps members have found meaningful employment at Deloitte. In 2023, Derek served on the annual Deloitte Pro-Bono project, and he worked with City Year’s executive team to rethink the way City Year organized its financial allocations.

“Derek has been a benefactor of City Year and a board member,” said City Year Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Kanna Kunchala, City Year Boston ’96, who presented Qiu with his award. “He’s been a partnership lead, a recruitment lead, a consultant working on City Year with us and a steadfast champion the whole time.”

Today, Qiu continues to mentor City Year AmeriCorps members, support the organization, and raise money for City Year. He recently served on City Year New York’s Associate Board and will attend Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business this fall.

“I firmly believe that corps members should be afforded the opportunity to pursue meaningful career paths where their worth is recognized by companies,” Qiu said.

Pictured L to R: Kanna Kunchala, Eitan Adler, Derek Qiu, Frank Tantillo, Jim Balfanz

Alumni Achievement Award: Dustin LaFont, City Year Baton Rouge ‘11

Dustin LaFont is the executive director of Front Yard Bikes (FYB), a youth workforce development program providing safe spaces for youth to learn, grow, and build.

FYB offers programs in bike mechanics, welding, urban gardening, cooking, riding safety, and providing after school jobs for middle and high school youth who are leaders among their peers. With two after school sites and a full-service bike shop in Mid City Baton Rouge, FYB has touched the lives of more than 3,000 youth and has become the largest community bike shop in the South.

After serving students as a City Year Baton Rouge AmeriCorps member, LaFont received his master’s in education from Louisiana State University and taught social studies before he launched his nonprofit.

“Dustin puts time, heart, energy, and teaching into every student he works with,” said LaFont’s wife, Kim (Rick) LaFont, City Year Baton Rouge ’11, who presented him with his award. “He serves as their counselor, mentor, and at times big brother and teacher figure.”

LaFont and his wife brought five current students and one former student with them to attend the awards ceremony in Boston.

His City Year alumni reward really recognizes the resilience and agency of the youth he serves, LaFont said, as they decide each day to take multiple buses to get to school or make the effort to come to his afterschool program, despite challenges they face.
“I have to get credit to so many of the kids who actively show up and make that choice each and every day,” Dustin LaFont said. “Our kids are our greatest resource and they’re our greatest problem solvers.”

City Year Staff Alumni Impact Award Macey Amissah-McKinney, City Year Sacramento ‘13, ‘14

Macey Amissah-McKinney was a founding corps member and part of the staff at City Year Sacramento, where she now serves as executive director.

A natural strategist and leader, Macey has led the site’s efforts in building a positive and meaningful experience for students, corps members, and staff leading to increased engagement, retention and impact.

Her former City Year team said Macey “embodies excellence.”
“Macey doesn’t live for what’s easy. She has vision and big ideas and knows what it takes to achieve her goals. She leads with confidence, integrity, and a deep devotion to her team.”

Macey has also been instrumental in supporting other local nonprofits interested in becoming AmeriCorps programs, resulting in more AmeriCorps members being deployed throughout the Greater Sacramento area.

iMentor senior director of mentor engagement and fellow City Year alum Eric Barbour, City Year Sacramento ‘13, ’14, presented Amissah-McKinney with her award via video.

“This award is not just the recognition of my work but speaks to the collective work of the many individuals who have worked to make City Year Sacramento what it is today,” Amissah-McKinney said via video, “and supported me in becoming the leader I am today.”

After 12 years, Amissah-McKinney is proud to call Sacramento home where she resides alongside her wife, Rebecca.

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