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City Year Honors Young Alum Derek Qiu

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. You can read about the 2023 award ceremony held in Boston on Feb. 8.

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

The 2023 City Year Alumni Leadership Awards were presented in February at City Year National Headquarters in Boston, and Derek Qiu, City Year New York ’19, received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, which honors alums who served between 2018-2023.

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Reflecting on Derek’s time as an AmeriCorps member, Zach Fishman, Director of AmeriCorps Experience at City Year New York said: “Derek’s skills and talent made it clear he would excel as a leader… his tenacity, immediate immersion into his role and fearlessness in providing constructive feedback were stand-out qualities.”

Derek is recognized for his outstanding commitment and contributions to City Year since he served with City Year New York as a team leader at Isaac Newton Middle School in East Harlem from 2018 to 2019, especially his passion for helping AmeriCorps members navigate the business world after service. Derek has dedicated himself to supporting corps and new alums through networking, career pipeline opportunities, mentorship, and creating pathways into consulting.

“Developing your career is this continuous and proactive process,” Qiu says. “If you want to make a true impact on the world, sometimes you have to think about yourself and your own journey and seek out what the next step in your journey.

“A big part of why I’m standing here has to do with the belief in young people and not just the students that I had the privilege of serving …. but also the AmeriCorps members themselves, who serve in schools.”

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A graduate of Rice University, Derek became aware of City Year’s strategic partnership with Deloitte when he served as an AmeriCorps member. He was selected to participate in the Deloitte Mentorship Program and eventually joined the firm where he currently works as a consultant.

Today, he 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 Board of Associates and will attend Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business this fall.

Supporting City Year in multiple ways

City Year Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Kanna Kunchala, City Year Boston ’96, presented Qiu with his award on Feb. 8. Kunchala said he met Qiu several years ago through his work with City Year at Deloitte and was impressed with his level of commitment to and passion for City Year.

“Derek has been a benefactor of City Year and a board member,” Kunchala said. “He’s been a partnership lead, a recruitment lead, a consultant working on City Year with us and a steadfast champion the whole time.”

Kunchala referenced a mountaineering fundraising event Qiu organized as part of his ascent of Mont Blanc (the tallest mountain in the Alps), raising $4,000 with the help of 20 Deloitte supporters. “And you know that he hosts a podcast. He literally climbs mountains to raise money for City Year.”

Thanking his family, teammates, and mentors

Qiu said he was humbled to receive the award, “because there’s a thousand people I know who really deserve this award.”

He thanked his parents, City Year teammates and staff for supporting and inspiring him during his service year and City Year staff and Deloitte coworkers for their help in working on City Year projects.

Qiu emphasized that the AmeriCorps members he worked with, and those serving today are “some of the most selfless people you’ll ever meet.” He urged corps members “to prioritize your own growth, not just the growth of your students.”

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

His experience with City Year “changed the trajectory of my life.”

“Serving in the schoolhouse is a uniquely transformative experience and the way that I’ll describe it is that it can inspire some of the most cynical individuals and it imparts practical lessons to the most idealistic.”

Qiu said he “was never the best corps member.”

“However, I learned that there’s great power in showing up with the intention to make great things happen,” he said. “And sticking to it, which, you know, hopefully, I’ve done over the past few years.”

Qiu’s closing words were for the 2,000+ currently serving City Year AmeriCorps members.

“Keep faith with City Year’s cause, even when you’re leaving City Year at the end of the school year. Because your City Year is just that, a year in the longer story of your life. And the value of this organization is made so much richer because of you and all you are doing.”

Learn more about serving with City Year.

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