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Spotlight on Kenyatta Johnson, City Year Philly’s 2024 Idealist of the Year

Philadelphia City Council President Kenyatta Johnson (pictured center, gray suit) is joined by leaders of local youth-serving organizations—including CYP Executive Director Darryl Bundrige—at a press conference announcing his Save Our Youth plan.

 

City Year Philadelphia’s (CYP’s) annual Red Jacket Gala is coming up this Thursday, May 9! Join us for an evening of inspiration and impact as we come together to raise critical funds to support our Student Success Coaches and the thousands of students they serve citywide. RSVP today!

We look forward to honoring Kenyatta Johnson, Philadelphia City Council President, as an Idealist of the Year. Council President Johnson has been a steadfast champion of our work since the beginning, serving as a founding CYP staff member in our inaugural 1997–98 service year.

As a lifelong resident of Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood and a former volunteer for AmeriCorps, Council President Johnson believes in the importance of building advocacy through service. His commitment to advocating for policies that have a direct impact on the lives of Philadelphians—including ending gun violence and improving education, public safety, job training, and access to employment—aligns closely with our mission.

Read our below Q&A with Council President Johnson to learn more about his personal connection to City Year Philadelphia’s mission. And be sure to also read our spotlight on our other Idealist of the Year, Norm Goldberger, Senior Partner at Ballard Spahr.

 

Council President Johnson during his time as a City Year Philadelphia founding staff member.

 

How did you come to learn about and get involved with City Year?

In 1997 I was at a community festival at Chew Playground in South Philadelphia. While there I met a man named Jay Robertson who was recruiting people to participate in City Year, and to help bring the program to Philadelphia. That is how I became part of the first, founding staff cohort of City Year Philadelphia.

 

What was your reaction when you learned that you had been named Idealist of the Year?

It blew my mind! I was incredibly humbled and grateful because City Year has played a pivotal role in helping me become the person who I am today.

 

What resonates with you the most about City Year’s work?

City Year inspires me because it is an organization that will allow you to engage in transformative work and civic engagement. It continues to inspire people to be great and inspires them to get involved in a cause greater than themselves. That is what I admire about City Year.

 

Council President Johnson (pictured bottom center) with his CYP team.

 

What does education equity mean to you?

To me, education equity means that all young people—regardless of their zip code, race, or ethnic background—should have an opportunity to receive a high-quality education. That guarantee of quality education should also be regardless of if they are attending a public school, a charter school, or a parochial school. Every young person deserves access to high-quality education.

 

What’s your most memorable moment or greatest accomplishment from your time being involved with City Year?

I have two moments that define my time being in City Year. The first memorable moment was while serving there as a Corps Manager [now Impact Manager], we attended Cyzygy, a convention which I would describe as the “Superbowl of Idealism” for City Year. I also have a second defining moment. While serving in City Year, a cousin of mine was murdered in the streets of South Philadelphia due to senseless gun violence. It was Corps members and other City Year staff that encouraged me to host my first “Peace Not Guns” prayer vigil and rally in honor of his life.

 

Are you considering a year of service, or do you know someone who is? City Year Philly is currently hiring full-time tutors and mentors for the 2024-2025 school year. Start your journey today!

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