be_ixf;ym_202406 d_15; ct_50 YES! I want to make a difference TODAY!

Celebrating City Year alum Nicole Tsang


“It was 2006 and I believe that every kid needed to do two things, and those were paper mâché and tie dyeing.”

Nicole Tsang was honored with the Staff Alumni Impact Award at the 2022 City Year Alumni Leadership Awards, held late last year, for her critical work in improving the AmeriCorps member experience for the young adults who serve at City Year and her commitment to not only excellence but also bringing a sense of joy and empathy to her work. The Staff Alumni Impact category honors two City Year staff members who have previously served as City Year AmeriCorps members.

Nicole has been with City Year for over 15 years. She first joined City Year New York as an AmeriCorps member from 2006-2007. Prior to serving as an AmeriCorps member, she graduated from Barnard College with a degree in American studies. Nicole is now the senior director of enterprise improvement on City Year’s National Analytics and Planning Team.

Making City Year service fun

Nicole wanted to do two things when she served with City Year New York as an AmeriCorps member. “It was 2006 and I believe that every kid needed to do two things, and those were paper mâché and tie dyeing.” These two activities weren’t “data driven” per se but simply things that brought Nicole joy when she was a child.

A group of smiling AmeriCorps members pose for a photo in front of cherry blossoms

“It might not have been the prettiest or the neatest. And the cleanup definitely had to start before lessons started, but my team and I figured it out and we pulled it off,” recalls Nicole. “I was able to bring something that brought me joy into the world that I spent 10 months in.”

Icon of a clipboard, ruler, pen and baseball with a teal circle accent

Ben Evanson (New York ‘19) is passionate about engineering, so he started an afterschool engineering club.

Since her service year, Nicole has worked as a City Year staff member, bringing the same sense of joy and leadership she had into the AmeriCorps experience.

Becoming an “architect” of the AmeriCorps member experience

Making sure that AmeriCorps members have the support they need to succeed with their students, partner teachers and teammates by elevating corps voice and concerns is among Nicole’s biggest contributions to the organization and the young adults who serve.

Bernadette Kirchstetter, former City Year vice president of operations, describes Nicole as a “prominent architect of the AmeriCorps member experience.”

City Year alums smiling for a photo

Nicole created an asset-based coaching model for impact managers so that AmeriCorps members can not only bring their strengths to the forefront of service but also experience continuous growth throughout the year. Nicole also designed and implemented the AmeriCorps member survey, a tool used to gain quarterly feedback to help improve the AmeriCorps member experience.

“City Year allows me to unapologetically care. I’ve learned when you unapologetically care, you ask questions and take the time to listen,” says Nicole. Nicole invites AmeriCorps members to share what they would like to change about City Year if they had a “magic wand.” Nicole isn’t afraid of the hard questions, from asking, “So when will corps members get to eat lunch?” to “Where are you going to be in 20 years and how can City Year help get you there?” But, more importantly, Nicole has helped design and integrate changes into City Year’s programming.

Nicole has also helped establish the second-year AmeriCorps member program, which allowed corps members to extend their service for another year. In FY22 (2021-2022), over 20% of the corps returned for another year of service, the highest percentage in City Year’s history.

City Year alum holding the level five leadership award

City Year Alumni Leadership Award winners must be nominated to be considered for the award. More than 20 people provided Nicole with a nomination. Here are a few things they shared about Nicole:

Nicole embodied authentic leadership, before it was the cool new buzzword.

Nicole is and always was a servant leader. She is confident and humble, all wrapped up in the perfect teaming.

Nicole is brilliant and makes everyone around her feel like they, too, can achieve anything.

Nicole does what is right for the students and communities we serve and never for the accolades. It’s easy to say what the right thing is, but it’s completely another thing to do it.

When I met Nicole in 2010, I knew that she would change my life and City Year for the better. Nicole’s that special person in your life who shows up as her authentic self, who isn’t afraid to share what she thinks and is always striving for the best. She brings a positive energy to her job and inspires others to make a positive change.

Learn more about our alums and how they continue to lead and serve.

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