be_ixf;ym_202406 d_15; ct_100 YES! I want to make a difference TODAY!

Celebrating mentor and City Year alum Michael Stevens

City Year alum and staff member Michael Stevens, 2023 Staff Alumni Impact Award winner

A mentor and inspiration to countless young adults and colleagues, Michael Stevens was honored with a 2022 City Year Alumni Leadership Award for Staff Alumni Impact late last year. He is currently the senior vice president and executive director of City Year Washington, D.C., and as a proud Buffalo native, he served as City Year Buffalo’s founding executive director and startup director for nearly four years.

But Michael’s history with City Year and the impact he’s made on those he’s worked with stretches back much longer. Michael first joined City Year in 2006 as an AmeriCorps member at City Year Baton Rouge, and over the past 15 years, he has served in various staff roles in D.C., Jacksonville and on the National team.

“My time in Louisiana truly changed my life. My time in Jacksonville really helped me understand a new family and be able to see myself in a different way. Buffalo literally tested me in a way that no one ever could, but it also showed me that I’m capable of anything. And D.C. raised me. So, I got to say I’m proud to represent so many different communities.”

This spring, Michael became “Dr. Mike” when he earned his Doctor of Education degree in executive leadership from St. John Fisher University.

From AmeriCorps member to nonprofit leader

Prior to starting his service with City Year Baton Rouge, Michael thought he would be teaching kids.

But his corps experience opened his eyes to the variety of ways caring adults can support children and young adults—not only by becoming a classroom teacher but also through other roles, such as guidance counselor, school social worker, youth development practitioner, nonprofit leader and more.

“By the end of my year as an AmeriCorps member, I understood that the key to helping students learn and persist through challenges is through [building] positive relationships,” he said. Michael discovered that he not only has strong skills in building and maintaining positive relationships with students but also with AmeriCorps members and co-workers.

a group of City Year AmeriCorps members smiling with Bill Clinton

Gavin Ware is currently a managing director at City Year Washington, D.C., where he first met Michael in 2010 while serving as an AmeriCorps member and Michael was a staff member. Michael quickly became a friend, mentor and coach to Gavin.

“Mike is one of those people who notices people’s talents and builds them up,” Gavin says. “He told me he saw so much potential in me, and he wanted to invest in me. I couldn’t be more appreciative of that.”

line drawing of three City Year AmeriCorp Members with a red accent

Gavin Ware and AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith discuss the power of young people.

During City Year’s Alumni Leadership Awards ceremony, Michael immediately recognized many audience members on the Zoom call. “I’m honored because the people that I see on this call represent a great legacy of this organization,” Michael shared.

“I see people that I used to do their timesheets and see where they are now. To see folks who used to say, ‘one day I want to be in law school,’ and now they’re lawyers who are not just taking cases but also mentoring future lawyers. Shoutout to Julie. Or I think about people who have gone on to other organizations and then come back to City Year. Shoutout to Gavin. Or people who do great work here and then go on working as consultants. Shoutout to Neils. I got to see some of y’all grow since day one. It makes me so proud.”

Mentoring young people

At his core, Michael is a mentor.

“I’m literally doing what God put me on this planet to do right now, to be able to help shine a light on some amazing young people,” Michael says. “This doesn’t feel like work to me. Every day I do this, it just feels right.”

a group of City Year Buffalo staff members smiling at the camera

Not only has Michael been able to see AmeriCorps members complete service and blossom into young professionals, but he has also witnessed students later become AmeriCorps members themselves.

“The City Year D.C. team at Stanton Elementary right now is in the same room that my team was in 14 years prior. And now they have kids who were in that room who are now serving. This doesn’t happen by accident.”

Michael also hosts a podcast called, “Coaching for Changemakers of Color.” He describes himself and guest speakers as “coaches” who share their perspective and advice for people of color who are making an impact in their communities. The podcast has discussed topics from mentoring, mental health and being a young adult. Past guest speakers include City Year Little Rock Chief of Staff Jeremy Hill, TEDx Speaker Dr. Abby Hamilton and undergraduate student Angela Stevens.

Congratulations Michael and thank you for an incredible 15 years with City Year.

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