Introducing City Year Philly’s New Board Leadership: Kerri Strike-Stahller and Debby Kuhn
At the start of the new fiscal year, CYP welcomed Kerri Strike-Stahller and Debby Kuhn as our new Site Board Chair and Vice Chair, respectively. Learn more in our Q&A!
The commencement of a new service year brings exciting opportunities and changes. At the start of the current fiscal year in July, City Year Philadelphia (CYP) officially welcomed new leadership to our Site Board: Kerri Strike-Stahller as Board Chair and Debby Kuhn as Vice Chair. With a combined 20 years of experience as Board members, they also make CYP history as the first all-women leadership team to govern the Board.
Kerri is in her 14th year as a Board member and formerly served as Vice Chair. She first connected with City Year New York in 2007 through her former employer, T-Mobile, a national sponsor at the time. Two years later, she returned to Philadelphia for work and became involved with CYP.
Debby, in her 6th year on the Board, first learned about CYP through her son, who served as an AmeriCorps member during the 2014-15 school year. After his year of service, Debby and her family relocated from the suburbs to downtown Philadelphia, where she connected with a Board member who encouraged her to become more involved.
Read our Q&A with Kerri and Debby to learn more about their passion for CYP’s mission, their vision for the organization’s future, and what they are most eager to pursue in their new leadership roles.
Why are you passionate about CYP’s work? Why do you serve on the Board?
Kerri Strike-Stahller: Education is extremely important to me personally, but I also think it gives everyone an opportunity to be their best selves. Which is why I firmly believe in education equity, because I think it’s a fundamental resource that should be made available to everyone.
To me, what differentiates City Year from other organizations is that it has a “double win” for our education and workforce systems in Philadelphia. There’s a positive impact for the students we serve, and there’s also impact for our AmeriCorps members who serve as Student Success Coaches (SSCs). The experience these young adults gain is invaluable, and there have been so many alumni who have achieved great success because of their City Year service.
Debby Kuhn: Like Kerri, I’m passionate about education, and I see it as the door to almost anything that one wants to achieve in life. City Year Philadelphia is important to me because we can acknowledge that our city is on a journey toward educational equity. For me, serving on the CYP Board is a way to elevate and advance that journey, and to have meaningful impact right here in our city.
Kerri (pictured left) at our 2023 Red Jacket Gala, as she presents the Idealist of the Year Award to former Board Chair Arlin Green.
What are the most meaningful or impactful advances you’ve seen on the Board?
KSS: As I mentioned earlier, the Student Success Coaches and their professional development, and the skills they gain that allow them to go on and thrive professionally. And, in a partner school, just the joy when students come running to “their City Year”—meaning their SSC. You can just feel that joy, appreciation and collaboration among our AmeriCorps teams and their students.
DK: I would also add that we feel good about advancing our Board to be more reflective of the families and communities we serve. I’m excited about our intentional and ongoing Diversity, Belonging, Inclusion and Equity (DBIE) work, which helps us to learn about, more fully understand and celebrate our communities.
Kerri and Debby (pictured third and fourth from left) at CYP’s 2022 Women’s Leadership Luncheon, alongside fellow committee members and event speakers.
What are you most looking forward to in your new leadership role on the CYP Board?
KSS: For me, it’s to begin a more intentional effort of community engagement so that we, as a Board, can learn—from community leaders and members—what’s important for our students, families and neighborhoods. It’s important for us to have that perspective and ensure that our work is aligned with the community’s priorities and can have real impact. I’m looking forward to doing more of this intentional partnering in the coming years.
DK: That is also the number one thing that I’m looking forward to. We have evidence that City Year is successful in supporting students to improve their grades and get closer to graduation. Yet we do need to engage more meaningfully with our schools’ neighborhoods and communities and ask if we’re supporting the outcomes they want to see. I look forward to more engagement not just in one direction, but as a two-way dialogue with community members and other partners.
Also, I’m looking forward to making real effort in the next two years to prove the Board’s value to our students and their families, our AmeriCorps members and staff—reinforcing that we share in the core values of this organization, and that we serve to see them thrive in school, in work and in life.
If someone would like to learn more about or get involved with CYP, how should they start?
KSS: I recommend visiting City Year’s website and reading past news articles, as well as searching online to learn more about the organization. From there, if someone wants to get more involved, there are several ways to do so. We have a Site Board, an Associate Board for young professionals, several committees, work groups, and select volunteer opportunities that are open to the public. We also host fantastic events throughout the year, including our Women’s Leadership Luncheon coming in December and our Red Jacket Gala in May. When you start to learn about City Year, this organization shows its value, and you’ll want to take part and engage even more.
DK: Yes, to all of that. And I would say some of the responsibility is on us. As Board members and supporters of City Year, it’s our job to advocate and talk about the program as much as we can. That way, if someone hears about City Year, then sees a Student Success Coach on the street in their red jacket, they can connect and say, “Hey, I kind of know about City Year, but I’d like to learn more. Can we talk about it?”
Our Board, staff and Student Success Coaches are some of the best cheerleaders for this important work. So, pretty much any one of us is available for a conversation if you want to support and get involved with City Year.
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!
Keimahney Carlisle (pictured fourth, red jacket) writes about her experiences serving on City Year Philadelphia’s 2022-23 Civic Engagement team. ...Read more about Creating impact, one event at a time: Behind the scenes with CYP's Civic Engagement team
Cameron Cheatham, incoming 2023-24 City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps member, writes about his personal experiences that drew him to service. ...Read more about Ready to Serve: My Journey to City Year Philly
AmeriCorps members pose in front of the “I Love Philly” sign at LOVE Park, 2019. Making the decision to...Read more about The AmeriCorps Member Guide to Philadelphia
City Year Philly AmeriCorps members (clockwise from top left) Olivia Baptiste, Jianna Frei, Tomir Johnson, and Amina Khan speak about...Read more about Leadership After City Year: A Q&A with Four 2022-23 CYP Corps Members