News & Media

August 5, 2015

Derby '10 Dedicates Life to Service

Sociology major Susanna Derby '10 has always loved helping people through community service. She currently serves as a FoodCorps service member and helps with a garden program at an elementary school in New Mexico.

Susanna Derby '10

Susanna Derby '10 had a love for community service and engagement from a young age, so it seems like a no-brainer that the Emmanuel alum's path led her to serving her own community as a FoodCorps service member in New Mexico.

FoodCorps is a team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them live healthy lives. Through FoodCorps, Derby works with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, whose mission is to work in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native communities to raise their health status, self-sufficiency and health leadership to the highest level.  Derby was placed at the Santo Domingo Pueblo School and helps with the Edible School Gardens Program that teaches a nutrition and science curriculum focusing on gardening and health to students in grades three to five.

By organizing school-wide events, Derby has helped mobilize the school community in becoming more aware of its health through activities such as taste-testing new foods and hands-on gardening. One particular event that Derby facilitated was the school's Earth Day Celebration in April 2015 that included educational, fun and earth-friendly practices such as a community-led outdoor carnival, planting, building compost beds, music, art and recycling and drug education.

Derby is "excited to have the opportunity to participate in other community's cultures, supporting social justice and community-organizing work wherever [I] am able. It has been a privilege and honor to serve with the Pueblo this year. [I] look forward to continuing to support the education and growth of youth through a place-based, community-supported perspective on serving others throughout [my] life."

As a sociology major, Derby said she was able to root her studies in service. During her time at Emmanuel, Derby was a Peace First teacher where she helped traine teachers in social emotional learning across Title 1 schools in Boston. While learning about social stratification and class differences in her studies, Derby became interested in the history of apartheid and chose to study abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she dove into the reality of post-apartheid Cape Town. In South Africa, she also volunteered with a local nonprofit to encourage open-dialogue practices around conflict between youth.

"This transformed [my] paradigm of communication, community organizing and peace and conflict. Inspired by this nation of change to continue this anti-racism and community building work within [my] own nation, [I] returned to the States and ventured to the Southwest," Derby said.

When she arrived in Albuqueque in the fall of 2010, Derby became an AmeriCorps service member with the VSA North Fourth Arts Center. She worked as a community outreach member with children and adults, including individuals with disabilities. This position inspired her to continue teaching, so she ventured to Thailand where she taught ESL at a primary school. She also learned about the country's agriculture while living there,which led to volunteer work on local farms in Hawaii, Japan and Cambodia before retuning to New Mexico.

In June, all of Derby's community-based work and volunteer efforts were recognized at the 21st annual Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards in Albuquerque. The awards are given to the youth of New Mexico who make a difference in the community through advocacy or community service work; it is named in honor of Amy Biehl, who was killed in 1993 at the age of 26 in a race riot while working in South Africa to end apartheid. Derby was a second-place award winner and received $500.

Derby continues to be an active member in her own neighborhood and is eager to share her passion for helping others, growing food and building community at FoodCorps.