Rising Star: Temwa Phiri

Temwa Phiri in detail

Age: 31.

Job title/occupation/place of employment: City of Dubuque Community Engagement Coordinator with the Office of Shared Prosperity and Neighborhood Support department.

Volunteer activities:

  • Black Men Coalition.
  • Dubuque Dancing With The Stars.
  • Multicultural Family Center.
  • Neighborhood Association: Jackson Park clean up; Convivium open mic night; NICC career fair.
  • The Collective BIPOC Business Network.
  • Dubuque Regional Airport.
  • Dubuque Civil Air Patrol.

Education: Bachelor of Science in health wellness. Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Masters of education in higher education student personnel

Family: Sons, Taiyza and Kahri.

Person most inspirational to me and why: The most inspiring person in my life would be my mother Ngao Phiri. She is a woman grounded in faith and family. She raised four boys in a country she was not familiar with, redid her college education due to country standards, is a present mother and a community champion. My mother instilled in us resiliency, courage, integrity, love, servant leadership and faith. My mom continues to be an impact in so many people’s lives in our hometown and that is something that always has left an impression on me. Her desire is to help others. My mother is my rock and my No. 1 cheerleader in life. Her humor livens up the spaces she is in. Her assertiveness in hard times gives an assuring confidence that everything will be OK. She has always encouraged and pushed me to invest in myself so I can become the best version of myself. My mom is my inspiration. My Shero.

Favorite thing to do outside of work:

  • Praying.
  • Spending time with my kids.
  • Cooking/eating.
  • Kickboxing.
  • Hanging out with friends.
  • Serving/volunteering.

One word to describe me: Energetic.

What’s one thing that most people would be surprised to know about you: I am indecisive when it comes to ordering food.

Greatest fear: Not fulfilling my purpose. I fear being more impressive than impactful.

What’s the one thing you are most passionate about in your life: I am passionate about my kids and them having access to a future full of equitable opportunities to be who they choose to be rather than influenced by society.

Temwa Phiri, City of Dubuque

Temwa Phiri, the City of Dubuque’s community engagement coordinator, was humbled when he learned he would be a Rising Stars award recipient.

“I’m just really passionate about serving others and being there any way I can, doing my part in the community, just being a positive contributor,” Phiri said.

He’s worked with the city for three years, and previously was with the Dubuque Community School District and worked with at-risk youth.

While his passion included connecting area youth to resources, an issue that would emerge was what resources were available after graduation.

That led to the community engagement position, in which he oversees the City Life program that gives residents a closer look at city operations.

Phiri said City Life has been an opportunity to connect with community members looking to be more civically engaged.

“What’s really what’s been great is seeing how they look at the community differently and how they actually interact with it,” he said.

Phiri said he considers City Life his best community engagement project. In addition to participants and community members connecting with each other, the project also has resulted in some people joining city boards and commissions or running for elective office.

“I’m proud of being able to offer something like that for people that they could see more in themselves, how they could make a difference,” Phiri said.

City Manager Mike Van Milligen nominated Phiri for the Rising Stars award and said in the nomination letter that he’s a “dynamic young professional” committed to Dubuque.

“When he is not working, you can find Temwa connecting with our young adults and/or marginalized communities, empowering them to be the change they want to see in their community,” Van Milligen wrote.