Former Durham Academy and Duke Student Pens Children’s Book

Former Durham Academy and Duke Student Pens Children’s Book

Derek Rhodes hopes to inspire careers in public service with "Jimmy for the City" project

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Photo by Colin Huth, courtesy Durham Academy
Derek Rhodes with Durham Academy students Sol Dhungana, 10, and Diego Dhungana, 8, at his MLK Day book signing of “Jimmy for the City.” Photo by Colin Huth, courtesy Durham Academy

On top of working full time as the manager of innovation for the Miami Heat, Durham Academy alumnus Derek Rhodes has brought a passion project to life: writing, editing and publishing the children’s book “Jimmy for the City,” an inspiring tale about a 14-year-old boy who runs for city council.

Beyond sparking the interest of little ones to give back to their communities, Derek had other motivations for the project, too. Before graduating from Duke in 2015 with a degree in public policy, Derek interned twice in Washington D.C. – once with the justice department and once in the White House. Both times he was unpaid. “It was an amazing experience,” Derek says on a recent visit to Durham Academy, but he understands these opportunities can be quite a hardship on students: “D.C. is not cheap by any means,” he adds. In the spirit of giving back, Derek decided to fund a scholarship program in accordance with the message articulated through little Jimmy’s story and funded by the book’s profits.

Photo by Colin Huth, courtesy Durham Academy
Photo by Colin Huth, courtesy Durham Academy

“It’s the book I always wanted [growing up],” Derek says. There are a number of kid-to-president stories, but not many that center around local government like city council. And that’s what inspires Derek. “I hope to come back to Durham to work for local government here,” he says.

In the meantime, Derek will continue to invest in the greater good. After granting two $1,000 Jimmy for the City Scholarships in 2016, Derek hopes for another successful round of applicants in 2017. The application goes up in March, and awards are handed out at the end of April. And expect a sequel book, with driven Jimmy tackling a whole new adventure.

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Laura Zolman Kirk
Assistant Editor Laura Zolman Kirk is a Kentuckian turned North Carolinian who can't get enough of this buzzing community.