City Year love usually blossoms when idealistic, attractive young people come from different corners of the country, work long hours side-by-side on noble projects as part of a national movement, and then both feel that spark burst through their sleep deprivation and poor diet. That spark prompts them to think to themselves, “Is this cute idealist next to me someone I could spend the rest of my life with?”
The City Year love story of Mark and Veronica Hennessey is no different. The noble project was cyzygy, City Year’s national convention of idealism that unified sites from around the country and the globe to cap of a powerful year of service. The site was Little Rock, Arkansas. The poor diet was barbecue. Lots of barbecue.
Mark served as a corps member with City Year Washington, D.C. in 2001-02, His year had some great moments, but as he traveled to Philadelphia for his own cyzygy, he felt like he didn’t make the impact during his corps year that he had hoped he would. He wanted to do more. That first cyzygy experience was amazing. He loved the energy, the passion, the shout outs for each site, even the PT. His cyzygy service day provided the transformational impact that he had been seeking. He spent all day building a softball field at a local park. At the end of the day, he even practiced with a local team on the new field in his Timberland boots. Amidst all that energy, across the quad one day, he spotted a really cute girl sporting the yellow jacket of CY San Jose. She was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Too bad he was too chicken to talk to her though…
Veronica (then Veronica Ruiz) was in Philly that day for her 4th cyzygy. She was a staff member in the award-winning Recruitment department at City Year San Jose, after corps years in San Jose (98-99) and Philly (99-00). Veronica stayed in recruitment with CY San Jose for three more years when she responded to the leadership opportunity to help run cyzygy registration in Little Rock. And as luck would have it, she would work closely for two weeks with the Operations Manager, a former corps member who still thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world.
Those two weeks together in Little Rock would lead to Mark moving across the country from Boston to be with Veronica in San Jose. They got married a few years later, and are now expecting their first child in June. They both stayed with City Year for a while. Mark went to graduate school for school counseling and now works at Pioneer High School providing mentoring and counseling to a small but great group of sophomores there. He hopes to become a full-time counselor soon. Veronica fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher, and teaches 5th grade at Simonds Elementary in San Jose. They both try to incorporate lessons from their City Year experiences into their work lives, whether it’s by showing students how everyone’s perspective and input are important or by encouraging students to get involved in service to their communities. And they remain active in the City Year community as well. They met their best friends through City Year. Mark regularly plays basketball with alums and current corps members, and they recently hosted dinner for a group of corps members. No barbecue allowed.