City Year Alum Veronica Hennessey Veronica Hennessey

Hometown: San Jose, CA
University: San Jose State University
Service Years: 98-99 in San Jose, 99-00 in Philadelphia, Staff in San Jose 00-08


What made you want to serve with AmeriCorps? 

When I was a senior in high school, I knew that I would eventually go to college, but I also knew that I was not ready to go right away. One day City Year came to my school and did a presentation about taking a gap year. I remember being so excited that there were structured ways to “take a year off” and also earn money for college at the same time. I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to get experience working with at-risk children and youth and gain some valuable skills that I would be able to use later in my teaching career.

How did City Year guide you to where you are today?

The biggest way that City Year helped to guide me into my career was giving me the opportunity to validate what I knew from the beginning, I was meant to teach. Having the opportunity to work alongside teachers, parents, and students gave me a very eye-opening glimpse into the challenges and triumphs that teachers and students face on a daily basis. City Year helped to ignite the passion and the people that I met in City Year helped me to realize my potential as a leader and as an educator.

What is one pivotal moment from your year of service?

This is a hard one for me. I wish I had an inspiring story of working with a kid for weeks and then finally he gets it and comes running up to me showing me his A . . . Instead, a moment that  stands out for me really is actually one that I’m not proud of. I got caught breaking one of City Year’s rules, and I had to talk with my Program Manager, Elizabeth. I remember after that conversation I had never felt so awful in my entire life . . . and it was not because I was in trouble, it was because I had disappointed the one person who I admired the most. That was the moment I knew that I needed to focus on why I was there, focus on growing as a person and colleague and focus on my attention to the students and community I had the opportunity to be a part of.

I guess I would also say that another pivotal moment was the day I met my City Year crush and today I’m very lucky to call him my best friend and my husband.

What was your favorite part of serving? What was your greatest challenge during your year of service?

My favorite part of serving was knowing that I was part of something much bigger than myself. That was hard to see on a daily basis, it’s was hard to see when the student I had been working with seemed like he was never going to understand how to add fractions, and it was hard to see when I was tired of getting up at 7:00am to take a bus for 30 minutes to start my day with PT  . . . . but when I finally did see it, it is one of the most profound moments that would forever change the way I viewed my role as a global citizen and changed what I valued as a person.

What do you value most about your year of service?

What I value most about my service is the amazing, talented, and passionate people that came into my life that I know get to call some of my closest friends. It is not often that a person gets to be surrounded by people who share your values, passion, and drive to create change. It is electrifying . . . and it makes me so grateful everyday that these are the same people that I get to share my life with, and more importantly that my son, Leo, gets to share his life with. Seriously, just good people!

What did your year of service mean to you?

My year of service changed my life, and I know that it can sound cliché, but at 17 years old when I thought I knew so much (but didn’t) and I thought I had a plan (but didn’t) I had the opportunity for remarkable people to help me reach my potential, who encouraged me to constantly push myself, and held hold me accountable when I needed it the most.

Tell us a little about your current position.

Currently I am a 5th grade teacher for the San Jose Unified School District.

Do you have an advice for future AmeriCorps Members? 

Make the most of your year of service. When it gets hard, find someone who you can talk to and confide in. My single greatest regret in City Year is knowing that I did not give 100% my first year, and I spent the next nine years at City Year hoping to make that up – give everything you can, because when it is over you will be both happy and sad - happy you picked up what you could, and sad you did not pick up more.


If you enjoyed this piece, check out: 

Kevin Tucker City Year Alum

Building Community & Valuing People 

City Year Alum Winston Gap Year from my Engineer Career 


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