City Year Philly Love Stories
For many City Year Philadelphia (CYP) AmeriCorps members, the relationships formed through their year of service can have a lifechanging impact—whether it’s meeting lifelong friends, building a professional network or, in some cases, even finding romance.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’re excited to spotlight three CYP alumni couples whose love stories started with the red jacket and have grown even stronger since. We hope their stories will bring a smile to your face!
Kelly Batiancila (‘99, ‘00) & Neil Batiancila (‘00)
We each worked our way up in City Year, Kelly on the program side and eventually as the Talent Acquisition Director. Neil worked his way up through Development as he brought Serve-a-Thon to CYGP [City Year Greater Philadelphia] and then eventually served as Co-Executive Director. Neil ultimately served for 10 years, Kelly for 16. We both worked at City Year when it was still in “startup” mode. We saw it go through so many transitions, good and challenging! One of our best and most exhausting experiences was when Philadelphia hosted Cyzygy in 2002. Neil ran the massive playground build service event while Kelly served as the events director. Our staff worked literally 25 days straight. When we were married in 2004, we very seriously used our Q2Q skills learned at City Year to plan our wedding!
Neil and Kelly have three wonderful kids, all born while we were working at CYGP. Sam is 17, Nate is 15 and Sadie is 11. Every day, we use skills and values that we learned and honed while at City Year. One of the best things City Year does is trust in young people to do big things. Kelly didn’t know she could lead a training course or write a script for a fundraising gala. Neil didn’t know he could manage building five playgrounds in one day. But City Year believed in us and thousands of others who are now doing such amazing things to impact our world. We are grateful every day for City Year for bringing us together, for the dear friends we met, for the hard work we put in, and for all the staff and Corps members there today supporting so many students.
Laura Clinton & Omar Dudyk (‘08, ‘09)
We met as Corps members working on the same team but at different schools. Fortunately enough for both of us, we decided to come back for a second year as Team Leaders and often found ourselves working together at extra service and social events. The foundation of our relationship was knowing that the other person cared about others and the communities in which we served. Over the next 13 years, we built our professional careers based on our time of service.
Laura is in her ninth year teaching high school, and Omar works in community development for a large bank in Philadelphia. We were married in 2016 with several of our City Year Philadelphia teammates in attendance to help us celebrate. We live in Philadelphia with our 3-year-old son, Owen.
David Guzman & Claudia Toro (‘14, ‘15)
David and Claudia met in August 2014 when they gathered in a room to find out who would be serving in South Philadelphia High School for their second year of service. They had been circling each other at City Year Philadelphia for the entire year prior but had never interacted on a deeper level. One of their favorite parts of their story is that they respected each other as colleagues first, became friends second, and fell in love at last.
First impressions for the couple were interesting, to say the least. For Claudia, she remembers how David spoke little and appeared to be observing everything in the room before choosing what to elevate for everyone’s attention. For David, Claudia had always been the very smiley, loud team motivator and leader for certain City Year activities before galvanizing a room with her energy. Working together in classrooms helped them realize that their cordial and respectful spark could be something more.
And was it! By the time these two tie the knot, they will have been together nine years as couple. They have laughed and argued over Phillies vs. Dodgers baseball, and which Les Misérables understudy was the better singer. David and Claudia have lived together since 2017 and shared a desk during the pandemic shutdown.
Are you considering a year of service, or do you know someone who is? City Year Philly is currently hiring full-time tutors and mentors for the 2023-2024 school year. Click below to start your journey.
As a City Year Philadelphia (CYP) AmeriCorps member, it’s easy to get consumed in the day-to-day of service. Having hobbies...Read more about Passionate Journeys: Exploring AmeriCorps Members’ Interests Outside of Service
AmeriCorps members at Southwark School kicked off the 2022-23 school year with a free book fair to instill a love...Read more about City Year 101: Literacy Interventions and Tutoring
First-Year ACM Taryn Painter (back row, second from left) with her Kensington High School team. To support AmeriCorps members, City...Read more about Balancing a part-time job with your service year: A guide to working while serving
Students at Hartranft Elementary School eagerly greet City Year Philly AmeriCorps members. In this new ongoing series, we’ll take...Read more about City Year 101: Social-Emotional Learning and Mentorship