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Spotlight on CYP Team Leaders, Tessa Hannigan and Emilio Weber

Team Leaders Tessa Hannigan (Sullivan Elementary School) and Emilio Weber (Blaine School) share their experiences serving with City Year Philly and why they’re excited to return as Team Leaders.


City Year Philadelphia’s 2021-22 service year officially launched earlier this month! Our AmeriCorps members have been hard at work attending pre-service training sessions at Summer Learning Institute, getting to know their new teams, and preparing to enter the school buildings for the first day of school on August 31.

AmeriCorps members who return to City Year for a second year of service have a number of special leadership opportunities available to them, including the chance to serve as a Team Leader (TL). Team Leaders serve on school teams, support and coach a team of first-year AmeriCorps members, and work closely with the City Year Impact Manager, school administrators, and partner teachers to help ensure the success of students.

To kick off this service year, we spoke with two of our new Team Leaders, Tessa Hannigan (they/them, Sullivan Elementary School) and Emilio Weber (he/him, Blaine School). Read our Q&A to learn more about how serving with City Year has shaped their personal and professional growth, why they’re excited to serve as Team Leaders, and words of wisdom for first-year AmeriCorps members.


What drew you to wanting to serve with City Year Philadelphia for another year as a Team Leader?

Tessa: My teachers and mentors in school have been some of the most important people in my life. These individuals had kindness, respect, intelligence, playfulness and, maybe most importantly, belief in me. I first applied to City Year because I wanted to be part of offering every child the education and support that is their right. I am returning because I still want to do that! It has been a gift to work with folks who have conviction in the power of young people and who love working with others. Shout out to my TLs last year, Ty and Bri—I want to show up for incoming Corps members the way they did for me.

Emilio: I wanted to come back as a Team Leader because of the strong community I had in my first Corps year last year. I want the chance to be a part of and to help create a team community that is focused on working strongly together in a school!


How has your time as a City Year AmeriCorps member strengthened your leadership skills, or any other skills? Is there anything new or surprising that you’ve learned about yourself as a leader?

Tessa: This past year, I created and shared education about gender identity and pronouns with my students and school last year. I had not spearheaded a learning program this big before, and it was an exciting opportunity. Students asked me questions about it throughout the year. I learned that, even though it can be intimidating for me to teach a topic that is close to my heart, it is also very fun and rewarding and opens the doors to learn even more about it from others.

Last year, we all faced the challenge of building significant relationships with students online. The isolation that students were experiencing established connections and relationships as top priorities. I was surprised at how important dance routines, poem writing, and put-yourself-out-there improv games were to my work with 4th graders last year. I learned that there are many ways to let students know they can be themselves and be embraced as they are.

Emilio: There have been lots of opportunities to practice and reflect on my leadership skills and what I can bring to a community. The leadership clover has been an especially valuable tool to help figure out how to lead in different situations. I’ve learned how to be flexible and adaptable in unfamiliar situations, which has proven incredibly valuable in my time with City Year.

“A piece of advice that helped me a lot was, ‘Your students need you to be you.’ They need you to be genuine and consistent. They need you to be willing to make mistakes and apologize and fully believe in them.” -Tessa Hannigan

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Tessa: I’m looking forward to working with my team to create meaningful activities and opportunities for youth. I am also very excited to build and run our afterschool program as a team, drawing on everyone’s strengths to create a fun and useful space.

Emilio: I’m most looking forward to actually being in a school building this fall and developing relationships with the school community!


What advice would you give to incoming first-year AmeriCorps members?

Tessa: A piece of advice that helped me a lot was, “Your students need you to be you.” They need you to be genuine and consistent. They need you to be willing to make mistakes and apologize and fully believe in them. Stay in touch with why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you will be in for an incredible year!

Emilio: My advice would be to, as Bruce Lee would say, “Be water, my friend.” Which just means to be able to go with the flow and be flexible, and maintain your values!


City Year Philly is currently accepting applications for our mid-year term of service! This full-time role begins in December and continues through the end of the school year in June. Learn more and apply:


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