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City Year Philly Love Stories (part 2)

Many City Year Philadelphia (CYP) alumni credit their year of service with transforming their lives, leading to lasting friendships, newfound career passions, and sometimes even romance. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we’re thrilled to showcase five CYP alumni couples who not only said “I do” to the red jacket, but also to each other. Their stories are sure to bring a smile to your face!

If you missed it, be sure to check out last year’s Valentine’s Day feature to read about three more alumni couples.


Liz (’12, ’13) & Tim Galaz (’11, ’12)

We met in 2011 during our Team Leader year. Tim was returning for his second year with CYGP, and Liz was a brand-new Team Leader learning the ropes. Tim insists it was love at first sight. Liz took a little more convincing. We became friends quickly as we served at the same school, Edison High School, as co-Team Leaders. Although we were working side-by-side we were still eager to spend more time together. Tim often took Liz’s bus route home—adding an hour on to his commute. Liz often signed them up for more service opportunities after hours and on weekends.

Our relationship deepened as we spent each day supporting our team, the school community, and each other. We credit our shared values and this intense yet rewarding experience with setting a strong foundation for a lasting relationship built on trust, communication, and service.

After serving together, Liz continued a career with City Year and ultimately served 9 years in both program and development before transitioning to working for the federal government—first directly for AmeriCorps and now for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Tim went to law school at Villanova. He now works in PwC’s tax-exempt organizations practice and also serves with some fellow City Year alums on the board of Joyful Readers, Inc.

We were married in 2017 with many of our close friends that we met through City Year in attendance. We now have two lively toddlers, Zoë and Max, who love to hear the story of “how mom and dad met.”


John Coates (’13, ’14) & Mairin Matthews (’13)

Mairin and John met at Temple University in 2009. We both worked at Jimmy John’s on 15th & Cecil B. Moore (RIP). She was a junior, and he was a sophomore. Though friends at first, we eventually began dating just before she graduated. After graduating, Mairin joined the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and moved to Sacramento to live full-time with a team of AmeriCorps members supporting different projects up and down the West Coast. We decided to try and make long-distance work.

Through unlimited Blackberry messaging and a pair of visits, John saw Mairin and her incredible teammates make real change in communities that needed it most. Mairin inspired John to try and make an impact in the city he grew to love. After completing her year of NCCC, Mairin moved back to Philly, and we served the following year together at City Year Philadelphia. At the year’s end, John was asked to co-host CYP’s Graduation as an emcee and got to announce Mairin winning the Greatness Award, bringing her up on stage in front of our moms in the audience. John later spent almost 10 years working at City Year Philly in different capacities, and Mairin served for 5 years on CYP’s Associate Board.

Mairin and John got married in 2018 with the help of wedding planner and former City Year New York staffer Emmanuel Paul Sterling, and John’s 2017-18 Civic Engagement (#SheE) team’s support. Last month we welcomed our baby girl, McKenna, to our home in South Philly. We have City Year to thank for many of our closest friends and mentors, and we hope that someday McKenna can say the same.


Geneva Sloan (’16, ’17) & Star Taylor (’15, ’16)

Star saw Geneva from across the room in UPenn’s cafeteria and everything she thought she knew began to shift. While wearing the infamous City Year khakis, Star interrupted a conversation Geneva was having with friends and introduced herself. Star would say it was love at first sight, Geneva would say love was in the air. Later that week, in a teambuilder, City Year asked everyone to find someone they had never talked to and go on an “Ubuntu Walk.” Star knew she had talked to Geneva before, but that didn’t stop her from finding Geneva in a crowd of over 200 people and asking her if she would be her Ubuntu buddy. They walked to Starbucks together and they’ve been walking together ever since. Now, when they take walks, it involves a leash and their dog Hendrix.


Elise Beyeler & Liam Cummings (’15, ’16)

We met while serving at W.D. Kelley Elementary School together. We worked together often, and quickly fell into the same friend group. By the end of the year, we spent most of our spare time together. One day, our friends ditched our group plans, and we ended up going to an arena football game alone. We had a great time together and realized there was something more. We both came back for a Senior Corps year and then we did long distance while Liam finished school and Elise worked on CYP staff.

Meeting on the same service team forged a strong bond that only grew over time. We knew at once we had core values in common, and that we loved spending time together (even during days of service). Eight years later we were married in 2023 (we didn’t rush!). Now, we live in Southern California with our cat.


Eli & Jazzmin Prosper (’17, ’18)

Jazz and Eli met on the 3rd day of Freshman Orientation at Ohio Christian University. She walked over and asked, “Is this seat taken?” shared her name, and our friendship began from there. We shared a class, where Eli learned that she spelled her name with “Two Z’s” and the rest was history.

In the summer leading up to senior year, we were young, nervous, and clueless about what was next in life. The previous year a student left our school to do a gap year in a service organization in Philly. This came to mind as we were thinking of our next steps. One day we called each other, simultaneously sharing the words “I have something to tell you” followed by “I’m applying to City Year.” We both decided to serve without telling each other. Jazz decided to apply to Columbus while Eli applied to Philly. The Columbus site had issues with their servers, and recruiters automatically deferred to her second choice – home of the Rocky Steps, Philadelphia.

Fast forward two years, we were co-leading BLAC (Black & Latinx Affirmative Collective) to its first DC experience, leading teams, and serving side by side. City Year helped us share more time, share common goals, and have relatable experiences fueled by a desire to serve. It showed me how serious we were about being quality civilians in this world. Now, we’re both in some form of education in Philadelphia, attending Galas, and people-watching Corps members as we reminisce at events that helped to shape our professionalism.


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 2024-2025 school year. Start your journey today!

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