by Katie Sloan

Katie Sloan is a member of The Impact Cup’s winning team and a Highmark emplyee. First issued in Pittsburgh Business Times, read Katie’s thoughts below.

Stephanie Sciullo with the winning Impact Cup team

It’s not very often you get to engineer, collaborate and pitch ideas that can create real change in the community. So when United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania was seeking participants for a new project to do just that… it was almost impossible to not raise my hand.

I quickly learned that some of the greatest opportunities can come from raising your hand.

United Way of SWPA’s Bridges Society hosted The Impact Cup, an eight-week challenge that convened teams of young and mid-career professionals to create a project generating greater awareness around United Way’s PA 211 Southwest with a total budget of $50,000.

Working for a large company like Highmark, it can be hard to get out of your own circle. Myself and my team members, Miles Urban, Tishanna Lewison and Shatara Murphy, were strangers before this opportunity. Now, we’re not only coworkers, but friends. Better still? We’re the winners of the inaugural Bridges Impact Cup and will see our project, “211: Pass It On,” funded and implemented.

As the challenge began, United Way provided us with more support than we could have imagined. Each team was assigned a mentor and we were lucky to have Stephanie Scuillo, MSA Safety Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Affairs, as ours. Stephanie kept us grounded and helped guide our decisions. She was truly instrumental in helping us bring our vision to life.

We also met Cinda Watkins, Senior Director of PA 211 Southwest, who provided us with reports and data to inform our project. She reviewed the basics and was open about the challenges 211 faces. Before this, I didn’t realize the full scope of services that 211 provided. Afterward, our team walked out as experts and created “211: Pass It On” by understanding what was most important.

Experiences from each member of our team helped build the project. Personally, my children were my inspiration. After learning about basic human needs in school, they asked me: “Mom, not everyone has those things. What can we do to help?”

I didn’t have an answer until now.

About halfway through, I remember looking around and realizing everything we had learned and how much creativity this challenge had unlocked within us. With seven competing teams from the top companies in the SWPA region brainstorming in one room, the energy was contagious.

Everyone brought something special to the table. Miles used his implementation and execution background to keep us organized. Shatara’s community engagement experience was vital in helping us truly understand what is going on in our community. Being a clinician, Tishanna used her understanding of Health Equity to help us create an approach that would really connect with people. And I work within Highmark’s Medicaid group, so my experience with underserved members helped inform our ideas even more.

At the close of the experience, we were given the opportunity to use our new leadership skills and showcase the innovative thinking that went into our project by presenting to a number of CEOs, local leaders and United Way board members.

Together, we leveraged our connections and expertise to create something special. Because of The Impact Cup, I got to build connections within Highmark, with United Way, with 211 and with a mentor who I admire. I learned from all of these incredible people and grew as a young professional and leader in the process.

This unique experience reminded me how important it is to use your voice and engage with the community. It reminded me to step out of my comfort zone. It reminded me to believe that the way you do something is equally as important as what you do.

It reminded me to just raise my hand. Will you raise yours?

You can read Katie Sloan’s Pittsburgh Business Times article here.