(Photo: The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care team draws for a raffle as they host a math night for their school community.)

By Sarah Kowalski, AmeriCorps member serving on the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care team with Hennigan K-7 School

My name is Sarah Kowalski. I proudly serve on the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care team with the Hennigan K-7 School in Jamaica Plain.

As a City Year Boston AmeriCorps member, I use this introduction whenever I stand to speak in a group. Before attending a meet and greet event with my team sponsor, though, only the Hennigan K-7 part of the speech really made sense. I spend long hours every day in the school and have come to know every corner of the building and the community, but all I knew about Harvard Pilgrim Health Care was that it was a reputable local insurance company.

It was with this uncertainty about our connection to our sponsor that my team and I piled into a bus that would take us to the office of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Wellesley, MA.

After we arrived, we were directed to a conference room where we treated with an impressive spread of sandwiches and sat down to talk to, well, people.  We knew their brand and they knew ours, but in that space we were nothing more than people sitting down together and chatting over lunch. The human connection became apparent as we all began to share our stories. For example, one of my team members, Lizzie, discovered that a Harvard Pilgrim employee attended a City Year partner school, the Blackstone Innovation School, is currently working on her undergraduate degree at Cambridge College, and is a volunteer translator at hospitals. Another team member, Anna, talked to a Harvard Pilgrim employee who used to serve with City Year on the Boston Civic Engagement team.

We then were presented with a panel of individuals who worked at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. They shared their career trajectories with us. These trajectories had two common threads. One, that they are motivated to continue their work based on the company’s dedication to their clients. Two, that they all love working at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a work environment that is supportive and collaborative.

I personally connected with one of the Harvard Pilgrim employees who mentioned during the panel that she had a background in theater. Her explanation of how stage management had helped to prepare her for a career in program management reminded me of my own experience doing set design at the University of California San Diego.  When approached her after the panel and told her that I also did theater in college, we shared a look of mutual understanding for the punishing workload and constant crises that we had both experienced.  Even though we were different in age and career paths, I felt that we could really understand and respect the work that the other had done through our common experiences.  

Now when I stand and say my team sponsor, I have some faces the come to my mind.  Those people are connected to me by more than a name in a speech or even a financial gift, they are people that I was able to relate to on a human level and that I can be proud to represent in my service.

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