Young Professionals United Blog


Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . Change.

Happy summer friends! We made it through another bleak winter to bask in these glorious few months of patios, lakes, bonfires, and sunshine. Summers in Minnesota are my true love, and one of the reasons I can’t imagine leaving this state anytime soon.

Six years ago, I was preparing to move to Central Minnesota and start college. I lived in South Dakota my whole life, and only visited Minnesota a handful of times before deciding to spend the next chapter of my life here. It was a time of excitement, but also anxiety and sorrow. Saying goodbye to the friends I’d made, and the only home I’d known was a tough process.
I find myself in a very similar situation this summer, on the brink of another chapter. In August, I’ll be moving to St. Paul, and pursuing new opportunities and adventures. I never imagined three years ago when I accepted this job how much I’d come to love the St. Cloud community and the people. Working here at United Way of Central Minnesota has been an honor, privilege, and darn good time. I have been blessed with coworkers and supervisors who made me feel competent and valued, and I had the opportunity to work with campaign advocates, volunteers, and donors who inspired me with their generosity and love for their neighbors.


Here are some of my favorite memories from my time at United Way:
  • My Kick Summer Hunger Snapchat filter.
  • Girl Scout cookie delivery day, and any day that someone brought in donuts.
  • Weeks in October when I spent two hours at my desk and the rest at companies serving tacos and facilitating games of Punch-A-Bunch.
  • Office pranks, quality control projects, and forced staff bonding opportunities like zip-lining and roller-skating.
  • Lunchtime games of Rack-O.
  • Volunteering at Toys for Tots with Young Professionals United.
  • Meetings at Capital One (featuring generously donated coffee cards).
  • Summertime By George beer garden duty for Rotaract.
  • Eating more popcorn than anyone should consume at Howie’s and the White Horse during happy hour.
  • Volun-telling so many of you to join cabinets, committees, and groups, and making wonderful friends in the process.
Thank you for welcoming me to this community with open arms and making it so difficult to leave. I am so proud of the work we did, and I can’t wait to see how our young professional efforts continue to grow and make this community a better place for everyone.

Follow your dreams and believe in yourselves.


Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . Journeys.

In the span of three weekends in March, I visited four states. I road-tripped with a group of friends to Madison, Wisconsin; flew to Austin, Texas on a last minute whim; and drove home to Rapid City, South Dakota to celebrate Easter and attend my newest nephew’s baptism in Wyoming. I truly enjoy traveling, both to see brand new cities and to return to familiar places I love. Especially around this time of year, when it seems that spring will never arrive and we’ll be trudging through snow and slush forever, I get the itch to take off. I’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty amazing travel experiences in my life, and there’s no doubt that those adventures have made me who I am and shape both my professional and personal life.

Growing up, my family spent a few weeks every summer in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I loved driving over the winding mountain roads that led to adventures like white water rafting, horseback riding, and hiking. When I look back on my favorite road trips, I always think of the drives listening to John Denver. The first time I traveled by myself was the summer after sixth grade, when I went to a weeklong summer camp six hours away from home. I wish I could say that I was a mature and well-adjusted 12-year-old who could handle seven days away from home. I wasn’t, and I cried the whole time. I’m a better traveler now (though I’m not immune to the occasional bout of homesickness) and didn’t let this experience stop me from taking on some bigger risks, like going out of state for college or studying abroad in South Africa.

The four months I spent in Port Elizabeth, South Africa during the spring of 2015 were impactful, challenging, and the best of my life. I got to live across the street from the Indian Ocean, attend classes with thieving monkeys running around campus, and volunteer with two awesome nonprofit organizations. Traveling to and within South Africa taught me a lot about myself and the world around me. It’s where I learned that my mindset as a volunteer should be one of solidarity, not savior. I learned that I am not a good navigator in any situation (if I tell you to go left, go right) and that I enjoy fundraising if it’s for something I feel passionately about (hello future career path!).

Returning home after any kind of travel, whether it be a weekend away with friends or living abroad for months, is always bittersweet for me. There’s a great big world out there to see and explore, but there’s something to be said for the comfort and familiarity of home. I’m glad that I’ve chosen to make my home here in Central Minnesota, and I’m eternally grateful to have the chance to work with passionate and generous young professionals who want to make our community a better home for all of us. Millennials might love to travel, myself included, but I think it’s important to note that no matter how far we go, young professionals here in Central Minnesota are helping make this area a place we want to come back to.

Until next time!

Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . Goals for the future.

Happy 2018 everyone!! I cannot believe we’ve already made it through January. It’s been a month of highs and lows for me. I went to Mexico to watch some of my best friends get married – a pretty great way to start off the new year – but I also almost broke my entire apartment complex by turning off the heat while on said vacation . . . We’ll chalk it up to a learning experience.
However crazy my month started off, we still have 11 more months of 2018 to go, and, like most of you, I haven’t been able to avoid the question regarding my New Year’s resolutions. I have conflicting feelings about New Year’s resolutions. On one hand, the idea of “New year, new me” seems like a lot of work. I don’t want to be a new me! I’ve had a hard enough time figuring out who I am and who I want to be without trying to drastically change that person once a year.
On the other hand, there is something so hopeful and optimistic about resolutions. What other time of the year has people talking about what they’re going to do to make their lives or the lives of people around them better? So while I still struggle with the pressure of resolution-setting, I think there are benefits to reflecting on our lives and mindfully setting some goals to make our lives more fulfilling.
Here are a few of the goals/resolutions I have for 2018:
  1. Travel to at least one new country
  2. Start a journal and actually keep up with it
  3. Apply to graduate school (or at least decide on a graduate program)
  4. Practice living in the moment and worry about the future less (aka chill out a little)
  5. Become an amateur expert on black holes
  6. Bake the perfect homemade coconut cream pie
  7. Raise $20,000 for summer meal programs at our kickball tournament, Kick Summer Hunger
I’ve already accepted that not all of these are going to happen (black holes are pretty complicated). I won’t consider it a failure if I can’t check every single one of these off my list next December 31st. However, I want this list to be something I keep with me all year, not just something I publish in a blog about resolutions and then promptly forget about. I think we all understand that life comes at us like a foot to the face at a trampoline park (a lesson learned the hard way my sophomore year of college), so let’s be fair with ourselves while still trying to be the best versions we can be.
Maybe one of your resolutions is volunteering more, running a marathon, or calling your mom more often. Maybe you have a grand dream of being rejected by Simon Cowell on a stage (an ultimate goal of a friend) or you just want to spend more time with dogs. Who cares what it is . . . I just hope that you take some time to think about what you want out of life in this coming year and dive in!
Cheers to a 2018 that brings happiness and fulfillment to all of us!

Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . winter magic.

Happy holidays! While winter is not exactly my favorite season, this time of year still fills me with happiness and expectation, just like it did when I was a kid waking up at 5 a.m. to open presents. A week after Halloween this year, I was already dreaming of the upcoming holidays. My tree went up in mid-November, and I’ve been playing holiday music for weeks now. I love looking at the lights on houses, making the best of the early-arriving darkness. And as much as I’ll resent the snow in March, I have to admit that there is something absolutely magical about watching big fluffy flakes of snow fall to the ground and cover everything in their path.
Now that I’m an “adult” (though the jury’s still out on that one), I do find it more difficult to embrace the magic of the holidays that came so easily as a child. This time of year can get overwhelming. Between worrying about gifts, various holiday party planning, traveling, and end-of-year craziness at work, it would be so easy to forget why I love this time of year. Below are some things I prioritize to stay sane and appreciate the beauty of the season.
1. Have fun and remember what it was like to be a kid.
When I was little, there was nothing better than suiting up in approximately 17 layers of clothing and winter gear and braving the cold to play in the snow. We would play for hours in our yard, building snow forts and refusing to come inside until frostbite was imminent. Last year, my friends and I went tubing, ice skating, and really anything that made us remember just how fun winter can be. A Minnesota winter is going to be long and cold and snowy whether I complain about it or not, so I might as well have some fun with it.
2. Sloooow it down and take care of yourself.

I received some advice in college that I try to keep in mind, especially in the height of the holidays: “Busy” is not a state of being to aspire to or glorify. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the “I’m busier” game with friends and family, but I make it a goal to prioritize rest and self-care. My roommate loves being active 24/7, and that’s great for her. But if you’re like me and recharge with downtime – embrace it! I can’t wait to take a week off in between Christmas and New Years and spend a lot of that time watching movies in my pj’s all day. Caveat: I have only one job and no children. For those of you with kids . . . you have my admiration but not my envy this holiday season.
3. Be thankful and think of others.
Last year I watched my nieces and nephew attack their presents like wild animals ravaging a gazelle, and it made me think about how tough this time of year is for some of our neighbors. Young Professionals United will be volunteering at Catholic Charities’ Toys for Tots distribution on December 19, where we’ll get the opportunity to help local families choose gifts for their kids and make their holidays a little easier. We’ve set a big goal of recruiting 50 young professionals for this event, register here if you are interested in volunteering.
Thanks for letting me share my musings with you. I hope your holiday season is filled with joy, great food and safe travels.

Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . mentors.

“How did I get here?” Every October, I find myself questioning how the summer went by so quickly, lamenting the fact that soon I’ll have to put away my sandals, beach bag and carefree summer attitude and replace them with boots, a car scraper, and a serious case of the winter blues. A Minnesota fall is something to be admired, but I have a hard time enjoying it because I’m too busy pretending to be Ned Stark from Game of Thrones proclaiming, “Winter is coming.”
However, this October, I am challenging myself to think about this question with a different attitude. I’m pretty lucky to be experiencing another October working for an organization I love and feel passionately about, living in a safe and stable home, with a huge support system of friends and family only a phone call, text, or drive away. “How did I get here?” I’m here because so many people provided me with the support and tools I needed to follow my dreams. This month, I want to acknowledge and thank the mentors who help me get here.
My first and most important mentors have always been my parents. My mom

showed me the importance of being silly and not taking life too seriously, always singing and dancing and calming me down when my slightly anxious nature got the best of me. My dad taught me that hard work and dedication could get me anywhere; his two favorite things to say to me were (and still are), “You’ve got a bright future ahead of you” and, “There is no free lunch.” It’s taken me a long time to understand just how lucky I am to have two loving and supportive parents, and there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
In college, I had the privilege of meeting some of my most influential mentors, as well as getting to be a mentor myself as a tutor to high school students. One of my mentors, Angie Schmidt Whitney, sat with me for hours as I debated accepting the job I still have today, ultimately helping me make the decision to say yes! Her wisdom and ability to deeply listen are qualities I’ll always admire, and still rely on to this day.
One of United Way’s five focus areas – Quality Out of School Time – emphasizes the importance of providing every child with access to a caring adult mentor in their life. I don’t know where I’d be without my parents, teachers, and people who pushed me to be the best version of myself throughout my life. My life would be so different if I didn’t have any of those influences, which is why I think it’s so important to support programs that provide spaces for positive mentors and kids to interact and learn from one another. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, there are so many organizations in Central Minnesota that we can hook you up with!
How did you get here? Chances are, it wasn’t alone. My challenge to you is to take a minute today to say thank you to those mentors who have shaped your personal and professional life, and consider the role you could play in shaping another person’s life.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,



Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . a trip back to 1999. (July)

When I was a little kid, this time of year was always bittersweet. I loved everything about summer break – sleeping in, going to the pool with my friends, playing games like Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyardwith my neighbors, and reading as many books as I could for our library’s summer reading challenge. I had literally no worries in the world except if my mom would buy my favorite kind of ice cream treat when she went grocery shopping or if my plans to play in the sprinkler would be crushed by a summer storm.

Side note: if anyone invents a time machine, I’d like to use it to go back to this time in my life when I was blissfully unaware of what a 401k was (not that I really understand what that is now) and that someday a weeklong vacation would mean coming back to a metaphorical mountain of emails. Growing up is a total trap.

When August rolled around, though, I had to accept that the end of summer was nigh, and another year of school was upon me. While I whined and moaned and sulked (I’ve always been a bit of a drama queen), I did enjoy one thing about the end of summer – back-to-school shopping. There was something exciting about picking out the perfect outfit for the first day of school, knowing that everyone would admire my new skort (see photo for proof). I loved finding the perfect roller backpack that could fit all the Bratz doll folders I wanted. I loved choosing new crayons and colored pencils and markers and I especially loved organizing them all in my new pencil box. Summer might have been ending, but at least I could go back to school looking fly and confident that I was prepared to conquer another grade.

I’ve been looking back on this time in my life often this summer. Maybe it’s because this will be my second year not going back to school, and something about that seems so strange. But I’ve also been thinking about it because I know that many local kids aren’t as lucky as I was during this time of year. Not all kids are able to go shopping with their parents and pick out whatever their hearts desire. Sometimes a school supply list isn’t merely a piece of paper with items to check off, but instead is a source of stress and anxiety for families who are having trouble making ends meet.

Here in Central Minnesota, 1 in 5 children live in poverty.
Right here in our own community, countless families are feeling the burden of school supply shopping for their children and wondering how they are going to make sure their students are ready and prepared for school.

There are a few things you can do this August to help our community’s kids be prepared for a successful school year. You can host a school supply drive at your office or with your friends and deliver the supplies to Gaslight Creative during the Art Crawl on August 11. Skip out on lunch or dinner or happy hour this week and use the money to indulge your inner child and buy the best looking crayons and coolest notebooks. Drop off school supplies at the Salvation Army, call your local school district, or just email me and I’ll help you find a place for the supplies! If you’re interested in volunteering with Young Professionals United, RSVP to our event with Rotaract where we’ll pack backpacks for 60 students at Discovery Elementary School.

Summer’s not over yet! Get out there and enjoy the lake, sit on a patio with friends, and soak up the warm weather before Minnesota turns back into a pumpkin and winter returns. But while you’re doing that, I hope you’ll also reflect on what it was like to be a kid preparing to go back to school, and maybe spend some time supporting the ones who need a little extra help this year.

Until next time!

Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . Kickballs (May)

In the past six months, I’ve thought about the logistics of kickball more than I thought I ever would in my life. I have a lot of passions – I love cheesy teen television, guacamole, and working with young professionals – but *spoiler alert* kickball has never been one of them. However, when we decided last summer to host a corporate kickball tournament planned by a committee of young professionals, it fell on my non-athletic shoulders to make sure the day went well.

Kick Summer Hunger was successful in my humble opinion. We raised more than $16,000 for summer meal programs in our community, and 21 corporate teams participated in the tournament. Congratulations to our winning team, McDowall Company: Tin Bangers!!! After all was said and done and kicked and drank (for those who attended the after party), I took some time to reflect on the process of getting to that day. Were there moments when I was so excited I danced around the office? Of course, I love dance parties. Were there moments when I was so frustrated I wanted to punt a kickball at something breakable? Yep. But one of my favorite aspects of working with United Way is that I have opportunities to challenge myself and learn new things. Planning my first fundraising event has been filled with learning opportunities, so this blog is dedicated to sharing a few of them with you.

Lesson 1 – It’s All About the Cause

My favorite part of planning this tournament was giving our supporters a fun reason to rally around an important issue in our community. Over 60% of children in St. Cloud are on free and reduced lunch during the school year, meaning they’re at risk of hunger during the summer. Summer meal programs are crucial to the health and wellbeing of our community’s kids, because they fill in the gaps that form when they aren’t getting two meals a day at school. Knowing the reason for hosting the tournament and sharing that with the teams and supporters gave the event a purpose beyond just getting out of work on a Friday afternoon.


Lesson 2 – You Can Do Anything with a Great Committee

I’m always surprised when I hear millennials described as lazy and entitled. I have been lucky enough to get to know many of the young professionals in Central Minnesota, and they are talented, dedicated to their careers, and willing to spend time volunteering and investing in our community.

Some perfect examples of this are the members of our Kick Summer Hunger planning committee – Bridget Deutz, Britt Vander Eyk, Alyse Siemers, Emma Tickner, Jocelyn Kortan, Tiffany Schultz, and Amanda Batten. Working with a committee of smart and competent young professionals like them made this event less intimidating, manageable, and entirely too enjoyable.

Lesson 3 – Focus on Your Strengths

Ask anyone who knows me well and they would probably laugh at the thought of me making it through a game of kickball gracefully. When United Way staff joined kids with the Yes Network for a fun game of kickball last summer, my first kick smashed a poor innocent kid in the face . . . I’m still living that one down at the office.

Luckily, planning this tournament allowed me to use my strengths – organizational and communication skills – and ask others to fill in the gaps. I know nothing about kickball rules or umpires, so other staff and committee members
handled that and I just nodded like I cared during discussions of the benefits of bunting.


Lesson 4 – Fake It ’til You Make It

In my opinion, I think most recent grads have moments where they feel like they know exactly nothing. Oh, that’s just me? I waver between almost excessive self-confidence and extreme self doubt, but I’ve learned I just have to put my game face on and keep going. Planning a kickball tournament isn’t rocket science (my dream job in another world where I actually like math), but it was still sometimes intimidating enough to make me doubt my abilities. Mini pep talks and my most repeated mantra of “fake it ’til you make it” have gotten me through these moments.

That’s all the wisdom I have for you today. I’m looking forward to some adventures this summer, and I hope you are too! Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter . . . watch for the next Cup of T in July!



Today’s Cup of T is filled with . . . Introductions (March)

Hi everyone! My name is Theresa, I work in Resource Development at United Way of Central Minnesota, and my biggest fear is a zombie apocalypse. I’d be lying if I said I’d never considered writing a blog, because I think I’m hilarious and I love to tell people what to do. Therefore, I am so excited to be introducing “A Cup of T,” a blog specifically focused on the young professional experience . . . aka the time in your life when you discover that while no one can tell you not to eat a whole container of store-bought cookie dough, you probably shouldn’t.

Throughout the year I’ll be posting about my experiences as a young professional in Central Minnesota. Hopefully some of what I have to say will seem relevant, or at least make you laugh. Expect to read about United Way’s Young Professionals United affinity group and the work United Way is doing in our community, but also some of my personal highlights, struggles, and if you’re really lucky, epic embarrassing moments.

In this first Cup of T, I just want to help you get to know me a little better. Originally from Rapid City, South Dakota, I embraced the Minnesota life when I moved here to attend school at the College of St. Benedict. A proud 2016 Bennie grad, I started working in Resource Development at United Way of Central Minnesota full time after graduation. My job was offered to me when I was an intern at United Way the summer before my senior year, and that story involves me walking into an office barefoot, fully expecting to get yelled at for violating some OSHA rule, and walking out (still no shoes in sight) with a job offer. My job involves speaking to companies about supporting United Way, planning volunteer opportunities for young professionals, and the famous “other duties as assigned”. Sometimes that means driving a golf cart around all day, or photographing a company leader taking a pie to the face, and once it meant standing on a car and smashing it with a sledgehammer (all in the name of raising money).

When I’m not at work pretending to know everything there is to know about Millennials and how we think, I spend my time listening to TED Talk podcasts, playing the guitar, watching movies with my roommate, and complaining about Minnesota winters. I love walking on the Beaver Island Trail next to the Mississippi, I love trying new restaurants right here in St. Cloud, and I love that this community is small enough that I know at least one person at most events but I am also constantly meeting new people.

I do what I do because I think being connected and engaged in your own community is important at any age. I am honored to work with so many young professionals who believe in the power of volunteerism and community engagement, and I can’t wait to see how Young Professionals United will continue to grow and create positive change in Central Minnesota.

Thanks for spending some time reading this blog today. I hope your day brings you fulfillment, laughter, and good snacks. Join me next month for another Cup of T!