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For many people, one of the hardest parts of 2020 was being cut off from others. The year’s events spotlighted the crucial role community and social connection play in health and wellness.

Whether it’s by building on programs that pre-existed the pandemic or launching something new, five finalists in the Economy League’s Well City Challenge social impact incubator have ideas to help Philly millennials improve their health through community and social connection.

Go hiking with other women? Gain wisdom from older generations? Make art outdoors? These are some of the ideas that will face off at a pitch competition on Tuesday, March 2. In front of a panel of judges, these creators will make a case as to why their particular project should win $10,000. Each group can also score $7,500 by getting the most audience votes.

Read more about the concepts below, and RSVP for free if you want to weigh in on which one gets the People’s Choice Award.

Mind Your Art: ‘Come make art with us outside, bring your family, and experience the joys of creativity.’

Nearly a decade ago, 120-year-old South Philly landmark Fleisher Art Memorial launched an initiative called ColorWheels that brought outdoor art workshops to children around the city. But why should kids get all the fun and mental health benefits of creating art outside?

In collaboration with Juntos, the organization is looking to expand the program to Latino, Latina and Latinx millennials and their communities. The team working to make this happen includes Fleisher Associate Director of Adult Education and Juntos Executive Director Erika Guadalupe Núñez, who used to manage ColorWheels before assuming her leadership role at the immigrant advocacy org.

Advisor: Kristi Poling, Program Officer at Barra Foundation

Credit: Courtesy Mind Your Art

Hey Auntie!: ‘A professional development platform that powers Black women with multi-generational connections to rise and thrive in their work lives’

As a Black millennial woman, Nicole Kenney knows firsthand the challenges and anxiety felt by others like her, and the negative effects they can have on health. When all of that was amplified by last summer’s racial reckoning, the West Philly native realized she wanted to create a “welcoming, cultured and gender-sensitive environment” for women to talk about their life barriers.

Helping foster multigenerational connections are a big part of her goal, and — inspired by her own auntie and mentor Dr. Deborah D. Roebuck — she adopted the common greeting “Hey Auntie!” as the name. Outside of this project, Kenney owns and operates It Starts With Me, a communications firm focusing on messaging around racial, gender and economic equity.

However, for, “Hey Auntie!” became the name of her full-time project. The name was inspired by her aunt Dr. Deborah D. Roebuck, who is one of her trusted advisors. Her program created a welcoming, cultured and gender-sensitive environment for women to express and talk about their life barriers. Kenney made this idea into a reality from the racial reckons from the murders of unarmed black individuals. Before joining this full-time, Kenney was the Senior Communications Associate for the National NAACP in Washington D.C.

Advisor: Hayward West, Consulting at Deloitte

Hey Auntie’s events help people connect and learn from other generations Credit: Courtesy Hey Auntie!

Let’s Talk Philly Conversation Circles: ‘Wellness access is our path to happiness and success.’

Karen Cervera, Yushan Chou, Maureen Smith, and Manuel Portillo all came to the U.S. from different countries — Mexico, Taiwan, Kenya and Guatemala, respectively. When they met at the Welcoming Center’s Immigrant Leadership Institute, they realized that despite their disparate backgrounds, they’d all had similar experiences when immigrating.

Realizing that many newcomers might feel challenged by the unknown landscape, might not speak fluent English, and might have limited access to support from family and friends, they created Let’s Talk Philly Conversation Circles. Nearly 50 people participated in the program between May and September of last year, with the mostly millennial group meeting twice a week.

The group is excited about the possibilities going forward, especially because they’ve gelled so well. They wrote: “When we started this project we called ourselves the I.D.E.A.L. team,” — an acronym for Inclusion, Diversity, Engagement, Accountability, and Leadership. “Now when we look back, we realize … we are in fact, the ideal team.

Advisor: Manuela McDonough, Director of Media Relations at The Jed Foundation

In person events have now been moved online Credit: Courtesy Let’s Talk Philly

Hike+Heal: ‘Are you ready to heal, Hun?’

The first time Brandi Aulston led a hike through local terrain, she had five participants. By her fourth outing, the Fairmount resident was leading a team of more than 50 “hike hunnies.”

While working on her dual master’s degree in health education and administration, Aulston, a Philly native, realized she wanted to provide women with a healthy way to connect and share ideas. When she suggested the hiking hive, it was an immediate hit. “I finally put it out there.” she said, “and received so many positive responses from women who were interested in trying hiking for the first time.”

As she competes to get funding for Hike+Heal, she’s also working on an online offshoot: Heal Hun, a digital sanctuary where women can connect and thrive.

Advisor: McKinsey Alston, Managing Director of Talent, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness at United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey

A Hike+Heal outing from summer 2020 Credit: BG Productions

HERO Group Coaching Program: ‘We meet you where you are, so you can make small shifts that lead to BIG changes’

At the beginning of the COVID lockdowns, many people were going through changes that affected their mental health. To provide support to folks who were just trying to get through their day-to-day life, a group of health and wellness coaches gathered to form the free HERO Group Coaching Program.

The three leaders for the Well City initiative are supported by nearly 50 volunteers, said Erica Evans, one of the group’s founders. She explained the name HERO comes from a theory in positive psychology: “Hope, self-Efficacy, Resilience and realistic Optimism.” It’s already been a success, according to internal surveys, which showed 93% of participants have seen a shift in mindset or knowledge, and feel more motivated

Advisor: Josh Miller-Myers, Strategy Development Manager at PHMC

Some of the HERO Group Coaching Program coaches at a virtual gathering Credit: Courtesy HERO Group Coaching