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PennDOT Employee Receives FAB 40 Under 40 Award

May 20, 2024 08:00 AM
By: Cassidy Snyder

​PennDOT employee Yasmeen Manyisha has been selected for The New Pittsburgh Courier's 2024 FAB 40 Under 40 Award. This award honors 40 local Black men and women for their professional achievements, positive impact on the community, and encouragement of others through leadership.

In 2016, Manyisha joined PennDOT as a safety press officer (SPO) in the Bridgeville-based District 11 office. As an SPO, Manyisha brings free educational programs to schools and communities to promote traffic safety. Some of the programs she has coordinated include teaching a mature driving class to seniors, sharing bicycle safety information, and teaching students the importance of wearing seat belts. Manyisha has made it her personal goal to interact with communities that face equitable transportation challenges and introduce them to services and resources that are beneficial for them. Some of Manyisha's favorite parts of being an SPO include meeting new people in the community and using her creativity to make learning about safety fun.

Not only has Manyisha impacted the local community through her work as an SPO, but she has also positively impacted PennDOT. In 2017, Manyisha and a now-retired district leader started PennDOT's first regional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. The DEI Committee was established to promote diversity, foster a more inclusive work environment, and collaborate with the diverse communities that PennDOT serves.

“It's no surprise to me that Yasmeen was selected for this honor. I knew she was special when she first started as an intern with the department," said Deputy Communications Director Steve Cowan. “She has proven time and time again that her work as SPO and a leader on our diversity committee brings significant value to PennDOT. Congratulations Yas!"

Currently, Manyisha serves as the president of the District 11 DEI Committee and is a member of a subcommittee for PennDOT's statewide Council on Inclusive Excellence. When asked why diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging matter to her, Manyisha said it's because DEI affects everyone.

“It's not always the most comfortable topic, but the reality is every person's life in some way has been impacted due to their class, gender, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, disability, or age. Stepping out of your comfort-zone is key to making change, and more importantly, making progress. DEI is especially important in the workplace because if done correctly, it can really foster a healthy work environment. And to understand the needs of various people, representation is necessary. The really cool thing about DEI is having the opportunity to embrace people's differences and allow them to feel ​comfortable, respected, and valued."Yasmeen Collage for blog .png

As part of the committee, Manyisha started a semi-annual open house program, which invites high school students of various cultures and backgrounds to PennDOT for hands-on activities and discussions with different staff members including equipment operators, engineers, designers, and maintenance staff. Manyisha's goal with the open house program is to show students the different paths that can lead to a career in transportation.

The DEI Committee also participates in Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, a nationally recognized day dedicated to introducing young females to engineering careers. On this day, the DEI Committee invites young female students to meet current female PennDOT engineers and participate in hands-on engineering activities.

One of the most recent achievements for the DEI Committee was a bowling fundraiser. All proceeds benefitted the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP), a local organization that enrolls people from underserved communities into their 10-week tuition free program, teaches them a trade, and helps them overcome any personal hurdles to self-sufficiency.

Outside of work, Manyisha continues to positively impact her community though mentoring Black and Brown youth, and volunteering with several local organizations. Manyisha is also a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Professionals of Central PA.

“It's important to me to work with young people and guide them, whether it be through their career path or education. I didn't always have a mentor growing up, so I try to be that person for them," said Manyisha.

PennDOT is thankful for the work that Manyisha continues to do to make the workplace a more welcoming and inclusive environment.​

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