Alumna of Catholic schools in Utah among Fortune magazine’s ’40 Under 40′

SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) — Kat Skiles, a graduate of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, has been named one of Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40” influencers in government and politics.

Skiles graduated from the Madeleine Choir School in 1999 and Judge Memorial Catholic High School in 2003. Both schools are in Salt Lake City.

Her initial reaction to the award was that it was a case of mistaken identity, she said.

“The first thing I saw when I opened it (Fortune magazine) was that Beyonce got the award in one of the other sections, so I just assumed that they got it wrong; that there must be some other Kat Skiles,” she said. “It was a really kind thing to have happened in my life; I was honestly very surprised.”

A political consultant and videographer, Skiles carried on a family tradition by graduating from Judge Memorial, a high school her mother and grandparents all attended. She then pursued a bachelor’s degree in political science with a double minor in prelaw and religion at Dominican University of California.

Through a Panetta Institute for Public Policy college congressional internship, she began working on Capitol Hill. During the next 10 years, Skiles served as press secretary for the Democratic Caucus, as senior adviser for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and managed video and social media for the Democratic National Committee.

Along the way, she was named to Washingtonian magazine’s list of “100 Most Powerful Women in Washington” and as one of “The 20 Most Powerful Women Staffers on Capitol Hill” by National Journal.

In 2017, Skiles launched her own company in Washington, Narrative Creative Agency, to use her video and digital skills to highlight the issues and political figures she supports.

“I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and filmmaking,” she told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

“When we’re talking about public policy and how it impacts the lives of others, it is really important to focus on people and what they’re going through in their lives,” she said. “Video is a very compelling way to do that.”

Ahead of this November’s elections, she was working on a number of political campaigns for several months. Since pandemic restrictions were implemented, she has worked from home.

“It’s been really bizarre; I’m not in a campaign office for the first time in my career,” she said.

Coming up, Skiles will put her business on hold for several months to travel the country developing and filming “American Exceptionalism” — a documentary series on how COVID-19 has disproportionately and devastatingly affected the most vulnerable.

“Bringing to light what the situations are and how we can fix them, that’s a role that our policymakers have in trying to build a better place, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on,” she said.

“For me, the work that I do, working to influence policy, is about making sure those kids are reunited with their mommies and their daddies, for example, and making sure that we have a world that our kids can live and thrive and grow up in,” she said.

While the documentary series might seem a daunting project for just one person, Skiles said the skills she developed at the Madeleine Choir School will help see her through, even though more than 20 years have passed since she graduated.

“The Madeleine Choir School for me is so much of who I am today,” she said. “They train kids to have great work ethics, but they also ensure the heart and future commitment to public service, of doing right for others.

“I feel like when I got into the work force there were so many things I homed in on as a person on that I got from them. So much of who I am is because of all they gave me.”

“One of the biggest things, especially with the Choir School, is it’s academically rigorous,” she added. “I think it’s difficult to teach hard work and habit; it’s challenging, and you don’t know you’re not just learning arithmetic and music notation.

“You’re learning about what it takes to succeed by working hard, and when you’re working hard and working to do good for others, then that’s work that matters.”

Along with a small capital investment generated through a GoFundMe campaign, Skiles will reach into her own pockets to fund her documentary project. When the series is complete, she hopes to pitch it to several streaming services.

“A Netflix or a Hulu would probably be my wildest dream, and that’s what we’re shooting for,” she said.

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Petersen is a reporter for the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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