I’d like to share part of a poem sent to me by K.J. Reimensnyder, a high school gymnast I coached in the late 1970s.

“You helped me when I struggled, through my tattered mind and soul and helped me feel less troubled, in making myself a goal. So now I’d like to thank you, for all that you could not see in lifting my self-confidence, you’ve helped me to find me.” I treasure the poem because it came from her heart. It clearly emphasizes the value of mentoring, although I didn’t think of myself as a mentor then. At that time, I didn’t know where my own future was headed.

My checkerboard career includes the field of education, business ownership, the nonprofit sector, and the corporate world. Each contributed to my success because of relationships I developed, the challenges I faced and conquered, and the opportunities that were presented.

My leadership ladder can be credited to several mentors, all different in their style and approach. One raised two children who went on to be Olympic gold medalists. From her I learned the importance of passion and determination. another mentor was a former city newspaper editor. From him, I gained an understanding of the value of well-developed communications skills. Yet another was an executive at a nonprofit organization who encouraged my risk taking and supported innovative solutions. Most importantly, my husband gave me self-confidence, and my Dad, with his tremendous work ethic and business sense, continues to serve as my role model. Each mentor added ingredients to my career path to success.

so where is K.J. today? I found her through the internet to ask permission to use her poem. I am excited to say that she followed her passion and became a singer/songwriter who entertains thousands each year throughout the United States and Great Britain. In her response she added, “you believed in me and gave me encouragement just when I needed it the most.”

since coaching K.J. so long ago, I have found my passion. It’s helping people grow to their greatest potential. At Waste Management, I have had an opportunity to advance a forum that promotes mentoring and provides development opportunities. My advice is to feel the excitement of being a mentor, treasure your mentors, and celebrate the successes along your career journey.