The greatest influence in my life in all things, especially education, was my mother. I have countless memories of my mother working very long, hard hours as a single parent to provide for her six children. Although we were crammed into a small house the size of a shoebox, it didn’t matter. We were our own small village, all so proud of our mother and her commitment and dedication not only to her family, but to her students whose lives she touched everyday.

My mother was a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system, working in one of the more challenging neighborhoods, where the graduation rate was notoriously low. She was determined to make a difference; she was an advocate of education and the pivotal role that teachers can play in the lives of children. My mother didn’t view her work as just a job. She frequently brought her students to our home, providing them with after-hours guidance, advice, and lessons that reached far beyond the classroom. At the same time, she was teaching us about children who were growing up in a different world to ours, helping us learn at an early age the value of understanding and embracing diversity. In her eyes, life was a classroom, teaching you to learn and grow from all of your experiences for future success.

Having educators like my mother who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives they touch and influence is crucial; it lays the foundation for our future leaders and shows today’s youth that education, in any form, is critical to success. My mother taught me that education will enable many things, but especially balance—taking lessons from the classroom, home, and experiences and blending them together to create your own unique style.

My job with Hyatt has taken me around the world, and during my travels, I have seen that education is the driving force behind connecting with others from different cultures and backgrounds. I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career with Hyatt to visit over 38 countries, and every time I step on and off a plane, I find myself reading, learning, asking, and engaging. Learning and understanding cultural nuances and differences is enriching and rewarding. It enables inclusion and collaboration and it can only exist where there is a desire to learn and apply what is learned.

Education really has no boundaries—it’s an ever-evolving web of personal and professional life experiences, and it’s what you do with all that you know that will ultimately define the type of person and leader you will be.