In my role as the Founder and CEO of the Mentoring Women’s Network, I work with a national board of directors, lead a national team of Market Directors and Program Facilitators, and consult with large companies on their diversity and recruitment strategies. Yet, when I see this in writing, I have a hard time believing it myself, especially at my age. I never could have dreamed of the life I now have, given where I started from.
In fact, my personal story begins with a very modest means background. I was out on my own at 16 – in fact, I was on a bus for runaways at one point, traveling from New York to my hometown in Northern Indiana. I became a single mom at the age of 18 to a son who has grown into an incredible young man who will be entering college this fall. Eleven short years later, at the age of 29, I became one of the youngest Executive Director in the country at the time for one of the largest voluntary health organizations in the country. On my very first day, I remember my first meeting was at 7:30 a.m. and I was walking into a board room full of men, all at least 25 years my senior. I was there to speak with authority about the campaign we were working on. I clearly remember walking past a window and catching a reflection of myself and thinking “How did I get here?”
So, how did I go from a 16 year old runaway to a 29 year old Executive Director, and now to the CEO of a rapidly growing national organization?
- A whole lot of hard work.
- Access to incredible mentors who so willingly shared their knowledge and perspective with me
As I reflect on my journey, it cannot be overstated how much of an impact having mentors had on me. I did not have the benefit of great mentors in my life early on and stumbled upon this idea quite by accident. However, it fuels my passion for the work we do at Mentoring Women’s Network. I have much empathy for young, single parents who work tirelessly to support their families. So many well-intentioned programs are developed to provide much-needed resources and opportunities for those who find themselves in that situation. Yet, having access to successful mentors is often overlooked as a strategy. We often take it for granted that you were either born with mentors or not and if you weren’t blessed enough to have them early on, it is essentially up to the individual to simply “figure it out”.
I truly believe mentoring is key to helping to empower those who have a willingness to learn to see beyond themselves and to know there are no barriers to what they can do. Mentoring can and does have a socioeconomic impact on those who have a willingness to listen and a willingness to do the work it takes to be able to live the life of their dreams. Mentors can help shine a light on that path.