Thanksgiving Day is always my favorite holiday of the year.  Yes, I like Christmas, Fourth of July, Martin Luther King Day and all of the other holidays too.  But, this is my favorite holiday since it’s a day of personal reflection.  Each year, I blog about the people that are important to me — my family (here in the US and in Japan) and friends know how much they mean to me.  I try to express my sentiments regularly to them.  But, this year, my Thanksgiving blog is dedicated to my mentees and students.

For those that know me, they understand that mentoring, community service, “giving back” and “paying it forward” are important principles in my life.   I have been fortunate to learn from mentors, wonderful people such as Ted Leonsis and Mario Morino, about the importance of helping others.  Both are first-generation college graduates who went on to achieve great successes in life.  And, they’ve clearly shown me the way in “paying it forward.”

I frequently post on my social networking platforms pictures and words about my mentees and students.  The primary reason I do that is because it helps raise the visibility of giving back and it hopefully encourages others to also get involved in community service and mentoring.

I won’t try to list all of my mentees since the list is long — and I don’t want to leave out any names.  But, they know who they are.  Some of the names you see on my FB, Twitter and Instagram feeds.  But, this list goes back to about ’93 or ’94.

I’m now also in my 9th year of teaching at Georgetown University.  So, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years — and a number of them are also mentees.  I’m so very proud of them.  They humble me with their selfless dedication and desire to help others.  I’ve gotten even more deeply involved in the past two years — with a focus on first-generation college students and / or students of color (African-American, Latino and Asian) — at Georgetown.  I love the interaction with the students.  In particular, it’s terrific to meet them as freshman and sophomores and to see them flourish and grow.  One of my favorites days of the year is Graduation Day — especially meeting their parents and siblings.

Lastly, a couple of people have asked me recently if I’ve achieved everything I’ve wanted to in life.  My honest answer is the one hole in my life is I have not yet had my own children.  But, I’ve filled that hole in a big way — by mentoring dozens and dozens of outstanding young men and women.  I know in my heart that I’m able to positively impact and influence the lives of others — to help them get to college, graduate from college and start working in a career where they will be able to achieve success.   If I had my own children, I would not have as much time to dedicate to the mentees.

Mentoring is not a one-way street.  It’s not the mentees that are the only ones that benefit.  This is a two-way street — the mentor receives so much in return.  In fact, I make the argument that I’m getting back more than I’m giving.  And, I try to pass on this important message to others — to get involved in one capacity or other to help those that may need the help or just a little nudge to back on the right track.  So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m forever grateful to my mentees and students.  You all give me great pride and you inspire every single day of the year.  I am grateful 365 days a year for my family of students and mentees.  So, on this day of thanks, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such an important and integral part of my life.