Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year, and not just because of the festivities (and food and football) that we all enjoy during this season.

No, what I really appreciate about Thanksgiving is that, in this hectic world we live in, Thanksgiving always makes me slow down just a bit and reflect on the many blessings I have been given.

Family, friends, my community and my relationship with God are always at the top of this list, of course. And so is my job. I try not to take my great luck for granted. I am thankful that I get to work with some of the best and the brightest young people in our community, and that I have a fantastic team of professionals who are just as invested in these students as I am. I realize how fortunate we are that their parents trust us to help them find their paths to a fulfilling career and life.

Helping guide students, seeing them discover their talents, and watching them gain confidence as they plan their future - these are some of the biggest joys of my life. And I realize that part of the reason I love this work is that in some small way, I am giving back in honor of the people who did the same for me.

Early in my career, I was lucky enough to be blessed with several wonderful mentors. These men and women saw in me something that I didn’t, and they believed in me even when I wasn’t certain about things myself.

They encouraged me to reach for jobs that I might not have discovered on my own, suggested that I build my skills through organizations like Leadership Tyler, and cheered me on when I decided to finish my college degree as an adult. As I grew under their mentorship, I started to see the common threads of the jobs I loved - I needed to feel that I was helping people, especially young people, and I loved anything that encouraged education. And through their generosity and leadership, I was reminded every day of the importance of not just working hard and doing your best, but always giving back, because helping others helps strengthen the community that we all love.

So it’s no accident that I find myself in the career I’m in today. God, of course, always had a plan, but my mentors helped pave the path. I will forever be grateful to them, and in some small way, I will try to live up to the example they set. We all have been given tremendous gifts, and it is my privilege to help young people discover theirs. Happy Thanksgiving!


Donna Spann is the CEO of Capstone College and Career Advising in Tyler. A college adviser for 12 years, Donna leads a team of professionals who take a personal approach to advising that helps students navigate through career exploration and the college application process.

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