Have you thanked your mentor today?

Merriam-Webster defines mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.” Ask any successful person, such as President Barack Obama, Gov. Bobby Jindal, broadcaster Robin Roberts, or NFL standout Peyton Manning, chances are he or she will have at least one mentor to thank.

I know one of mine: Dr. Pat Settoon. Pat is a retired Southeastern Louisiana University faculty member and administrator. As a young person starting out at the Hammond university, Pat immediately took me under his wing.

He taught me that leadership was about giving of yourself, giving to the community, volunteering your time, and leading by example. I aspire to live by his example and credit much of my professional journey to his influence on my life.

The University of Louisiana System in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education is enhancing mentoring programs at all eight universities funded in part by our Learn and Serve America grant.

We know the transformational power of such initiatives. For example, a student-run program at Louisiana Tech University has already linked over 30 college mentors with 32 middle and high school students, resulting in better grades, improved self-confidence, and involvement in extracurricular activities.

The beneficiaries are not only the recipients, but also the mentors who give of themselves. Research shows mentoring enhances leadership and communications skills, strengthens a person’s knowledge base, and provides intrinsic satisfaction.

In these times of economic stress, it is especially important to reach out and support one another.

Today, take a few minutes of your time to thank the people who have had a positive influence on your life. Also, consider the ultimate thank you: become a mentor yourself.