I didn’t always know what I wanted to do with my life. Today I am happy to say I’m blessed to finally live in my purpose. I am a teacher, a mentor and the co-founder of P.I.N.K. (Poised, Influential, Notable and Knowledgeable), a life skills building program for tween girls. I have great friends, a loving family, and a fun dating life.

There’s only one word that can sum up how I’m feeling right now: fabulous. Best of all, I’ve enjoyed my journey.

When I was 17, I went away to a four-year university. My parents instilled a great sense of pride, respect and confidence in me; still, I felt lost. I was reluctant to select a major — because I had no idea what I wanted to do. Luckily, that changed after my sophomore year. That summer I worked as a senior counselor at a YMCA. Now I know a lot of people don’t have the temperament to work with kids, but I slid into the groove of things with more ease than my favorite pair of jeans; everything hit me just right. After that summer, my life changed. I knew I would be a teacher. I hoped I could make a difference.

I wanted to be that teacher who impacted kids’ lives and gave them a forum for expression. So I began to hustle. The next few years were a blur. I majored in education. I received a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Before I knew it, I was putting my chalk where my mouth was. I developed a few unorthodox methods to challenge my students, such as holding open forums at the end of the day to allow the students to discuss my assessment of their performance. The students could advocate for themselves — and their classmates also chimed in. My goal was simple: I wanted to build a lasting rapport with the students and to teach them that their opinions matter; we are a family, a home away from home.

Working with kids over the last decade has given me the privilege of being able to identify their strengths and weaknesses. My parents instilled many values in me, but the biggest was the importance of self-confidence. While it may be hard to look at someone and determine whether they have good self-esteem, there is one dead giveaway: their behavior.

Children with healthy self-esteem treat themselves — and others — with respect. After all, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t think you’re worthy excellence. For kids, this may be reflected in sassiness, aggression, or indifference. Last year my colleague, Kia Moat, and I decided to do something about what we viewed as a major problem. That’s when we created P.I.N.K.

Our principal announced there was a small stipend available to fund supplies for special after-school programs. We knew it was our time. Kia and I wrote a proposal to start a course for 9-12 year old girls to work on team-building skills, etiquette, academics and self-perception. Since there were only 20 slots, the girls had to write a personal statement — and get recommendations. They enjoyed the process. We loved the results. Our girls are growing with each session.

Today I’m balancing staying connected to what I preach. I want to be a great role model for all of my students, so that means I have to be extra vigilant about what I say and do. Additionally, I feel so many women give away their power, and we can combat this by providing them with the best tools as children. I hope to take P.I.N.K. into more schools next year. And I think Kia and I are just the two ladies who are poised, influential, notable and knowledgeable enough to do it.