It's hard for me to believe that it's been a year since the last Young Professional of the Year ceremony. Over the past 12 months, I have been able to meet amazing people, develop new projects and even speak at a junior high honors ceremony — all thanks to my involvement.

I've been a bit reflective the last few weeks since this year's nominees were announced. I love reading through each of the nominee's backgrounds and learning about new organizations and the people that make this city tick. Mostly, I feel fortunate to have won. I know there are people in Des Moines who do so much and yet remain mostly behind the scenes.

I saw a high school friend's picture pop up on my Facebook feed this week. Katherine Southmayd had won Grimes Teacher of the Year. I thought, "what incredible things she is doing for our community."

There are many other "people of the year" here in Des Moines. There are award winners who don't always receive the same press, or a Juice cover. There are people that may not receive an award, or would never think to put themselves up for such a thing in the first place. Being a leader in the community does not come from awards or accolades. Being a leader within your network, workplace or organization comes from who you are and what you do.

When I spoke at the junior high honors ceremony last year, I felt I had this huge responsibility to help mold young minds — even if it was for just five minutes. Many probably don't even remember I was there (considering all of the other things that they have to think about at 13 years old), but I took it very seriously. My words boiled down to this: work hard and be kind.

Also, be nice to your parents, and life gets much, much better after seventh grade. But the main point was good things come to those who work hard and are kind to others.

There are many people living those words every day, so thank you to all of the unsung heroes of Des Moines. Thank you to those who do things without receiving the awards and accolades you deserve. Thank you to those who are behind the scenes and work hard for the love of our community. Thank you to this year's incredible group of YP of the Year candidates and for the countless hours you dedicate to this city. Although you are in the spotlight this week, I know you don't do it for that. You and so many others are the backbone of Des Moines and do it without need for acknowledgment. But please allow me: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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