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Photo credit: Gerd Altmann /

When I was selected to be a WISE Within mentor, I was matched with Katie Spotz. As I began to do some research online to see how we’d fit as a pair, I discovered that, among other achievements, Katie was the youngest person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, was the first person to swim the entire length of the 325-mile Allegheny River and had cycled 3,300 miles across the United States from Seattle to Washington, D.C. — all before the age of 22. At first, I was a bit intimidated. I remember thinking to myself, “How in the world can I teach anything to someone who has already accomplished so much?”

Mutual Connection

However, from our first meeting, Katie and I instantly connected. She shared with me her vision of not only continuing her journey as an adventurer, but using her experiences and stories to help people — her passion — and raising awareness of those around the world suffering from a lack of safe drinking water. We used each other as a sounding board for ideas, worked on narrowing her focus, and set goals.

Since our first meeting, Katie has biked in Race Across America and raised awareness of and money for children who, instead of attending school, have to spend their days hiking to find clean drinking water. As part of this “Schools for Water” program, children from all over Ohio united to raise $100,000, and in the process, they set a Guinness World Record for the most people carrying water jugs on their heads.

Every Situation is a Learning Opportunity

The best part about my experience as a mentor was that it was mutually rewarding. We also developed a lifelong friendship. In fact, we are continuing to work together. Katie is turning her Schools for Water program into a not-for-profit, and I will be sitting on the board. The organization will seek to educate and inspire schools across America, Canada and the United Kingdom and challenge students to help 100,000 students gain access to safe water or raise $1 million for schools-based water projects. The message is that every student can make a difference for another student and that extraordinary achievements are within everyone’s grasp. I will participate in this program again and again.

From my WISE Within pairing, I have learned that it doesn’t matter if you have five or 10 or 15 years of work experience or if you have achieved the most senior level position attainable, there is always something to be learned from others in every situation. Professionally, I renewed my passion to always improve, and personally, I found a new appreciation for the adventure that life can be. Just ask Katie.

Amanda Petrak

About Amanda Petrak

Amanda Petrak is the director of communications operations and service for the Cleveland Cavaliers. She oversees all the media-related operational elements for the entire communications team, handles all public relations for community relations efforts, serves as a producer and provides internal communications resources and training for the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization. Prior to that, she spent nine years as the main basketball communications contact for the team.

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