I recently had the opportunity to spend an evening with top business professionals who were being honored at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Diversity in Business awards ceremony.

As I listened to their stories, two things struck me about these talented and accomplished business leaders: first, they represented top companies in Minnesota that range from Target, Best Buy and Medtronic to CSM Corp, Famous Dave’s and Surly Brewing Co., and second, many of these professionals are committed to giving back to the community.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Diversity in Business program recognizes exceptional business owners and executives in the ethnic minority, GLBT, disabled and veteran communities.

Many of the honorees were inspiring because they had tackled adversity with tenacity (a mindset that is an asset in the business world) or currently use their talents to help others. For instance, Miguel Ramoscould not speak English at first as he had grown up in Puerto Rico, yet he moved to the United States because he knew he wanted a better life for himself and his family. According to the Journal, which honored him as a business executive, Ramos quit his first job cleaning floors at Mall of America because he knew he could do better, despite the fact that others laughed at his ambition. He now is the director of emerging markets for the Minnesota Twins, where he helps build relationships between the team and minority communities.

Then there is Dr. Y. Ralph Chu, founder and medical director at Chu Vision Institute and Chu Surgery Center, who was honored as a business owner. When not working in his own practice, Dr. Chu travels to Asia regularly to educate other physicians about treating cataract patients and helping to reduce blindness in developing nations.

Jay Miller, creative director and principal at Imagehaus, couples his compassion and corporate skills to help nonprofits throughout the Twin Cities. One of the causes he supports is Open Arms, an organization that delivers meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses.

Hearing stories like these, of people who are successful leaders in the business world and in our community, made me consider how I can use my talents to help and inspire others. I also am especially proud of the St. Thomas business alumni who were honored: H. Yvonne Cheek, President of Millennium Consulting Group – UST mini-MBA; and Todd Shipman, Broker, Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty – UST Executive MBA. Both use their skills, passions and abilities to promote diversity in their areas of work.

How will you use your abilities to improve your community?