Q&A: Mel Trombley
Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
Mel Trombley is the director of leadership programs for the Grand Rapids Chamber — championing ATHENA and the Create Great Leaders Programs: Leadership Grand Rapids, Emerging Leaders, Leading Edge and Leadership Advantage.
In her free time, Trombley loves to be involved in the community: sitting on the Kentwood Education Foundation Board; secretary of the Camp Blodgett Board; VP of the GVSU Women’s Soccer Alumni Board; 4-12 K-Connect Work Group; and Kids’ Food Basket Experience Committee.
Trombley earned two degrees in psychology at GVSU, taught at East Kentwood for 13 years and was a vocational consultant for two years.
Biggest career break?
Completing Leadership Grand Rapids was instrumental in my professional growth and confidence in stepping out of public education. Through this experience, I realized that I could fulfill my passion of making impact and my skillset of empowering people, outside of public education. This was a huge paradigm shift for me. This combined with the strong relationships and network built were key catalysts in my growth.
My proudest moment was when the first Challenge Day Program at East Kentwood came to fruition. The movement was started by one of my freshman students, Alex Hunter, who saw a segment of Challenge Day on MTV and wanted to bring it to our school to help with bullying and creating a sense of belonging for all students. I was super excited to look into this, until I realized that it was a $25,000 program. Thankfully, his mom Linda Connor is a fierce advocate and isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves. Together, we submitted a grant to the Kentwood Education Foundation, who agreed to fund it entirely. After a year of planning, the first Challenge Day was a huge success. To this day, Challenge Days continue at Kentwood and many students and adults consider it the highlight of their education.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Joe Beel said to never say no to the, “Do you have a minute?” In those moments, relationships are built, ideas are shared and you never know when someone needs your help.
How did you make your first dollar?
I worked at the concession stand at Frazier Soccer. I learned the value of remembering peoples’ names and just how dirty a public bathroom can become. :)
My grandma’s wedding ring from my Boompa. I love to hear the stories of him and the joy he brought our family. I wish I would have had more memories with him.
I am in my dream job. It is the perfect mix of relationship building, facilitating and working to bring the right people together to have systemic impact. I am on a team where I feel I am constantly learning and being pushed to look at situations in different ways. The culture at the chamber is empowering and motivating.
If you were president for a day, you would … ?
Have breakfast with Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres. :) Then I would overhaul education funding to ensure all students have beautiful schools that promote learning and that staff is paid appropriately for the vital work they do.
Last book you read?
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
Last search term you googled?
Ways to get your baby to sleep through the night
Your worst habit?
My FOMO: fear of missing out, so I overcommit myself.
To unwind, you like to … ?
Do crossword puzzles
I really want to backpack through South America with my husband Amir, exploring Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Person you most admire?
My parents Sue and Daryl Henson. They are so different but equally exceptional. From my dad, I learned to be unwavering in my values and how to fight fiercely for people. From my mom, I learned how to put others needs before my own and how important it is to be present for people. They both made many sacrifices to provide for our family and to support each of my siblings in our different journeys. I carry all of these valuable lessons with me daily.