BY MICHAEL G. CHARLES
In observation of Women’s History Month, the city of Hyattsville hosted a webinar to provide advice to help young women balance professional careers while maintaining a healthy mindset.
The webinar, held Friday Mar. 29 on Zoom, featured a panel of local professional women who used their experiences during the Covid pandemic to teach the audience how to remain resilient in the face of adversity. Panelists included local faith leaders, musicians, life coaches and Hyattsville city officials.
The panel was intended to “provide healing and promote hope,” said Sandra D. Shepard, Hyattsville’s director of Community Service and Programs, who also served as the moderator of the discussion. “I hope that today we leave encouraged and learn more about the women who live and work in the city of Hyattsville.”
The discussion began with the panelists explaining how they navigated Covid. “In some ways, it was suddenly like we were all on the same level, right?” said Pastor Cindy Lapp, of the Hyattsville Mennonite Church. “Everybody was at their dining room table or their couch wearing their pajama pants on Sunday morning.”
While this transition to virtual service had benefits, Lapp also discussed the drawbacks she faced personally. “I felt like it was really important to acknowledge that we are bodies, we’re not just minds and spirits,” said Lapp regarding balancing social distancing practices with the reality of death amidst the pandemic. “We need to be together in body, in an emergency situation like that, we need to grieve together in our bodies. I was glad to sort of break the rules sometimes to be able to support people in the community.”
The conversation then transitioned to a focus on the youth of Hyattsville with panelists sharing their advice for young women entering their professions. “The advice I would give any young woman is that you have to love yourself,” said Rev. Dr. Yvonne Wallace Penn, Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville. “In order to love anyone else, in order to love your profession, you have to first love yourself. You cannot let anyone, absolutely no one, tell you you’re not good enough.” This response was met with head nods and snaps of agreement by fellow panelists.
Sandino built on this comment by addressing the importance of perspective and community with her advice. “Be humble. Don’t forget where you came from. I’ll never forget where I came from because this is the community that made me. The help that they gave my family is who made me today, and it’s a reward that I can come back and just give back to that same community.”
Each panelist noted that while serving their community is important, it is also important to take care of our own needs. “There is such a thing as balance at times. During the last year and a half sometimes, I felt that I was so tired because I was a church every day. I found out that I was not taking care of myself,” said Penn. “I’ve turned it around. You can’t give other people advice that you don’t follow. I’ve turned it around. And now I’ve learned how to balance a little better.”
The webinar concluded with a message from Varinia Sandino, Chief of Staff for Maryland Delegate Wanika Fisher: “Something that I like to say is that we each run our race. Some of us run it slow. Some of us trot. Some of us are speed walking and some of us are actually running. But when you look to your sister on the left, and when you look to your sister on your right, let it be to encourage them when you see that they’re giving up. When you look to the left or right, don’t let it be to compare yourself.”