A Message From The President

April 2020

This week the Governor of Florida issued an executive stay-at-home order for residents except for essential services.  Almost simultaneously, we learned that the number of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus had topped one million in the U.S.  Our families and loved ones throughout Tampa Bay and well beyond are challenged in ways that were unimaginable just a month ago.  In the midst of this, Athena sisters are providing critical leadership in government, healthcare, education, religion, arts, business, and our nonprofit sector. As women in leadership in this extraordinary time, we draw strength and resources through our connectivity.

April is the month we traditionally celebrate one of our signature programs — Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Women of Promise.  While the pandemic of COVID-19 has restricted our ability to gather this month, we honor our YWP today with their photos and bios in April’s newsletter.  We look forward to celebrating with them in person when the restrictions have lifted and it is safe to do so. In the meantime, the committee prepared and delivered beautiful Certificates of Merit for each nominee, and framed Certificates of Award with scholarship checks to each of our 12 Young Women of Promise recipients.

Our Young Women of Promise committee, led by Chair Barbara Twine Thomas, worked diligently in the months leading up to identifying recipients.  They met with all counselors in public schools, and this year they added opportunities for greater representation in applications. With a landmark 32 nominations, the committee effectively broadened the diversity of our nominees and expanded our impact in the community.  I want to thank and congratulate Barbara and committee members for their vision, commitment and outstanding work. This year’s honorees represent an impressive slate of young women who have invested in their education and community to cast a vision for their futures. We are also grateful for the generosity of our membership for funding these educational scholarships.

As I read the backgrounds of each of the young women, I was inspired by the commonality of their courage, adaptability and resilience. I cannot think of more important character traits in these unprecedented times that they – and all of us – are traversing. Their generation has an ability to pivot quickly, and leverage their knowledge, along with use of technology and social media, to connect and communicate. ‘Screen time’ was something that we wanted to limit, and now it is critical for staying connected. There is surely a lesson in there.

The pandemic of the novel coronavirus has been called a ‘generation defining moment.’  Each of us has experienced those transformative points in our lives that forged our inner mettle perhaps even served as the impetus in our personal and professional direction and path forward.

I am grateful and proud of our Athena membership and the leadership they have taken in the face of this international health crisis – our Mayor, Congresswoman and state legislators, County Commissioner, USF Dean of Public Health, school officials, non-profit leaders, and those in leadership at some of our largest hospital systems in the Tampa Bay area.

Whatever the next few months will bring, we know that our community will not be unscathed. Our hearts are with the members of our medical and first responder communities confronting this crisis on the ground, to the children and families whose lives have been interrupted, to the businesses and organizations that are experiencing an unparalleled moment of economic disruption.

Connected, we will emerge as the resilient community that we are.  Athena sisters will continue to help lead the way, of this I am certain.