March is Women’s History Month and to honor this important event Little Lights is publishing a blog series featuring women on staff who have dedicated their lives and career to the communities we serve! Because of their commitment, we have built something special, so we’d like to recognize how they impact our world and thank them for being an inspiration.

Since 1995, Little Lights has been working to bridge the gaps in academic, social, and racial inequality for families living in public housing communities. From almost the beginning Mary Park, Deputy Director, has wholeheartedly contributed to the vision and mission of Little Lights.

She remembers, “In 1998 I came to Maryland, and I was looking for full-time work in counseling, I couldn’t find anything right away, so I called Steve up and I asked could I help out in any way and he just told me ‘Do you have a backpack?’ and I said Yes”.

Since that day, over twenty years ago, to now, she has been a central piece of our story so we’re excited to discuss Women’s History Month, and how she hopes to influence every girl she encounters through Little Lights.

Q. How does your work make an impact on the girls you encounter at Little Lights?

Little Lights lets the girls we work with know that they are valuable and cared for. That God loves them and has great things planned for them. The relationships impact the girls for a better future.

Q. How do you engage girls and young teens in your efforts?

We provide Girls Night, mentoring, and academic support for our girls including young teens. We also help provide employment opportunities during the summer as well as during the school year for those who qualify. Our program staff are amazing at connecting with our girls including staff who grew up at Potomac Gardens. In addition, we show up every day (as an organization, we are here to stay). Just being present in this community shows them that we are always willing to engage with them (even if they are no longer in programs with us).
Q. What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned that could inspire girls to do their best?

I think the power of persistence and not giving up. I think 90% of success is not giving up when things get difficult and being determined and continuing to learn.

Q. Who is the most influential woman you know? How does she inspire you?

I would say my mom has influenced me the most. She worked so hard to take care of my dad and her five children. She cared for us so well and would never complain about how hard her life could be. She still inspires me every day.

Q. What are the obstacles that you have faced in the struggle to achieve change for students at Little Lights?

I think when you hear about a tragedy or a major set back one of our students has experienced, it is painful. It can discourage you, but you have to keep the faith and keep going to help as many as you can.