January 30, 2023
Women from around the area gathered eagerly on Saturday for the 16th annual Women’s Health Symposium at Pearl River Community College. The event provided education on personal health and fitness with this year’s presentations focused on resiliency.
The event was made possible through the generosity of Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, Gold Sponsor; Aladdin Campus Dining, Hancock Whitney, Highland Community Hospital, Mississippi Power, and Pearl River County Hospital & Nursing Home, Silver Sponsors; and BankPlus, First National Bank of Picayune, Pearl River County Economic Development District, and Southern Bone & Joint Specialists, P.A., Bronze Sponsors.
The event was split into two sessions with each opening with a welcome by Dr. Jennifer Seal, chair of the Women’s Health Symposium Steering Committee, before the general session began.
“Women encounter diverse and unique health concerns across their lifetimes,” said Seal. “The strength of our communities is a reflection of the health of our women. PRCC is appreciative of the health professionals and personnel who provided screenings and educated symposium participants on how to live a healthier lifestyle.”
President of Pearl River Community College Dr. Adam Breerwood addressed the women attending the afternoon session.
“This event closely associates and resembles everything we are trying to do here at Pearl River Community College,” said Breerwood. “We sit here as Mississippi’s fastest growing community college where we are helping young men and women become better mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in the hopes of building better communities.”
Colonel Marilyn Wills, retired United States Army, was the general session speaker. Her topic was “Time of Transition.”
Wills shared from the heart with attendees as she told the story of surviving the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. With emotional pauses when speaking of a coworker who is recently deceased, she described how she and her Colonel were able to help guide seven coworkers to safety. Beyond burns and other physical injuries, the experience left her permanently changed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) requiring challenging work to move forward.
“I have found three things that resonate and work for me: music, exercise, and prayer – not necessarily in that order,” said Wills. “In times when you are not at your highest, find your center. Find your gratitude. Be grateful for yourselves.
“You have gratitude for those lessons that you may learn and then you build that resilience through reflection.”
Between the presentation and meal, attendees were able to peruse handmade items at the Art Walk, access health screenings, and visit vendors for more information on ways to live healthier.
Many of the women donated towards the Dr. Becky Askew Scholarship for Medical Students with the purchase of raffle tickets for three designer handbags. One thousand dollars was raised to fund scholarships for females entering either a pre-med or allied health program.
The health screenings included blood cholesterol, blood pressure, bone density, dental, glucose screening, skin screening, stress management, vision, and more. Participants also had the opportunity for some pampering in the form of a short chair massage from the massage therapy students or to have their nails manicured by the cosmetology students.
Many of the women in attendance have been coming to the symposium since it began and look forward to it each year. Several have shared the word about the experience and brought friends this year.
“My friend, Barbara, encouraged me to come this year,” said Marilyn Schulte of Carriere. “I have enjoyed everything, especially the speakers who were very impressive. I also had a massage that was absolutely fabulous.”
A motivational talk on “Overcoming Adversity” was provided during the meal by Ms. Keri Falk, Landman at Venture Oil & Gas in Laurel, and President of the Mississippi Association of Petroleum Landman. She shared about the car accident during college that forever changed her life as she lost part of her leg and months of her life for recovery. The keys to her recovery were setting goals, prayer, and having a support system.
“Having a strong support system and having your people is important as they are the ones to get you through anything that you’re dealing with,” said Falk. “Set those goals, work towards them, make them happen. Remind yourself that it does get better.”
Ms. Janie Walters, CEO of Champion Communicatons, closed out each session with a few thoughts around the theme of “Joyful in the Journey.” She encouraged attendees to reframe the way they speak about struggles they face with the use of humor to provide examples. Walters also assisted Seal in drawing for each session’s grand prize winners. Smaller door prizes were listed in advance for attendees to claim during their session. Attendees were excited to leave with two gifts: a short gold link chain and a small travel jewelry organizer.
VENDORS AND ART WALK PARTICIPANTS
Vendors for the 2023 event included Beehive Homes of Picayune, Crown Care Communities, Dermatology South – Hattiesburg Clinic, Forrest General Home Care and Hospice, Hattiesburg Eye Clinic, P.A., Highland Community Hospital, Hypnotherapy Services, Mississippi State University Extension, Park Place Pharmacy, Pearl River County Hospital & Nursing Home, Poplarville Woman’s Club, PRCC Associate Degree Nursing Program, PRCC Cosmetology Program, PRCC Dental Hygiene Program, PRCC Massage Therapy Program, PRCC Medical Laboratory Technology Program, Pearl River County Putting on the Pink, Solace Hospice, Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative, Inc. (SeMRHI), Southern Bone and Joint Specialists, P.A., Team Merry Heart, The Poplarville Clinic, and The Wellness Collective/Simply Mills.
Art walk vendors displayed their handmade items available for purchase. They included Barbara Atwell, Teresa Card (The Spicy Mermaid), Kadence Dedeaux (Kreations by Kadence), DeDe English (Sew Unique by DeDe English), Tony & Corey Guerra (Pine Belt Soap Co.), Kathy Guillot, Michele Hertzog, Kay Kammer (Blue Cricket Designs), LeAnn Lundy (Girly Productions), Gloria Newson (Magnolia Essence), Ashley Purvis, Raleigh Seal, Evelyn Shelby, Kathy Stockstill, and Gail Taylor (Stained Glass Sentiments).
For the latest news on Pearl River Community College, visit PRCC.edu and follow us on Twitter (@PRCC_Wildcats), Instagram (PRCCWILDCATS), and Facebook (@PRCCMKTG).
Article and photography by Laura O’Neill.