Strength in [Socially-Distanced] Numbers: How Leadership Maryland Classmates Stay Connected, Even During a Pandemic
This year has been all about learning to do everything differently. Whether at home or at work, all our daily routines look different than they did last winter, and some of our lives have changed forever. But one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has not altered is the strong bond that exists within the Leadership Maryland alumni family.
Ask anyone who has completed the Leadership Maryland program, and they’ll tell you that, beyond the information and insight gained during the sessions, what really made the experience meaningful was the connections made with their classmates. And for most of our classes, these friendships continue long after graduation.
“Leadership Maryland is like a fraternity, or that friend from childhood who when you get together, it’s like no time has passed,” says Renée Winsky, ’05. “My life is richer because of my classmates – some for purely professional reasons, some for more personal, and the best ones cover both!”
Up until this year, Marty Schwartz ’14 met his classmates for happy hours every four-to-six months or so.
“One of the primary benefits of Leadership Maryland is the amazing leaders in our cohort,” he says. “Those relationships are very important to me, and I believe they are to most of us and that’s why we continue to get together. We often share what is happening, not only in our personal lives, but in business as well, and there are always nuggets of knowledge to take home.”
Since COVID-19 has made it more difficult to gather in person, many classes have chosen to host virtual get-togethers. For many, these conversations have been a valuable way to stay connected, find support, and lighten spirits while coping with so many challenges. The Class of 2014 has held two Zoom meetings and has found that eliminating travel makes it easier for more classmates to attend.
“We’d typically have six to 10 people at our in-person happy hours, but many more of us have been able to attend the virtual gatherings, which has made it much nicer,” says Marty. “At the last event, we had three continents represented!”
The Class of 2018 has held Zoom happy hours every three months during the pandemic, in addition to checking in with each other by email.
“Our classmates have had plenty of news and information to share – from starting new businesses to sharing remote learning tips,” says Anne Grealy ’18 (LM). “We’ve also been able to lend an ear to classmates who are dealing with issues related to the pandemic on the frontline. It’s been made very clear how much we care for each other.”
“The value of friends can never be understated, and they’ve become even more important in the environment in which we now find ourselves,” says Marty. “Our class is filled with wonderful and diverse individuals, as are other classes. The opportunity Leadership Maryland provided to connect with these folks was and continues to be incredibly valuable.”
This year has reminded us why our social connections are so vital to our wellbeing, and why so many of us consider the relationships we found in Leadership Maryland to be among our most cherished.
“It’s not just your classmates you stay close to; if you engage with our alumni family – those who have graduated before and after you, your life will be richer,” says Renée. “You’ll find new ways to volunteer (or be ‘voluntold’) to further your passions, you may find new customers or business partners, you may even find the best vacation place you’ve ever experienced - who knows! The resources are abundant, but only to the extent to which you reach out and engage. We need each other now more than ever.”
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