Finding hope in young persons faith


February 27, 2000|By NORRIS WEST

THIS was supposed to be a simple column about a worthwhile county effort to spread the word of health prevention in Anne Arundel churches.

But its never that simple when you visit a church on a brilliant Sunday morning. You may get more than you expect.

Health prevention was present, as advertised, at Wayman Good Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church. Ill get to that in a moment.

But physical health wasnt the only thing in the church bulletin. The service also delivered medicine for the mind -- not to mention the soul.

On this day, the inspiration came from a young woman who is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology senior. Her name is Danielle A. Hinton, and she was in the Baltimore area to receive a prestigious Black Engineer of the Year award for student leadership.

Ms. Hinton is not from this area.

She grew up in Hampton, Va., where her mother works as a mechanical engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations Langley Research Center. But mother and daughter have a tight connection to Anne Arundel County; the Rev. Dana A. Swann, a longtime family friend, pastors Wayman Good Hope.

Mr. Swann, incidentally, works at Annapolis ARINC and received a Black Engineer of the Year award in 1997.

His church sits in serenity on Hoyle Drive, across from Jones Elementary School, between Severna Park and Arnold. It is a bit off the beaten path of Ritchie Highway, near Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, past the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, where bikers and roller bladers frolic.

The churchs 120 or so parishioners cover the spectrum of lifes cycle -- from infants to octogenarians. The message from Ms. Hinton was intended for the teenagers. The young woman is a much better role model than Mary J. Blige or members of singing rappers TLC could ever be to boys and girls.

Ms. Hinton is going places, and she showed young congregants her road map.

I want to get to a level where I can have a lot to offer students who are coming up, the way people helped me, she says.

Indeed, she is extraordinarily gifted: She completed high school with a 4.3 grade point average and carries a 4.8 on MITs five-point scale. But teens and pre-teens, especially African Americans, can learn a lot from her, regardless of class rank. They can learn that young adults are succeeding without having a music video or a slam-dunk title to their credit.

Ms. Hinton is an electrical engineering major and is vice president of MITs class of 2000. She also is co-director of the schools Black Christian Fellowship, which Mr. Swann co-founded when he attended the Cambridge school.

When she took the pulpit, she said her academic success was intertwined with her religious commitment.

People who share her faith may be able to relate easily. Those who dont can nonetheless look to this wonderful young woman, and those like her, and see the possibilities an education can bring.

Without a doubt, the Danielle Hintons shall inherit the earth.

Ms. Hinton was the added attraction at Wayman Good Hope. I went there to check out Health Sunday or the Health Smart Church Program, which the countys health department operates with 30 county churches.

Every month, Wayman Good Hope and other churches set up tables after morning service to screen members for high blood pressure and distribute health department literature and coupons for fruits and vegetables. This is a vital service for those who attend church regularly.

Louise Seymour, 88, gets her blood pressure checked most months.

I dont suffer with high blood pressure, but it fluctuates, says the small woman, who walks with a cane but speaks with a crisp, clear voice. She was a bit surprised with her recent reading. It was 110 over 80 in December, she said, reading a card that records her numbers. It was 150 over 80 today.

Sylvia W. Nolan, who runs the program at Wayman Good Hope, says 25 to 30 members get their pressure taken every month. Most are regulars, she said.

Church members are trained to take blood pressure.

When readings are dangerously high, the programs medical partners, such as the Anne Arundel Medical Center, follows up and tries to arrange more health services. These services are critical. Fifteen percent of people who are screened on Health Sundays register readings of at least 160/100. Readings of 140/90 and higher are usually considered a health threat.

Churches that participate in Health Sundays deserve credit for serving the body as well as the soul. And Wayman Good Hope is one of the many bright lights in Anne Arundel County as it reaches out to the young and old.

Norris West writes editorials for The Sun from Anne Arundel County.

Pub Date: 3/05/00

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