Cash available for women seeking education to improve their lives

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 23, 2012 

Soroptimist International of Los Banos is hoping to help change a woman's life.

The 50-year-old organization is taking applications until Dec. 15 for its Women's Opportunity Award. The grant, which is $1,000, is given each year to a woman seeking an education who is her family's primary financial provider.

Sherry Pearson, who oversees the grant, said her organization wants the money to help women improve their ability to earn a living.

"Our main mission is education. It's been proven that education does help women get out of poverty," Pearson said. "That's the core of what we do locally and globally. We want to improve the lives of women and girls."

Pearson said it's been difficult in past years to get applicants. She's trying to be more aggressive in advertising the scholarship to avoid such a pitfall this year, working with the local college, the county's workforce investment program and contacting media.

Pearson said also sometimes women can be shy in seeking the two recommendations needed for the scholarship or intimidated by the application.

"This year soroptimists is really encouraging the applicants to come get help from us. It's really not that difficult. It's just paperwork," she said.

Women's Opportunity Award winners can compete at the regional level for more cash and, if successful, nationally as well.

However, Pearson said, it's not only about the money. She said years ago the Los Banos group gave the award to a grandmother who went back to school while raising her grandchildren.

"She didn't have many skills so she went back to college. Her comment to me was that it wasn't so much the money, but that somebody believed in her," Pearson said. "That gave her confidence, professional businesswomen had faith in her."

The group also gives out other awards to women annually based on volunteerism and improving the lives of women. All of the awards are officially handed out at an annual Women's Award Night Banquet.

Sandy Lemas, president of Soroptimist International of Los Banos, said many who have received the Women's Opportunity Award have improved their lives.

Lemas said the organization is attempting to keep in contact with award winners and provide added encouragement in whatever manner is needed.

"We want them to show long-term success," Lemas said.

For more information on the Women's Opportunity Award or Soroptimist International, call Pearson at (209) 826-1026 or (209) 617-9624 or by email at sjpear@pacbell.net.

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