Soroptimist Desert Tucson awards $26,000 in scholarships to students, members work to lift women out of poverty

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Activists in southern Arizona are working to lift women and girls out of poverty so they can support their families and prosper. This year, Soroptimist Desert Tucson is awarding nearly $26,000 in scholarships to seven women. This is record funding for the local chapter, which opened in 1976.

“That’s a huge increase. For example, in 2019, we donated $7,000 to three women,” said club president Jeanne Pelletier. “Our club has 41 members, so we are small but mighty! The focus of this program is really, “What are the barriers?” It’s not a competition between who gets the best grades or who does the most community service. We look at the woman as a whole and assess her financial needs.

The word “sacrifice” takes on new meaning with former winner Naomi De La Rosa. In 2009, her mother was deported.

“I needed to be my father’s mother, sister, caregiver,” she said. “It was a lot; I was in fourth grade. Then a year later, my dad had a stroke that paralyzed his entire left side.

Even when caring for her elderly father and younger brother, De La Rosa says she maintained perfect attendance in school and was on the honor roll.

“My little brother is the one who inspired me to become a primary school teacher because when my mother was deported he was three and a half and four years old,” she said. “I saw how badly he needed, not just a mom figure, but someone to rely on. In elementary school, my teachers brought us home-cooked meals and took me to buy shoes and clothes. things.

De La Rosa is enrolled at the University of Arizona, where she is studying to become a bilingual teacher.

“I have never met anyone who does not have need help along the way, that’s why we’re here,” said Laura Pauli, who chairs the Live Your Dream Award.

Soroptimist Desert Tucson has helped nearly 100 women achieve their career goals by providing financial assistance.

Last year, the local chapter awarded Del La Rosa a $7,500 Live Your Dream grant. This year, she will receive an additional $2,000 Strive to Live Your Dream grant.

“I was like, ‘Wow, you’re angels!'” De La Rosa said.

Pauli says each winner is the head of their family, with an incredible story of resilience.

2020 recipient Kristy Snowden overcame homelessness, domestic violence and substance abuse. She is now a social worker.

“Managing my home, my kids, my job and my school has been a long road,” Snowden said. “But as always, I keep moving forward.”

As for De La Rosa, she is in her last year of university.

“It’s amazing! One more semester and I’ll make my parents proud,” she said. “I don’t want to cry…my dad is in heaven and my mom is so close to being back, so that’s amazing.”

This year, five women were shortlisted for the Live Your Dream award and two for the Strive to Live Your Dream award.

Winners will be recognized at a ceremony on Thursday, March 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church on Broadway and Wilmot.

To find out how to apply for the scholarship program, click HERE.

Soroptimist Desert Tucson holds fundraisers throughout the year. According to the nonprofit, all operational costs are covered by membership fees, so every dollar raised goes towards rewards. To donate, click HERE.

Copyright 2022 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.

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