More than $16,000 was awarded last week to local women and non-profit groups at an annual event hosted by Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley. Club members gathered at the Embassy Suites in Valencia with recipients, who were chosen by committees based on applications received.
Clarissa Michael, a 19-year-old Canyon High School graduate and College of the Canyons student, received the 2017 Jane M. Klausman award, presented by committee co-chairs Cheryl Wasserman and Karla Edwards. Michael is headed to Loyola Marymount University in the fall, where she will earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting in two years. She is taking an accelerated three-year program at LMU, which places her on track to earn a master’s degree and become a Certified Public Accountant. She currently works as a bookkeeper for a Santa Clarita business and hopes to accept an internship in a “Big 4” firm once she completes her studies. Clarissa received $2,000 from the local Zonta Club, and her application has been forwarded to District 9, where she could win an additional $1,000. The district winner’s application will go on to Zonta International, where 12 women will be chosen to win an additional $7,000.
Zonta member Phyllis Walker, 2016 JMK Committee chair, recognized Marianne Gaviara, last year’s Klausman winner, for also winning the District 9 award.
Co-chairs Gloria Mercado Fortine and Mary Ann Dortch presented the Young Women in Public Affairs awards.
Five local women who have faced life-changing situations will share $7,000 in Virginia Wrage Memorial Scholarship grants. Virginia Wrage Committee co-chairs Barbara S. Cochran and Jaci Hoffman joined Randy Wrage, son of the program’s namesake, in presenting the awards to Lisette Ferguson, Jennifer Campbell, Jennifer Kennedy, Kelly Ongle and Annelie, who chooses to use just her first name.
The Virginia Wrage Memorial Scholarship is named for a former Zonta member who re-started her life as a flight attendant in her 50s and followed her dream for several years before succumbing to cancer. The club developed the memorial scholarship program in her name shortly thereafter and has maintained it every year since her death.
Lisette Ferguson became a single mother two years ago after leaving an abusive marriage. Finishing school became imperative for the Stevenson Ranch resident. When she obtains her business degree from National University in March 2019, she will work to become a certified fraud examiner. She hopes eventually to work for the FBI and then run her own business. She will use her scholarship to help cover a school loan.
Jennifer Campbell is a Castaic resident and single mother who enrolled at College of the Canyons to become a registered nurse. Last year she was diagnosed with Chiari malformation type 1, a congenital defect that went undiagnosed until then. Due to complications from subsequent surgeries and the disease itself, Jennifer suffers regularly from headaches, hearing loss and tinnitus. There is no cure for her condition, but she perseveres so that she can set a good example for her four-year-old son. She plans to purchase school supplies and books with her Zonta scholarship.
Valencia resident Jennifer Kennedy believes that surviving breast cancer two times has made her a better person. Now she can serve others and understand exactly what they are going through. She was 32 years old when she first heard the devastating news, and more than two decades later, she received the diagnosis again. Jennifer turned her pain into her passion and created Footprints in Pink, a resource for women, caretakers and families going through breast cancer. Footprints in Pink offers its free services locally and nationally to all patients, helping them find free products and financial resources and deal with other aspects that affect them and their families. Her Zonta scholarship will allow her to expand her services to aid more breast cancer victims and their families.
Ongle’s life-altering experience began at age 20, when her son suffered a stroke in utero, leaving him gravely disabled for life. In 2009, she gave birth to another child, who was diagnosed with autism. A resident of Valencia, Kelly has returned to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with an emphasis in special education. The scholarship will help pay for her studies at the University of Laverne. She expects to graduate in 2019, although she would eventually like to earn a Ph.D. in special education.
Canyon Country resident Annelie, who prefers not to use her last name, developed a passion for flying in junior high school, but life took her on an extended plan to achieve that dream. In July 2016, she passed the written FAA test and flew her first solo flight two months later. While working 30 hours each week and homeschooling four daughters, Annelie manages to attend Glendale Community College and volunteer in the community. With her scholarship, she will begin her second phase of pilot training, after obtaining her private pilot license. Her eventual goal is to become a commercial airline pilot.
Four local young women are sharing $4,000 in scholarships offered by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley. Mary Gooneratne received the Young Women in Public Affairs Award locally and her application has been forwarded to Zonta’s District 9 for further competition. In addition, Joyce Kim and Sabrina Pin accepted cash awards as runners-up in the YWIPA competition locally.
The top Young Women in Public Affairs award was granted to Gooneratne, a senior at William S. Hart High School. She expressed a desire to work in government and hopes to use a college education to pursue a cybersecurity-oriented career with the National Security Agency. Her dream is eventually to enroll in law school and then direct her cybersecurity career toward foreign intelligence and policy.
Ranking at the top of her class academically, Mary served as president of her high school speech and debate team for two years and as vice president of the Key Club. She was an active volunteer in the last presidential election campaign and personally helped raise thousands of dollars for her candidate. She is concerned about issues that impact women, such as equal pay, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and female literacy around the world. She received $1,000 as the local winner and is eligible for another $1,000 if she is selected as the District 9 winner. That winner will go on to international competition, where 10 young women will receive $4,000 each.
Runner-up Joyce Kim is a senior at Golden Valley High School, where she is studying international relations and political science. She aspires to become a diplomat or ambassador. As yearbook editor-in-chief, she instituted a cultural spread, interviewing students from different countries and highlighting their cultures and traditions. She worked on a Santa Clarita City Council election campaign and was happy to see a woman running for higher office.
Hart High School senior Sabrina Pin is also a runner-up. She is interested in pursuing a career in public service or politics, and hopes to obtain a law degree. She intends to study public policy with a minor in computer science at Duke University. Throughout her high school years, she has been involved in Associated Student Body, California Girls State, swim, and the speech and debate team. She also was involved with the California YMCA Youth and Government, a model legislature and court program. In her junior year, she interned for a State Assemblyman, listening and responding to constituent concerns. Sabrina’s involvement in speech and debate, particularly in Public Forum debate, has sparked her interest in international relations. She has debated everything from foreign involvement in Iran to development aid in sub-Saharan Africa.
Four non-profit agencies dedicated to serving the Santa Clarita Valley are sharing $5,500 in Community Grants. Award checks were presented by committee co-chairs Suzie Alziebler and Judy Penman to William S. Hart (WISH) Foundation, Domestic Violence Center, SCV Senior Center and College of the Canyons Foundation.
Zonta’s mission is improving the lives of women and girls through service, advocacy and awareness, and successful grant writers focused on specific programs that meets those goals.
The WISH Foundation grant will help fund a proposed Girls Who Code Club at Rio Norte Junior High School, aiming to advance the academic and economic status of young women by encouraging them to enroll in computer science courses at the high school and college levels and eventually pursue computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.
The Domestic Violence Center will use its grant to support its local shelter for victims of domestic violence and their families. The center has been servicing the local community for 12 years and is in much need of repairs and maintenance. The grant will go toward materials needed to modernize the kitchen and give it a much-needed renovation to make the room a welcoming area for women and children to fix their meals and gather in an positive environment.
The SCV Senior Center grant will be used to create an “Empowering Senior Women” workshop series. In three separate seminars, experts in the field of aging will provide comprehensive, leading-edge information, resources and support to senior women to give them tools to become proactive and maintain good physical and mental health.
College of the Canyons Foundation will use its grant to establish a domestic violence advocates training project. The goal of the program is to train 12 COC students to become domestic violence advocates, who will use their training to provide service back to the SCV Domestic Violence Center. They will also design action plans and devise strategies to inform others of this issue and how to confront it. Once trained, these 12 young women will serve as campus mentors to educate others to the signs, dangers and effects of domestic violence.