Women & Philanthropy is a member-funded organization that provides scholarships to students involved in one of two scenarios; undergraduate students who have taken five or more years off but are interested in re-entering college, or junior and senior level students working on research or creative projects, such as a fashion design project or business portfolio, required for graduation. In the last 19 years, the group has awarded 211 students with scholarships in total and has provided over $50,000 in aid in the last school year.
Mary Miller, an executive committee member, encourages anyone interested in the group to attend the upcoming fall reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct 19.
“Anyone who can spare a couple hours should come out,” Miller said. “It’s free to attend and will be filled with nice people and good food. It’s sure to be an inspiring evening.”
Miller explained how the scholarships Women & Philanthropy provide have impacted many students lives, sometimes when they are at their most vulnerable. She recalled how she became involved with the group nearly three years ago.
“I received an invitation in the mail and was intrigued with this group of women wanting to help students facing big challenges,” Miller said.
Miller explained that the scholarships Women & Philanthropy award are available to any reentry student that meets the requirements, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background. “These scholarships are broadly available and we encourage male students to apply also,” she said.
Miller shared how grateful she is for the opportunity to give back to the community and engage in meaningful interactions with scholarship recipients.
One specific scholarship recipient that Miller recalls was a veteran who had served overseas and upon returning home, struggled with PTSD. The Women & Philanthropy organization awarded her a scholarship and she was able to pursue a degree in recreation therapy. The skills that she learned attaining her degree allowed her to develop techniques to help others in recovery.
“She’d take people suffering from trauma [out] surfing,” Miller said.
Because Women & Philanthropy was able to provide the support she needed, she was able to accomplish her goals and help others in need.
Another recipient determined to pay it forward is Irene Sotelo. Sotelo is 52-years-old and a senior at CSULB pursuing her bachelors in sociology. She shared how she had experienced tragedy at a young age and how she wasn’t afforded the opportunity to continue her education.
“I lost my mother to suicide at age 11,” Sotelo said. “I got involved with street gangs and started drugs to numb the pain. It took suffering a stroke and ending up in prison to get my life back.”
Sotelo is excited to complete her bachelor’s degree and hopes to one day achieve a masters in social work. She has been drug-free for 10 years, and says she loves spending free time with her two grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. She’s been invited to share her story at a number of forums and is scheduled to speak to an audience of 1,000 people in Dallas, Texas later this year.
“If I can help one person, I’ll be happy.” Sotelo said. She was encouraged by the members of Women & Philanthropy to continue cultivating her unique success story.
“Everyone I met [at W&P] had their success story. I wanted to be like them, be an example,” Sotelo said. “They spoke to me and showed genuine concern. They recognize men and women for coming back to try again and reminded us we are important too.”
Jackie O’Day, CSULB’s liaison to Women & Philanthropy, explained the organization is excited to celebrate the upcoming milestone. “It’s a kick off to the 20th year,” she said. O’Day wants students to understand who the scholarship supports and that anyone can donate any amount to help expand the number of students supported.
“It’s wonderful to see that we are able to support student successes,” O’Day said.
The Women & Philanthropy fall reception will be from 6 – 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct 19. at the Old Ranch Country Club in Seal Beach. Anyone interested in learning more about the organization is welcome.