Phillip Solomon, Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Zontian, Ashley Hernandez, and Carolina Orozco Hernandez with family (left to right) after receiving a scholarship. Courtesy of Zonta Club

Zonta Club awards total of $22,500 in grants, scholarships

Every nonprofit has a mission, and for the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley, it’s to empower women locally and internationally through service and advocacy. One of the primary ways Zonta strives to accomplish this is by handing out a number of grants and scholarships throughout the year. 

This year, they awarded a total of $22,500 at their annual awards night held May 8 at Embassy Suites Hotel, along with a new scholarship at their business meeting on Aug. 14. 

Each year, the awards are based on the club’s fundraising efforts in the previous year, according to club President-elect Beth Heiserman.

“Our goal is to raise as much as we can, so we can give back to the community as much as we can,” Heiserman said. 

Adele Macpherson, Yorleni Sapp, Zontian, Phillip Soloman, Single Mothers Outreach, Carolyn Olsen, Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, Dr. Roche Vermaak, Family Promise, and Lois Bauccio, Zontian (left to right) after receiving community grant from Zonta Club. Courtesy of Zonta Club

Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, Fostering Youth Independence, Sam Dixon Family Health Centers and Single Mothers Outreach together received a community grant, totalling in $5,000 to be shared.

Each community organization is expected to use the grant to support and empower women in their programs and help to improve their lives. 

Five women were then chosen to receive the Virginia Wrage Memorial Scholarship, which is given to mature women who have faced life-altering situations and need assistance in regaining self-sufficiency. 

The award is named for a local former Zonta, who became a flight attendant in her 50s, allowing her to follow her dreams for several years before she succumbed to cancer.

Randy Wrage, Virginia Wrage’s son, and Patrice Rifkind, Zontian with scholarship recipients Carrie Dawn Duquette, Arbi Asmarian, Heth Mares, Anna Isayan, Carol Smith Sparkman and Lois Bauccio, Zontian (left to right). Courtesy of Zonta Club

“It’s very emotional when they give this scholarship,” Heiserman said. “Her son still comes and gives out the award — it’s very touching.” 

Carrie Dawn Duquette, Arbi Asmarian, Heth Mares, Anna Isayan and Carol Smith Sparkman, who were awarded the scholarship, are expected to share $10,500.

Zonta Club also gives out a number of awards created by Zonta International, including the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business scholarship, a $1,500 award open to women in their second year of undergraduate through the final year of a master’s program in business administration or business-related field.

This year’s recipient, Irina Rhatz, who moved to the U.S. from Russia, is working toward her master’s in professional accountancy at the Graduate School of Business at California State University, Northridge, with the goal of becoming a certified public accountant while continuing to teach accounting to underprivileged students, according to Zonta.

Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Zontian, Jennifer Elliott, Ashley Hernandez, Katherine Jurkowski, and MaryAnn Dortch, Zontian, (left to right) after each receiving the Young Women in Public Affairs Award. Courtesy of Zonta Club

The Young Women in Public Affairs Award, another international award, was given to three young women who attend local high schools or college and are interested in pursuing a career in public affairs.

Jennifer Elliott, who hopes to become a leader in government and advocate for improving the status of women, Ashley Hernandez, a Saugus High School student whose goal is to become a social worker, and Katherine Jurowski, a West Ranch High School student who hopes to tear down barriers for special-needs adults, together share the $2,000 award.

Hernandez also received a special achievement scholarship of $2,000, honoring her high school performance as well as her mother’s service to Zonta and the community as a leading participant in Zonta’s Healthy Kids Club.

Ivonne Lopez, a student at College of the Canyons, was awarded the final, $1,500 scholarship at last week’s Zonta meeting. 

The Women in Technology Scholarship, the first of its kind offered by Zonta International, was created to encourage women to pursue careers that support technical achievement worldwide.

This special centennial anniversary scholarship was announced at the Zonta International Convention in Yokohama, Japan, last year.

“It was exciting because that was my major, science,” Heiserman said. “When I went to college, the classes weren’t very large … and I was only the only woman. It was always very uncomfortable because you felt very excluded from everything. Scholarships like this didn’t exist.” 

Zonta worked with Amy Foote, program director for the Master Engineering Science Association program at COC, to review applicants for the award.

As secretary for MESA, Lopez wants to pursue both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. She hopes to make a difference in combating climate change, and plans to develop software to not only educate the public on energy consumption, but also use data analytics to optimize the efficiency of sustainable energies, such as wind, tidal, geothermal, solar and nuclear.

Each Zonta International award is then forwarded to Zonta’s District 9, where the winner could receive an additional cash prize and becomes eligible to compete for additional prizes on the international level, according to Zonta.

For more information about the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley, visit www.zontascv.org or call 661-252-9351.

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