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Courtesy photoSoroptimist award winners on May 16 pose for a photo. From left are Starlie Bertrand, Sonora Jessup, Tracy Jensen, Jennifer Head, Isabel Fernandez, K.C. Mahoney, Michelle Mickey, Cheyenne Benschoter and Mouminatou (Mumi) Thiaw. Not pictured is Rebecca Velasquez.

Soroptimist Report: Recognizing excellence in the community

Soroptimist International of Ashland honored local recipients of their awards on Wednesday, May 16, at their annual Awards Luncheon at the Ashland Hills Hotel. SI Ashland is a service organization whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls locally and globally. SI Ashland, as its major fundraiser, runs the Pillow and Blanket Booth in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from June through the middle of October. With over $50,000 in annual proceeds, they support the OSF FAIR program with half of the net income and the other half in direct support of women and girls locally. SI Ashland has been supporting the community of Ashland since 1946.

Awards include the Live Your Dream Award that aids women who, as primary wage-earners for their families, are enrolled in a vocational/skills training program or an undergraduate degree program. The program begins on a local level and recipients of this award become eligible for a regional-level award. Money is used for costs such as books, tuition, childcare and transportation.

This year’s awardees are:

• K.C. Mahoney, first-place winner. K.C. received a $2,000 grant to support her and her family while she completes the OHSU Nursing Program at SOU.

• Michelle Mickey, one of two second-place winners, has always dreamed of getting an education despite the long odds she faced. She is now enrolled at RCC with a 3.86 GPA while working and raising her daughter. Her goal is work in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She received a $1,000 grant.

• Isabel Fernandez, our second second-place winner, is proud to be taking classes at RCC. She plans to be the first in her generation to graduate from college and is interested in law enforcement investigation. She received a $1,000 grant.

• A SOU Grant-in-Aid award honors SOU students who excel scholastically, contribute to the community and desire to enter a profession of service. This years winner is Theresa (Tracy) Jensen for $2,000. Tracy is a single mom with two children and sits on the Rogue River School Board. She works full time at the Southern Oregon Education Service District and is a senior at SOU as a psychology major. She is working toward becoming a special education teacher.

• The Soroptimist SOU Women’s Athletic Award given to an SOU woman athlete is intended to give a financial lift and to demonstrate support for physical fitness. Rebecca Velasquez is currently on the SOU women’s softball team and leading them toward a winning season.

• The Vicki Smith Memorial Ashland High School Scholarship was named in memory of Vicki Smith, a member of over 25 years who worked tirelessly to give scholarships to students at Ashland High School. This year’s winners are Starlie Bertrand and Mouminatou (Mumi) Thiaw with each receiving $1,500. Starlie has thrived at Ashland High School both socially and academically having found her passion in Technical Theater. These skills have helped her get paid work in local theaters while she finished high school in three years. She will be attending SOU in the fall where she will major in Digital Communications. Mumi moved from the coast of Senegal, Africa, to Ashland when she was almost 5 years old. She has a global perspective, which has inspired her to explore other cultures. She has been accepted to Scripps College where she will study diplomacy, international affairs, Africana studies and languages to prepare her to engage in an international relations profession.

• A Vocational-Technical Award is given to one Ashland High School female student and one Phoenix High School female student. Sonora Jessup from Ashland High School has a passion for anatomy and physiology and is looking to become a paramedic. Cheyenne Benschoter of Phoenix High School has a passion for animals and intends to study pre-vet at RCC and then plans to attend Abdill Career Center and become a vet tech. Both recipients received $1,000 each.

• The Women Helping Women Award is given to a woman who initiates or manages an innovative community project that benefits women and girls. Through personal or professional activities, this honoree has worked in extraordinary ways to promote the issues that are relevant today and that support the mission of Soroptimist. This year’s awardee is Jennifer Hampton Head of Oak Grove Midwifery in Ashland. Jennifer has been a midwife for 15 years and serves as the Executive Director of One World Midwives where the community of midwives meets global villages. Their mission is to serve women and families worldwide where the need is greatest with the goal of reducing infants and maternal mortality worldwide. For the past 10 years she has provided midwifery care in developing countries such as Uganda, Mexico, and, most recently, Bangladesh; as well as disaster areas such as Haiti and the Philippines and remote settings such as the Lakota Nation — all while still running Oak Grove Midwifery in Ashland. She teams with other midwives to make sure that no woman is left without the care they deserve. A total of $1,500 has been awarded to both One World Midwives and Midwife Pilgrim in Bangladesh in Jennifer’s name.

Soroptimist International of Ashland is proud to support these women on their path to making a difference in the lives of those they encounter.

— Soroptimist Report appears quarterly in the Tidings. For more, go to www.soroptimistrv.org/siashland.html, call Janie Burcart at 541- 910-0235 or email siashland@soroptimist.net.

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