Manteca Soroptimist women handed out a total of $12,000 at their recent awards night dinner to six graduating high school students and four area women who received special recognition awards.
The soon to graduate high school seniors receiving college scholarships included Gurwinder Kaur, Manteca High School, Mayra Padilla, East Union High School, Amber Alcaraz, New Vision High School, Tolulope Afolabi, Weston Ranch High School, Mahlynn Liotard, Sierra High School and Heather Scharmann receiving the Betty Bergthold Award for $2,000. The others received $1,000 scholarships.
Making a Difference for Women award went to Laura Vieira. The Women of Distinction award winner was Evelyn Prouty. Women’s Opportunity Award went to Jennifer Beltran and the Violet Richardson Award went to Gurwinder Kaur.
Laura Vieira’s award is designed to honor women who through their professional or personal efforts are making an extraordinary difference in the lives of women or girls. “Laura is certainly making a difference for women and children in the Manteca community,” her citation read.
Laura has worked with the Ray of Hope since 2000 when she met with a Manteca businessman and relayed her concern over the young children in the local area who were in desperate need of help.
The benefactor gave her a check for $25,000 along with office space and told her to put her plan to work.
Today Laura has a college degree in business and is the executive director of the organization with over 20 full-time volunteers help to fill the needs of homeless and impoverished children and their families.
Last year alone Ray of Hope helped over 2,000 women and children who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks. The organization has grown at an unbelievable rate requiring new facilities and has added several new program to assist families.
The Women of Distinction Award that went to Evelyn Prouty, designed for women who have made outstanding achievements in their professional, business or volunteer activities.
An outstanding role model, having demonstrated exemplary character and integrity, Evelyn has spent much of her career in maintaining and preserving the heritage of the community through her historical writing and volunteer work at the East Union Cemetery and the Manteca Museum. She has been an active board member and president of the museum for years and now works three days a week in an effort to save the pioneer East Union Cemetery.
“She is an inspiration for all of us by showing what giving and community is all about,” her citation concluded.
The Women’s Opportunity Award went to Jennifer Beltran in the amount of $500 to assist her in going back to school to complete her nursing degree. She advanced to regional judging in Soroptimist’s organization and received an additional $3,000.
The award is designed to assist women with primary financial responsibilities for their families to obtain the skill, training and education necessary to improve their employment status and their standard of living for themselves and for their families.
Beltran is a single mom with four children from 9 to 12 years old. She had already received her nurses aid certificate and her licensed vocational nurse degree and has set her goal to further her education to obtain registered nurse status.
“She has worked hard to overcome an abusive family environment and an abusive marriage,” the citation reads. “She will be the first college graduate in her family.”
Gurwinder Kaur was given the Violet Richardson Award that recognizes women between the ages of 14 and 17 who volunteer in the community or in their school - she did both. These young women candidates make the community and the world they live in a better place through their volunteer efforts.
The award was presented to her for her dedication to the Southside Christian Church, where she participates in the Friday Unity Night Neighborhood (FUN) Club Program.
The purpose of the program is to build unity in the neighborhood, foster healthy living, model good behavior, instill leadership skills, encourage various fun and positive activities, promote wise choices and decision making. Most importantly increase awareness and prevention of drugs, gangs and crime.
Gurwinder also volunteers for other organizations and programs such as Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Students in Prevention, Kaiser Permanente, Manteca Public Library and the Manteca-Lathrop Boys and Girls Club.
She has a grade point average of 4.375 and plans to attend UCAL where she will major in biology and plans to become an oncologist.