Soroptimist International awards $11K to local women

Soroptimist International of Watsonville presented four local women with Live Your Dream awards at their annual award dinner on March 18 at the California Grill in Watsonville. Pictured, from left to right: Watsonville Soroptimist VP Fia Ohmann, awardee Serina Chavarria, awardee Hailey Kephart, first place awardee Shala Velaszquez, 2018 first place awardee Xochitl Ybarra and Watsonville Soroptimist President Mary Kashmar. (Contributed photo)

WATSONVILLE — Soroptimist International of Watsonville presented four local women with Live Your Dream awards at their annual award dinner on March 18 at the California Grill in Watsonville.

Shala Velasquez received $3,500 as the first place winner. Currently a student at Cabrillo College, Velasquez dream is to become a social worker.

“My dream is to be able to give back to those programs that have helped me,” she said.

Serina Chavarria, a $3,000 award winner, shared how she grew up in a challenged community.

“Education wasn’t valued in my community,” she said. “Now, I want to show my kids, and nieces and nephews, how important education is for their future.”

Hailey Kephart, was a $2,500 award winner. She is working to start her own business as a holistic nutritionist.

Xochitl Ybarra was also honored with a $2,000 second-year follow up award as last year’s first place award winner — and a Soroptimist region-level awardee. She is completing her degree at Cabrillo College, and is applying to several universities, including UCSC and UCSB. 

“This Soroptimist club has been with me every step of the way,” she said. “It’s not about the money. It’s about their belief in me. First the bachelor’s degree, then the master’s, and someday I’ll have Dr. before my name.”

SI Watsonville club President Mary Kashmar said, “These awards are our club’s mission in action. We will continue to support these fierce young women, as they continue to make their dreams come true.”

Soroptimist International is a global nonprofit volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. For information, contact Kashmar at 706-7289 or [email protected], or visit www.siwatsonville.org.

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