Six women have received Virginia Wrage memorial grants from the Zonta Club of the SCV at the group’s December meeting. The winners were selected from 48 applications received for this year’s grant cycle, with six finalists selected for interviews. The committee was so impressed with the six finalists that they decided to present all six with awards in varying amounts, according to Committee Chair Cheryl Gray.
The winners are:
* Heather Marie Arena, who survived abusive parents and an abusive husband before deciding to make her own life for herself and her son. Following an on-the-job injury, she has survived two surgeries and continued to pursue her college degree despite excruciating pain. Her goal is to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology so she can council other victims of abuse.
* Anita Bissonette is a single mother who was laid off her job of more than 32 years, leaving her with no income, no insurance, no retirement and no references. Her immediate goal is to earn her Associate of Arts degree in accounting and an Administrative Assistant certificate through the Computer Information Technology program at College of the Canyons. Her ultimate goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting and become a Certified Public Accountant.
* Lisa Callahan-Fadness was married for 22 years before her husband walked out, leaving her a single mom with little education and no current job skills. She currently is in the nursing program at College of the Canyons, and hopes to become a Registered Nurse. Her long-term goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree and extend her nursing skills by reaching out to other communities or countries where help is needed.
* Dina Michelle Hinojosa divorced a physically abusive husband, leaving her with two small children to raise on her own, one with special needs. She suffered an on-the-job injury in 2008, which was amplified by additional health issues. Starting as a migrant worker in the cotton fields in Kern County, she is currently studying at College of the Canyons and plans to transfer to CalState Bakersfield to earn a master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in teaching.
* Sherrell Lewis was married for 24 years and found herself a single mother due to issues of domestic abuse and infidelity, a stressful divorce and the foreclosure of her home. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but has little working experience since she became a stay-at-home mom to raise her children. She now plans to pursue a graduate degree in marriage and family counseling and give the kind of help to other families that she has been receiving.
* Amy Svec is the single mother of two who left an abusive relationship and started pursuing a nursing degree through College of the Canyons. She has been working at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and plans to continue working there as a nurse when she finishes her degree program. A master’s degree in nursing from UCLA is her ultimate goal.
The honorees were presented with their grants and a Zonta yellow rose by Randy Wrage, son of the grant’s namesake.
Virginia Wrage was a Zonta member who faced a crisis and was forced to make a mid-life career change. She pursued her goal of becoming an airline stewardess and traveled the world for two years before being diagnosed with cancer. Before her death, she agreed to allow Zonta to administer a grant in her name to be awarded to mature women who also were in need of help to make a mid-life career change.
More than 50 women have received the grants since the program’s inception, allowing them to become independent and self-sufficient.