Believe and Achieve was the theme of the 2020 Business and Professional Women of Hernando County scholarship fund-raiser, conducted in February. This phrase also could double as a mission statement for the scholarship program, which itself achieved a tremendous milestone this year on behalf of the young women of Hernando.
A local affiliate of BPW USA and BPW Florida, it is the goal of BPW of Hernando County "to achieve equity for all women in the workplace through advocacy, education and information." To this end, the BPW scholarship program offers two $1000 scholarships annually, awarded to one female high school senior preparing for college or technical school and a woman who is returning to school to continue her education.
This year, BPW went six extra miles to achieve this objective; awarding $1500 scholarships to six recipients.
"We surprised them all and announced that they were actually receiving a scholarship for $1500 instead of $1000!" said president-elect Rhonda Jorgensen, regarding the June scholarship ceremony in which students received their life-changing scholarships. "It was a great night."
And in the eyes of Tracy Ramirez, Scholarship Committee Chair of Hernando BPW, these scholarships are intended to make a great start to the professional lives of their recipients.
"These young ladies know we believe in them," said Ramirez. "We want them to know that, if they set their minds to it, they can do anything."
In earning this scholarship, these students--each in her own way--has indeed set a major life milestone.
Central High School graduate Madison Schubiger was recovering from a car accident, one that left her with an injured neck, back and ankle, when her attorney recommended that she apply for the scholarship.
"I was wondering how I was going to pay for college," she said. "On July 27, I start SunTech Technical Education Center. I want to become an esthetician."
Karen Gayle Blaha is a longtime Hernando childcare provider who recently began a second career as a nurse; studying alongside her daughter at PHSC when her mother--who knows a BPW representative--notified her of the scholarship opportunity.
"I got my CNA degree, and studying online at PHSC to advance from RN to BSN, I want to go from teaching children to caring for children as a pediatric nurse," she said. "I am thrilled to be one of the chosen ones to receive this scholarship, and am so pleased that they also offer scholarship opportunities for nontraditional students."
Blaha said she got tears in her eyes when she learned that her scholarship funds would exceed the originally stated amount and she now wants to join BPW.
Abigail Rich received her second BPW scholarship this year. Also pursuing a nursing career, this Springstead High School graduate is attending the University of North Florida.
"I'm ecstatic and honored," she said. "I'm also so proud of BPW. I'm inspired by this group of strong, intelligent women. I'm working hard at my academics to put my best foot forward--and have been helped immensely by this group and scholarship, by and for women. I want to join them in giving back to the community."
Laney Stalcup, Hernando High School graduate, is college-bound to study pharmaceutical science at Santa Fe College in the honors program.
"This scholarship motivates me," she said. "Now I know that all of my hard work in high school paid off. It also motivates me to help others."
Stalcup also finds herself motivated by the BPW commitment to women in business.
"There's a big difference in how women are treated, as compared to men," she said. "BPW is a great organization that supports and advocates for women."
Tatiana Quiroz-Ossaba, Springstead High School graduate, agrees that BPW is "an inspiring organization that empowers women."
"It's great news, it's great to be recognized," she said. "I'm going to USF to study speech pathology, and this scholarship will be a big help."
Bayley Riddle, Springstead High School graduate, says she was "so excited and relieved" to receive the BPW scholarship.
"Our school has a room in the guidance office dedicated to scholarships, and through routinely checking for new scholarship opportunities I found out about the BPW Scholarship," she said. "Being awarded this scholarship means a lot to me and will assist me greatly with paying for college. I will be attending Florida Southern College this fall majoring in Secondary Education as well as playing cello in the Florida Southern College Symphony Orchestra! I spent all of high school as a member of Key Club, the high school branch of the parent organization Kiwanis, and would like to be a role model for future Kiwanis kids as a Key Club sponsor while being an impactful teacher to students. I would like to thank the BPW for awarding me this generous scholarship and giving me the chance to attend college with fewer worries about the financial burden associated with it."
And like her cohorts, Riddle appreciates the role that BPW plays in supporting female scholars.
"Along with this generous award, I am also honored to have the support of such an amazing institution that supports women in the business professional field of work," she said. "I want to say, thank you for supporting me and the many other women of our county in all that they do!"
BPW scholarships are awarded to female students who must live in Hernando County and demonstrate a financial need, who must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and must be attending a Florida college or technical school by the fall semester of the year in which the scholarship is awarded. Applicants must complete a full application that features an essay portion. For more information, contact Tracy Ramirez, Esquire, Scholarship Chairperson, (352)610-4488 or [email protected], or visit www.bpwhernando.org.
"These ladies go to school, do community service, work, and contribute to their families," said Ramirez. "They are ready to move forward to a life of success."