Women young and older were celebrated by the Soroptimist International of Ceres during the Thursday, April 16 "Women of Distinction" event held at the Ceres Unified School District headquarters.
Chapter president Denise Wickham opened the event by quoting Eleanor Roosevelt: "A woman is like a tea bag. You never how strong she is until she gets in hot water."
The club spent some time honoring the teenage high school girls who were finalists in the recent Distinguished Young Women pageant. Gabriella Germann, the winner, was unable to be present since she was in Washington, D.C. testifying to Congress about the importance of FFA and 4-H. Others who were present were first runner-up Jalani Blankenship, second runner-up Sydney Elness, third runner-up Yurixia Avalos and fourth runner-up Nada Abdo.
Latisha Ciprian and Daniela Dominguez, recipients of the "Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards" were present to collect $1,000 awards. The single heads of household were given assistance with their educational goals to better themselves.
Cyprian will use the cash award to assist her in earning her degree in social work. Latisha currently is studying for an AA degree in Social and Behavioral Science and eventually plans to earn her Masters in Social Work. A single parent of two children, a domestic violence survivor, and a case manager at the Community Impact Center, Latisha plans to assist other women who have experienced similar situations.
"I have developed a great deal of commitment toward mu position and my clients," said Cyprian. "I am doing a great job, but I would like more education in order to give my all toward my goal. I continuously attend trainings because I believe education is very important. I would like to provide quality service to the community as well as to the clients I serve."
She will now advance to the Soroptimist Sierra Pacific Region's level where recipients can receive up to an additional $5,000.
Recipient Daniela Dominguez-Gonzales will use the award to meet her goal of becoming a preschool teacher. The single parent of one child, she is attending Modesto Junior College and plans to transfer to Stanislaus State University to complete her degree in Arts and Science of Child Development. She is also employed by the Ceres Unified School District's Head Start Program.
"My career goals are to one day be the head teacher of a preschool. I am currently taking child development classes to better prepare myself to work with the children. Also, my current position gives me experience to work with this age range."
Also honored at the event was Soroptimist member Arlene Vilas who was recently named a Stanislaus County Woman of the Year.
Special recognition was also given to Renee Ledbetter of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce; Kyndal Chapman, Ceres High School's ASB president; Central Valley High School ASB president Victoria Navarro; school board trustees Valli Wigt, Teresa Guerrero, Faye Lane, Betty Davis and Lourdes Perez; Councilmember Linda Ryno; Ceres High School Principal Linda Stubbs; and Central Valley High School Principal Amy Peterman.
Brandy Meyer spoke about the Soroptimist Empowering Teens (SET) program. Soroptimist members, once per month, go to the junior high schools as mentors to give workshops to girls. The girls are taught such things as internet safety, table etiquette, goal setting, making thank you cards and invitations.
"Our girls absolutely love having the Soroptimist ladies come in and do the project," said Blaker Kinser Junior High School Principal Kristi Britton. She quoted one girl as saying: "Soroptimist was a wonderful time. I like how we get to eat and how we got to learn how to be a lady." Another said she appreciated time to have girl talk whereby skills are relayed to make them better adults.
Jose Beltran, principal of Cesar Chavez Junior High said the girls always "hear about or read about role models but it's a whole different thing to have them there in the room talking to them and making that connection."
Ceres Police officer Kiashira Ruiz was the guest speaker and told the audience how she was a nonconformist throughout high school, including becoming the only female on the football team in Gustine. She did a ride along with an officer and was hooked. She was hired by Ceres Police in 2010.
"In my mind if someone told me I couldn't do something, I am going to prove them wrong. I played football for Gustine High School. I was the only female there. Some of the boys were like, ‘Oh you can't do it,' (and I said) ‘Oh yeah, watch me.' I played for three years. Ever since then if I set my mind to something, I'm going to do it."
Ruiz recently took on a police canine responsibility and she enjoys mentoring young women who are interested in law enforcement.