Improving Women's Lives Through Access to Education

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Soroptimist announces 2014 recipients of its Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards for Women program

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We believe the single best way we can empower women to lead full and productive lives is to provide them with access to education.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Soroptimist International of the Americas, a global women’s organization, is working to do just that. Through its award-winning Live Your Dream Award program (formerly the Women’s Opportunity Awards), Soroptimist assists women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources they need to improve their education, skills and employment prospects.

Each year, Soroptimist awards education grants to more than 1,200 women, many of whom face enormous obstacles including poverty, domestic violence, death of a spouse and other challenges. Uniquely, Live Your Dream Award recipients may use the cash award to offset any costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education, such as books, childcare, tuition and transportation.

“We believe the single best way we can empower women to lead full and productive lives is to provide them with access to education,” said Soroptimist’s executive director and CEO, Elizabeth M. Lucas. “For more than 40 years, the Live Your Dream Awards program has made a measureable and sustainable difference in the lives of our recipients and their families.”

Soroptimist recently awarded $10,000 cash awards to each of its three 2014 Live Your Dream Award finalists—Shirlee Draper of St. George, Utah, Rebecca Shuflin of Arcata, California, and Christina Valdez of Battle Creek, Michigan. This is in addition to the nearly $1.7 million disbursed through Soroptimist clubs and directly through Soroptimist’s headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa.

“These three hard-working women, and all the women who receive this award, are nothing short of remarkable. With unimaginable strength and grace, they have overcome tremendous difficulties and are now on the path to reclaiming their dreams and providing hopeful futures for their families,” said Soroptimist’s President Margaret “Poco” Davis, of North Las Vegas, Nevada. “They are an inspiration to us all.”

This year, all three of the Live Your Dream Award recipients are planning to use their award money to further careers that will not only improve life for themselves and their families, but for their communities as well.

“Everyone is handed at least some adversity in life,” said Draper, a single mother of four who escaped a patriarchal polygamous sect to build a new life for her family. “The beauty of our intelligence is that we get to choose how we respond to it.”

She added, “I am so honored to be chosen as a recipient of this award, and I realize that the Live Your Dream Award is not recognition of just me, but of the indomitable female spirit, the human spirit. Life has given me many challenges, yes. Nonetheless there are many women in the world who masquerade as mere mortals every day, performing superhuman feats without a cape. So I hope that with this recognition, I can represent all these women, and that my life will be spent paying it forward to these unsung heroes.”

Read more about Draper and how all of the 2014 finalists are turning their lives around.

Since the Live Your Dream Awards program began in 1972, Soroptimist has disbursed about $30 million in education grants, helping tens of thousands of women achieve their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families. The Fels Institute of Government, a research and consulting organization based at the University of Pennsylvania, released a 2013 study evaluating the program. Giving the Live Your Dream Awards high remarks, the report concluded the program is highly effective in helping women gain the tools they need to make measurable improvements in their lives by increasing their self-esteem and employment prospects. Read the Fels study at:

The Live Your Dream Award program has also received the Associations Advance America Summit Award—ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership's highest level of recognition. For more information about the Live Your Dream Awards, visit

Soroptimist is now accepting Live Your Dream Award applications for 2014-2015 and encourages eligible candidates to apply:

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist ( improves the lives of women and girls through the work of volunteers in 20 countries and territories. In addition to its Live Your Dream Awards, Soroptimist has just launched a new program, Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls, aimed at providing girls with tangible strategies to accomplish their career goals. A 501(c)(3) organization that relies on charitable donations to support its programs, Soroptimist also powers—an online community of more than 50,000 supporters that offers on- and offline volunteer opportunities in support of women and girls.

Contact: Darlene Friedman, Senior Director of Marketing, darlene(at)soroptimist(dot)org

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Darlene Friedman
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