Celebrating Soroptimist International 100th year this year and Soroptimist International NMI’s eighth year, they awarded three recipients at their annual “Live Your Dream” awards last Saturday at the Mariana Lighthouse on Navy Hill.
All three recipients—Jamanda Manglona, Kaelani San Nicolas, and Jennifer Benavente—are pursing an education at the Northern Marianas College. This makes it the first time for Soroptimist International NMI to present the award to three persons.
“This year is very special as we’re awarding three women who deserves to be called a “Live Your Dream’ awardees,” said SINMI president Marilyn Marron. “The points were really close—one winner was a point ahead of two women who were tied at second place and, with that, it wasn’t so hard to decide to declare the three of them as recipients,” she said.
The program is aimed at improving the lives of women in the CNMI by providing financial assistance to improve their education, skills, support their families and business venture they want to get into. The awardees are chosen based on a specific criteria: they have to be women who are going through college, while also being the head of their household.
“This is the first time we have three awardees and we are happy to be of help in the journey of these amazing women,” Marron added.
For this year, the judges were magistrate judge Heather Kennedy of the U.S. District Court of the NMI; Les Ogumoro-Uludong, program manager for CNMI Health Education; and Elsie Skang-Ngewaki, non-instructional faculty at NMC.
One of the awardee, Manglona, who is taking up Liberal Arts Business Management at NMC, thanks SINMI for this opportunity to help her further her education. “I will use part of the award to get a laptop to help me with my online classes,” she said.
She said she was overwhelmed with joy upon learning that she has been chosen to be an awardee. “I cried with my grandmother and daughter when we found out,” she said. “…This is an amazing opportunity bless women like me and assure us that there is hope to succeed. The help and encouragement that SINMI spreads is that you should never be ashamed of being a single mom, pursuing school, and needing help. SINMI tells women like me that we’re on the same boat and with perseverance and hard work, hopes and dreams come true.”
Manglona, 31 and a mother of four, plans to also use part of her award to buy art supplies “so I can open my business and treat my children because they deserve it.”
Twenty-eight-year-old year-old San Nicolas, a working mom pursuing a degree in special education that compliments her certification in American Sign Language from Guam and trying to accomplish Praxis exams, found out about the SINMI scholarship a month ago. “I read and watched the video and decided to give it a try. …I will use the award to continue my education. …I have been struggling, trying to pay bills, taking care of my daughter, and paying for Praxis exams which I need in order to move up in college and take upper courses. …The award will help me push to the finish,” she said.
“Being awarded is both life-enhancing and changing. …My journey toward finishing my education and fulfilling my dreams has been really slow and…I am so glad that they believe in my dream to provide language access for deaf students and support parents because language should be provided not just in school but especially at home,” she added.
The third winner, Benavente, 32, is a mother of two taking up business at NMC and is an aspiring entrepreneur. “I applied for the Live Your Dream Award because, as a college student, I want to try and grab every scholarship that is available to me and when I saw that I fit the qualifications they were looking for, I gave it a shot. When I won, I was a bit shocked because I do not usually win a lot of things but I am very happy,” she said.
“Right now, I am currently making and selling pinatas called ‘Pinatas by Jen’ through Facebook. I know it is not much but I made over 150 for different clients. …I plan to use the cash award to help me finish school and pursue my small business,” she added.
Saturday’s event was hosted by Chris Nelson, while Division of Revenue and Taxation director Tracy Norita and 2018 Live Your Dream awardee Mercilyn Kaneshi Palec were the guest speakers.
Marron said that SINMI have a couple of projects in line for 2021. Their next project is Halloween, where they are working closely with Karidat Social Services. “We bring candies over there and then we provide meals for their Thanksgiving dinner. For Christmas, we provide gifts and a Christmas eve meal,” she said.
Marron said that SINMI encourages more women to continue to help other women “because some of them go through lot and it makes a big difference to reach out. …We also invite more women to join SINMI because the more people we have, the stronger the collaboration among women and with that, we can make more impact and give help to more women in need,” she added.