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Executive women honored with banquet, scholarships

Gloria Vanderbilt once said, “I always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.” Executive Women International (EWI) proves her point.

For nearly 80 years, the premier ladies’ group has brought together successful businesswomen to provide for those in need. The Pomona Valley Chapter of EWI and 57 global affiliate groups foster this mission on a local level through opportunities such as the Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) Scholarship, providing financial assistance to women looking to improve their situation through education.

The Pomona Valley Chapter held their annual ASIST scholarship banquet on Thursday, May 26 to honor this year’s recipients.

The first-place winner, Odessa Downing, was awarded $3,000 toward her dream of obtaining a doctor in educational leadership. Earlier that same day, Ms. Downing received news that she had been accepted into Cal Poly’s doctorate program, making the night even more momentous.

Juliana Castillo won second place and a $2,500 scholarship, which she plans to use to become a biomedical engineer. Ms. Castillo says that she was raised in a family that did not expect, and often dissuaded, its female members from pursuing an education. After seeing her mother denied a college education, Ms. Castillo vowed that her life would be different.

“I always knew education was a way to gain my independence,” she said.

Vanessa Woghiren, the third-place winner, is only three credit shy of receiving her master’s in public health, and is on her way to achieving her childhood dream of becoming a doctor. Ms. Woghiren, who helped raise her three siblings and took care of her mother who suffered from mental illness, wants to bring better health care to underserved communities locally and on a global scale.

Recipients were given a certificate of recognition from the City of Claremont in addition to their scholarships. The ladies were also congratulated by keynote speaker Martha Andressen Wilder, a professor of English emerita at Pomona College. Ms. Wilder emphasized that modern day “wonder women” can be found in the most adverse of situations.

The annual banquet is a celebration of the group’s commitment to the local community, said chapter president Char Costantino.

“This is the night we have all been waiting for, what we all work towards,” she said.

—Jessica Gustin Pfahler

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