VISTA, California, March 25, 2021Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland (SI Vista NCI) recently gave educational awards totalling $21,500 to seven local women as part of its Live Your Dream Awards program. The Live Your Dream awards assist 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. These women are enrolled in or have been accepted to a vocational/skills training program or an undergraduate degree program. Awardees may use the money in whatever manner will help them further their goals, whether that be tuition, supplies, rent, childcare or other living expenses. In the past five years, SI Vista NCI has given over $30,000 to awardees. This year’s first-place award winner received a check for $3,500, and the other six awardees received $3,000 apiece. The top winner’s application has been submitted as a candidate for an additional region-level award and a chance to become a candidate for one of three $10,000 Soroptimist federation-level awards.

Every year, Soroptimist organizations distribute more than $2.5 million in grants as part of their Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards. Since its inception in 1972, more than $30 million has helped tens of thousands of women achieve their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families — leading to stronger communities, nations and the world.

“We usually present these awards at our annual awards gala, but due to the pandemic all in-person events have been canceled and we simply mailed the checks and awards certificates to the women” said Eden Weinberger, chair of the Live Your Dream Awards Committee. “We hope to celebrate with them via Zoom soon,” she said.

First-place awardee Kasey Critz’s dream is to earn a master’s degree in special education and work as an advocate for learning disabled students. She has been pursuing a B.A. in education at National University, maintaining a 3.23 GPA and receiving many student achievement awards plus admission to their prestigious Honors for Social Change program. Critz escaped a physically abusive marriage and was left as the sole financial support for four learning disabled sons. She calls the day she enrolled in National University a day of reckoning. “It was time to return to school so I would never again be in a position that left me and my sons powerless,” she wrote in her application. “The Live Your Dream Scholarship would give me a chance to breathe when I am wondering how I am going to squeeze 30 hours of work, homework and parenting into a 24-hour day…Many times I thought that I should take a temporary leave from school and focus on making more money because it was so difficult to succeed at both… I don’t always have a homemade dinner on the table or have all the laundry folded and put away. My assignments aren’t always turned in on time, and sometimes I fall asleep at work because I work the overnight shift as an emergency veterinary nurse. Many times, I just have a good old-fashioned cry to get myself to the next day. Somehow, with the grace of God, I always find a way to make it work, but now I don’t have to figure out how to hide the bruises behind sunglasses, make-up and sweaters,” she wrote.

All six other awardees have similarly poignant stories and struggles. Monica Vargas, single mother of three, is pursuing a B.A. in Psychology from Cal State University San Marcos part-time while holding down a full-time job. “Not only would this scholarship assist me financially by offsetting some of the extra expenses a student endures such as books, fees, supplies etc., but it would also provide me the continued motivation to keep moving forward in accomplishing my educational goals,” she wrote in her application. The other five awardees are enrolled in local colleges, universities or trade schools. One is studying Criminal Justice, three are seeking degrees in medical fields, and one is getting certified in cosmetology. All are single moms living in North County San Diego.

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Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland (SI Vista NCI) was chartered on March 23, 1953. We are a dynamic group of women primarily from Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Bonsall and Fallbrook who seek to make a difference in our community through offering scholarships and grants to local charities and by raising awareness and educating the public about issues affecting women and girls, such as domestic violence and human trafficking. For more information, see our website at or email us at

For 68 years, we have been committed to protecting the environment, education in the fields of health, economic and social development, leadership development, fellowship and diversity. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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