VISTA, California, April 2, 2024—Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland presented $14,000 in Live Your Dream Education and Training Awards to five local women to invest in their education and help create a better life for themselves and their families. Criselda Martinez-Jimenez of Vista received the top award of $5,000. Speaking at the club’s annual “Live Your Dream” Awards Luncheon on March 16, Criselda spoke eloquently of her struggles growing up of becoming a widow with two young children to raise. Currenting attending Cal State San Marcos, she eventually hopes to become a Physician Assistant.

Four other women received awards of between $2,000 and $3,000 each. Some recipients did not want their full names and/or photos published for privacy reasons. All of them have overcome significant obstacles like poverty, homelessness, domestic and/or substance abuse, and dysfunctional upbringings. Awardee Briana Hernandez is juggling attending courses at MiraCosta College with raising 5 children, the youngest of whom has significant health issues. Her dream is to get her nursing degree and become a licensed midwife. Another awardee, Ginger D., read a poignant poem she wrote about her challenges. Recipient Leontia called her award “a beacon of hope to help me achieve the dream that once seemed unattainable.” Single mom of two daughters, Leontia’s dream is to become a Registered Nurse. “This award isn’t just about fulfilling my dreams,” she said. “It’s about showing my daughters the power of perseverance and the value of education.”

In addition to providing the primary financial support for their families, all award applicants must be enrolled in, or have been accepted to, a vocational/skills training program or an undergraduate degree program and must demonstrate financial need. Recipients may use the cash award to offset any costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education or enhance their skills, such as books, child or dependent care, tuition and transportation. Non-Soroptimist volunteers from the community are chosen to review the applications and recommend the awardees. Those not chosen this year were given gift cards and urged to apply again next year.

Since 1972 Soroptimist clubs around the world have awarded approximately $41 million to more than 41,000 women, many of whom have overcome enormous obstacles including poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, and addiction. Since 2012, the Vista club has invested over $120,000 in the dreams of 40 women through the program.

A registered charity, the club raises funds for these awards through fundraising activities throughout the year. New members are always welcome. The next fundraiser is in May. For more information visit:

Awardee Ginger D. with her award. Ginger read a poem about her experiences that had the audience in tears.  She gave us permission to print the poem; it is below:

Ginger’s Poem

10 years of turmoil
She held onto hope
Only to constantly feel like a dope
Why would you stay with someone who hates
Who never sees her and only wants his way
There was good but much more bad
Lack of understanding
So much sad
She tried and she tried
She fought a good fight
To stay in and make it work
But he really was a jerk
A jekel and hyde
He didn’t want her by his side
But under his thrown he created in his mind
So fragile and broken
So strong but so weak
He couldn’t turn the other cheek
Or walk away
No he had to sway
Everyone around him to get his way
Whether Good or bad he didn’t care

She was caught in his snare
It’s so sad he didn’t know
All he had to do was let go and grow
Believing it was right
She was doing what she was supposed to do
She kept pushing through
Until the light started poking in
To shine truth upon them
This wasn’t love
Not how it’s meant to be
No more darkness
Now she can see
She betrayed herself when she chose to stay
And try to make it another day
She sought wise counsel in so many ways
She slowly died it wasn’t a craze
It was long and painful
Mind numbing she was overthrown
With too much thinking that never left her alone
Why can’t he agree to disagree respectfully
I let you be you

Let me be me

that was it
She knew in an instant It was through
the line was crossed
It was time to do something new
She wasn’t prepared but she had an idea
Just one step at a time
following a straight line
It wasn’t so straight
It was a roller coaster ride
She held on tight
Something was growing from deep inside
The road rose to meet her and bring by her side
Everything she needed
as she let go of any pride
With so much gratitude
That’s the right attitude
It’s carried you this far

and given you strength
You’re a bright star
If even only in your own head
It motivates and awakens
the dead- Parts of your soul
That He slowly chipped away
But now you look forward to another day
Of building your dreams and making things happen
Through returning to the freedom of who you are
Never looking back
Follow the northern star
It will guide your path
As you continue to grow
Let love show-
you the way
One step at a time
Day by day
You’re being molded like clay
Into who you’re meant to be
By the ultimate love and energy

of the creator of earth
It’s resting in this you’ll know your worth
More precious than rubies
Or diamonds or gold
No longer believing the lies you were told
You are a gift and just as valuable as any other
For we all come from a mother
Equal in the eyes of the creator
Now it’s up to her to stay the course
And keep going forward
It’s the only way
Her priorities are straight
She cannot wait to enjoy her fate
Through perseverance and hard work
She doesn’t need a prince
She’s rescued herself and those she loves most
With strength and guidance from above
And the kindness of strangers
Who have made a way
For all those who had gone astray

From themselves
Lost in someone else
To lend a helping hand
As they learn to stand
On their own two feet again
What a ride
So grateful to feel
The bliss inside
Now out of the ditches
From internal rags to riches
Climbing the mountain
One step at a time
To all who’ve gone before
And those who are yet to come
Don’t give up
It’s not fluff
One day you’ll realize
You’ve always been ENOUGH

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