Meet the 2016 Live Your Dream Award Finalists

Terriea Wadud with her son as she accepts her 2016 finalist Live Your Dream Award
Terriea Wadud with her son as she accepts her 2016 finalist Live Your Dream Award

American singer-songwriter Carly Simon once said, “A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.”

That statement accurately describes the amazing women who receive the Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards each year. Through the award-winning program, Soroptimist International of the Americas—a global volunteer organization—helps women on their path to a better life. Award recipients overcome tremendous life challenges and though they are on separate journeys in different parts of the world, their courage and unconquerable spirits—“ennobled by their scars”—connect them.

The Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards for Women program helps disadvantaged 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 almost $2 million in education grants to more than 1,200 women, many of whom face enormous obstacles including poverty, domestic and sexual violence, substance abuse and death of a spouse. The program is unique in that Live Your Dream Award recipients may use the cash grant to offset any costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education—such as books, childcare, tuition and transportation.

“Education is the great equalizer,” said Soroptimist’s Executive Director & CEO Elizabeth M. Lucas.

When we arm women with a quality education, we empower them to reach their full potential and make the world a better place for themselves, their families, their communities and the world.

Soroptimist recently awarded $10,000 cash grants to each of its three 2016 Live Your Dream Awards finalists (the women received additional cash grants as they rose through the award process). Esperanza (whose name has been changed for safety reasons) of Mexico; Terriea Wadud of Vancouver, Canada; and Sandra Rojas Fernandez of Bolivia, have overcome unimaginable obstacles on their quests to create better lives for themselves and their families.

“The Live Your Dream Awards mean stability for my family and me,” said Wadud, a sex trafficking survivor. “I plan to use the award to pay for my tuition, so that no matter what this next year throws at me, I will not have to put my education on hold for financial reasons.”

The Live Your Dream Awards will help all three of these deserving women to ease the immense financial burden they face while simultaneously supporting their families, working and going to school.

“Like so many of our past recipients, this year’s Live Your Dream Award finalists have endured darkness and heartache beyond belief,” said Soroptimist President RoseMary Reid of Ontario, Canada.

But despite challenges that would knock most down for good, these women have risen, embodying the true meaning of strength and perseverance. Each is a warrior fighting for her dream of a brighter future.

Meet the 2016 finalists and learn how they are turning their lives around with help from the Live Your Dream Awards

Since the Live Your Dream Awards program began in 1972, Soroptimist has disbursed more than $30 million in cash awards, 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 study evaluating the program. 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.

The Live Your Dream Awards program has also received the Associations Advance America Summit Award—ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership’s highest level of recognition.

Soroptimist is now accepting Live Your Dream Awards applications for 2016-2017 and encourages eligible candidates to apply here.

Soroptimist is a global volunteer organization that improves the lives of women and girls. Soroptimist envisions a world where women and girls have the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential. More than 110,000 members and supporters in 20 countries and territories invest in the dreams of women and girls through access to education. Soroptimist’s main program, Live Your Dream Education and Training Awards for Women, has disbursed about $30 million to almost 20,000 women since 1972. Its newest program, Dream It, Be It, targets girls in secondary school who face obstacles to their future success. Soroptimist also powers, its online community that provides on- and offline opportunities for volunteer action benefiting women and girls.

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