Soroptimist International of Gresham “Live Your Dream” Award Winners

Over the past 10 years we have awarded over $80,000 to local women. Here are some of the recent recipients.

2021 Live Your Dream Award Winners

Flor Myers is a freshman at Mt. Hood Community College where she is pursuing a career in Computer Science planning to be a Computer Programmer. She moved to the US at 9 yrs. old and granted DACA status in 2012. She is a single mom of a 3-year-old autistic son, first generation college student, working 2 jobs at times to make ends meet. She has faced many hard challenges and continues her courageous journey for an education that will provide a good, healthy, and stable life for her and her son.

Maureen Chambers is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapy at MHCC and is on track to graduate in June 2022. She has survived many obstacles but continues with a strong desire to provide a stable, loving home for her daughter and is focused on her dream. In addition, she hopes to help educate other women on the realities of abuse to allow others to “live their dream”.

Patricia Elwood is at Mt. Hood Community College studying Fine Arts and plans to continue on to a university to get a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Planning to become an art therapist, her goal is to help others heal by expressing themselves through art. The pandemic forced her to quit work and assist her children with virtual learning. Mental illness in her family and her own traumatic experiences in her marriage, led her to discover the healing power of expressing one’s self through art. She has overcome multiple personal hardships and is focused on making a better life for her children.

Caroline Polite is currently enrolled at PCC studying Health Information Systems and Addiction Studies, with a goal of working in a clinic or Recovery Center. As a recovering addict, she has managed homelessness, shelter life, childbirth with postpartum depression, and anxiety with stress of motherhood. Working full time, parenting, and attending school with a GPA of 3.5 demonstrates what perseverance and determination can accomplish.

Lorena Marquez is studying Human Services at Mt Hood Community College while a single mother of three. She has worked hard to end the cycle of abuse she faced as a child and a wife. She was enrolled at PCC when she heard about the Transitions Program at MHCC and felt fortunate to be accepted into the program. Here she found the support and guidance to direct her studies. Now she is confident she will be able to get the education needed to assist others needing help for mental illness and/or domestic violence.

Whitley Evans has found a new sense of hope for the future after a decade of difficulties. This single mother of three is the sole support of her family while attending Mt Hood Community College, taking prerequisites for Mt Hood’s Nursing program. She has shown herself to be a straight “A” student on her way to Live Her Dream to be a Registered Nurse.

Mariah Pedro is in her second year at Mt. Hood Community College studying Mental Health, Social Service and Addiction Counseling. After dropping out of high school, she experienced domestic violence, depression and drug addiction. Now 7 years clean she is on track to get her Associate’s Degree. She works full-time in a nursing home, is a full-time student, and interns 12 hours a week at Mt Hood Hospice. Her ultimate goal is to be a licensed therapist/social worker.

2020 Live Your Dream Award Winners

Award Recipients (left to right):

  • Jessica Hummel
  • Meghan Butyrin
  • Shala Hodges
  • Dora Salazar
  • Katie Iwata

Learn More About Your 2020 Winners

Jessica Hummel is a single mother of three children, one of whom has extraordinary special needs. She became interested in the medical field when her son was diagnosed with multiple disorders. She is completing prerequisites for the Billing and Coding program at Mt. Hood Community College.

Meghan Butyrin is completing prerequisites for the Medical Assistant Program at Mt. Hood Community College. She is a single mother of two children and believes that through education, she will be able to provide a healthy and stable life for her family. She hopes to continue studying health and medicine at a four-year university.

Shala Hodges is a single mother of three children with the goal of attaining a Funeral Service degree from Mt. Hood Community College. She chose this career field because of the passing of her first-born son, and through her experience realized she wanted to help other families who have lost loved ones.

Dora Salazar is pursuing her dream of becoming a dental hygienist. She is a single mom of two children and is enrolled in the Transiciones Program at Mt. Hood Community College. She wants to encourage her children, through the example she is setting, and let them know that education is essential.

Katie Iwata is committed to her goal of becoming a Registered Nurse. She has worked for nine years in the healthcare field, is a single mother of two daughters and works two jobs while also working on her prerequisites at Mt. Hood Community College.

Credit: Chris Keizur, The Outlook

2019 Live Your Dream Award Winners

Award Recipients (left to right):

  • Jhossahandy Orbe
  • Lelah Beckerle
  • Danielle Tindol
  • Carolina Barbosa Bello
  • Ali Swetland

Learn More About Your 2019 Winners

Jhossahandy Orbe Ramos attends Mt. Hood Community College in the Transiciones program with a goal of becoming a nurse. She suffered abuse and trauma as a young girl in Mexico and came to the United States hoping for an education and safety for herself and her sister. She is focused on improving her English and completing the Certified Nursing Assistant program.

Lelah Beckerle is a mother and student at Warner Pacific University, studying human development with the dream of becoming a licensed therapist. She plans to continue her education with a Master’s degree in psychology. She is the first in her family to complete high school and attend college.

Danielle Tindol is reaching for her dream of being a Surgical Technician through her studies at Mt. Hood Community College. As a single mother of four, she has overcome depression and anxiety to focus on her education while pursuing the health and happiness of her children and herself.

Carolina Barbosa Bello is a single mother of two young children attending Mt. Hood Community College. She has a tremendous work ethic and persevered in learning English on her own since immigrating to the United States as a teenager. Caroline hopes to earn an Associate of Arts-Oregon Transfer Degree and continue her schooling to achieve her dream of caring for animals as a veterinarian.

Ali Swetland is completing her degree in Mental Health, Social Service and Addiction Counseling at Mt. Hood Community College as she works toward her dream of becoming a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Ali is a single mother who has overcome many obstacles and is focused on her goal of helping other women. She has been accepted to the School of Social Work at Portland State University.

2018 Live Your Dream Award Winners

Award Recipients (left to right):

  • Alejandra Flores
  • Nicole Coffman
  • Jazzmine Alcala
  • Maria Guadalupe Clemente

Learn More About Your 2018 Winners

Alejandra Flores is a student at Mt. Hood Community College in the Transiciones program with the goal of becoming a nurse. She proved her commitment to obtaining an education by completing her GED and working full time to care for her children after her husband had been deported to Mexico. She volunteers at her children’s school to help students with their reading skills.

Nicole Coffman is studying Early Childhood Education at Mt. Hood Community College. For the past 20+ years she has been caring for her ailing mother and other family members. She excelled at school and was a commencement speaker. After a life-altering car accident she became addicted to pain medications that she has recovered from and is working towards completing her education.

Jazzmine Alcala is finishing her accounting degree at Warner Pacific University with a dream of starting her own small business. She had to sideline many of her goals due to circumstances in her family and poverty. She withdrew from the University of Portland to help her sister through drug addition and to help support her two-year-old nephew and has now become his guardian. The WPU Adult Degree Program has allowed her to complete her education.

Maria Guadalupe Clemente is completing her prerequisites at Mt Hood Community College to enter the nursing program. At a young age she became her grandmother’s caregiver and now supports her mother who has escaped an abusive environment. She is focused on being strong and making a better life for her entire family

2017 Live Your Dream Award Winners

Award Recipients:

  • Maria “Cristina” Diaz
  • Masika J. Kanyere
  • Norma L. Salinas

Learn More About Your 2017 Winners

Maria “Cristina” Diaz receives the first-place award.  Cristina is in pursuit of an Associate’s Degree in Social Service Science.  At age 14, Cristina found being a homeless youth was better than her living at either parents’ home.  A few years of being homeless, the first of four children were born.  Knowing this was not a life for her family, but not able to secure a job due to age, and lack of education and experience, Cristina volunteered at a non-profit.  After a month, the director offered Cristina a position.  Thirteen years and many promotions later, Cristina is read to further her education, to better provide for her family and to be a guide to those families that are still in need.

Masika j. Kanyere receives our second-place award.  A refugee from Uganda, Masika knew coming to America would offer an educational opportunity for herself and her children.  Masika is a self-described strong woman who is hard-working and is confident her family has a bright future. Soroptimist of Gresham is honored to be part of her journey.

Norma L. Salinas is the third-place recipient.  “I believe that when the moment is right, everything that needs to happen will happen and I will have a classroom where every child can feel they belong”.  Secluded at school because of a language barrier and the family struggling to survive, Norma quit school at an early age.  Working with Causa has shown Norma the importance of giving back to her community.  Norma, we are honored to be part of your journey.

2016 Live Your Dream Award Winners

Lizet Gonzalez Ortiz received SIG’s first-place award of $3,500. Lizet attended the Transitions program at MHCC, which helped form her into the strong woman she is today. Hard work, patience and a “different way of thinking” helped her heal from her abusive past. Besides her studies in Public Health, she has two daughters she affectionately refers to as “angels.” Lizet is a Family Resource Coordinator at Northwest Family Services.

Desiree Rochelle Zenor received the second place award of $2,500. An honor’s graduate of MHCC, she is now enrolled at Portland State. In 2011 she watched her brother die from the same addiction that took her mother. Desiree was forced to look at her own addiction and the life she wanted for her children. Homeless and addicted to methamphetamine she sought treatment. She is a 2013 recipient of the Live Your Dream Award.

Sarah Miller is the third place recipient, receiving $1,500. With the help of the Native American Rehabilitation Association, Sarah was able to start a journey toward recovery from alcohol addiction. Currently, a student at MHCC, Sarah’s goal is to attend Lewis & Clark to study Tribal Law. Sarah finds her strength through her children, church and Alcoholics Anonymous.

In addition to our Live Your Dream award recipients, Paulina Sanchez was awarded our Mt Hood Endowed Scholarship for the 2015-16 school year.