Annual scholarship award dinner held by Soroptimist of Evanston

Soroptimist award recipients with Awards Chair Bailey Snyder. Left to right are Katie Taylor, Bailey Snyder, Madyson Green-Brown and Cassidy Schreiner (recipient Brendee Weston not pictured). (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

Soroptimist International of Evanston held its annual scholarship awards dinner at the Legal Tender on Thursday, Dec. 8.  Three young women, Katie Taylor, Madyson Green-Brown and Cassidy Schreiner, were in attendance to receive the awards and a fourth recipient, Brendee Weston, was unable to attend.

President of the local Soroptimist Wendy Sather opened the evening with a game of matching the names of Christmas songs to pictures on a paper she had given to each person in attendance. 

Guests took turns filling their plates with food at the self-serve bar and after everyone was seated again, chair of the scholarship committee Bailey Snyder addressed the guests.

“Soroptimist of Evanston gave our first scholarship in 2013,” Snyder said. “We continue to give scholarships every year for a total of 23 scholarships that have been given to women, totaling $16,600 to date. Our goal is to help local women fulfill their dreams for further education and training in a chosen field.”

Snyder then asked each of the young women to introduce herself and explain their educational plans.

Taylor said she is a single mother with four daughters after leaving an abusive marriage.  She said what she and her children went through in that relationship was horrible but they are now healing together. She has been working on her nursing degree and said she would be taking her final nursing exam the following day.  She said she is very grateful for the help from Soroptimist.

“I am super grateful,” a tearful Schreiner told the group. “I will start my nursing program in January.  I owe a lot to Christa Barker who told me about Soroptimist.  I come from a family of generational substance and alcohol abuse and am trying to break out of that.  My sister is the first one in my family to graduate from college and I am planning to follow that goal.”

Green-Brown tearfully explained how she was a homeless teen halfway through her senior year in high school. She moved in with her boyfriend and eventually ended up graduating from high school in the top ten of her class.  During this time, Green-Brown said she lost a baby in the last few months of pregnancy and is now a stepmom to a four-year-old.

“I plan on continuing my education and enrolling in the nursing program,” Green-Brown said. “I am so grateful for the help from Soroptimist.”

Soroptimist member Jessica Kendrick read a letter from Weston.  Weston said she had always had a hard time with math in school and learned the hard way, by ending up in debt, that understanding math was an important step to self-sufficiency.  She has been married for 18 years and has four children.  She has a full-time job and is taking college classes in business and finance and plans to eventually pursue a master’s in business administration (MBA) so she can work from home and be with her children. She thanked Soroptimist for their help.

“I have finally overcome 30 years of educational disadvantages,” Weston wrote.

Bailey then asked guests who had received Soroptimist scholarships in the past if they would like to talk about their experiences.

First to speak was Teresa Escalante, a single mother of two sons. She received a scholarship in 2021 to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education and an endorsement in English Language Learner (ELL).

“I, too, had a math phobia and had to take the test several times for college. And it cost $100 per test.  In 2017, I received a scholarship and earned my bachelor’s in fine arts and am currently working on a K-12 Art Endorsement so I can teach that,” Escalante said. “I am presently student teaching which I have to do for no wages. On Dec. 1, I finished my course work and in February I will have earned my masters in elementary education.”

Kelsee Ficker said she came from a dysfunctional family and found herself homeless as a teen, living in a shed.  She said she went through years of drug abuse, was arrested multiple times, and finally found herself in jail and pregnant.  She said the realization that she could harm the baby made her face her addiction and return to school, while working full-time and caring for her infant daughter. She has now been clean for eight years. Ficker earned her associate degree with the help of a Soroptimist scholarship in 2016, went on to get her bachelor’s in sociology and now works for the Drug Court Youth Services. She is also working on a master’s in social work online through the University of Utah.

Makayla Wyn and Randi Egley both thanked the Soroptimist scholarship program for helping them to finish their education and realize their dreams.

Wyn said she finished the nursing program in 2014, an associate degree in 2015 and her bachelor’s in 2016. She now has a master’s in nursing, is working on her nursing practitioner degree and is employed at the nursing home in Kemmerer.

Egley completed a master’s in education and teaches art classes in Mountain View schools.

“Each year we invite students from YAHA to attend the event,” Snyder said. “We hope it will inspire them to continue their own education and show them all things are possible. We also want to make them aware of the scholarship opportunities from Soroptimist.”

Snyder then presented the three young women from YAHA with gifts from Soroptimist and thanked everyone for attending the event.