Runway to Success

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AAUW Fashion Show to Support College Women in Need

“Hope was dead for a long time. Now it’s alive and well.” So began one of the many financial aid scholarship applications AAUW (American Association of University Women) Laguna Beach received from local college women last year. But how do you choose between selecting a student who experiences periods of homelessness and sleeping in her car while she attends school, or selecting one who has just escaped from an abusive marriage and is balancing two part-time jobs and childcare while she earns a degree?

Megan Lattimer, a 2019 AAUW Laguna Beach scholarship recipient, will be speaking at the Fashion Show on Nov. 10. Photo courtesy of AAUW

AAUW Laguna Beach has awarded annual scholarships to women attending local colleges and universities for many years. But this year, given the sheer number of applications received and the desperate financial reality of so many of the women who applied, the organization decided it had to do more—which required more funds.

“Thus, we are hosting our first annual fashion and trunk show fundraiser for college women in need: Runway to Success,” event organizers recently announced.

The estimated cost of attending Orange Coast College or Saddleback Community College (living expenses, tuition and books) is more than $21,000 annually, while the cost of attending UC Irvine is more than $33,000, and LCAD is over $56,000. To address student food insecurity, OCC, Saddleback and UCI all have food pantries, while LCAD students use Laguna Beach Food Pantry. Many student applicants are in CARE (Cooperative Agencies and Resources for Education), an assistance program at some community colleges that coordinates a variety of financial aid services for students with extremely low income and dependent children in the home.

Two of the women who received scholarships from AAUW last year are typical of the many women who apply every year. To protect their privacy, their names have been changed in this article to Susanna and Victoria.

Susanna is a first-generation community college student, a single mom of two, a survivor of sexual abuse and a former addict. In addition to state and federal aid, Susanna worked between 21 and 30 hours per week to pay for rent, food and childcare for her children. During her first semester, she became homeless, and then had to withdraw from at least one class when her car broke down and she could not get to class on time. But Susanna never gave up, and tapping all available resources, her determination carried her through. Three and a half years later, she graduated with two degrees, an associate of arts and an associate of science, and membership in eight honor societies. She is currently studying for her bachelor’s in the field of communications at a California State University school.

Victoria is also a first-generation college student. The survivor of an abusive marriage and a single mom of two girls, her husband did not allow her to attend college or to work. With no employable skills, and still struggling with diagnosed PTSD as a result of her spousal abuse, she enrolled in community college. Her GPA rose from a 2.0 to a 3.56, she made the Dean’s and President’s List, and is a member of five honor societies. Victoria now is on track to pursue a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in graphic design.

AAUW is inviting the community to help raise funds to support local college women in need. Runway to Success, a fashion and trunk show, takes place Saturday, Nov. 10, from 3-6 p.m. at the Woman’s Club, 286 St. Ann’s Drive. The cost is $50 per person, which includes appetizers and a complimentary glass of wine. The event also includes an appetizer buffet, wine cash bar and an opportunity to purchase designer clothing and jewelry.

AAUW members, along with some college women, will model clothing in a range of prices by international contemporary designers, along with jewelry by two local artists.

For those who want to purchase any of the clothing from the fashion show, 100 percent of the profits will go to college scholarships for women in need who are attending Saddleback, UCI, LCAD and OCC. Heshmat Shirazi, who owns Just Looking, will provide all of the clothing.

Tickets can be purchased at runway-to-success.eventbrite.com, or by mailing a $50 check payable to AAUW-LBF, P.O. Box 189, Laguna Beach, CA 92652. Those who can’t attend can also donate directly to the AAUW Laguna Beach Foundation Scholarship Fund at lagunabeach-ca.aauw.net.

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