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Soroptimist International Chapter in Wheeling Awards Scholarships to Working Moms

Soroptimist International of Wheeling is honoring two working mothers with “Live Your Dream” scholarships to help them with education, home and childcare needs while they work and go to school.

Alexandria Dingess, a Fairmont, West Virginia resident, is a nursing major at West Virginia Northern Community College who will receive $2,000 from SI of Wheeling.

Allysa Shelley, of Warwood, studies business administration at West Virginia Junior College in Morgantown, and will receive $1,500. She has plans to someday start her own business, said Barb LaRue, co-president of SI of Wheeling and a member of the club’s “Live Your Dream” committee.

The scholarship can be used as the winner chooses, and isn’t designated just for tuition, she explained. The money most often is used to cover the costs of books, child care, gas and transportation.

“They each have one child, work, and go to school also,” LaRue said of Dingess and Shelley. “They both are young women and single mothers. They are working mothers, and wanted to go back to school and better themselves for their children.

“I was impressed that they have higher aspirations, and want to be better parents and have higher aspirations for their children.”

LaRue said both women also had challenges during their lives, “have had to work hard for what they have and what they will have in the future.”

“They are young, but have a little bit of life already behind them,” she said.

The organization typically gives out just one scholarship each year, but this year and in 2020 it had the finances to provide two scholarships, according to LaRue.

The number of applicants each year is only about six, but that isn’t from a lack of initiative from SI of Wheeling, she said.

The organization takes information and applications for the scholarships to local colleges, as well as to Wheeling Catholic Charities, Youth Services Systems and the Laughlin Chapel street women program, she said. Applications also can be found online.

LaRue said during the 2020 pandemic year it was especially hard for SI of Wheeling to get out into the community. Because of this, the organization also provided funds for women’s programs at YSS Laughlin Chapel and the YWCA.

Applications for the scholarships are accepted in the fall. Once received, the scholarship committee meets to determine those who are most worthy.

“Everyone we have given money to has wanted to better themselves, and has wanted to get through things to make things better,” LaRue said.

“We look for them to have a goal — both an education goal and career goal. We also look at their backgrounds. They are pretty honest with us about what they have been through.”

Soroptimists International was formed in California in 1921, and its Latin name carries the meaning “best for women.”

SI is a worldwide service organization for women that works to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. SI of Wheeling, the only SI in West Virginia, is looking for members. Those wanting to join should contact LaRue at 304-639-5731.

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