International College Hosts AAUW WINNERS II Symposium

The American Association of University Women, Greater Naples (AAUW-GNB) invites women seeking higher education to attend the one-day Transitions 2002 WINNERS II Symposium, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Nov. 16, at International College in North Naples.

WINNERS (Women in Need of Necessary Educational Resources Symposium) is designed to show women who want to achieve career and personal success the way to higher education by providing resources, inspiration and mentoring. Collier and Lee County residents – women and men – are encouraged to attend. Participants can attend three of six workshop tracks designed to provide tools and resources for overcoming such obstacles as the cost of higher education, lack of confidence, and the fear of technology and testing. The cost of WINNERS II is $10, including lunch and program materials. Pre-registration is encouraged.

“The objective of WINNERS II is to provide information, guidance, and encouragement to women who wish to pursue the dream of a college education,” said Ramona McNichols, AAUW-GNB President. “Additionally, we want to be viewed as a partner by the local business community, providing a program that encourages career development for their employees.”

The symposium was developed two years ago in response to a national study conducted by AAUW’s Educational Foundation, called “Gaining a Foothold: Women’s Transitions Through Work and College. The study revealed that women face obstacles when trying to enter or re-enter college. The biggest obstacle is financial, followed by academic and test performance anxiety, perceived treatment of women in colleges, insufficient information about the college application and selection process, and lack of family support.

After WINNERS I, two more studies were conducted, “Third Shift: Women Learning Online,” which explored the positives and negatives of distance learning and, “Si Se Puede! Yes We Can: Latinas in School,” a study that examined how culture and economic factors create challenges for Latinas pursuing education. The results were incorporated into WINNERS II’s workshops: “Let’s Get Wired: Harnessing the Power of the Internet,” “Let’s Get Started – Taking that Big Step,” “Let’s Talk $$$ – Financial Health, Grants, Scholarships and Loans,” and, “Let’s Set the Pace for Success – Realistic Career Expectations.”

In addition to college representatives, who will provide insight on how women can overcome hurdles, AAUW scholarship recipients and participants from WINNERS I will be included in a panel presentation and will provide mentoring. During lunch, WINNERS II attendees will participate in small discussion groups to share goals and obstacles and form a support network, said Donna Carty, WINNERS II co-chair.

The keynote speaker will be Esmeralda Serrata, an AAUW scholarship recipient, International College honors graduate, and WINNERS I participant. Serrata was recently named Executive Director of the Collier County Housing Authority.

Three-time scholarship recipient Molly Perez also will participate in a panel presentation. A current part-time student at Edison Community College, Perez, 41, has overcome the odds in order to work toward an associate’s degree in education. She has worked for the Collier County School District for eight years and is currently an office manager at Pelican Marsh Elementary School in Naples.

Perez’s scholarship has not only paid for school, but also has given her more confidence and a strong support network.

“I’ve met wonderful people who have really helped me. When I graduate, I will be a lifetime member of AAUW,” she said, adding women should take advantage of the symposium. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, know that you can still achieve your dream. Once other women hear of our experiences, hopefully they will be motivated to pursue their dreams, too.”

Two-time AAUW scholarship recipient and International College student Yvonne Santos is grateful for AAUW’s existence. She also is grateful for the help and cooperation of AAUW staff.

“The last eight years have been rough for me. I should have withdrawn and given up by now, but I don’t want to give up,” Santos, 44, an accounting major of Fort Myers, said. “The thing is, I don’t want to give up. I’ve worked hard for this and I know it’s going to pay off.”

Sponsors of this event are: International College, Edison College, Florida Gulf Coast University, Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology, Southwest Florida College, Collier County Adult and Community Education Centers, Allegro Consulting, First National Bank, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, Printer’s Ink, Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Collier County, Immokalee Foundation, Sally Woliver & Associates and Linda and John Davis. The event is endorsed by: Collier County Education Foundation, Economic Development Council of Collier County, Chamber of Commerce – Naples and Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board.

For more information, visit the event’s website at: or call the WINNERS Hotline at 239-513-3678.
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