Fund Update

Building a Thriving Community for Women and Girls

Linda waited years to get picked in the lottery to attend the nursing program at Cabrillo College. Now an enrolled, full-time student, Linda reduced her work hours to better focus on school which made finances tight for her and her young daughter Victoria, especially during COVID. To help make ends meet, Linda applied for a Single Mothers Scholarship from the Cabrillo College Foundation, funded in part through a grant from our Fund for Women and Girls.

“The scholarship is not only helping me cover tuition, but it’s also helping alleviate some financial pressure,” said Linda, who is bound and determined to create a bright future for her daughter.

Helping moms and daughters like Linda and Victoria was just what founding donors had in mind when they started the Fund for Women and Girls in 2016. They understood that when a woman thrives, her family thrives. And when a family thrives, a community thrives. This now $2.5 million endowed fund is boosting the economic growth of the county by supporting the educational and career success of local women and girls. So far, $1 million has been given in grants to local nonprofits supporting women and girls’ education, health care, safety, and joy.

Boosting Confidence and College Readiness

The first major grant from the fund was for the collaborative project Girls Paving the Way initiative (GPW), a partnership between Watsonville’s Lakeview Middle School, UC Santa Cruz’s Educational Partnership Center, YWCA, and five other collaborators. The program worked with 35 middle school girls from the beginning of their 6th grade year in the fall of 2017 through the summer of their 8th grade year in 2020. The program’s overarching goal was for the girls to enter high school emotionally and socially healthy, future-directed, and academically prepared. One participant shared, “GPW gives us hope to try harder and not give up and just keep trying. They help us know the different things we are going to do in high school. It taught me that I can go to college and made me more confident to know what I want to do in life.” Now, thanks to a federal grant, Girls Paving the Way alums and 1,500 other Pajaro Valley students are able to access similar services from 7th grade through their first year in college, an extraordinary outcome that our 3-year project helped inspire.

Flexible Funding Made for the Moment

When COVID hit, the entire landscape for women and girls in Santa Cruz County changed. Already 15% of women in Santa Cruz County live in poverty and the pandemic made women’s situations even more precarious in addition to driving many more families into or on the brink of poverty. Overall, COVID disproportionately impacted women, from having to leave jobs to care for children during remote schooling to lack of access to reproductive and maternal health care to increased domestic violence.

Thanks to the flexibility of the fund, we were able to help fill immediate needs for local women and girls during COVID including grants to Families in Transition, Pajaro Valley Shelter Services, Catholic Charities, and Pajaro Valley Loaves & Fishes to help women and their families stay housed, fed, in school and able to pay bills. Grants to Santa Cruz Community Health and Dientes helped provide access to health care. Funding to the Watsonville Law Center helped women navigate legal battles in employment, citizenship, and domestic violence cases. And grants to Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center, Freedom School Soccer Fund, and Watsonville Film Festival kept women and girls dancing, running, and creating art during these hard times.

Investing in Equality

Balancing nursing school, work, and single motherhood, Linda still makes time to read aloud to her daughter Victoria every day. Proudly, Linda reports that Victoria already knows how to count, read the alphabet, and even write her name.

“This may not seem like a big deal to some,” says Linda, who is a first-generation college student, “but this is a huge step in the right direction.” She’s determined for Victoria to see the power of education. “I want to show my daughter that with hard work and dedication anything is possible.”

Linda is one of a group of Cabrillo College women facing disruption in their educational goals due to the pandemic. We worked closely with the Cabrillo College Foundation and advisors to identify women who could complete their goals with additional support. The Foundation made $77,000 in scholarships to Cabrillo Students during the pandemic. As Linda continues her education and our county continues to manage its way through the pandemic, The Fund for Women and Girls will continue to invest in a Santa Cruz County to help ensure that women and girls are safe, healthy, equal, and empowered.

Grants from the Fund for Women and Girls

Along with our Girls Paving the Way initiative 2017-2020, the fund has supported:

Cabrillo College Foundation
CASA of Santa Cruz County
Catholic Charities Diocese of Monterey
City of Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women
Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County
Community Bridges
Dientes Community Dental Care
Families in Transition
Family Service Agency of the Central Coast
Girls Inc. of the Central Coast
Monarch Services
Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes
Pajaro Valley Shelter Services
Salud y Cariño
Santa Cruz Community Health
Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center
Teen Kitchen Project
Watsonville Film Festival
Watsonville Law Center
YWCA of Watsonville

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