This fall local residents will be able to step out in high style while raising critical scholarship support for deserving students at Hodges University. Recently the institution announced the development of a new scholarship, “Advancing Today’s Woman Scholarship Fund,” aimed at helping local women who are planning to pursue their educational goals at the nonprofit university. In support of the effort, the annual President’s Scholarship Dinner is planned for November 7, 2013 at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. The theme for the event is “Stepping Out for Scholarships,” with all of the proceeds dedicated to the fund. The event will be co-chaired by Sandra Lee Buxton and Michele McKenney.
“With encouragement, inspiration and backing from the Advancing Today’s Woman Founding Council members, we have launched this campaign to provide the women who attend or future women attendees of Hodges University with a much needed and higher level of scholarship support than is currently provided for them,” said Judy Coleman, Director of Development at Hodges. “We hope to share the thought that providing a scholarship is an investment in the women of today, their sons and daughters for tomorrow.”
The scholarship fund’s Founding Council recently held a reception to welcome new council members and to share this exciting initiative with prospective members to garner additional interest in and support for the critical need for scholarships. Among the attendees was Lavern Norris Gaynor, honorary chair of the council. “I have been involved with and have supported students at Hodges University for over 20 years,” said Gaynor. “In that time, I have seen the need for scholarships grow dramatically. Today, more women than men are attending Hodges and their unique circumstances are more evident. This year, I funded the Lavern Gaynor Scholarship to specifically provide assistance to those women who have overcome obstacles in their lives and so deserve the opportunity to fulfill their educational goals. I feel like I am providing a stepping stone to their success.”
The scholarship is an ideal fit with the university’s demographics: 67% of the student body is female and the average student age is 33. A main impetus for the scholarship was the results of “The Status of Women in Southwest Florida” study funded by The Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida. Some highlights of the results, released last fall, include:
• 50.7% of the region’s population is comprised of women.
• Women have a 47.7% labor force participation rate compared to 58% for men.
• Female-headed households with children under five have a poverty rate of 46.3%.
• Annual earnings above $50,000 are earned by 27.2% of men and only 15.3% of women.
“This scholarship will empower the goals and aspirations of financially challenged and educationally disadvantaged women by providing access to a quality education and leadership development,” said Coleman.