Commentary: $3,000 in scholarships awarded to business, professional women in western Nevada County |

Commentary: $3,000 in scholarships awarded to business, professional women in western Nevada County

Pictured, left to right, are: Past BPWNC scholarship winners Kimberly D’Urso and Brook Costa, BPWNC President Karin Kleinhans, August winners Deelah Voelz and Stephanie Terrassa.
Submitted photo |

Deelah Voelz has been an employee at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital for 13 years. Her lifelong dream was to become an RN, and no matter the obstacles that blocked her way, she has persevered.

She calls sticking to her goals her greatest accomplishment and wants to be an example for her two daughters so they will both feel, and be, independent.

Described by colleagues as “optimistic, determined and driven,” Deelah would someday like to travel as a nurse in order to help others in far-flung places. When asked what is most important to her, she says, “knowing I have made, and will continue to make, a difference.”

Deelah was just accepted into the nursing program at Sacramento City College on her first application round.

This is not just a story about one woman. It is the story of many who have been recipients of Business & Professional Women of Nevada County’s Dolores “Dee” Eldridge Scholarship during the past 17 years.

The stories are varied, but the aim of the scholarship is the same: to give a hand up to reentry women, to help make the difference between success and failure. To say, emphatically, “We believe in you!”

Stephanie Terrassa, a Lifetime Member of the California Scholarship Federation, has completed two AA degrees at Sierra College, one in liberal arts, one in social science. She recently was accepted for admission to Sacramento State where she will be obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Social Science.

She currently works for Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition as a Program Support, Media Specialist and Prevention Advocate, as well as for Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) as a Basic Self-Defense Instructor.

Stephanie’s dream is to establish a shelter for substance abuse and domestic violence survivors. Her supervisor at RAD wrote of her: ”Her compassion and depth of understanding for women who have suffered the abuse of domestic violence and sexual assault is truly exceptional. Her management, computer and social media skills have been pivotal in maintaining this critical program. … She is a valuable contributor toward making Nevada County a better place for all of us.”

Ask yourself what you would do if you had managed to escape a violent relationship but had no job or training? And what if you also had children? What kind of scholarship would be there for you?

According to the 2014 Shriver Report, more than one in three women lives in poverty or on the brink of it, and just over four out of every 10 children living in poverty are in families headed by women.

When aspirations are put on hold, when education is put on hold, often because of the need to confront moment-to-moment crises, human potential is wasted.

Another challenge? According to the Aug. 1 issue of The Week magazine, nearly one million community college students don’t have access to federal student loans. Loans can make the difference between dropping out and staying the course.

Students in rural areas such as Nevada County are at a further disadvantage, as they are more than twice as likely to lack access to federal loans as students in urban areas.

This is the reason for BPWNC’s scholarship program. With $31,000 in awards given since 1997, the project continues to grow with larger grants and more recipients.

Funds come from the BPWNC membership, periodic fundraisers, and from the generosity of the local community. All of BPWNC’s scholarship awardees have overcome sometimes tremendous odds to go to school. They have figured out how to negotiate roadblocks along the way.

They have conquered personal and educational challenges and their promise shines far beyond what their past has been.

This August’s two scholarship awards, given each in the amount of $1,500, will aid with tuition, books, childcare or any other services or supplies that support current enrollment in college or professional school.

Scholarship applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with awards given in February and August. Winning candidates have realistic goals, display ability and aptitude, ambition, motivation and financial need.

Candidates must be 25 or older, residents of western Nevada County; finalists are interviewed.

Every August, BPWNC gathers current and past recipients for a celebratory evening to acknowledge the distance awardees have traveled, to present current winners with their checks and to encourage all to continue with their educational and life dreams.

For further information or to download an application, go to or email Lynn Wenzel at

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