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Women leaders raise $100,000 in raised scholarships

Written by Mary T. Roche Special to The Desert Sun
As more women continue to be elected to public office, take the helm of Fortune 500 companies and local businesses and nonprofits in communities around the world, I am absolutely thrilled to inform you that in these tough economic times a group of truly phenomenal women leaders in our community, the Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley, recently raised more than $100,000 in scholarship funds for the best and brightest members enrolled in the forum’s Young Women Leaders Mentoring Program seeking higher education.

As the founder of the Women Leaders Forum, I could not be more proud of their success at the second annual Women Who Rule! Awards Luncheon and Scholarship Fundraiser last Friday at the Agua Caliente Resort in Rancho Mirage.

The premise of this luncheon is to celebrate extraordinary women leaders making a difference in our community — and of course to raise awareness about the forum’s mission to empower and develop women leaders of all ages and backgrounds in our community. Mission accomplished! It was a wonderfully inspiring event that included a diverse group of women leaders of all ages — and plenty of admiring men.

Indeed, more than 350 Coachella Valley community leaders came together on Jan. 31 to see four remarkable and much-loved women in our valley: local philanthropist Donna MacMillan; Kathy Greco, CEO of Desert Healthcare District; Joan Boiko, communications manager for Palm Springs Unified School District; and Susan Stein, longtime fashion editor of Palm Springs Life, honored for their tremendous community leadership and vision.

In addition, the forum honored local philanthropist Jim Houston with the inaugural “Superman” Award. For the past two years, Houston has underwritten the forum’s $10,000 Jackie Lee Houston Merit Scholarship in memory of his late wife, a longtime supporter of the Women Leaders Forum. We can’t thank Houston and all those who donated enough for their spectacular generosity to our Young Women Leaders and I can’t wait to find out who will be honored next year. Much thanks must also be given to Pathways to Success, a division of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, for its continued support.

Last year, the Women Leaders Forum distributed 22 scholarships thanks to the success of this luncheon — and we hope to match that amount at this year’s May scholarship ceremony. A four-year college education is an incredibly expensive financial hardship for so many families these days.

The Coachella Valley is an incredibly philanthropic community and I can’t tell you how thrilling it is that so many wonderful people in our desert care about the future success of our Young Women Leaders. If we’re lucky, it is these young women who will return to the desert and share their talents with the community that helped them grow.

Over the past two years, the Women Leaders Forum has experienced a dramatic transformation into a powerful organization that now reaches women leaders and the young women we mentor valleywide, in all three school districts. If you are just learning about the forum, I encourage you to visit the website at www.wlfdesert.org to find out more about the array of educational adult programs and luncheons offered throughout the year and information about becoming a mentor to one of our Young Women Leaders. If you’re new to the Coachella Valley or a new business owner, it’s also a tremendous way to meet other women leaders interested in giving back and sharing their stories of success.

Mary T. Roche is founder of Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley and serves on the Indian Wells City Council. You can email her at marytrocheiw@gmail.com