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South Florida Holds Fundraiser to Recognize Women Leaders

by Jacob Long
Wednesday Sep 18, 2013

On Saturday, Sept. 21, Aqua Foundation will hold its Aqua Affair, a night of drinks, food, and high fives to the women in South Florida who are making a difference. The night is meant as special recognition of grant-receiving organizations in South Florida, as well as the scholarship recipients from this year. It all goes down at the Mandarin in Miami Beach, where DJ Pride will be emceeing - hors d'oeuvres and open bar will accentuate the night. If you get tickets online, it'll run you $70 ($55 if you're a member). Door price is $85. And don't forget to bring some money for the silent auction.

"It's important - we want to highlight the other organizations for the great work they're doing for our community," Robin Schwartz, the executive director of Aqua Foundation, told SFGN. The organizations she mentions received grants in 2012 from the foundation.

This year, Aqua also gave out scholarships to individuals.

"These women are our future leaders. They are the women that - as time goes by - will be leading not just women's organizations but all organizations," Schwartz said. "And they're all already having a healthy attitude about being LGBT."

The organizations that received grants in 2012 (totaling $50,000):

PFLAG of Ft. Lauderdale
Pridelines Youth Services
The Museum of Contemporary Art
Gilda's Club South Florida
Pride Center at Equality Park
Safe Schools of South Florida

The 2013 scholarship recipients ($60,000):

Mageda Abdulhadi

Received the Alison Burgos Scholarship Recipient

Major: Philosophy & Psychology

College:University of Florida

From Aqua Foundation: "Mageda is a returning scholar who continues to excel in her classes, as well as taking on undergraduate research projects and beginning a TA position. As a double major in Psychology and Philosophy she doesn't have much spare time but she still has found the time to become involved in her LGBT student group, organizing movie nights, serving on committees, and recruiting others to join. Additionally she has been inducted into multiple honor societies in recognition of her scholastic and leadership achievements."

Catherine Armuelles

Major: Women's Studies

College: Florida Atlantic University

From Aqua Foundation: "Catherine is a returning scholar who has overcome adverse circumstances from a young age. Her early memories are of an abusive home life, which caused her to struggle with low self-esteem. After high school Catherine entered a ministry program. Although her attraction to women meant she could not serve as a pastor, she still remained active there and prayed desperately for God to "take this burden away." When that did not work she knew she needed to be honest with herself, so she came out. When her church community alienated her, Catherine moved on with her life.Catherine decided to go back to college at 27 and has become a critically-thinking honors student completely invested in gender and sexuality studies."

Peggy Bates

Major: Occupational Therapy

College: Keiser University

From Aqua Foundation: "Peggy is an older student returning to school to pursue a degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant. She made the decision to transition into a different career after she lost several fingers in an accident and had to receive therapy herself. She has already overcome many of life's obstacles, including a challenging coming out and difficulty in traditional school settings due to ADHD. She is eager to start her new career and devote more time to her volunteer activities, which includes spending time talking to patients in occupational therapy who are having a particularly difficult time adjusting."

Kimberly Carias

Major: Nursing

College: Florida International University

From Aqua Foundation: "Kimberly is only 19 and has already managed to excel in her new scholastic environment at FIU where she has maintained a 4.0 while pursuing a Nursing degree. She is active on her campus, having joined the LGBT and Women's studies groups and she is currently working with fellow students to found the first Lesbian Sorority on FIU's campus."

Yanire Chow

Received the Wells Fargo Scholarship

Major: Information Technology

College: Florida International University

From Aqua Foundation: "Yanire is pursuing a degree in Information Technology and is currently maintaining a 3.9 GPA; she has maintained scholastic success even while working full time to support her mother and herself. She also knows how to throw herself into her community and volunteers as a basketball coach for a local league her nephew is part of in addition to many other volunteer activities in the LGBT community, including with Aqua Foundation, Miami Beach Gay Pride, Save Dade, and Equality Florida."


Major: Psychology

College: Florida International University

From Aqua Foundation: "Emerald faces a challenging experience as a young lesbian woman, raised in a Pentecostal household she has not felt comfortable coming out to her family but she has found the strength to accept herself and be out to her friends and peers. She is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology and plans to join the military to serve as a counselor. She is also currently working with other students to reignite her campus's LGBT student group."

Mandi Hawke

Major: Business Management

College: Broward College

From Aqua Foundation: "Mandi is already an accomplished leader in our community, serving as the Program Coordinator for Youth Services at Sunserve as well as Co-Executive Director of Drag It Out. She has decided to return to school to pursue a degree in Business and further her professional development and ability to give back to her community."

Vanessa Hernandez

Received the Alicia Apfel Scholarship

Major: Nursing

College: Nova Southeastern University

From Aqua Foundation: "Vanessa is finishing her Nursing degree this year and is already set on pursuing her Master's in Social Work; she has maintained an excellent academic record all while working night shifts at a clinic for patients with eating disorders as a Recovery Coach. She has also found time to informally mentor other scholarship recipients, helping them navigate coming out and scholastic choices. She was also recognized for her academic success and leadership capabilities when she was chosen to be inducted into the Golden Key Honor Society."

Caorlyn Napp

Major: Clinical Psychology

College: Nova Southeastern University

From Aqua Foundation: "Carolyn is currently working in mental health and has now returned to school to obtain a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She has personal experience with abuse as she grew up in a difficult family situation and has spent her life mentoring and helping others in challenging circumstances. She is the first person in her family to earn a bachelor's degree, is working on obtaining her certification to become a GED instructor, and currently serves as the Board Chair for Drag It Out."

Bridget Palaez

Received the Wells Fargo Scholarship

Major: Nursing

College: Nova Southeastern University

From Aqua Foundation: "Bridget continues to excel in her nursing program and was inducted into the Golden Key Honor Society last semester. She expects to graduate within a year and plans to pursue medical school; she is currently working as a medic and has held a number of positions in the medical field while pursuing her degree. She has embraced her leadership potential with zeal and taken the initiative in developing a GSA on her campus as well as bringing in the YES institute to speak to her class in response to discrimination she experienced as an out lesbian."

Caridad Tabares

Received the Latina and General Scholarship

Major: Journalism

College: University of Miami

From Aqua Foundation: "Caridad came out only a few years ago at the age of 38, but her leadership is already being felt in our community. She currently blogs for a Spanish speaking audience on LGBT issues and was nominated for a GLAAD award for her efforts. She is attending the University of Miami to obtain a degree in Journalism so that she can continue to pursue her writing career and serve as a spokesperson for the lesbian community."

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