by Chelsea Nelson

Communications Director

Today, UWSL’s  Women’s Philanthropic Network (WPN) is hosting a great event, Power of Your Purse! This annual event is filled with compelling presentations, networking, great prizes, and lots of fun–as well as wonderful women who make a significant impact in our community and neighborhoods.

WPN supports United Way Welcome Centers, and this year they are expanding their efforts to focus on Women for Educational Achievement.  WPN members make a minimum annual investment of $1,500 a year and are helping create opportunities for young women like Ruqie, a refugee who was born in Syria, to be successful in their educational endeavors.

Ruqie’s parents were both refugees from Afghanistan who fled to Syria, where they met and started a family.  Five years ago, Rugie, her parents, and her 7 siblings came to America for better opportunities.  Ruqie had begun learning English in Syria, but found it very difficult to begin communicating with teachers and students once she was here.  However, she started making great headway by receiving help from her school and an ESL teacher who actually spoke Arabic.   The services provided at Granite Park Middle School and the teachers that worked with Ruqie made it possible for her to communicate the way she wanted to and get an education.

Once Ruqie entered High School she became more involved with extra curricular activities, joining the science club and the service learning club.  She also started volunteering with a UWSL Community Learning and Welcome Center, Hser Ner Moo in South Salt Lake.  At Hser Ner Moo, Ruqie was able to help other students who were in the same situation she found herself in when she moved to America.  In return, Hser Ner Moo offered her homework help and other enrichment activities, introducing her to programs like Utah Federation for Youth, Upward Bound, and Leaders in Training. Because of Ruqie’s involvement in groups like these, she was able to live on campus at the University of Utah during the summers while still in High School.  This gave Ruqie a great introduction to higher education and helped her prepare for college.

Today, Ruqie is in her second year at the University of Utah where she is studying and preparing for a career in Human Development and Family Studies.  Her parents have also recently become citizens of the United States.

WPN and Women for Educational Achievement help to make success stories like this possible.  The donations and volunteer efforts create these networks where young women can have access to education and support from a young age through their college years.  Currently, Utah women have the lowest higher education completion rates of all 50 states. This reality has severe consequences on our state’s economy and families. In fact, due to lower education levels, women in Utah currently earn 69% of what men earn, the highest disparity rate in the nation.  However, we are changing the odds for women in Utah by making educational opportunities available for all women and helping to see that education through to completion of a higher educational degree.

Tonight at Power of Your Purse, we will say thank you to those women who have made it a priority to change the educational future for Utah’s young women.  If you are interested in learning how to become a member of WPN or attend events like Power of Your Purse, please visit our website!