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Marianas Variety: NMC student is this year's 'Live Your Dream' recipient (January 22, 2018)

MARIA Vida Amor Berueco Echaluse is the fifth recipient of the Soroptimist of the Northern Mariana Islands’ Live Your Dream Award.

This year’s gala event was held Friday at the Fiesta Resort with Echaluse, 28, receiving $2,000 from the Soroptimists to support her education.

A single mother of one, Echaluse is a student at Northern Marianas College where she is working toward an associate degree in nursing.

The recipient of the award is given the resources she needs to further her education, and improve her skills and employment prospects. A recipient may be supporting her parents, have dependent siblings or be a single mom.

According to Sebangiol, they had nine applicants this year. “We requested applications from women pursuing their education. We required them to write two essays and get endorsements from two people who have mentored them.”

They asked five non-Soroptimist women to judge the essays that the nine applicants submitted.

Echaluse garnered the highest score, Sebangiol said.

“We opted to give her a $2,000 award now and when she goes to college in Portland, Oregon for the fall semester in 2018, we will give her $1,000 to help her on her way.”

According to NMC President Carmen Fernandez and Dean for Academic Programs and Services Barbara Merfalen, Echaluse also received a scholarship from Build EXITO or Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity Enhanced Cross-Disciplinary Infrastructure Training in Oregon.

Build EXITO is an undergraduate research training program funded by the National Institute of Health.

Echaluse said she and her daughter will move to Portland this year so she can attend the Portland State University and pursue a bachelor’s degree in health sciences.

“It is a pathway to pre-med. I want to be a pathologist,” Echaluse said.

“We are proud of her,” Merfalen said. “She realized that in order for her to be successful, she needs to take ownership and pursue her degree. We want her to continue to move forward in her life, and we hope to see her come back to the island and give back to our community. But we also want her to go to wherever she is needed.”

One of the judges, Lauri Ogumoro said Echaluse’s life story is inspiring.

“The one I chose is the one who won. It was inspiring. You could really feel it through her essay — her determination and her plans for the future,” she said.

Ogumoro said it was heartening to read the stories of the nine applicants.

“It was hard to select which one stood out the most,” she said, adding that “the essays really spoke to me about the challenges that they have and their goals for the future.”

At the gala event, the Soroptimists also held a silent auction to raise funds for the club.

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