L-R: Zanada Mann, last years' winner; Destiny Santiago, the winner; and Catherine Putkowski-O'Brien

One of CSI’s own, Destiny Santiago, received the Soroptimist International Women’s Opportunity Award this spring. She received the honor during a ceremony honoring women returning to college who display strong academic motivation, and have both an academic and career plan, excellent academic references, and  financial need and dependents.

The Women’s Opportunity Award offers stipends to its recipients and has so far awarded $30 million since its inception in 1972. The Women’s Opportunity Awards program involves three levels of cash awards. The program begins at the local Soroptimist club-level, where award amounts vary. Local-level award recipients become eligible for region-level awards of either $3,000 or $5,000. Region-level award recipients then become eligible to receive one of three international-level awards of $10,000.

Santiago, a CSI sophomore with aspirations of attaining a Social Work degree, plans to counsel at-risk teens and young mothers, as well as stress the importance of a solid education.

“Destiny is only 22, but because the committee felt so strongly about her ability to turn her life around in spite of so many obstacles, we felt compelled to present her with this award to reinforce her commitment to succeed,” said Catherine O’Brien, Director of Health Education for the Staten Island Breast Cancer Research Initiative with the Center for Environmental Science at CSI, during her speech at the awards ceremony. “She sees herself as an example of hope, perseverance, and diligence.”

The word Soroptimist was coined from two words, “soro” and “optima,” which loosely translates as “best for women.”  The organization seeks out women of all ages and backgrounds who they consider leaders who also serve as role models for younger women at the beginning of their careers. Santiago, through her work at CSI and elsewhere, is one of Soroptimist International’s youngest winners, but she is not the only from CSI.

L-R: Catherine Putkowski-O'Brien; Danielle Lopez, the runner up; and Zanada Mann, last years' winner

This year’s runner up, Danielle Lopez, is a recent CSI graduate, is aspiring to be a clinical psychologist, and has enrolled in the Clinical Psychology program at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Last year’s winner is also a recent CSI graduate who is starting the MARC Foundation, an organization for enhancing the opportunities of at-risk youths via education and resources.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and the professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. The organization strives to be a voice for women through awareness, advocacy, and action, and is committed to servicing local, national, and international communities, and participating actively in decision making at all levels of society.