The deadline for the new Women of Color Empowerment Scholarship is almost here. This Friday is the last day to apply for the $2000 scholarship, two of which will be awarded to Western students at the Women of Color Empowerment Dinner on April 4.

The scholarship, which is awarded by Student Outreach Services, focuses on giving financial assistance to those students showing leadership, sensitivity and involvement towards the issues of women of color. Anyone can apply as long as they meet the criteria of at least a 2.5 GPA, completing three quarters by the 2008-2009 academic year, being a full-time students next fall and can show their involvement in a short personal statement, said Janis Farmer, academic support coordinator and dinner coordinator.

Nominations for the Women of Color Empowerment Award, which includes all enrolled students, faculty, and staff, are due the same day. The award will also be given out at the dinner. According to the nomination form, this award honors those who have shown excellence in contribution to women of color while furthering their knowledge of relevant issues. Some of the previous winners are former staff member Doris Kent, Fairhaven professor Dr. Larry Estrada and former student Stephany Hazelrigg.

“It's not about being a closed off community, it's about inviting everyone to the table,” said Oliver Anderson, dinner coordinator and multicultural outreach advisor.

He explained that often events focused on and for people of color often don't get attended by those who aren't.

“This event isn't only to celebrate women of color, but also their support system,” Anderson said.

Sara Woldenmichael, Western senior and Student Outreach Services intern, said the dinner was one of the first events she attended as a freshman.

“It was a great opportunity to see women like myself and to hear these struggles and how they created opportunities for themselves,” she said.

Alumna Sonja Arevalo-Hayes started the dinner 10 years ago, Farmer said. This year the dinner's theme will be “Strength of Sisterhood: Alone you can change your life, together we can change the world,” Woldemichael said. There will be a three person panel of women who will talk about their trials and successes after graduation, Farmer said.

Woldemichael said that the three guest speakers have had success in their years following college, are all of differing alumni years and were chosen to give student perspective on different points in their future. Laurel Yamaguchi is a senior business manager and Guadalupe Perz is a union representative lawyer; the third is yet to be chosen.

“The dinner is meant to highlight not only the struggle of women of color who have [attended] Western, but to highlight their achievements and to celebrate their accomplishments,” Farmer said.

The event will focus on creating networking between alumni and students, Farmer said, and the organizers really want students to attend to have the opportunity to make connections with alumni in their perspective fields. Ten business cards will be provided to those students who buy their tickets early. This will give students a chance to exchange them with those alumni they meet at the dinner, Farmer said. Woldemichael said that there will be 20 to 25 alumni present who will be able to act as mentors to the students in attendance. This provides students with contacts into business fields that they hope to enter and gives first generation college-goers contacts that they wouldn't be necessarily be provided with by family and friends, Woldenmichael said.

New this year is the social networking portion of the dinner, where activities will be provided to foster conversation between students and alumni, she said. Also, the dinner will have a more casual atmosphere in order to eliminate the intimidation factor that many students felt towards talking with the panelists. The dinner organizers wanted to make this dinner student focused and so they put together a panel of new students who give them student opinions, Woldemichael said. Recently they met with the students to ask what they would like to hear the guest speakers talk about.

Farmer said that the dinner will be a buffet style and will serve roasted garlic chicken, teriyaki salmon and chocolate cake for desert. Vegan and vegetarian options will be available upon request.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 for students and $15 for the general public and will go on sale the second week of March, Woldenmichael said. Farmer stressed that students can be sponsored for the event and attend for free. For more information about getting sponsored students can call Farmer at (360) 650-3843. The scholarship and empowerment award forms are available online at http://www.wwu.edu/depts/sos/programs_mspr.shtml.