The Women's Legacy Fund, an endowment used to provide funding to organizations that empower women and girls, gave $25,000 in grants to five San Luis Obispo County nonprofit organizations at its 12th annual luncheon Thursday.
All the nonprofits were awarded money to help with their education programs: Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County, Bakari Project at Cal Poly, Paso Robles Housing Authority’s Youth Works after school and summer job training program, San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse Prevention Program and the UC Cooperative Extension of San Luis Obispo County.
The Bakari Project received the largest grant — $7,500 — to help implement a year-long college preparation program for 18 at-risk high school girls. Bakari, which is derived from the Swahili language, means “One who will succeed.”
The program, overseen by Cal Poly psychology and child development professor Roslyn Caldwell, offers intervention and prevention for youth age 15 to 17 years old including introducing them to colleges.
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The Women’s Legacy Fund, an endowment of nearly $1 million, is held at the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County.
Jenni Prisk, the featured speaker at the luncheon that was attended by more than 530 people at the Alex Madonna Expo Center, encouraged the audience to continue their philanthropic efforts to empower women.
Prisk, a motivational speaker from San Diego, founded Prisk Communication in 1990 to provide coaching of public speaking and communication skills and has long focused her efforts on women.
In 2001 she founded Voices of Women, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing awareness to global issues, advocate for human rights and support the equal participation of women and men in advancing human security.
"We need to be aware of the power and importance of the voices of women," Prisk said. “By voting, we can change policies and procedures.”
“Our foremothers fought for us to get the vote,” she said.
In California, more than 40 percent of women have experienced intimate partner violence, the majority of them between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, Prisk said.
And while more women are graduating from college than ever before, only 15 percent of senior managers are women, she added.
"Often women hide their light under a bushel,” she said. But now, more than ever, given the crises in the world, women's voices, power, intellect and emotions are needed, she said.
Men also play an important role.
“Without the involvement of our men, help for women and girls won’t be fully created,” said Prisk, whose organization will hold its first men's panel in mid-October to discuss how they have empowered women.
Removing women’s insecurities and building their self esteem is a vital part of giving women power.
“We must not just tell girls that they are beautiful,” said Prisk, but that they are brilliant at math and sciences and tell them that they can be or do whatever they aim to.