August Updates

Aug 16, 2021

Reflections on Fiscal Year 2021: With gratitude for our Star Scholars and the strength of the WWIN community

As I reflect on the close of fiscal year 2021, I am so grateful for the WWIN community and its resiliency amid a challenging and often heartbreaking year. Our friends and supporters have continued to show up for the women of Washington State – even in a year marked by disruptions, the cancellation of in-person events, and competing fundraising needs, including COVID-19 relief efforts and important social justice causes. 

I’m delighted to share that WWIN’s fundraising revenue has remained steady, and many donors even increased their support despite the year’s uncertainty. As a result, we have been able to provide scholarship assistance and career mentorship to 180 WWIN Star Scholars. Highlights of their achievements this year include:

  • 48 new graduates: 46 with bachelor’s degrees (96%) and 2 with associate’s degrees
  • An average GPA of 3.7 across a full spectrum of majors and programs
  • WWIN Star Scholars attended 21 approved and accredited colleges and universities across Washington state
  • On the Star Scholarship completion survey, 100% responded that “yes,” WWIN helped them feel supported, encouraged, and empowered

I am especially grateful to hear each woman’s story in her own words. I’d love to share with you these notes from two of this year’s graduating Star Scholars:

Michelle Nitz
Executive Director

“Because of WWIN, I became the first black woman to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics at Central Washington University. And because of WWIN, I, a single mother and survivor of homelessness and domestic violence, am now a Ph.D. student at my dream institution – the University of California Berkeley! I am now on the path to economic stability and fulfillment of a lifelong passion. Thank you WWIN for everything you’ve done to support my family!”


“WWIN has impacted my life beyond belief. I have grown to know so many wonderful, caring, inspiring women who have such kind hearts. I have learned financial responsibility, how to navigate the career field, and how to overcome difficult situations. Most of all, WWIN has taught me how to believe in myself. I cannot wait to give back to WWIN one day to repay all of the wonderful things that they have done for me and my future!”


We are looking forward to welcoming new Star Scholars in Fall 2021. Our application cycle for the 2021-2022 academic year was the most competitive to date, with 280 applicants eligible for review. Thanks to the hard work of our trained volunteer reviewers, we are currently in the process of selecting at least 65 incredible new Star Scholars who will be introduced to the WWIN community this fall. Along with 125 current Star Scholars who are continuing next year, this will total 190 or more Star Scholars whom we will support for the upcoming year.

You are such an important part of the stories of success that we are hearing from this year’s Star Scholars. Your support helps women reach economic stability – transforming their lives and their communities. Thank you for all you have done to make FY21 a successful year at WWIN, and above all, thank you for helping us empower women as they move forward in their lives with purpose, determination, and hope.  

Sip for Stars! goes virtual – join us September 11 for this exciting event!

We are excited to raise our glasses on Saturday, September 11 in celebration and support of WWIN’s inspiring Star Scholars! Sip for Stars! is our annual festive fundraiser dedicated to Star Scholars. Please join us and our community of supporters in a virtual celebration to fund scholarships for women in Washington state. 

Although we planned to gather in person this year, we have shifted to a virtual event due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 Delta variant. The best part of a virtual event are the unlimited opportunities to join the fun. Home parties encouraged! You provide the location; we provide the wine. Invite as many guests as you like, and each registered guest will receive a bottle of wine from prestigious Januik Winery and a sweet culinary treat. 

Not thinking of hosting a home party? No problem! Simply register as an individual and attend the party as a Zoom guest. Inviting your friends, family, and colleagues to help support Star Scholars is easy by setting up your own online fundraising page!

We will greatly miss seeing you in person, but we look forward to sharing this special virtual event with you. Mark your calendar for September 11 and join us in raising a toast and important funds to help women complete their college degrees and build a brighter future.

Thank you, Christian Ursino, for helping Washington women achieve their dreams!

Christian Ursino vividly remembers the moment when he first learned about WWIN and its mission to empower Washington women through higher education. When his friend and former WWIN Board member Ellen Beauchamp invited him to a luncheon in 2013, he was impressed by WWIN’s diverse community – and most of all, by the WWIN Star Scholars who spoke at the event. “The scholarship recipients’ stories were jaw-dropping. They spoke about overcoming huge challenges, often as single mothers and survivors. These women had such incredible drive. From the get-go, I thought, ‘This is big. I want to help.’”

As an experienced volunteer reviewer, Christian has helped review many scholarship applications and learned the stories of our Star Scholars. What he finds most rewarding is seeing women who have experienced significant obstacles in life gain the support to reach their full potential. “I was taught to see life through the lens of taking care of others – you survive, and you make things better. I see those values reflected in WWIN women. Many have overcome such astonishing difficulties, and they’re surviving and working to make life better.” 

As a man, Christian finds WWIN’s mission especially meaningful as a way to give back. “Many of the stories I read involve women surviving circumstances partially created by men – and I want these women in particular to see that men can also be part of the solution.”

Christian credits his parents with instilling a sense of community and responsibility in him and his six siblings. “I have a huge Italian family. My parents dedicated their entire lives to taking care of people – not just when someone was sick or needed help, but every day. They cared for people, brought people into our lives, and gave back – and as the eldest, I learned that I had the responsibility to give back, too.” 

Christian’s own career as an interior designer has been deeply influenced by women’s talent and leadership. While he pursued a degree in psychology at the University of Washington, he began working at a drapery manufacturing company in Seattle that helped introduce him to the world of design. “I gained exposure to an industry where many of the businesses were women-owned and propelled by strong, talented, driven women who were fully committed to their craft. These women helped foster my sense of stewardship and my passion for design.” After a decade working in excellent showrooms in Seattle and around the world, Christian opened his own interior design practice in Pioneer Square, where he has now lived and worked for 25 years. “What I do is help other people surround themselves with beauty and things that make them happy. I hope each WWIN woman reaches a place where she can take a deep breath, appreciate all she has achieved, and set about making home an enriching place to be for herself and her family. I would encourage each woman just to keep going – she has the strength it takes, and it will get better.”

Christian Ursino

Activate You: Learn to navigate the “new normal,” set boundaries and advocate for yourself 

Women are facing unique challenges at work and at home as we navigate the “new normal.” It’s never been more important to take charge of your narrative, learn how to spotlight your value, and advocate for yourself and others so you can stay in the game and thrive. 

Join us Wednesday, September 8 at 4 p.m. PT for the “Navigating the New Normal: How to Set Boundaries and Advocate for Yourself” workshop with Christy Abele, Principal Consultant with Lange International. In this workshop, you will learn how to set boundaries, build a strong narrative to showcase your value and ask for what you want and need, and build up others to elevate women across your organization.

Christy is a transformational coach, communication consultant, and facilitator who enjoys helping people find their unique voice, show up with confidence in high-stakes moments, and develop lasting communication and leadership skills that inspire others to action. 

Christy Abele

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