By Liz Sullivan
Even by the end of the event, women were still wiping away the tears. They were two moments that tugged at their heartstrings.
On May 18, a cocktail reception was held at Notre Dame San Jose High School to honor the first two recipients of the Thirty One Women scholarship program – Yasmen Lopez and Michelle Ramirez, who will graduate from the high school this year.
Thirty One Women was formed in the Fall of 2011 by Mary Quilici Aumack and Maria Bellafronto to help students from Sacred Heart Nativity Schools to attend Notre Dame. The premise is that 30 women agree to donate $55 a month to support a student through the high school and the student then becomes the thirty first woman.
“This is sort of a surreal moment for me,” said Bellafronto. “We have been waiting four years for this. It was a vision and now it has come to fruition. It gives me chills.”
Lopez will attend San Jose State University in the fall. She plans on majoring in Computer Engineering.
“The past four years have shaped me into the individual and young woman I am today,” she said. “I can’t imagine learning anywhere else. I will always be grateful for the support I have received.”
In the fall, Ramirez will attend Scripps College, with the goal of becoming a lawyer.
“Having the opportunity to be at Notre Dame is a blessing,” said Ramirez, who grew up two blocks from Notre Dame. “Notre Dame had always been my dream. My dream has been made possible because of you.”
Both Lopez and Ramirez said when they are able to, they will come back and support Thirty One Women and give back to their community.
In addition to Lopez and Ramirez graduating, the organization welcomed Giselle Bonilla, an eighth grader, as the latest student recipient.
“I am deeply thankful for all of you being here today,” said Aumack, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation and a Notre Dame graduate. “This idea came 100 percent from the Holy Spirit.”
Over the last five years the program has grown to include 150 women donors, $90,000 (which accounts for 25 percent of Notre Dame’s annual scholarship fund) and spawned at least four other incarnations at other schools. Each of the students in the program has their own circle of women. Currently, Thirty One Women is accepting applications for Circle VII.
“This moment we have come full circle,” said Notre Dame Principal Mary Beth Riley. “Someone recognized that something needed to be done. Let’s continue to do this inspired work.”