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Manual Avina, Cal-SOAP alumnus Cal-SOAP staff (l-r): Erin Gemar, Rachelle Cariglio, Eric Martin, Vanessa Hernandez, Robert Trout, Dia Hoshida, Mekala Sheedy This past school year, that funding was redirected. “We’re down to half of what we started with the College Futures Foundation,” Gemar said. Once again the dedication of the Cal-SOAP staff came through. The staff organized AlumNight 2016, a fundraiser held last June. The dinner’s successful turnout raised $17,000, providing at least one senior in eight of the high schools served by Cal-SOAP a scholarship. A total of 14 scholarships were awarded. “Our goal this year was to give out 10 scholarships, so we exceeded our goal,” Gemar said. “People were coming up to me saying they had no idea that Cal-SOAP provided so many services, or made such an impact on students,” Rachelle Cariglio, Cal-SOAP bookkeeper, said about reactions from the fundraising event. The greatest impact came when alumni students delivered testimonials explaining the impact Cal-SOAP had on their lives. “The alumni students that were speaking weren’t just talking about the scholarship that they received, that was a part of it, but they were talking about their counselor, about what they went through in their life, and how Cal-SOAP helped them,” Cariglio said. The next AlumNight dinner will be held on Friday, June 16 th, 2017, and will highlight a major component of the organization’s five-year plan, which includes a $100,000 scholarship program. “If you don’t have parents who know how to read the applications, process the applications, no matter how badly they want you to go, you might not get there. So we’re here specifically for those students,” Gemar said, emphatically adding, “but we’re here for everyone.” The first step for all students is understanding just what Cal-SOAP can mean to them. Simply put, Cal-SOAP equals knowledge, and knowledge equals success. “Every kid is going to connect to something, or somebody, so why not college. There is nothing you can’t do in college,” Gemar said. South County Cal-SOAP serves the Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and Aromas-San Juan Unified School Districts and the San Benito High School District. Info at: southcountycalsoap.org. Cal-SOAp volunteers and attendees at AlumNight 2016 fundraiser at Solis Winery GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 gmhtoday.com 89