When 80-something Alice de la Torre talks about the San Ysidro Women’s Club, her eyes light up and her smile grows wide.

“Our goal is to think big and give a little something back to the children of the district.,” Alice says. “We want to give back.”

Her enthusiasm is infectious as she talks about the women-led service group that gives back to the community of San Ysidro, a south San Diego community along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Incorporated in 1915, the group has long supported K-12 students in the vibrant, binational community, which is predominantly Latino/a. Many students are limited English speakers and come from families living below the poverty level. Alice shares that there is a great need to help with the education of these much-deserving students.

And Alice would know, having served as assistant superintendent in the San Ysidro School District. In fact, it was her former supervisor, retired superintendent Grace Kojima, who convinced her to join the group.

“She told me I needed to join to give back to the community,” Alice says with a smile.

Giving Back

And give back she has, along with the club’s other members, including Maritza Chavarin, the group’s current president.

In total, the group has awarded 500 college scholarships to San Ysidro High School graduates. Each December, they give away 1,500 teddy bears, books and blankets to San Ysidro school children. Last year, they also awarded 32 $100 incentive awards to eighth-grade students who demonstrated successful academic performance.

San Ysidro Women's Club

“We want young people to know how important it is to continue with education,” says Maritza. “We want them to know there’s outside help.”

That outside help includes the group’s 43 members, including local professionals, such as the current San Ysidro School District superintendent and San Ysidro High School principal, and community members, such as parents like Maritza.

Giving in Perpetuity

While the group annually fundraises $25,000 for its signature programs, they recently started an endowment at San Diego Foundation (SDF) – the San Ysidro Women’s Club Grace Kojima Endowment – to fund the organization in perpetuity.

Alice credits San Ysidro Women’s Club honorary member Vivian Moreno with the idea of starting an endowment. Moreno is the City of San Diego Councilmember representing District 8, which includes San Ysidro.

The endowment has so far secured a $100,000 donation from a donor. In total, the group has fundraised $250,000. They’ve also received two grants from the office of County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas, who also represents San Ysidro and is an honorary member of the women’s club.

Eventually, the group hopes to grow the endowment to $500,000. As a member of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, the San Ysidro Women’s Club is the first in the state to start an endowment, Alice shares.

“Our whole experience with SDF has been pleasant and comfortable in knowing that our endowment is in good hands,” Alice notes. “San Diego Foundation has been very easy to work with and a bond of trust  between us was established from the very start.”

Giving for Joy

“For me, and many of [our members], when we hear the joy and enthusiasm kids have for incentives and the scholarships… it makes you feel so good,” Maritza said.

And that joy and gratitude is regularly shared by students, especially those who receive scholarships to attend college.

“I really appreciate the San Ysidro Women’s Club and donors for giving students an opportunity to flourish in their careers and in their path that awaits them,” says Emily Payan, who received a scholarship in 2021 to attend San Diego State University.

“It’s astonishing to know that there are many individuals willing to support you and are open to hearing your goals. Thank you for everything.”

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