January 30, 2024

Women of Distinction Scholarship Recipients Reflect on the Influence of Female Leaders (Part 1 of 2)

Women of Distinction Scholarship Recipients

Scholarships and Awards

PBA Empowers Tomorrow’s Leaders Through Women of Distinction Scholarships

On February 20, Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) will host its annual Women on Distinction Luncheon, which brings together students, faculty, and friends of PBA to honor female leaders who are making a lasting impact on their communities. This year, the Women of Distinction luncheon will honor local philanthropists Denise Hanley and Sheila Rinker for their leadership, outstanding commitment and service to the Palm Beach County community.

The luncheon, a tradition lasting over 30 years, honors local philanthropists and raises scholarship funds for deserving female students at PBA, helping them pursue their passions. The 2024 scholarship recipients are Abigail Diaz, Lydia Ducanis, Emie Santos, Niang Thang, Margaret Mysowski, and Darah Oniwa.

Abigail Diaz: A Communication Major’s Perspective

 Abigail Diaz, a freshman from Lake Worth, Fla., applied for the scholarship because she respected the program’s initiative to honor women. Diaz thinks this scholarship allows female students to broaden their horizons in a God-honoring way and find leaders who inspire them. This scholarship lets Diaz, a student majoring in communications with a minor in creative writing, look forward to working in communications or becoming a novelist after finishing her time at PBA.

Diaz believes it’s essential for young women to find strong female role models because it gives them a relatable perspective. Someone who she considers her own personal “Women of Distinction” is her mother. Diaz’s mother has been a role model for her by also working in and leading her own team in the communication field.

“She’s kind of like a powerhouse; she does so much for me and my sister,” Diaz said.

Initially, Diaz was informed she would not receive the scholarship, which made her even more overjoyed when she discovered she was one of the recipients.

“If it didn’t happen, I was just like, ‘Okay, God has a plan,’ but then it did, and it just reaffirmed my decision in choosing PBA,” Diaz said.

Diaz looks forward to personally thanking donors who made the scholarship possible at the luncheon. She’s excited to meet the people who went out of their way to bless her.

Lydia Ducanis: Finance and Franchising Goals

Like Diaz, Lydia Ducanis, a junior at PBA from Davie, Fla., was excited to learn she would be a scholarship recipient. She has applied for the scholarship multiple times, along with her friends. When she received the news, she was in a primarily male class and had to explain to them what the scholarship meant to her.

“I was just so happy because it’s about women supporting other women in furthering their education, and it makes me feel supported in my goals,” Ducanis said.

 Ducanis is currently studying finance with a concentration in franchising and plans to graduate with a job in finance. After working for a few years, she hopes to buy or start a franchise. With a passion for community service, Ducanis would love to set up a social franchise that looks similar to homeless shelters.

“I think that my job on this earth is not just to be successful on my own but to give back and give the glory to God,” Ducanis said.

Ducanis gets her ambition and inspiration to work hard from her three older sisters. She is forever grateful for their help in raising her after her father passed away when she was young. Her sister Eva helped push her to do well in school and church.

“If I could be like anyone, I would be more like my sister Eva,” Ducanis said.

Ducanis is excited to learn from the other attendees at the luncheon. As a naturally curious and talkative person, she always asks questions and wants to know more. She believes many lessons can be learned from other women’s experiences.

Emie Santos: Breaking Barriers in Pre-law

Another PBA junior, Emie Santos, from Bergenfield, NJ, is honored to be a scholarship recipient. Santos states it helped relieve some of the financial burdens she has always associated with the school.

As a pre-law major, she believes this scholarship can help girls enter previously male-dominated fields. Rather than being intimidated, Santos hopes girls are encouraged to chase their dream jobs even if the odds are not always in their favor. 

“It’s nice to have something that motivates you to keep going in your studies,” Santos said.

Santos credits her mom and older sisters with pushing her in academics. She admires her mom for working two jobs to raise her and looks up to her sisters, who are now police officers and accountants. She says she owes her success at PBA to them all.

“It’s all their sacrifices that really pushed me,” Santos said.

After her PBA, Santos wants to attend Rutgers Law School or other New York and New Jersey schools. She is passionately working towards her goal of opening her own law firm in New York City with her sister.

She hopes to meet a successful female lawyer at the luncheon who can share her experience and suggestions.

“I think it’s important for girls to have female role models so they can learn how to be themselves and still dominate in any area of life,” Santos said.

Learn more about PBA’s Women of Distinction and how you can support students like Abigail Diaz, Lydia Ducanis and Emie Santos here


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