July 21, 2024
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Good Works: CLU gets $3M in career grants; WEV marks Women’s Small Business Month


California Lutheran University was awarded just under $3 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to help students with career pathways and professional development.

Most of the money — $2.8 million — is in the form of a five-year grant from the federal Vocational Identity and Talent in Academic Learning program, or VITAL, which aims to increase college retention and graduation rates and career readiness among Hispanic and low-income students.

The grant was funded through the Title V Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. CLU is one of only 171 private universities in the country in the program.

In the VITAL program, faculty will help students with professional development, career goals and training. The program will also fund a peer mentorship program, internships, financial literacy workshops, additional online learning options and more.

CLU also received a $159,692 federal grant for its Embracing Spanish for the Professions at Home and Abroad program. The program will fund travel for certain global studies and language students and will offer other help for students to learn Spanish.


To mark October as National Women’s Small Business Month, Women’s Economic Ventures held its “Empowerment is Priceless” awards event at the Museum of Ventura County on Oct. 27.

The recipients of WEV’s awards included Angela Rosales of Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery, as Client of the Year; Heidi Whitcomb of Ventura Rental Party and Events, with the Trailblazer award; the Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics at CSU Channel Islands as Partner of the Year; and the Resilience Award to Rachel Sears Casanta of Hypercat Cycleworks.

WEV is a nonprofit that provides funding, training and other support to women entrepreneurs in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.


Interface Children & Family Services, a Camarillo-based nonprofit that provides social services including Ventura County’s 2-1-1 help line, raised more than $575,000 at its annual Hope & Light gala in September at Sherwood Country Club.

Andrew Firestone, the president of StonePark Capital and the star of the third season of “The Bachelor,” was master of ceremonies for the seventh year. The event included a silent auction, a craft spirit tasting, a jazz combo and a live auction for Sadie, a labradoodle puppy.

In addition to the 2-1-1 social services hotline, Interface has programs that help victims of trauma and abuse and people who have been incarcerated or homeless.


The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley has hired Greg Kovacs as its permanent CEO.
Kovacs takes over for interim CEO Mark Bagaason. Kovacs has held leadership positions in the nonprofit education sector and was founding executive director of the C5 Youth Foundation of Southern California. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine and an MBA from USC.


The Santa Barbara City College Foundation has hired Sarah Stretz as its new chief development officer.
Stretz is a Santa Barbara native and a graduate of Santa Barbara High School and UCLA. She started her career in television advertising sales and since 2013 has worked in development roles for nonprofits in Santa Barbara.

Before joining the SBCC Foundation in September, she was development director at the Music Academy in Montecito.


The Alzheimer’s Association has hired Karen Ortiz as director of development for its California Central Coast Chapter.

Ortiz is a Santa Barbara native and a Santa Ynez Valley resident with more than 30 years of development experience in nonprofits and banking.

She joins the Alzheimer’s Association from Lompoc Valley Medical Center, where she helped create an outreach program. She has also been a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association, and cared for her late mother through the early stages of dementia.


PG&E has donated $50,000 each to the “promise” programs at Alan Hancock College in Santa Maria and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, programs that allow students from local high schools to attend community college without paying tuition.

The grants are part of $750,000 in funding PG&E announced in October for eight organizations in Northern and Central California.

The Hancock Promise program pays for a year of tuition for all local high school graduates. At Cuesta College, the Promise Initiative offers two years of free tuition to all gradutes of high schools in San Luis Obispo County.