Staff photo/Heather Spaulding
                                Blythe Parker and her husband Ryan and son Isaac.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding Blythe Parker and her husband Ryan and son Isaac.

Friday Harbor Soroptimists award scholarships to notable island women

Soroptimist International of Friday Harbor celebrated incredible women and their accomplishments on April 11, during their annual Notable Women’s Lunch. Amazing ladies that made the list was comprised of Jenny Rice, Amanda Thiel, Blythe Parker and Jannet Ortiz.

“Always believe something wonderful is going to happen,” said Emily Geyman, quoting author Sukhraj S. Dhillon during her inspirational address at the event. Soroptimist members hold this lunch each spring as a tribute to International Women’s Day on March 8 and congratulate the recipients of the clubs award listed above.

Soroptimist Diana Sibert presented Rice as the recipient of the $2,000 Educational Opportunity award, which goes toward higher education costs, including tuition, books, child care and transportation.

Rice was unable to attend the lunch, as she was studying political science under the heavy Pacific Northwest rains at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington. Instead, she submitted a video thanking Soroptimist. “If you told me five years ago this was where I would be, I would have thought you were joking,” Rice said, explaining that she has been working to reinvent herself after having to sell her family’s San Juan Island farm.

Her goals now, Rice explained, are to receive a bachelor’s degree in political science and a graduate degree in education. Her dream is to become a journalistic advocate for human rights around the world.

Soroptimist Carol Capps presented Thiel the Fellowship award of $3,000. This award goes toward an island woman established in a profession who wishes to receive an advanced degree, such as master’s or doctorate, to further her career. Thiel is the owner of Isla Botanica, an herbal product company. Islanders may have seen her at the San Juan Island Farmers Market.

She is also now studying for a doctorate in cultural anthropology at Washington State University and researching ethnobotany in the jungles of Guatemala. Thiel also was not able to be present to accept her award but thanked Soroptimist members via video. She has always been interested in the relationship between people and plants. Her current focus is on Maya ethnobotany, the study of the relationship between people and plants, she said, and she plans on using the funds from the fellowship award toward this research.

Soroptimist Lynn Weatherill presented Parker with the Live Your Dream award for $4,000. Similar to the Educational Opportunity award, these funds may be used for tuition, books, child care or transportation. To qualify, the applicant must be the primary wage earner in the household and have enrolled in an undergraduate or vocational degree program of study. The winner becomes eligible for additional awards from other levels, like Soroptimist Northwest Region or Soroptimist of the Americas, which include three awards for $10,000.

“Blythe is studying toward getting a bachelor’s degree in midwifery through a program at Midwives College of Utah,” Weatherill said, introducing her. Parker is able to remain on the island and do the coursework online. Parker’s husband Ryan and son Isaac had accompanied her to receive her award and listened while she thanked the crowd.

“I want to show my son and daughter that persistence and hard work give back in ways that are too abundant to count,” she told Soroptimist, explaining that her goal is to create a birthing center that would be a local hub of the community and providing holistic care to enhance the reproductive health of women, their newborns and their families.

Kayaking down the Grand Canyon with a group of teens, Ortiz was not able to attend.

“This is pretty much how she is,” said Kari McVeigh, Soroptimist, introducing Ortiz, recipient of the Ruby award, which recognizes women who go above and beyond in helping other women. “She is nonstop, just incredible.”

“I want to thank Soroptimist for the honor,” Ortiz said, explaining in her video how she and several students formed the LatinX Advocacy Club. This group aims to support Latina and Latino students throughout their high school years.

Ortiz, who is the office manager at Friday Harbor High School, has served as school advisor as well, sponsoring latina students attending the Latino Education Advancement Project annual conference. This year LEAP was held in Tacoma in February. For more information visit

Each young woman who sees herself as more competent, and working to be the absolute best she can be, she explained, is an inspiration.

“I am excited to continue this work next year,” Ortiz said smiling.