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Violet Richardson Award

Do you know a young woman age 14-18 who works to make the community a better place? Does she have experience working for an organization that improves the lives of others? Is she passionate about making a difference through tenacity and problem-solving skills? If so, she is encouraged to apply for the Violet Richardson Award.

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 Soroptimist International of Novato is passionate about working to improve the lives of women and girls on a local and global scale by providing resources to underserved women and girls, and raising awareness about issues they face. We are looking to honor a young woman who has demonstrated a desire to improve her community. This can be by solving an issue at school, working towards fixing a community problem, or improving a situation that faces women and girls. The possibilities are endless, and we encourage her to apply for the chance to be rewarded for her volunteer actions! If she either goes to school, lives or works in Novato, she is eligible to apply for this award. The club level winner will receive up to $1,000. Part of the award may go to the organization where the winner volunteers to help further support its efforts.


If the above criteria describes someone you know, we encourage you to forward this application to her for the chance to be recognized. The deadline for submission has been extended to December 31. If you have any questions, please contact Vicki Campbell, Chair of the Violet Richardson Award.  


Cell: (415) 987-5507

Kalyani Ryaru was just awarded the District III Violet Richardson Award, which comes with an additional $500 award. Congratulations Kalyani!
2022 Winners  
Awards Given March 2023
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This year we awarded the Violet Richardson Award to six amazing young women totaling $4,000. We thank our generous sponsors and donors who make this award possible.


Ruth Alvarenga


Ruth has spent most of her time volunteering for North Marin Community Services (NMCS). She began at the Children’s Shopping Day when she was seven. Ruth continued with programs like the food pantry, making phone calls, gift bagging, and distribution at the annual Holiday Share event. She is a Peer Health Promoter working with the Novato Teen Clinic. They provide teenagers, especially girls, with tools and information to be successful in everyday life and discuss the importance of mental health. She works on the front line talking with teen girls to help them feel supported by providing resources to make better decisions. Ruth recently won the 2023 Miss Marin Outstanding Teen Program, and her platform was the importance of mental health in our lives. Ruth plans to pursue studies in Psychology in college, and her goal is to become a therapist.


Aileen Marrufo


Aileen has volunteered at Our Lady of Loretto School, Loma Verde Elementary School, and Trinity Lutheran Church. She would help children with activities in class, such as reading and translate from Spanish to English or vice versa. Aileen helped distribute toys and volunteered at the Salvation Army front desk. She has also worked at the Center for Domestic Peace and a group within the larger group called Voces De Cambio (Voices of Change). Currently, she is involved with the Explorer Group at the Novato Police Dept. One of her main goals is to help other kids realize they are not entirely alone. If you give them the support they need, it could push them in the right direction.


Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado


Lizbeth volunteers with the Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC). She joined this group in 8th grade. She noticed that she was the only person of color, so she took an interest in racial equity as a focal point for her work. Her committee conducted training on power and privilege, usually for schools, students, and staff. Lizbeth and her peers reached hundreds of students and teachers through these training sessions, even during the pandemic. Lizbeth started volunteering at the Novato Teen Clinic as a Peer Health Promoter to help young people access resources for their mental and sexual health needs. She worked in the Student Wellness Advisory Group to build the foundations for creating a wellness campus. They planned Wellness Fairs as ways for students to come together and find the needed resources. Her supervisor said she is a veteran youth commissioner who has helped create a welcoming, safe, inclusive culture. Lizbeth has been a critical reason the youth commission has been so strong over the last few years. She won the Heart of Marin Youth Volunteer of the year in 2022. She is also an Ambassador to the Marin Teen Girl Conference in 2023.


Kalyani Ryaru


Kalyani volunteers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to advocate for immigrants’ rights and racial justice. In her junior year of school, she founded the Advocacy Club at Novato High and served as president. She coordinated the club’s texts to voters about social justice issues and answered voters’ questions through multiple text banks on behalf of the ACLU. They told voters about the negative impact of sheriff cooperation with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They provided information about a meeting to educate activists about the issue and how to voice concerns. Kalyani learned about the disproportionate impact of facial recognition on police body cameras on communities of color. Kalyani helped pass SB 1038, Keep Facial Recognition Off Police Body Cameras. Kalyani trained the Legislative Summer Recess Kickoff volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights. During the Kickoff, she taught volunteers how meeting with legislators effectively brings attention to priority bills. As a college student, she plans to schedule planning meetings with ACLU volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights and racial justice-focused bills in preparation for legislative visits. The ACLU Programs Manager said, “Kalyani’s kindness, curiosity, effectiveness, and ambition have made her a great advocate for civil liberties in Marin County.”



Caroline Schmidt


Caroline was born in Pyatigorsk, near the fighting in Ukraine. She felt helpless as a teen living in America to help out. She found ENGin, a program that matches American peer tutors with Ukrainian students who want to learn English. Caroline worked as a tutor with a girl her age, creating lesson plans and homework assignments. Caroline knew that one person could make a difference. Leadership has many forms, and even the most minor changes can have a significant impact. Caroline lives with a physical disability, but she allowed physical therapists to videotape her doing exercises to share the video with other professionals to use as a training aid. She even had an article nationally published about her that shows kids like her that anything is possible when you are dedicated and determined. During the COVID shutdown, Caroline participated in weekly online physical training seminars with kids worldwide. She helped by demonstrating the exercises, speaking with parents, and reassuring kids that the training makes living an everyday life possible.


Alisa Zhou

Alisa has been a jury member with the Marin County Youth Court (now known as Youth Transforming Justice) for the last several years, serving as an ally to guide the youth throughout their court experience. “Mentoring these youth and witnessing them grow as leaders in their own communities has been the most rewarding experience.” 




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Aileen Marrufo

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Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

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Kalyani Ryaru

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Caroline Schmidt

Alisa Zhou

2021 Winners  
Awards Given March 2022

A total of $2,000 was awarded to all three winners: Wambui Munene, Noela De Frenza, and Britney Ordonez Lozano.


Wambui Munene

Wambui has been involved with United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay and devoted her time to the Weekend Without Limits program which allowed her to spend time with children who have developmental or physical disabilities. Wambui said “Though communicating with each child may have looked different, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with them whether it was talking about their interests or even just playing hide and seek. The program created a safe haven for children with disabilities as they struggle to be understood and experience life in a unique way.”


Noela De Frenza

Noela wanted to fight climate change so she founded California Youth Climate Leaders (CYCL) at San Marin High School. They are currently working to install compost bins around campus to increase sustainability at San Marin. They will host a planting project at Bel Marin Keys Wetlands and are also preparing to speak at a science event at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, educating kids through activities and games about climate and environmental issues and solutions.


Noela said “With climate change, problems don’t just occur, they compound. Fires, drought, habitat destruction, sea levels rising. They all connect and affect us on a much larger scale. They create a tidal wave of destruction. But just like how our mistakes unfold, our actions and solutions have rippling effects. Any of us can make a difference, whether it is something as small as reducing plastic waste consumption or installing solar panels. I started CYCL to engage the community with climate efforts, to take action towards this increasingly more detrimental issue.”


Britney Ordonez Lozano

Britney has worked at many food banks for several years. She started by volunteering in her freshman year at her old elementary school Lynwood food bank. Also, Britney would work at the food bank at Novato Community of Christ. Her duties included unpacking boxes of food, setting up stations and handing them to people, assisting them to their cars, and cleaning up at the end. Britney said “It makes me happy that I was able to help out many people by reducing hunger locally and serving healthy ingredients to make healthy meals. Not only was I able to feed my community, but I also helped reduce food waste. If it weren’t for food banks and the volunteers who help run them, the food would have ended up in landfills with only a small portion being composted.”


Wambui Munene

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Noela De Frenza


Britney Ordonez Lozano

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Ruth Alvarenga

2020 Winners
Awards Given March  2021

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:  Elizabeth DeRuvo and Ashley (Max) Leonard


Elizabeth DeRuvo won the First Place Violet Richardson Award 

At the age of six Elizabeth asked her mom one cold winter night, "What happens to the homeless on cold nights?"  Her mom responded that "unfortunately they have to sleep outside or if they are lucky they will be able to sleep at a shelter". The next morning, Elizabeth began taking blankets from her home and insisted to her mom, that they drive them around town passing blankets out to people they saw in need.  


Elizabeth expanded her efforts by sending a letter to family, friends, neighbors and classmates asking for donations of blankets and socks for the homeless in her town.   The outcome was overwhelming and as a result, she was able to help hundreds of people in need.


She received an award from the County of Marin Board of Supervisors naming her the sole recipient of the "2010 Look Who's Getting It Done Award" and was also invited to New York to be interviewed on The Nate Berkus Show which highlighted her efforts working with the homeless. In 2011, Elizabeth was also awarded the prestigious "American Red Cross Community Hero Award".  


Elizabeth continued her work in 2018, to provide help to people in the CAMP Fire in Paradise, California. She teamed up with the San Marin Athletics program to setup donation bins at football games. They then took these donations to the fire victims at the Torres Shelter in Chico.


Operation Warm Winter still provides help to people in need. See her website for ways to help: We are reminded, that all of this started because "One little girl took blankets from a closet and offered them to those in need. One person CAN make a difference!”

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Elizabeth DeRuvo

Ashley (Max) Leonard also won a First Place Violet Richardson Award  

"On September 27, 2012, a girl named Hailey was struck by an SUV and died a few hours later. I feel that if the intersection had not been so intimidating to kids, Hailey might still be here today."  Max has been volunteering to improve the safety of the intersection near San Marin High School. "I noticed two issues: there was poor infrastructure, and reckless behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Through my work I earned a Girl Scout Gold Award, and a Proclamation from the City of Novato honoring my efforts and dedication."


First, Max targeted infrastructure improvements of the intersection and took the issues to the Novato Public Works department. "I worked on the Project Initiation Document for the City Engineer that was used to receive City Council approval to move forward with the development of a Capital Improvement Plan. Evidence of progress is the re-paving along Novato Blvd. which includes a multi-modal pathway adjacent to San Marin High, a crosswalk at Dwarf Oak Trail, bike paths and new lane striping."


Max also worked with "Safe Routes to School" Program Director, Gwen Froh. These programs decrease traffic and pollution and increase the health of children and the community. They focused on student and parent driving, biking and walking behavior through the intersection as well as evaluating appropriate student drop off and pick up and school regulations. "I worked with Safe Routes to School and designed a curriculum called 'Share the Road Campaign' that addressed these issues which were implemented in the 9th grade health classes at San Marin High School.”


"Once the infrastructure at this intersection is improved the greater community will be safer. This traffic safety improvement will also significantly reduce CO2 emissions affecting Earth’s climate. I gathered support from the general public as well as the following committees:  Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Novato Unified School District (NUSD) Trustees, Novato Planning Commission, and the Novato City Council.  The ultimate goal is to create a safer intersection for the community and to prevent a horrible incident from ever happening again."

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Ashley (Max) Leonard

2019 Winners
Awards Given March 2020

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:   Evelyn Zavala-Torres and Gabriela Reales-Herrera


Evelyn Zavala-Torres won the First Place Violet Richardson Award for $800 with an additional $200 going to the Dreamer’s Program at Novato High School led by Ms. Cinthia Angelicola to help students in the English Learning Development Department.  Samples of what she did to earn this award:

  • Developed a pamphlet of all the staff members at school that spoke Spanish so the students knew who they could go to for help.

  • Visited classrooms to work with ELD students.

  • Tutored ELD students.

  • Created posters about school events so ELD students could be informed and attend dances and other events.

  • Translated and filmed school announcements in Spanish with other ELD students willing to be on screen.

  • Attended a panel in a leadership summit and spoke to ELD students at other high schools to show what could be done in classes to make things more inclusive for all ELD students.


*NEWS UPDATE*  Evelyn was awarded an extra $500 because she also won First Place at the District IV level in our Region.  Congrats, Evelyn!!

Gabriela Reales-Herrera won the runner-up award for $400 with an additional $100 awarded to Lynwood Elementary School LEAP Program where she volunteered for two years. Samples of things Gabby did to earn this award:

  • Translated for Spanish speakers in the classes.

  • Helped students and assisted teachers in reading, art, and other programs acting as the translator.


Evelyn Zavala-Torres


Gabby Reales

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