PASO ROBLES — The Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) was founded 150 years ago and is one of the oldest women’s organizations in North America. With close to 6,000 chapters and more than 500,000 members in the United States and Canada, the organization is passionate about helping women advance through education.  

PEO International has helped more than 114,000 women across North America pursue their life goals by providing over $369 million in educational assistance.  

Founded in Paso Robles in 1992, the PEO Chapter HL, is the local chapter of PEO International. With 56 active members, the Paso Robles chapter has helped 52 women with awards totaling over $126,385 in financial support since 2002.

As a non-profit philanthropic and social organization, PEO has been happy to work behind the scenes for years and has only recently decided to be more forthcoming about the financial aid and moral support it provides to women trying to navigate a more productive and financially secure future for themselves and their families.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

With a mission statement of “Women helping women reach for the stars!” PEO celebrates the advancement of women, educates women through scholarships, grants, loans, and stewardship of Cottey College, and motivates women to achieve their highest aspirations.  

The organizations’ efforts are grounded in the belief that when women are supported in their educational efforts, it creates a lasting positive impact on families, communities, and countries around the globe.

“Our local chapter of PEO focuses on helping women in north San Luis Obispo County,” says Chapter HL President Joan Burgess. “Our Kiper-Twist Scholarship Fund is a need-based scholarship established in 2002 in honor of two outstanding members of our chapter who demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the education of young women. North SLO County residents and high school graduates with a minimum 2.8 GPA or GED equivalent are eligible to apply and can attend a school of their choice.” 

The Paso Robles chapter also helps direct candidates to apply to PEO’s seven California state and PEO International’s six scholarship, grant and loan programs.   

Membership in PEO is open to women 18 years old and older, and scholarship applicants are encouraged to research PEO scholarships, grants, and loans available to North SLO County, California state, and US residents at PEOpaso.org.

This year Ashley Jones and Angela Lopez received the Kyper-Twist and California PEO scholarships. 

Ashley Jones is 42 and a single mother of two daughters, ages nine and six. Jones is a graduate student and completing her Masters online in Speech Pathology at NYU, fall 2020-spring 2023.

“PEO support has significantly impacted me both financially and emotionally,” Jones explained. “I am trying to get through graduate school without accumulating exorbitant debt, and I am succeeding with savings and by applying for scholarships. The PEO scholarships will cover the cost of my books, as well as supplemental expenses associated with my degree and clinical rotations. 

Knowing there is a group of strong, smart, and successful women in my corner who are willing to help me has been convicting and encouraging. My goal is to pay back both the scholarships and the support to a future graduate student as soon as I am in a position to do so.

I am proud to be setting an example of hard work and perseverance for my daughters and look forward to a successful career as a Speech-Language Pathologist after graduate school. I hope they will learn that they can achieve almost anything they put their mind to with enough hard work and sacrifice.”

Angela Lopez is 31 and a single mother of a 12-year-old boy. Lopez is a graduate student of Marriage & Family Therapy with emphasis on Latinx Mental Health at Antioch University (Santa Barbara), October 2019-fall 2021.

“PEO has made a tremendous impact in my life.” Lopez shared. “PEO provided me not only with financial assistance for graduate school but also hope and strength to persevere despite difficulty.

I was born in the US to immigrant parents who decided to raise me back in their country of origin, Mexico. 

I completed my BA in Clinical Psychology there and decided to return to the US to pursue better career and lifestyle opportunities. Being a US citizen and being able to pursue a goal of higher education was a real privilege, but I faced many challenges when transferring my degree. My son has witnessed the efforts made to accomplish my goals in this country, and I can see how modeling this behavior has made him a great student and a kind little human.

I would be honored to join PEO in the future so that I might help women reach their dreams. Seeing the challenges of my community, I hope to build a practice in San Luis Obispo with Latinos, given that my background allows me to share with them in a profoundly compassionate way.”  

For more information about the PEO Paso Robles Chapter HL and PEO International, visit PEOpaso.org.