Big Bear Lake, CA — The Soroptimists International of Big Bear Valley honored three women from within the Big Bear Valley in their annual Celebration of Women luncheon held at Northwoods Resort on Thursday afternoon. Nine-year Big Bear resident Diane Sloan Kubeja was honored with the Soroptimist Ruby Award which, in years past, has been referred to as the Women Helping Women Award. Since relocating to the Big Bear Valley from Los Angeles, where she was active in the entertainment industry, Sloan Kubeja has been teaching private voice lessons, and currently works with 40 students, ages seven to 70, preparing them for competitions, school and community theater performances; many of her students have flourished under her tutelage, as some have even gone on to tour with the national group Young Americans. The Soroptimists also honored two local women with annual scholarship awards. The Women’s Opportunity Award was granted to Jennifer Cookson, a single mother of three who, in her 30s, returned to school to get her G.E.D. and is currently enrolled in college, working to achieve her dream of a career in nursing. As Cookson has explained of challenges overcome in her life, “I am doing something to better my life and that of my children, and I know that. I won’t stop until my goal is reached. I am determined to do just that and, in the process, I’ve learned that very few things in life are worth having unless you have worked hard to get them!” Sixteen-year-old Tabitha Oogjen is this year’s scholarship recipient of the Violet Richardson Award, which recognizes young women ages 14-17 for their volunteer contributions to community. Oogjen has served others, in volunteering with young cancer patients at Loma Linda Hospital, while also teaching karate to young children; she says she has been motivated to serve based on her religious beliefs, the example of selflessness shared by her parents, and the joy in seeing a smile in a child’s face.

The Soroptimists' 2010 Celebration of Women Luncheon honored (from left) Diane Sloan Kubeja, Jennifer Cookson and Tabitha Oogjen.