''When I was approaching my senior year (of college),'' says Sylvia Romo, ''I had exhausted all my funds, had four young sons, and was keeping up our home as well as working part time to help support the family.
''It was then that I applied for and received a Clairol Loving Care Scholarship of around $1,000. It enabled me to graduate in 1976, to enter the accounting field, and become a certified public accountant.''
Mrs. Romo, a Hispanic American from San Antonio, is one of 10 former Clairol scholarship awardees honored at a recent luncheon in New York. She is now the owner of Romo & Co., probably the only female- and minority-owned accounting firm in the state of Texas.
Over the past decade, Clairol Inc. has awarded scholarships worth $500,000 to 1,000 women over age 30 who wanted to educate themselves or retrain to reach certain career goals. Most of the money went to women who had interrupted their education for the responsibilities of marriage, child-rearing, and support of family.
Mrs. Romo explained at the luncheon that she had married young, helped put her husband through engineering school, and at 27, while pregnant, started to school herself on a part-time basis. With the help of her Clairol scholarship, she was able to graduate at 32 with an accounting degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
''Three years ago I took on the challenge of opening my own firm, where I now employ five others. In a field that was dominated by men for many years, I have watched women move forward in recent years. Today, 25 percent of certified public accountants are women.''
The other top-10 scholarship winners who have moved into responsible positions are Karen Brooks of Stone Mountain, Ga., who is now a systems engineer and marketing/scientific coordinator at IBM; Catherine Connor of Bethesda, Md., a single parent of two children, now a certified flight instructor; Ann Diehl of Lindenhurst, Long Island, N.Y., director of community education at the State University of New York at Farmingdale; Nancy Halloran Hutter of Philadelphia, assistant staff attorney of the Philadelphia City Council; Karen Libson of Cincinnati, formerly a housewife, a postdoctoral assistant in chemistry; Jacqueline Maher of Brockton, Mass., a computer programmer/analyst; Beverly Miller-Perry of Houston, a veterinary student at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama; Karen Devassy, a medical intern in East Windsor, Conn.; and Amy Hock of Calumet City, Ill., a grandmother of six, a registered nurse.
This year, Clairol has announced that it is increasing its funding of education for older women by 50 percent.
The program - the only nationwide one of its kind in the United States - is administered by the Business and Professional Women's Foundation, 2012 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, which handles application inquiries and awards scholarships up to $1,000 for both full- and part-time study.