The crowd at Greenwich’s Hyatt Regency roared with laughter as a teary-eyed Naomi Gomez proclaimed her life is “still a hot mess, but this time with a vision.” The 23-year-old participant in the Family Economic Security Program at Housatonic Community College elicited chuckles and tears as she shared her story since joining FESP last year.

Gomez spoke to hundreds of people Thursday afternoon at an annual luncheon hosted by the Fund for Women and Girls, part of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. She was one of several FESP participants who shared their positive experiences with the young program that was piloted at Norwalk Community College and more recently refined at HCC in Bridgeport.

“Every day I still can feel very lonely,” Gomez said, “but the journey has showed me I can do it—even with coming from a dysfunctional family.”

Before joining FESP, Gomez bounced in and out of schools as she worked numerous jobs to help support herself and her brothers. The responsibility to pay the bills, including a mortgage, have fallen to her and her siblings since she was a teenager, she said.

The Fund for Women and Girls found that these sorts of real-life issues frequently prevent women from completing college degrees and ultimately lead to systemic economic insecurity, so organizers structured FESP as a way to break the cycle, said its new director, Tricia Hyacinth.

More than $100,000 from Thursday’s fundraiser will go toward helping women like Gomez gain newfound economic security. That number includes roughly $51,000 raised from event attendees during a text-to-give campaign combined with $50,000 from founding fund member Anne Leonhardt. Additional net proceeds from the luncheon will also go toward the program.

Paul Broadie II, president of HCC, said afterward he’s seen how FESP “removes the barriers” for many students who drop out of school primarily because “life gets in the way.”

“It’s given us a model we want to spread over the rest of the institution,” Broadie said, citing services such as financial literacy that FESP provides and that the college has since identified as valuable enough to offer all students. “If not for FESP, we would have never known how valuable services like those are,” he said, adding he hopes many more colleges will replicate FESP’s programming.

Headlining Thursday’s speaker lineup was Andrea Jung, president and CEO of Grameen America, who joined the microfinance loan agency after serving as the chairman and CEO of Avon Products and has repeatedly been ranked among the nation’s top businesswomen.

“I’m proof positive that it’s all about giving women a chance,” Jung told the crowd. “I’m the child of a micro-loan.”

Using that loan, Jung’s mother started a salon, which laid the foundation for Jung’s hope to lead a career that had meaning. She discovered that career at Avon, a company founded on selling “economic independence to women,” Jung said during her description of its early growth.

Today with her work for Grameen America, which she cited as the “fastest growing microfinance company in the United States,” she sees herself doing even more for women. Since the company — originally formed to offer economic opportunity to women in Bangladesh — came to America, it has reached “over 90,000 women in need and provided over 284,977 microloans,” according to its website.

Jung capped her presentation with a call to action, saying, “If not me, if not us, then who will help?”