Women In Focus Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to supporting the education of students of color in the Madison community, will celebrate 31 years of community impact as it hosts the 2017 “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Banquet and Ball this Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

Longtime Women in Focus Inc. member Verona Morgan is the chairperson for the ball this year.

“The ‘I Have a Dream’ Scholarship Banquet and Ball is held every year around the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in honor of Martin Luther King. The purpose of the ball is to raise funds for scholarships for youth of color and also for continuing education students,” Morgan tells Madison365. “It’s the premiere event of the year for scholarship fundraisers in our community.”

Verona Morgan
Verona Morgan

The past few years, the Women in Focus MLK Ball has been held at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. “We sold out last year and we sold out this year so we have been exceeding our venue,” Morgan says. “Eventually, we will have to look at some place else to have the event, we hope. The last few years we’ve had people trying to get seats after we have been sold out. It’s really a good problem to have. We keep growing every year.”

Women in Focus Inc. is an all-volunteer local non-profit organization that exists to provide scholarship funding for students of color in the Greater Madison area pursuing post-secondary education. This also includes adult students returning to college. With an active Literacy Program and outreach to women and children in the YWCA Third Street program, Women in Focus members also give of their time to read and distribute books to various community outlets and organizations.

Since its formation in 1983, Women in Focus has awarded over $400,000 to students of color in the Madison area who are pursuing college and continuing education degrees. Some scholarships are granted to adult students returning to college after a hiatus for various reasons. This year, Women in Focus will give out 13 scholarships worth $2,500 each at a special ceremony in spring.

The “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Banquet and Ball raises money for scholarship for deserving students.
The “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Banquet and Ball raises money for scholarship for deserving students.

“We’re hoping to have one more scholarship next year in the name of Gloria Jones-Bey who was one of our co-founding members who passed away in November,” Morgan says.

Morgan is one of the co-founding members of Women in Focus here in Madison. “My job took me to Milwaukee for a number of years and when I returned to Madison I got reacquainted with the organization and joined again,” Morgan says. “So it’s been about 8 years for me and I have been really enjoying it.

“I love the camaraderie of these 22 women in Women in Focus. We are truly sisters to one another. We support each other and we encourage each other, but our primary focus is the youth,” Morgan adds. “Our vision is for all youth of color to be educated without any barriers whatsoever.”

And that all starts with money raised at the annual “I Have a Dream” Ball this Saturday at Monona Terrace. The guest speaker for the event will be Ashley L. Brown. Live music will be provided by Kinfolk and DJ Ace.

“It’s a great chance to network and it’s a great chance to get to know other people in our community. Our guests at the MLK Ball are very diverse and come from different sections of the community,” Morgan says. “This is an event that is not just for the African-American community, it is an event for everyone.”