The 2018 Women in Focus Inc. Scholarship winners came from a variety of Madison-area schools.

The deadline is coming up quick – Friday, Feb. 15, to be exact – for Madison-area college-bound students of color from Dane County, both male and female, to apply for Women in Focus Inc.’s scholarships which will be awarded this April.

“What happens so often is that because it’s Women in Focus, we have people thinking that it’s just females. We really want to get the word out there that this scholarship is for males, also,” Edith Hilliard, president of Women in Focus Inc. and a longtime member, tells Madison365. “We get very few applications from males because they see ‘Women in Focus’ and they think it’s just women. So we’d really like to see more male applicants before the upcoming deadline.”

Women In Focus, Inc. is a local non-profit dedicated to supporting the education of students of color. Each year, Women In Focus, Inc. (WIF) hosts a special celebration where they award scholarships to deserving college-bound students of color in the greater Madison community who have met educational criteria and have shown evidence of community service.

Requirements for these Women in Focus merit-based scholarships include:
◆ Must be a student of color
◆ Must have a minimum of a 2.5 G.P.A.
◆ Must be a current high school senior graduating from a Dane County High School OR a continuing adult student who is attending an institute of higher education in Dane County
◆ Must present evidence of high school or GED equivalent education.

Since its formation in 1983, Women in Focus has awarded over $500,000 worth of scholarships for students of color in the Madison area who are pursuing college and continuing education degrees. Scholarship winners become part of the Women in Focus Inc. family and recipients of the WIF scholarships have gone on to pursue diverse career paths including business, professional careers, music, medicine, dentistry and art.

“We keep a list of our scholarship winners going all the way back and for the last 33 years we’ve always had one of the scholarship winners come back and be the speaker not only at the [annual MLK ‘I Have a Dream’] Ball but at the scholarship reception that is held in April,” Hilliard says. “The speakers are always past winners of the Women in Focus scholarships and I think that says a lot also.

“I remember the year that we had [Dane County District Attorney] Ismael Ozanne as our speaker and people were just flabbergasted that he received a scholarship from Women in Focus … and look where he is today!” Hilliard says.

Members of Women in Focus Inc. celebrate at the annual MLK “I Have a Dream” Ball.

Women in Focus Inc. scholarships are $2,500 a piece and usually awarded to at least 10 students. Money raised from January’s annual MLK “I Have a Dream” Ball go towards the scholarships. The all-volunteer organization holds its signature scholarship fundraiser the Saturday before the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and is the sole fundraising event for the organization.

Each spring, WIF honors the student awardees and their families at a reception, which is a wonderful opportunity for WIF members and representatives of their sponsors to meet and congratulate the awardees in person. This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, April 17, 5-8 p.m. at the Ironworks Building of the Goodman Community Center.

Women in Focus Inc. also has two continuing education scholarships available for adult students returning to college after a hiatus for various reasons.

Ousman Darboe of Madison College was honored with the Janet & Alfonso Studesville Scholarship at last year’s Women in Focus scholarship event. With him are (l-r) Michelle Heitzinger, Sally Hestad and Lucia Nunez

“Our scholarships are traditionally for high school seniors – male and female. However, we do have two returning student scholarships that we have – the Annie Mae Scholarship and the Jan and Al Studesville Scholarships,” Hilliard says. “It may be somebody who has been out of school for a while and just doesn’t have the finances to go back.”

The deadline is Feb. 15 to get an application in for the WIF Scholarship Review Committee.

“Anyone can apply for our scholarships. The application is online and at our website. We take the information to all of our high schools in Madison and to neighborhood centers, community centers, and churches. We try really hard to get the word out,” Hilliard says.

For more information about Women in Focus and scholarships, visit