Students of color who live in Dane County are now eligible to apply for Women in Focus Inc. Scholarships awarded to high school seniors to fund initial expenses and kickstart their college careers.
“The scholarships are for high school graduates, primarily who are students of color, who are from the Dane County area,” Sharyl Kato, president of Women in Focus, Inc., tells Madison365. “The scholarships help students continue their education post-high school through an undergraduate degree or other post-high school degree or certification.”
This past April, generous sponsors, grantors and donors helped Women in Focus award $55,000 in scholarships to 22 deserving Dane County scholars of color graduating from six area Dane County high schools
“And then we do have scholarships for returning graduates who for some reason were unable to finish. So we are excited because last year was the highest number we’ve ever had … we had 22 scholarships that we gave out,” Kato says. “I think that’s really important because now more than ever, those scholarships are really needed.”
First established in 1983, Women in Focus, Inc. is a Madison-area organization composed of passionate women who are single-minded in their promotion of educational excellence and the healthy development of children of color. In 1986, the organization hosted its first Scholarship Ball honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Women In Focus, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization staffed by volunteers.
“Folks like Jan Studesville and Sheryl Henderson and all of the hard-working women that were founders of Women in Focus have been working so hard over the years for the ‘I Have a Dream’ Ball and for our annual reception in April where we honor the scholarship winners,” Kato says. “When you see the scholarship winners speak at the April event, you are so impressed and you know that the future is going to be OK.”
Women In Focus Inc. hosts its “I Have A Dream” Ball in January at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center every January and all of the funds raised at the event go towards college scholarships for students of color including scholarships in honor of Jan and Al Studesville, Ms. Gloria Jones-Bey and Dr. Virginia Henderson. Women in Focus has also established the Miss Milele Scholarship Endowment Fund in honor of Milele Chikasa Anana.
“Matt Brauginn will be the keynote speaker at the “I Have A Dream” Ball for this upcoming event. We are very excited about that,” Kato says. “We’ve been preparing for the ball for quite some time now and it will be held on Jan. 14, 2023, at Monona Terrace.”
Braunginn is an engagement partnership consultant working for EQT By Design, a freelance writer for Daily Kos (and a former columnist for Madison365), and a longtime community and political activist who also does political digital communications and organizing.
“For the keynote at the ‘I Have A Dream’ Ball, I’m looking forward to talking about how I learned the radical lessons of Dr. King, and exploring how we can apply those lessons of the radical King, not the mythic one, to today’s struggles for racial and economic justice,” Braunginn tells Madison365.
It’s a giant gala event where people from the community dress up for a great night for a great cause. The money raised at the annual “I Have A Dream” Ball goes towards the WIF scholarships.
“It’s really a good time and a great chance to see people. This year, the ball will be in-person, so that is something to really look forward to,” Kato says. “There’s just this great joy of seeing people in person and being together that is very difficult to explain.”
The ultimate goal is to increase the number of scholarships next year, but that, Kato says, will depend on the generosity of donors and sponsors. Donations to the WIF scholarship fund can be made here.
Both young men and women in the Dane County area are encouraged to apply for the WIF scholarships now through Feb. 15, 2023. The application can be found here.