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La Follette Grad Dija Manly Wins Women in Focus Scholarship Dedicated to the Late Dr. Virginia Henderson

(L-r)  Women in Focus Scholarship Chair Treater Prestine, Dr. Sheryl Henderson, scholarship winner Dija Manly, Dr. Perry Henderson,  and Women in Focus President Edith Hilliard 

Members of Women in Focus, Inc. presented a $3,000 college scholarship in memory of the late Dr. Virginia Henderson to La Follette High School graduate Dija Manly on June 25.  The scholarship was funded by contributions from
the community after Dr. Henderson’s passing.

Dr. Henderson was a founding and life-long member of Women in Focus, Inc., an organization of Madison women which raises money for scholarships through hosting the “I Have a Dream” Ball each January.  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. Some scholarships also are granted to adult students returning to college after a hiatus for various reasons.

Dr. Virginia Henderson and Dr. Perry Henderson at their home in Fitchburg.
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)


Dr.  Henderson, a beloved and legendary educator and matriarch for many in the Madison community, passed away in April of this year. She was an tireless advocate for education for children – especially children of color in Madison.  Dr. Henderson worked as a school psychologist and an advisor to the Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District on matters of equity and diversity for 19 years.  In 1993, she created the African American Ethnic Academy to supplement the education of African-American students, to build their self-esteem, and to increase their
capacity to succeed in the world.

Dr. Henderson, along with her husband Dr. Perry Henderson, were well-known philanthropists in Madison and through their generosity and volunteer work have impacted multiple generations of families throughout Dane County.

Dija Manly

Dija Manly is a recent graduate of Madison La Follette High School and has been accepted at Stanford University in California where she will study biomedical engineering where she plans to use technology and gene research to improve the lives of members of the community.  As a student, she has already completed several internships,  several university research studies, served as a student facilitator for the Rape Crisis Center’s Game Changers Youth Advisory Board for several years, served as president of her Black Student Union, advocated for GSAFE, and Save our Students Madison.

“Women in Focus is proud to award this scholarship to Dija in memory of Dr. Henderson,” says longtime Women in Focus member Sally Hestad. “Through her education, we feel that Dija will work for positive changes in our community, just as Dr. Henderson did.”