Every year, Women In Focus Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to supporting the education of students of color in the Madison community, hosts its “I Have A Dream” Ball in January at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming Women in Focus 36th Anniversary “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Ball will once again be held virtually.
“This will be the 36th annual ‘I Have a Dream Ball’ and we are really excited about it,” 2022 Dream Ball Chair Gloria Reyes tells Madison365. The Women in Focus signature event will be held Saturday, Jan. 15, 6-10 p.m. and will be part of the many MLK Holiday weekend activities. “It was a really hard decision to have a virtual event again this year when we were hoping that we would be together. We felt like it just wasn’t safe enough to bring everybody together yet.”
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 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 are all strong women leaders in our community who have come together to really help our young people achieve their dreams,” Reyes says. “So that’s really powerful and it’s a powerful message for our young people to receive. Of course, financial support is important as these young students try to navigate college and pay for tuition and books and all of the expenses that come into play when you go to challenge.
“We want to be part of that journey and support our young people,” she adds.
The Women in Focus 36th Anniversary Virtual Dream Scholarship Ball will feature music by DJ Drew Masters. The emcee of the event will be Deana Wright, a longtime radio personality and Women in Focus member. The event will also be a chance to present the WIF 2022 “Inspiring The Dream” awards. Other local celebrities and former WIF scholars at the event will include:
• MC Portia Adney, actor, teacher, WIF member
• Dr. Carlton Jenkins,
• Attorney Naman Siad, WIF Scholar 2011
• Terrence Carey, comedian at Second City,
WIF Scholar 2011
• Danielle Crim, vocalist,
WIF Scholar 2020
“We are looking forward to hearing from some of our former students at the event and different local celebrities who will talk about Women in Focus and, specifically, the ‘I Have a Dream’ Ball and fundraising to support our students with scholarships,” Reyes says. “It’s a very special event for us where we uplift the talents of our students of color in Dane County and really elevate and highlight the importance of college education and how important it is to building a stronger community.”
For the first time ever, Women in Focus Inc. will be adding an in-person VIP Watch Party for a limited amount of people to get together to enjoy the event in Ballroom B of Monona Terrace on Saturday, Jan. 15, 6-10 p.m.
“It will be a small gathering at Monona Terrace – it will be open to about 50 people. Anybody who wants to come and support our I Have a Dream Ball, we’ll have a big screen and we’ll essentially watch the event virtually from Monona Terrace,” Reyes says. “We’ll have dinner and drinks. It will be a really nice event to bring some people together keeping in mind social distancing and COVID-19 regulations.”
All of the funds raised at the Women in Focus 36th Anniversary Virtual I Have a Dream Scholarship Ball will fund 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 is currently inviting Dane County high school seniors and continuing students of color to apply for a 2022 Women in Focus Scholarship. The deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 15. The application forms can be found here. An essay, two letters of reference and a transcript are required. Women in Focus usually gets about 45-50 applicants and have awarded 12-14 scholarships annually in recent years.
“We have been able to award over $500,000 in scholarships over the past few years thanks to our sponsors and our donors of Women in Focus,” Reyes says. “The ‘I Have a Dream’ scholarship is so important because it honors one of our phenomenal leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To be given a scholarship under his name is really impactful.
“And it’s really impactful also because it is a scholarship that is given by the community to a student. It really sends a message that education is important, college is important and that our community is invested in our young people’s future,” Reyes says. “I think that really means a lot. As someone who has received a scholarship from a community organization [Centro Hispano of Dane County], it really means a lot. It’s much more than the financial contribution. It is that the community is saying that they believe in you and that they want to invest in your future.”
The event is free to virtually attend. Organizers at Women in Focus are asking community members to consider donating to the WIF Scholarship Fund, which can be made by texting 56651 and following the prompts or by clicking here.
For more information about the Women in Focus 36th Anniversary Virtual Dream Scholarship Ball, e-mail Gloria Reyes, 2022 Dream Ball Chair, at [email protected].