“It is thrilling for Women in Focus members to award college scholarships to these deserving students of color,” longtime Women in Focus member Sally Hestad tells Madison365. “Their futures are so bright and they all will give back to the community and enrich the world once they finish their educations. We are so proud of every scholar.”
Women in Focus, Inc., a long-standing Madison-area organization of women who are single-minded in their promotion of educational excellence and the healthy development of children of color, hosted its annual scholarship reception at the Ironworks Building of Goodman Community Center on April 23 where 26 students were honored with scholarships worth $2,500 each. Each year, Women In Focus, Inc. awards scholarships to deserving college-bound male and female students of color who have been selected by the WIF Scholarship Review Committee. Proceeds from the organization’s annual “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Banquet and Ball, as well as contributions from supporters, are used in funding the awards.
“This year’s event was just really amazing. We had a total of 26 scholarships that we presented to deserving students,” Women in Focus Scholarship Reception Chairperson Rhoda McKinney tells Madison365. “That was a record amount of scholarship money. So it’s absolutely amazing that this year we beat last year. We are absolutely thrilled that each year we are getting more and more students who are awarded scholarships and that really speaks to our community coming together and supporting our scholarships and our ‘I Have a Dream’ Ball.”
Women in Focus, whose mission is to be an active force in the Madison community to inspire young students of color to emulate successful role models of color, has awarded 423 students with scholarships since 1986.
The 2023 WIF Scholarship Awards winners include
- Kadjata Bah, East High School
- Serenity Reichenberger, La Follette High School
- Taylor Wang, Vel Phillips Memorial High School
- Josepha Da Costa, La Follette High School
- Melanny Gallardo, La Follette High School
- Fatoumata Fofana, La Follette High School
- Grace Nwankwo, Edgewood High School
- Yohanna Hoskins, La Follette High School
- Kiara Lewis, West High School
- Kennedy Gage, Monona Grove High School
- Zainab Yahiaoui, East High School
- Julian Sanchez, La Follette High School
- Alyssa Pillar-Kellman, Oregon High School
Some of the scholarships are funded by independent sources and WIF chooses the scholars. Those 2023 WIF Named Scholarship Awards include”
- Mateo Jimenez of Edgewood High School was awarded the Rose Ann Brown Memorial Scholarship
- Mercedie Yang of Verona High School was awarded the Gloria Jones Bey Memorial Scholarship
- Monel Zarah Antut, a continuing scholar, was awarded the Jan and Al Studesville Memorial Scholarship
- Gueda Daff of East High School was awarded the Dr. Virginia Henderson Memorial Scholarship
- Mawuenam Z. Dossa of Cross Plains High School was awarded the Julius Morgan Memorial Scholarship
- Devin Jon Frank of Sun Prairie West High School was awarded the Milele Chikasa Anana Memorial Scholarship
- Sara Chennah of- La Follette High School was awarded the Gene Sturdevant Memorial Scholarship (funded by Kiwanis Club Madison East)
- Thomas Tatus of La Follette High School was awarded the WIF Scholarship (funded by Annex Charitable Foundation)
- Nitya Patil of Vel Phillips Memorial High School was awarded the Marlene Listwan Memorial Scholarship (funded by William Listwan, MD)
- Valeria Carvajal of Vel Phillips Memorial High School was awarded the WIF Scholarship (funded by CUNA Mutual Foundation)
- Maya Ivanova of East High School was awarded the Kamrynn Thompson Memorial Scholarship (funded by Laurel Frazer)
- Kaitlyn Chacon of La Follette High School was awarded the WIF Scholarship for scholars entering the medical field (funded by Scott and Shari Frank of Oak Park Place)
- Isaiah Mielke of Edgewood College was awarded the WIF Inspiring Founders Scholarship, Year Three
Money raised from the annual Women in Focus MLK “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Ball each January funds the scholarships that these students get every year. Next year, the annual MLK Ball, traditionally held at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, will be held at the Wisconsin Masonic Center in downtown Madison.
“This coming year, the location of our ‘I Have a Dream Ball’ has changed because the Monona Terrace does remodeling once every 10 years. So 10 years ago, we had to go to the Marriott [Hotel]. This year, Women in Focus has decided to go to Wisconsin Masonic Center on Wisconsin Avenue,” says Hestad, who has been a Women in Focus member for 18 years. “So that will be a little different with those old, beautiful marble columns they have at the Wisconsin Masonic Center.”
“It will be just as fabulous as always,” McKinney adds. “A bunch of us Women in Focus members went over to the Wisconsin Masonic Center to see how beautiful it could be. We are really looking forward to it.”
First established in 1983, Women in Focus, Inc hosted its first Scholarship Ball honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1986. Next January, women in Focus will host the 38th annual MLK Ball.
“We are really revving up for our 40th-anniversary celebration which will happen in a couple of years. It’s going to be really special when we get to that … 40 is going to be huge,” McKinney says.
“We’re excited that we survived the pandemic because I’m sure you’re aware that a lot of these opportunities went away for students. So we’re pretty proud of staying together, staying cohesive, loving each other and supporting each other,” McKinney adds. “It is a big, happy family of women supporting each other and being mentors to young people and lifting each other up. The reward is giving back to these students.”
The next scholarship application for Women in Focus scholarships will be available on Nov. 1. McKinney is hoping that with continued community support, they can continue to have even more scholarships available for next year.
“It’s just super exciting that the community is showing up for the students and it wouldn’t be possible without all of the members of Women in Focus who do this tireless work to make this event happen to give these students this wonderful amount of money to have a good start with their college and their future aspirations,” McKinney says.