Women in Focus Inc.

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.

It’s a beautiful, entertainment-packed, inspirational evening where everybody gets dressed up to raise money for scholarships. The ball is truly a remarkable event and a favorite for many Madisonians.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Women in Focus 35th Anniversary Virtual Dream Scholarship Ball is going to be a little bit different this year, when it takes place on Saturday, Jan. 16.

“It’s going to be extremely different,” laughs Verona Morgan, the president of Women in Focus Inc. “Because of the pandemic we will be having a virtual event and this will be a challenge for us because most of us have never done a virtual event. We’re starting from square one and have made quite a bit of progress. We think it’s going to be a great event.”

Morgan is one of the founding members of Women in Focus.

“I remember when we started … it was a support group for African American women who were in business and industry and professional women,” Morgan remembers. “There were just nine of us and we decided after a year that we would open it up to other people, so we tried to find people in the community who were in jobs all alone and could use the support of a network.”

An early photo of Women in Focus Inc. from the ’80s

In 1986, the organization hosted its first Scholarship Ball honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We started this great event and then we soon decided that literacy of youths of color would be a goal and from there we went to giving scholarships,” Morgan says. 

This event is the organization’s major scholarship fundraiser that pays for the several annual scholarships Women in Focus presents to students, including scholarships in honor of Jan and Al Studesville, Ms. Gloria Jones-Bey and Dr. Virginia Henderson.

The Women in Focus 35th Anniversary Virtual Dream Scholarship Ball will feature music by DJ Drew Masters and the emcees will be Tajma Hall, Channel 15 news anchor and Portia Adney, an actress, teacher and a Women In Focus member.

“The event will start at 6:30 p.m. with a happy hour for those who decide to join us early. The program will start at 7 p.m,” Morgan says.

Naman Siad

“One of the speakers will be attorney Naman Siad. She received one of our scholarships back in 2011 and she will talk about her own experiences and speak to our guests,” Morgan adds. “Our second speaker is Dr. Carlton Jenkins, the superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.” 

There will be two performers at the event, both graduates of Madison East High School.

“That will be Thaddeus McCants, the winner of a BET comedian award, and Lexi Evans-Krueger, who is dancing on Broadway in Moulin Rouge. We are very excited to have these wonderful and talented former Madison-area students,” Morgan says.

Dr. Carlton Jenkins

The event will also be a chance to present the first annual WIF “Inspiring The Dream” Awards which will go to Cuna Mutual Foundation and Sandy Wegner.

“There will be a silent auction and this will be the first one that we’ve ever done so we’re hoping it will be a success and that everybody will tune in and enjoy the program and also bid on the silent auction items,” Morgan says.

“This event is so important for our scholarships. We started 35 years ago awarding scholarships to students. Our first awards were book awards because we were just starting out and we were just beginning our fundraising. As the years went by we have become better at fundraising and have been able to offer monetary scholarships,” Morgan adds. “We think it’s important to continue this because there are students who need this. They have dreams and we want to give them hope that they can make their dreams come true.”

Over the years, Women In Focus, Inc. has given out 355 scholarships and awarded thousands of dollars to deserving college-bound male and female students of color who have been selected by the WIF Scholarship Review Committee. The scholarship money comes from the proceeds of the annual “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Banquet and Ball.

“We want to thank our sponsors, donors and guests for helping to make this happen. Women in Focus presented 14 scholarships last year and are planning on presenting 14 scholarships this year,” Morgan says. “We want to continue to grow the money we have so we can continue to grow this in perpetuity.”

There is no fee to join the party, but Women in Focus is asking the community to donate what they can.

“We’re encouraging people to think about what they would have had to spend if they came to the Ball – buying tickets, buying a new gown, a new suit, new shoes, etc. Now they can stay home and enjoy it and donate what they please or bid on an auction item,” Morgan says.

Can I still dress up at home if I want to?

‘Yes. We’re encouraging people to do that. And to have a cocktail at the cocktail hour when we will be having a deejay – DJ Drew Masters – providing music for the event,” Morgan says. “We will be ending the program with The Cupid Shuffle, our theme. We’re asking people to dance at home while we play The Cupid Shuffle.

“This is a whole new world for us and we’re excited about it. We are going to be having people virtually attend from everywhere,” she adds. “There will be people tuning in throughout Madison, throughout the state and throughout the country and even outside of the country. My daughter used to live in Tunisia, Africa, and she has lots of friends there and we have sent them invitations and hopefully, they will be tuning in.”

 

You can register for the Women in Focus 35th Anniversary Virtual Dream Scholarship Ball, by clicking here.