“These kids are very, very bright and they have chosen professions where they are going to help the Madison community, the larger community, and the world with their education,” says longtime Women in Focus Inc. member Sally Hestad. “So we are thrilled to be able to continue in our mission we’ve had so many years of encouraging these students of color to succeed in education because this is the way that good change will come to the world.”
Local Madison-area scholars will be honored at the Women in Focus Inc. 2022 Scholarship Reception at the Goodman Community Center on Sunday, April 24, at 1:30 p.m.
“We are excited to announce that we will be able to award 21 scholarships this year. That’s the most we’ve ever awarded,” says Rhoda McKinney, the chair of the scholarship committee.
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. hosts its “I Have A Dream” Ball in January at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center 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.
Verena Morgan, president of Women In Focus, is a founding member of the 38-year-old organization. She tells Madison365 that this is the 36th year for the Ball.
“When we first started out, we had no idea how big it could be and how big it has now become. So we are just delighted,” Morgan tells Madison365. “And one of the things that we are especially happy about is the number of young males who have applied for our scholarship. For years, we have not been able to reach that particular cohort. And so this year, we had 10 males apply, and it’s just outstanding that we have reached them. And it’s all due to the work of our committee … especially under the leadership of Rhoda McKinney.”
Hestad, the development director for Women in Focus, has been a member since 2005.
“We were formed for a particular reason. We were all business and professional women who were working for organizations where we were alone,” she tells Madison365. “And so we came together as a support group for one another, and then decided that we needed a goal. And that goal was to support the education of the youth of color.”
Every year, the Women in Focus Inc. award a significant number of scholarships to both high school seniors and adults returning to continue post-high school education. Since 1986, the scholarship awards to students of color in Dane County have totaled over $500,000.
Sunday’s Scholarship Award Reception is an event for students and their families and friends and the WIF members. All of the students will give two-minute speeches. Jodie Pope Williams, Community Engagement Coordinator for Madison College, will be the speaker at the event.
“She’s one of our scholars who is returning and she’s also become a member of Women in Focus,” Morgan says. “And she’s also chair of the ball in 2023. And she is one of my favorite people in the world.”
For Morgan, Sunday’s event is an amazing chance to get to see young people being honored although, she says, she wishes that they could honor even more.
“It’s bittersweet because we have 56 students that we reviewed applications of and then we can only award 21 scholarships,” Morgan says. “However, the favorite part for me is actually giving the scholarships to the students and seeing the looks on their faces. Also, when you call them to let them know … it’s fun to see just how excited they are to hear about the scholarship. They are so excited.”