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The Legacy of Madison's 'I Have a Dream' Scholarship Ball

Last year was the first time I attended the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” Ball. Now, almost one year later, it’s the most important date on my calendar. Here’s why ….

Sponsored by Women In Focus, this annual event is a cherished Madison tradition. I had heard of it but had never been to the event. Talking with friends and siblings who had attended in the past made me excited and curious. I was looking forward to it.

I’m not here to tell you how much fun we had. We had a great time listening to music and guest speakers, talking with friends, and dancing. There was an amazing auction. The event was everything I imagined and more. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

In the months after my first “I Have a Dream” Ball ended, I learned more about what it stands for and why it’s so special. This is direct action for a cause. The cause is access to education opportunities for local kids. For more than three decades, the volunteers of Women In Focus used proceeds from the event to fund college scholarships for students of color in Dane County.

“I am proud of Women in Focus’ unwavering commitment to funding Black and brown students pursuing post-secondary education.  We are more committed than ever before.  As MLK Jr. said, ‘It is always time to do what is right.’ We believe that this is the right thing to do,” said this year’s co-chair, Jodie Pope Williams.

Indeed, it must be a good idea to fund local scholarships by hosting one of Madison’s premier celebrations. This year’s event marks 38 years since the idea took off. Hundreds of scholarships for aspiring college students have helped make dreams come true. It’s a fun way for our community to come together, have fun, and support academic achievement.

“Your ticket purchase funds someone’s education, there is a direct impact, and it’s also a fun time!” said Ms. Pope Williams.

Leading up to last year’s Martin Luther King Ball, my colleague, and fellow reporter Josepha DaCosta wrote an article about the event for the Wisconsin State Journal. “Because this event is staged by local volunteers, proceeds go directly to college students and college-bound high school students,” she wrote.

Josepha’s article points out more reasons the event is so popular. “Each year, Women in Focus awards dozens of crucial scholarships to local young people. The I Have a Dream Ball is the primary way these scholarships are funded.” She says people enjoy the opportunity to have fun and support a great cause.

For the students of Simpson Street Free Press, this year’s event is special because Taylor Kilgore is the guest speaker. Taylor is a former Simpson Street student and a Women In Focus scholarship recipient. Over the years, she has helped many student writers hone their skills. The event always features first-person stories about how scholarships helped launch careers, and that helps make every year special.

Those are just some reasons I look forward to the 2024 “I Have a Dream” Ball. This year’s event is scheduled for January 13th at the Wisconsin Masonic Center, 301 Wisconsin Avenue. The Women In Focus website has information about tickets and auction items. Hope to see you there.

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