Community members gathered to honor 12 outstanding youths at the Women in Focus Inc. "I Have a Dream" Scholarship Award Reception in the Washburn Heritage Room of Regina Hall at Edgewood College April 14.
Women in Focus Inc. vice president Jan Studesville, emcee for the event, greeted attendees and welcomed Women in Focus Inc. (WIF) president Teresita Torrence.
“Looking out at the audience today, I’m so excited that there are so many wonderful scholarship recipients along with the support of friends and family,” Torrence said. “We have sponsors here today who have made this possible for us. I want to take the Scholarship Reception Committee and the Scholarship Committee who go through all of the applications to determine the scholarship recipients.”
The WIF Scholarship Committee co-chairs were Carol Lobes and Connie Smith. Members of that committe also included Brenda Brown, Rose Ann Brown, Tina Murray, and Treater Prestine. The WIF Scholarship Reception Committee was made up of Studesville, Edith Hilliard, Sharyl Kato, and Cindy Rolling
Every spring, WIF awards scholarships to minority students in the greater Madison community who have met educational criteria and have shown evidence of community service. Since 1986, WIF has awarded over 200 scholarships to high school seniors and college students. Scholarship recipients must meet educational criteria and show evidence of community service. Recipients have chosen diverse career paths, including business, professional careers, music, medicine, dentistry, and art.
At the event, WIF recognized 12 high school students chosen to receive 2013 “I Have a Dream” Scholarships which were funded by the proceeds of the 2013 “I Have a Dream” Scholarship Banquet and Ball.
The awardees are:
Mariama Bester of Madison West; Brandon Rodriguez-Chan, Sarina Hills-Blacks, Cristian Claudio, and Marcelina Martinez of Madison East; Marisela Gomez-Castellanos and Tasi-Jo McFarlane of Madison Memorial; Feelee Lee and Mariah Morgan of Madison La Follette; David Smith of Verona High, and Joann Yang of Sun Prairie High.
The keynote speaker at the event was Aaron David, a 2011 WIF scholarship recipient, and a graduate of Madison East who is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ‘In college, I’m starting to officially see my life unfold,” David told the crowd. “It can be tough at times, but all you have to do is remember that I’m in charge of my life and my future and how I want to live.”
David said that when he began his career at UW-Madison he had no idea what he wanted to major in and had no clue what he was really good at. “I began school undecided, and now that I have declared, I’m a strong advocate for students not to start school worried about not knowing what they want to do or thinking what major they should be,” David said. “You should explore what you want, because that is what college is about. The college experience is a time for you to learn about you.
“In reality, you can do anything you want with any major,” he added. “Don’t let yourself get sucked into something that you’re only doing because you’re scared of not succeeding at your passion.”
David said that the WIF “I Have A Dream” Scholarship he received has helped him a great deal as he pursues his higher education.
“It was an honor to get this scholarship and the money from it went toward many school supplies,” he said.
David then specifically addressed the scholarship recipients and shared some perspectives on college life with them. “It’s perfectly fine, in my opinion, to start college on a blank slate, because then you are allowing yourself endless possibilities to explore,” he said. “Don’t let other people discourage you from what you want to do or be. Remember that majors don’t determine the job; it’s you who will determine what you want to do. Remember to not take help for granted … when it is offered, use it. My final piece of advice for you graduates is don’t overload yourselves. Just last semester, it happened to me. I built up a lot of stress and eventually broke down. My life came crashing down and I had to take time for myself this semester. So, take time to do the best you can.”
Shawna James-Ragland of Madison College was honored as the Miss Annie Mae Scholarship winner. This scholarship is funded with the proceeds of an auction of 77 wonderful hats owned by Miss Annie Mae McClain during her lifetime. The hats were generously donated to WIF by Miss Annie Mae’s son Joe McClain and his wife, WIF member Carol Lobes. The McClains felt that Miss Annie Mae would want her beloved hats to contribute to the higher education of young people of color.
For additional information on Women In Focus, Inc., please visit the website www.womeninfocus.net