Taylor Kilgore knows without hesitation that her professional career wouldn’t be possible without the love and support she received from her mother, along with the personal courage and self-sacrifice Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made fighting for equality and opportunity for all.

Kilgore, a social media information specialist at TruStage Insurance Agency, served as the keynote speaker for the 38th annual “I Have a Dream” Ball and Scholarship Auction. She discussed how patience and perseverance – traits woven throughout King’s legacy — aided in gaining her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I’m actually living my dreams right now,” Kilgore told Dream Ball guests. “It might not be perfect, and the journey may not have been what you predicted, but you can feel your dreams coming true. It can be hard to recognize especially when you’re young and get hit with roadblocks and obstacles. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had big dreams … we are living his dreams right now.”

Held Jan. 13 at the Wisconsin Masonic Center, nearly 400 supporters of the Women in Focus Inc. annual event braved bone-chilling conditions. The Madison organization of women leaders is devoted to promoting educational excellence. Sponsorships and donations will provide financial assistance to 26 college-bound high school graduates. The scholarships aid young adults who have historically faced disadvantages bridge educational gaps.

Joining the nation in honoring the life and legacy of King on what would have been his 95th birthday, the theme of this year’s WIF Ball was “Actualizing the Dream.”

“One of the most wonderful events we have is our scholarship reception,” said Sharyl Kato, president of WIF.  “That is when you see the brightest …. That is what is really at the heart of what we all are working for every day in the Women In Focus organization — to see that your future and our future is in such good hands.”

Kilgore is a past WIF scholarship recipient. The 2013 La Follette High School graduate and new mother counts her blessing.

“We are here for a cause and to make a difference,” she said. “Of course, we all know that there’s still much more progress to be made. That’s why we need organizations like Women In Focus who are doing the boots on the ground work like Dr. King did. Dr. King said if you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means keep moving forward.”

One highlight of the evening occurred when founding member, Verona Morgan, was honored with the Women in Focus Outstanding Dedication Award.

“Women focus is truly my passion,” said Morgan.  “I work every day to make it a better organization. We have some wonderful members, and I’d like to thank them for all their hard work. We could not do this without them.”

Morgan received a standing ovation. Said to be “the essence” of the organization, Morgan helped launch WIF in 1983 with the mission of empowering students of color to advance their education and mentoring women into leadership roles. She served in every role for the group from president to secretary and has devoted time on the literacy committee and Ball chair, among other things.

She was the first African American woman to head the management employment office at AT&T, formerly Wisconsin Telephone Co. And, worked as the first manager of diversity and community relations at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Verona is a stellar woman of integrity,” said Edith Hilliard, an emeritus WIF member. “Her passion for lifting up others and exhibiting service is monumental. I personally thank her for her continued example in WIF.”

After her husband, Julius Morgan, passed away, the Morgan family established an endowment at the Madison Community Foundation to fund a college scholarship. The couple had been married for more than 65 years.

Deana Wright, a WIF member, joined Camberyn Kelley of WMTV 15 News, as co-emcees for the gala. Ballgowns and tuxedos clad dancers joyously took over the dance floor late into the night. There was much to celebrate. WIF announced it awarded over $500,000 in scholarships in the past few years.