A Network of Support
A Network of Support
Broadcast journalist Rhonda Walker uses her success and abundant energy to empower inner-city teen girls in the Detroit area to become confident, successful leaders.July 21, 2020
Rhonda Walker has been motivating people in Detroit with her energy, enthusiasm, style and passion for 20 years. The award-winning and versatile journalist starts her day at 2 a.m. to co-anchor the weekday morning show for WDIV-TV 4 News Detroit, an NBC affiliate where she’s worked since 2003.
Walker’s dynamism borders on the superhuman. After starting her work day long before dawn, she doesn’t go home to nap later. Instead, she works to give back to her adopted hometown as the founder, president and CEO of the Rhonda Walker Foundation (RWF).
“I’ve been a lifelong volunteer since growing up in the Lansing area. It’s just a part of who I am,” she said.
Her organization, founded in 2003, works to help inner-city girls stay on a path to success through a five-year program that begins in eighth grade. Walker wanted to go beyond the one-off school presentations she’d done as part of her broadcast career, and instead offer girls a more sustained message and support structure by building longer relationships.
My philosophy has always been that anything is possible and I really try to instill that in the girls in the foundation. Be fearless.
The foundation’s Girls into Women Program is built on five program pillars: college preparation, personal development, career development, health and wellness, and community outreach and cultural awareness, Walker explained.
“My inspiration came from working here as a broadcast journalist and becoming involved in the community. I got to know a lot about its needs,” said Walker, who was born in Detroit and moved to East Lansing at age 2. (She attended nursery school on MSU’s campus, joking, “That’s when I started at Michigan State.”)
To date, the RWF boasts a 100% high school graduation and college enrollment rate. In all, 235 participants have gone on to earn college degrees so far. Scholarships are also provided when the girls complete their senior year of high school.
RWF currently has 51 girls enrolled in its preparatory academy afterschool program, Walker said.
Girls are nominated for admission into the Girls into Women Program by one of five Detroit partner schools in the spring before they enter eighth grade.
The students develop confidence and self-esteem in a variety of work-shops on etiquette, public speaking, goal setting, conflict resolution, presentation skills and even weekend retreats.
“We’re just trying to build them up into being the best that they can be,” Walker said.
“Every teen has the opportunity to be matched with a carefully screened professional female mentor who provides strong support and critical guidance. Although we ask our volunteer mentors to stay connected for one year, the bond often becomes so strong that the mentoring relationship may last for the remainder of the program,” she said.
“I think it’s important we all remember it’s on each of us to give back and make our communities better places,” Walker said. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have this career. There is much to be expected of me and what I can do with my blessings. I want to em-power kids in Detroit who are less privileged and have fewer resources and opportunities.”
Hear more from Rhonda Walker on this episode of MSU Today with Russ White:
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Contributing Writer(s): Russ White, '82, M.A. '01