Rhonda Walker shares her blessings to empower Detroit girls

In 2003, Rhonda Walker founded the Rhonda Walker Foundation

Rhonda Walker has been helping Detroiters get motivated and ready for the day with her incredible energy, enthusiasm, impeccable style, and passion for her hometown for the past 20 years. A confessed morning person, this award-winning talented and versatile journalist starts her day at 2:00 a.m. to co-anchor the weekday morning news cast at WDIV Local 4 news, Detroit's NBC affiliate.
 In 2003, Walker founded the Rhonda Walker Foundation.
 “The mission is to empower inner city teen girls towards becoming strong, competent and successful future leaders,” Walker says. “My inspiration came from working in Detroit as a broadcast journalist and becoming involved in the community. I got to know a lot about the community’s needs and got involved in a lot of different nonprofit and charity work. I've always been a lifelong volunteer since growing up in the Lansing area; it's just a part of who I am.
 “The more needs I saw, the more I wanted to get involved. I wanted to jump in and start doing more. I started volunteering with various charities at first and then I really honed in on wanting to work with kids specifically. And at that point it just started feeling like I needed to hold myself more accountable and do something literally in my name that would really have an impact and make a difference.
 “I started visiting schools and talking to teen girls about believing in themselves and being leaders and not followers, and goal setting, and making good choices, and choosing your friends properly, and just a lot of that messaging that kids need at any age. I certainly did. And it just grew from there. It was like this moment where God was talking to me and saying, ‘This is what I want you to do with your life and with the blessings that I've given you.’ I feel incredibly fortunate to have this career. With that blessing, there is much to be expected of me and what I can do with my blessings. I want to empower kids in Detroit who are less privileged and have less resources and opportunities.”
 The five-year program is for girls from eighth grade through high school.
 “235 teens have completed the five-year program with 100 percent  high school graduation and college enrollment rates, and 95 percent college graduation. We have 51 girls in the Girls into Women core program right now and 100 middle schoolers currently in our RWF Academy afterschool program in 5 middle schools.”
 “They stay in the program the entire time and we work on career and personal development. We have a mentoring program, we do health and wellness workshops, financial literacy, etiquette, goal setting, and college preparation and tours. It really is very comprehensive. And the personal development side is really important too, in terms of just building friendships and building confidence and problem solving and public speaking skills. And we really try to work with the kids on so many different levels where we meet them where they are. And we just try to build them up into being the best that they can be.
 Walker talks about how broadcast journalism has changed over the years.
 “It’s like night and day from when I started. Technology, yes, plays a huge role. We try to navigate the technological changes and still do what's most important, which is to investigate and provide important information and interviews and talk with leaders. And we still try to deliver the important messaging that our viewers rely on us for, but the landscape is very different.
 “And even right now, going through this pandemic, information and accurate information and timely information is so incredibly important. And we're doing it from remote locations, which makes it a challenge. But that's when you're really thankful for the extent of what technology can enable you to do. Ninety percent of our people aren't even working inside anymore. Everyone's working remotely and just kind of figuring out a way to do it, and we have done a lot of creative things to make it happen. But it's exciting. Change is a part of life. And the way technology works, you have to keep up with it. I love my career and I'm just ready to kind of take whatever comes my way and continue to navigate it.”
 As for young people, like the girls at the Rhonda Walker Foundation, who want to follow in her footsteps?
“My best advice is to do what you're passionate about and don’t let anything discourage you.  Find out what works for you and your interest and your passion.
 “And one thing that technology does enable us to do is a lot of different things. Technology is everywhere, communication is everywhere, more so than ever before. There is so much more opportunity than there ever was from every single sector, from healthcare to any type of business that you can think of, where we can use our skills as writers and interviewers and storytellers and investigators. There are so many more ways to use communication skills now than when I was younger. No matter what your interest is, work hard to be good at it and don’t allow anyone to tell you that it's crazy. You should go after it with passion and hard work and a commitment and just a mindset to never give up and be distracted by what other people might tell you.”
 Walker grew up in East Lansing in the shadow of MSU. She knew she would attend MSU almost from the time she enrolled in preschool at the university.
 “MSU is where I went to feed the ducks on the Red Cedar. It's where I learned how to play golf with my dad. And it's where I went to see basketball and football games growing up. I was green and white to the core as a kid. I went to cheerleading and gymnastics camp. I knew that campus like the back of my hand. As big as it is. I knew where everything was. I just loved it there.
 “And when it came time to apply for colleges, my parents had us look at other universities. We traveled across the country. We went and looked at some of the historically black universities and colleges. And I went through the formalities, but I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Michigan State was the only place that I applied to. They had a great school of communications there, so it fit my major as well. But even if it didn't, I still think I wanted to go there. It's just such a beautiful place and the culture is so beautiful there. And I felt so at home there already, and it was so familiar, but yet I got to live on campus It was just the best of both worlds for me.”
 Circling back to her foundation, Walker adds “I just think it's important that we all remember that it's upon each of us to give back and make our communities a better place in whatever you're passionate about. For me, it's kids and mentoring and empowering young people who are underprivileged. If you have a passion for working with teen girls and helping to empower, encourage, and build their confidence, Rhonda Walker Foundation would love to have you as a mentor and a supporter or a volunteer. But if that’s not for you, then it could be something else. Maybe you like animals. Maybe you want to do something that benefits the homeless. It can be anything, but just find something that you can do to give back in addition to whatever it is that you do as a career and for work. The most important thing to remember while we're on this earth is that we have more responsibility than just to do things for ourselves and our families, but to help others who are less fortunate.”
 MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on 105.1 FM, AM 870, and your smart speaker.