Leaders, business people, and news outlets from all over the state of Michigan gathered together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Rhonda Walker Foundation. Started in 2003 by WDIV-TV4 news anchor Rhonda Walker, RWF was created with one main goal. Help Black girls. And since its founding 2 decades ago it’s done exactly that. Over the years RWF has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships, taken students across the country to visit HBCUs, and provided Black girls with a space to grow into confident and capable women.
With 20 years of dedication and thousands of lives changed under their belt, the foundation took time to celebrate on October 14th on the 16th floor of One Campus Martius with many of the people who helped them along the way through donations and hard work. Representatives from GM and DTE, long-time board members, reporters from her station, and even an all-girls portion of the Detroit Youth Choir all attended the event to congratulate RWF on their milestone anniversary.
“This moment is really surreal.” Rhonda Walker told us as she stood in the mist of the gala. “We work day in and day out on this foundation to empower teen girls and provide personal development and mentoring and college preparation. And tonight is the culmination of all of that hard work and all of our impact over a 20-year period. I feel so proud.
We’re also celebrating our board members. We’re celebrating our founding board members. We’re celebrating legacy donors who have helped us support this organization over 20 years from financial standpoint. There’re so many people in this room tonight that are pivotal to our success and to where we are today. We’re celebrating the success that we’ve all had in empowering teen girls in the city of Detroit. So, I’m incredibly proud and excited.”
Walker’s gratitude for her organization’s supporters couldn’t be understated. Funding for camps, afterschool programs, and scholarships is crucial in their effort to give Black girls the leg up they need in life. Throughout the night, former students stood on stage and expressed how much that RWF’s programs helped them find themselves despite their circumstances. RWF provides many resources that teen girls in the city desperately need. But according to Walker the most common thing these girls ar lack is confidence
“We have had 17 graduating classes from our 5-year roles into women program. And I think one of the constant things is a lot of them come in shy, unsure of themselves, not really prepared for the future. We build their confidence. We build a sense of sisterhood and love for each other and support. Our kids are coming into a family that’s always going to encourage them, always going to support them, and always going to lift them up. So no matter where they are in their life, they know they have their RWF family. I think that’s key, for kids to know that they have that love and support. I mean, there’s bullying and there’s all kinds of things that go on in school, but this is a respite, this is a family, and so we’re empowering them and giving them the college preparation and the job opportunities and all the exposure but we’re also giving them love connectedness a sisterhood and a family and those are just relationships that last a lifetime.”
Walker, along with her long-time friend Dennis Archer jr., continued to show love to those in attendance by handing out several award to strong female leaders and those who support them. Each person who stepped on staged to receive their award expressed the importance of having women in the workplace. They congratulated RWF on their longevity, and praise the organizers on the fantastic job they’ve done helping Detroit’s teens.
However, their work is never finished. Towards the end of the night, RWF announced their “Way Forward” campaign. This new initiative aims to raise $8 million in the span of only 2 years. The funds will be used to further advance the lives of Detroit’s Black girls and multiply the ability RWF has to help them realize their full potential. Rhonda Walker couldn’t be more excited to take this next step either. The growth of her organizatin means that she and her team will be able to touch more lives than ever before, and help girls thrive desipte their situations.
“Your zip code should not dictate your outcome. The Rhonda Walker Foundation is all about bridging that gap so that these kids are getting exposure and the opportunity just like a suburban kid might. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or where you’re growing up. Believe that you have the ability, the capability, the intelligence to thrive just like anybody else. Dream big and never let anything hold you back. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and seek opportunity. Go through life feeling fearless. There’s no room you can’t walk into. There’s no room you don’t belong in. You just have to go through life with this fearlessness and this faith. Knowing that you’re entitled, that you deserve it, and that you belong in that room. Go for it.”