lmost 10 years ago, WDIV-Local 4 anchor Rhonda Walker spoke with a teenage girl who confessed that her family didn't think she'd amount to anything. In 2003, Walker launched the Rhonda Walker Foundation (RWF) in an effort to instill a very different message in as many girls as possible.
"I want these girls to become strong and confident," says Walker. "I want to expose and empower them to believe in themselves."
RWF has a five-year program called Girls Into Women, which supports youth in developing professionally and personally through a wide range of activities and experiences. Participants are recruited from Detroit International Academy for Young Women, Plymouth Educational Center and Consortium College Preparatory High School as incoming eighth graders. Over a five-year period, the youth meet at least once a month.
"RWF changed my life tremendously. It helped me see myself in ways I never have before," says Nicole Amacker, who is in her third year of Girls Into Women.
RWF currently has a 100 percent high school and college graduation rate. Walker says it is the best outcome possible.
"We cover every aspect that a child will encounter in their lives," says Walker. "Some of our kids are underprivileged, so we want them to see what life is like outside of the inner city."
As is the case for many nonprofits, fundraising is essential. The organization's most important fundraiser is the annual Moving With Success Empowerment Brunch. This year, it took place at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in October. RWF teens served as hostesses.
Every year, Walker chooses a different career to highlight at the empowerment brunch. This year, RWF-which is run entirely by volunteers-honored women in the high tech industry. "We look for [people with] a documented history of giving back to the inner city," Walker says.
She is extremely committed to RWF teens, actively engaged in their activities and makes herself accessible to them.
Says Walker, "I can't think of a better way to spend my free time other than my foundation."