10/31/2012 03:10 pm ET

Rhonda Walker, Detroit News Anchor, Uses TV Platform To Inspire Teen Girls

Rhonda Walker’s commitment to community service springs from her deep roots in the community, and permeates all her activities.

Working Girl
Rhonda Walker started in television news 11 years ago, when she applied to Fox 2 News for a position as traffic reporter. She aspired to the news reporting and anchoring side, but decided to take whatever was available to get into broadcasting. Her foot in the door was traffic. Rhonda’s prior work experience was in pharmaceutical sales. In that job, “You live in your car” she says, “driving from Grosse Pointe to Novi, to Rochester Hills, to Melvindale.” So she knew every stretch of the metro area roads, and the traffic reporting job suited the experience she already had. She was able to use her traffic stint to tune other skills, so that she was ready to branch out when a news reporting opportunity opened up, and subsequently, an anchor position.

Rhonda sees her profession as itself primarily community service. “We have a huge responsibility to the community to provide vital health and safety information, whether it’s a consumer alert about a virus on your computer, or a salmonella outbreak. Whatever story we do, we have a responsibility to make it as relevant and important and informative to our community as we possibly can.”

Paying It Forward
By late 2002, she knew she wanted to do something to promote education for children, but was it to be a scholarship fund, or possibly a mentoring program? She discussed it with her father, and he advised mentoring, “hands down.” If young people are isolated, if they don’t encounter role models they can see, touch and talk to, they may not realize they have the potential. So in December 2002 I decided to start a foundation with the purpose of empowering inner city teen girls toward becoming strong, confident and successful future leaders.”

“In March, 2003, I launched the Rhonda Walker Foundation’s Girls into Women Program, a five-year program of career and self-development. We provide etiquette training, and public speaking training. We prepare them for the annual empowerment lunch by teaching not just table etiquette, in terms of what fork to use, but how to initiate a conversation in a room with people you don’t know, so you don’t just stand in the corner not saying a word.” At the empowerment lunch, they have a challenge, to sell raffle tickets, but the real purpose of the challenge is to help build self-esteem, overcome shyness and learn how to approach people.

Rhonda is most proud of the fact that the program works -- every girl who has completed the five-year program is now in a four-year college or university. Rhonda wants to continue to maintain the program, to grow to reach more kids, and to take the message to more kids in more schools. She believes a school should be able to provide more than just academics. Her thoughts about the future include possibly establishing a girls’ academy, an entire school with strong personal development.



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