Normally, WDIV-TV 4 news anchor Rhonda Walker awards scholarships to high school seniors who graduate high school and complete her foundation’s five-year Girls into Women program with honors during a special ceremony. This year, it took a caravan to deliver the checks.
Girls into Women is the Rhonda Walker Foundation’s signature program, designed for girls from grades eight to 12 who want to learn more about topics like college prep, health and wellness, and personal and career development. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, this year’s scholarship event had to be canceled. “We started brainstorming how we could deliver the checks to them to award their scholarships,” says Executive Director of Programs Holly Murphy. “It grew from going and taking the check to them and taking a picture, to inviting the entire Rhonda Walker Foundation family to join us.”
And so the board of directors, staff, volunteers, and mentors took to the road May 30, growing to a caravan of more than 20 cars to travel a total of 135 miles. “It was more than we ever anticipated,” Murphy says. “We wanted to do something special for our students that have been resilient. We needed to honor them and all of their accomplishments.”
Meeting at the Meijer on Grand River in Detroit first thing in the morning, the group traveled to Avondale High School in Auburn Hills; Dakota High School in Macomb; Chandler Park Middle School in Harper Woods; the Detroit Public Library on Harper Avenue in Detroit, where two presentations were made; and to Wegienka Elementary School in Brownstown. They delivered checks in amounts that ranged from $1,500 to $10,000 — $35,000 in all — to Kira Allen of Detroit School of Arts; Airiana Louie-Cameron of Dakota High School; E’Lesha Howard of University Prep Science and Math High School; Monique Martin of Renaissance High School; Anaya O’Neal of Woodhaven High School; Makiah Shipp of Detroit Edison Early College of Excellence; and Maia Terrell of Avondale High School.
Shipp says her experience with Girls into Women provided her with a sisterhood of contemporaries with whom she could share experiences, along with an opportunity to learn from powerful black women. “They taught me to be independent and vocal about things I experienced as a black woman,” she says.
Now a $10,000 scholarship check coming on the heels of Girls into Women is some pretty sweet icing on the cake. “The $10,000 was crazy and unexpected,” Shipp says. “I want to use that to show youth across Detroit that they are capable of earning that as well.”