Jakayla Phillips (2016 Winner)

PERSONAL ESSAY: April 27, 2019

I was the first recipient of the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship. Of the many accomplishments I’ve had, including becoming an honors graduate from UW-Milwaukee, receiving the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship has been one of the most memorable and rewarding. Not only did this scholarship help to eliminate some of the financial burden for my family and me, but it also has presented me with wonderful opportunities such as meeting some incredible people like Sue Walker and the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship Committee, writing the biography for Don Walker’s induction into the Milwaukee Media Hall of Fame and presenting the award to his family.

Since graduating, I have continued my work in the childcare field. I am working as a part-time educator for the Wauwatosa School District through the company Right at School. I also have been exercising my skills as a multimedia freelance journalist, building my online portfolio, jakaylaphillips.wordpress.com, and strengthening my craft. I also have been focusing on my family and keeping the memories of my deceased brother, George Phillips Jr., alive.

After meeting Mrs. Walker in August 2016, it was evident that we connected through loss, and I was more than inspired by her loving spirit and strength. She and the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship Committee reminded me that loss doesn’t always have to feel like a total loss. They reminded me that there may very well be a blessing in the storm.

Since December 2016 I have been keeping my brother’s name alive by sponsoring different families each year for my brother’s favorite holiday: Christmas. Also, for the first time this year, I will be remembering my brother’s kind, giving spirit by providing a senior who has either suffered from gun violence or has financial troubles with a free senior photo shoot to capture the special moments of one of the most important years of his or her life. Lastly, I am hoping to bless others the way that this scholarship has blessed me by eventually creating a foundation and scholarship in my brother’s honor.

Blessings come in many forms. In my case, I lost my brother, and though the wound still hurts, I gained the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship. I gained strength, everlasting support, courage and a new vision. The legacy of Mr. Walker and this scholarship will forever be in my heart because it has ultimately given me a sense of purpose and encouraged me to heal my own broken heart by helping others, and for that, I am grateful.

— By Jakayla Phillips

UPDATE 2: June 19, 2018

Jakayla Phillips, 23, the first recipient of the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship, continues to work as a childcare teacher at St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care while actively searching for work in her field of journalism.


She recently began doing promotional work via social media for a Milwaukee radio station, Quest Nation, which airs live on WGLB (96.1 FM/1560 AM) from 3 to 4 p.m. every second and fourth Friday.

She continues to build her journalism portfolio by writing freelance articles and posting them on the website online she created while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Because she was not able to do any internships during her undergrad years due to financial situations, it has been difficult for her to find employment as a reporter or within the journalism in general. She plans on continuing her work as a childcare teacher while pursuing more journalism opportunities or a full-time employment position relating to journalism.

Her advice to any current journalism students is to take full advantage of any internship opportunity that becomes available because it may lead to full-time employment.

“I would like to say that I am forever grateful for this opportunity and for being recognized as the first recipient of the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship,” she said. “I really appreciate all the support, and I would like to send my best wishes to whomever the next recipient may be.”


Jakayla Phillips, the first recipient of the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship, graduated May 21, 2017, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Phillips has been working at St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care on Milwaukee’s south side. She is considering asking her supervisor if she can transition from a childcare teacher to operating the center’s social media officer to take advantage of her journalism degree.

Phillips was featured in a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee fundraising video released in March 2018.


A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee journalism student has been selected to receive the inaugural Don Walker Memorial Scholarship.

Jakayla Phillips, a junior, was chosen by UWM officials based on criteria developed by the scholarship committee and the Walker family. She will receive a $2,000 scholarship for use during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Phillips has a 3.6 GPA and has produced radio, print and online pieces for the UWMPost and Media Milwaukee.

She won a regional Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for a moving audio story on her brother, who was murdered in Milwaukee. In her scholarship essay, Phillips described how her brother’s death made her turn to writing to overcome her obstacles.


“For some people, journalistic writing may just be a hobby or a way to report current events,” she wrote. “However, for me, it is more than a hobby; writing is my life.”

The Milwaukee Newspaper Guild Local 51 is a leadership sponsor of the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship. Guild President Tom Silverstein said the union is “thrilled” with Jakayla’s selection.

“Journalism was Don’s passion, and one of his strengths was a commitment to cover our entire community, no matter how difficult the subject,” Silverstein said. “Jakayla has already accepted that same responsibility and is clearly deserving of a scholarship bearing Don’s name.”

NEWS COVERAGE: Loss, love of writing link journalist, scholarship recipient

The Milwaukee Press Club Endowment, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation affiliated with the Milwaukee Press Club, is administering finances for the scholarship. The Press Club established a matching grant of up to $10,000 to help double donations to certain scholarships within in the endowment, including the Walker fund. Matching funds are still available.

“We’re delighted to have Jakayla Phillips as the first Don Walker Scholar and thank all who contributed to this effort to honor the legacy of this extraordinary journalist,” said Jim Nelson, president of the MPC Endowment Board.

“The generosity and enthusiasm shown by so many people and groups – like Local 51 – will help young journalists for years to come,”he added.

The scholarship also benefited from a leadership contribution from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where Walker worked for nearly four decades.

“After seeing what Jakayla Phillips has done, at the very start of her career, I can’t think of a better recipient for the first Don Walker Memorial Scholarship,” said George Stanley, Journal Sentinel editor.

“Don’s success was driven by passion for reporting stories that mattered – stories that would inform the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin so that we were better able to solve problems and improve lives,” he said. “Jakayla is driven by that exact same passion.”

Sue Walker, Don’s wife, thanked all those who have donated to the scholarship fund.

“Jakayla Phillips is so deserving and clearly shares the passion Don had for writing and capturing the essence of the story,” she said. “It is wonderful to be able to help her pursue her goals as a writer and clearly there is a theme of triumph over tragedy.”

More than 100 people have made contributions to the scholarship fund, and more than $50,000 has been raised. For information on how to donate, click here.