Jakayla Phillips (2016 Winner)
UPDATE | May 21, 2017
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.
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.