in just two and a half years as the TOPS Program and Internship Manager at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, Ronnicia Johnson-Walker has helped more than 450 young people gain real-world experience and take steps toward the workforce. In previous roles with the YWCA and Urban League of greater Madison, she’s spent many years developing young people’s talents and connecting them with opportunities. She will soon return to her hometown to join Milwaukee Public Schools to help MPS students in career and college readiness.
Name your top five MCs.
- Chance the Rapper
- Andre 3000
What motivates you more, doubters or supporters? Supporters! It took me years, YEARS, to learn that Ronnicia is “good.” I don’t feel the need to impress others, nor change someone’s opinion regarding me, as a person. Those that doubt me don’t “drive” me to do better, but “drive” me to forcefully remove them out of my life. You can never have enough support and if you support me (and sometimes even if you don’t) I’ll support you in return.
What does it mean to be Black in Madison? To be Black in Madison means community. I have yet to see a city as closely intertwined as Madison. There appears to be a “2 degrees” of separation rule in Madison. If you are new to the Black community in Madison people make it their business to know who you are. There is access to everyone, and if you don’t have the connection, you can definitely find someone who does to the resource that you need. Honestly, this is one of the things I’ll truly miss about Madison is the “village” and “community” feel.
What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most?
- Sabrina (HeyMissProgress) Madison
- Nichelle Nichols
- Anthony Cooper
What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? The biggest stumbling block to Madison’s racial disparities is “being kind.” I feel that Madison is stuck on the ideas of being liberal, accepting and friendly that people are afraid to be “real” and have those hard conversations for fear of not being liked. Once we can have those “hard” conversations purposefully, and really address the issues, we can begin to slightly turn the corner on racial disparities.
What are your top three priorities at this point in your life?
- Provide a safe and stable environment for my son.
- Maintain a career path that will allow for advancement, while having direct impact on youth.
- Being organically happy!
Milwaukee Public Schools have faced significant challenges over the years. What are three things the district has to do to ensure student success?
- Invest in their administration and teachers
- Engaged parents and families
- Engage the community, MPS Alumni and local businesses/organizations and bring them into the schools
- Some of these ideas MPS already has begun to implement within the district and can be found in their Big Eight Ideas Strategic Objectives
Name three things Milwaukee and Madison have in common when it comes to people of color. People of Color have been able to “create” their own space (through organizations, social groups and even festivals), which I believe is magical and beautiful.
I believe that both Milwaukee and Madison are both just beginning to truly diversify their work places (leadership) for people of color.
Milwaukee and Madison are both facing a “brain drain” amongst people of color. I continue to see people of color who attend college and gain great career experience in both Milwaukee and Madison who then leave WI all together. I have seen the impact in both Milwaukee and Madison. Many people of color (especially younger people) relocate south, instead of giving back to the communities that assisted in their success. The question becomes, what can we do, both in Madison and Milwaukee to draw more people of color to these areas to stay? Many people of color in Milwaukee and Madison will receive their degrees from UW-Madison or Milwaukee and seek employment elsewhere.
What are you most proud of from your time at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County? I am most proud of assisting our Internship and Career Experience programming grow, and service over 450+ students in the past 3 years. I am proud to see the direct impact that career exploration at the high school level has on all of our students.
Why did you join a sorority? I joined a Sorority for a number of reasons. I joined a sorority because I wanted to be apart of something that was bigger than “me.” Historically Black Sororities are internal, and I do not think there is a larger “reach” than that. Also, I dont have siblings close in age, and felt that being apart of a Sorority would allow me to not only serve the community with like-minded women, but I would be able to call these women my sisters for life! Becoming a woman of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc and continuing the work of our illustrious 22 founders is one of the best decisions I’ve made in life.
Packers, Brewers, Bucks or Badgers? Badgers, of course!!
What are you most looking forward to about living in Milwaukee? I am looking forward to being close to family and friends. Most importantly, since Noah (my son) was born in Madison, I am looking forward to teaching him and allowing him to “experience” Milwaukee. There are a number of things occurring both politically and racially in Milwaukee right now. However, Milwaukee is my hometown, where I was born, where I was raised. I’m looking forward to Noah knowing the positives, Summer Fest; Jazz in the Park, the Betty Brim Children’s Museum and the list could go on and on!