From 12 Foster Homes on Chicago's Southside to Harvard Graduate
"No one can go back and make a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
Rodney Walker is an American author, entrepreneur, and inspirational speaker. He is the bestselling author of A New Day One, and is most known for his work in trauma-informed education. His award-winning keynote The Power of Resilience: From 12 Foster Homes to Harvard University, has received acclamation by school districts across the nation. A Chicago native, he has a Bachelors degree from Morehouse College and graduate degrees from Harvard and Yale University.
Given the obstacles placed before him as a foster child, Rodney struggled academically and socially in school. In his early years of elementary school, he was diagnosed with autism, placed in special education, repeated the fourth grade due to poor academic performance, and finished his freshman of high school with a sub-1.5 GPA. After joining a youth mentoring program in his senior year of high school, Rodney was able to deal with life struggles that had restrained him. During this period, he also joined the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a youth entrepreneurship program for high school students. With the support and guidance of NFTE and committed mentors, Rodney competed and won various business plan competitions. It was here that Rodney became motivated and inspired to start his first business.
He is the founder of Forever Life Productions, a company that creates custom videos for special occasions and events. Along with his production company, Rodney travels both nationally and internationally, speaking at public schools, corporations, and conferences about the importance of trauma-informed education, entrepreneurship education, mentoring at-risk youth, and corporate philanthropy for non-profit organizations aimed to uplift and support at-risk youth. He has been a speaker at TEDxYale, served as a keynote speaker in Monaco, France for Ernst &Young, and has delivered a Keynote at the White House on the importance of financial literacy for urban youth. Portions of his story have appeared on PBS’s American Graduate Day, in the national education documentary Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon, and in It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired and Get Going by Chelsea Clinton.
In an effort to address the epidemic of violence and social failure among at-risk youth in Chicago, Walker partnered with former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to create a comprehensive employment pipeline program for disconnected youth across the city. Since earning his Masters in Education from Harvard University, he has continued his career as a nationally-renowned youth speaker, thought leader, social-emotional learning expert, and ambassador for change. He delivers various SEL education programs, professional development, inspirational keynotes, and student workshops.