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VOL. 129 | NO. 92 | Monday, May 12, 2014

I Choose Memphis: Kesha Whitaker

Special to The Daily News

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“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.


Name: Kesha Whitaker

Job title and company: Communications and Development Manager, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis

Length of time living in Memphis: More than 25 years

Life history: Born and raised in Memphis, I attended Treadwell High School and the University of Memphis. After graduation, I ventured out, spending a total of six years in New York, Colorado, New Jersey and Georgia. As a former athlete and sports enthusiast, I worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee, traveled the East Coast for the Ivy League Conference, worked as a communications specialist for the New Jersey Legislature and as a director of media relations for the Atlantic Sun Conference. When I moved home in 2007, I had a new perspective and a greater appreciation for the beauty and history of Memphis.

What is your favorite local restaurant? I’m a true foodie, so it can range from the most upscale to Panera. Working Downtown, I try to support ALL of the restaurants nearby, but I love McEwen’s and Wrapzody Deli.

What current local initiative excites you most? Hands down it would be Memphis HOPE. It is a collaborative program between public and private entities that bridges the gap for women and children. The beauty of it is that the program creates a network of nonprofit organizations and takes a holistic approach to provide education, job training, financial literacy, life skills and more to meet the needs of women and children.

What do you like most about your job? First, I love what the Women’s Foundation stands for: philanthropy, empowering women and creating lasting social change. Second, I love the people I work with, and third, the impact of our work – changing lives through grant making and being a voice addressing issues that affect women and children.

Who are your local role models or mentors? The entire board of the Women’s Foundation is an inspiration to me, and I work with an awesome mentor. I watch Ruby Bright bring people together, solve problems and get results. Her guidance has been instrumental to me discovering my voice and leadership journey. I also admire trailblazers like Carolyn Hardy, Susan Stephenson and Gayle Rose for the way they use business to better the community.

In your opinion, what can be done to move Memphis forward? Two words: Upgrade education. Investing in a quality education for every child in Shelby County starting with pre-K as a top priority. As with any investment, it will take some time to see growth, but the city will yield higher returns in the form of an educated and skilled workforce, and hopefully, jobs, higher wages and an increased tax base.

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