Undecided beginning leads Walker to Head Start

By Calli Delsman
University Communications Student Assistant

MINOT, N.D. – While growing up, Keyona Walker didn’t have that one place she could call home. She jumped around from England, Idaho, and Pennsylvania due to her father being in the Air Force until her family finally landed in Minot in 2007 when she was 12.

Her unusual childhood didn’t stop her from pursuing a college education, even though she was unsure of what she wanted for her future. Minot State was the most logical choice after graduating from Minot High in 2013 because of her big support system.

“I initially wanted to move away and maybe go to Boise State or the University of Idaho because my dad still lives in Idaho, but I am one of 27 grandkids plus my grandmother and a few aunts and uncles who are MSU alumni so it was cool to walk in their footsteps,” Walker said.

As Walker started her freshman year at Minot State, she didn’t have much direction for her future other than she knew she wanted to explore and find her own path. One way she achieved this was by making lifelong friendships living on campus her freshman through junior year.

“I started to go to the Beaver Dam in my free time and met lots of people,” she said. “I sat with different people in the Cafe and actually started to go to the events when someone asked.

“Best decision I ever made. I had to connect with others to survive. Some people say going to MSU is like going back to high school because a lot of Minot High grads go there, but not for me. I chose to go out and live on campus and I’m glad because I met great people.”

After finding a solid group of friends and becoming more comfortable, direction from a roommate helped Walker find what she would eventually do with her life — teaching.

“I grew up taking a role as a second mom to my three younger siblings. My mom was a single mom at the time and needed extra help. I was home a lot taking care of them,” Walker explained. “My roommate at Cook Hall was going into teaching, elementary ed, which was another reason that I decided to study early childhood education.

“I never thought I'd be a teacher growing up, but college changed that. Something clicked and I was like, wow, I could definitely help children grow and learn.”

Along with pursuing her early childhood education degree, Walker also participated in many groups on campus in her free time, including MSU Life and POWER. She grew more confident and outgoing by being a part of these groups.

“POWER was awesome because it gave me a space to do work and get extra help when needed. The staff there was awesome and cared about what I had to say or vent about when I struggled with school,” Walker explains. “MSU Life was where I blossomed.  I'm such a helpful person and loved helping Aaron Hughes (Minot State student activities coordinator) and everyone out. And then the opportunity of becoming a co-director came up and it was a really hard decision for me. I've always thought of myself as introverted and just super shy. So it was a big step for me to be a big face of student activities.”

Graduating from Minot State in 2017, Walker decided to take a year to work at Magic City Discovery Center and do some substitute teaching around town. Then, by accident, she ended up working at Head Start in Minot.

“I went to Head Start and asked for volunteer paperwork, hoping for a teacher's aide or assistant position. Instead of a volunteer form, they gave me an application and they hired me as a lead teacher. I didn't think of getting a lead teacher position, but I love my job,” Walker said.

“This year I teach 1, 2 3, 4, and 5-year-olds. I have an assistant teacher and classroom aide and it’s a normal K-12 education job working nine months of the year. At the preschool age, children are sponges,” Walker explained. “They soak up everything and I love that. Preschoolers love you differently and definitely keep you on your toes. I love that I am the start of their learning journey because I get to plant the seed of wanting to learn and explore the world.”

Walker is grateful to multiple professors on campus that helped her get to where she is now. Leslie Thorpe (teacher education and human performance instructor) had connections to Head Start which helped Walker through a letter of recommendation, and Lynda Bertsch (director of career services) lent assistance with Walker's resume on multiple occasions.

“Minot State will forever hold a special place in my heart,” Walker said. “I made lifelong friends, grew up, and found myself. I will forever bleed red and green.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 02/10/21   

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