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Amazing Student: Kristian Joi Walker

November 12, 2019

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Kristian Joi Walker’s passion is to create equal access to educational opportunity and lead a fight against illiteracy while inspiring children. The future lawyer has racked up an impressive resume of honors and activities during her UGA journey to meet that goal.

Hometown:

Monroe, Connecticut

High school:

Campbell High School

Current employment:

I have the pleasure of serving in the office of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as the Census Community Outreach Specialist. In this position, I educate Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Spanish-speaking communities on the importance of completing the 2020 U.S. Census so that more funds are allocated to educational programs and public schools in their neighborhoods.

Family ties to UGA:

I am truly blessed to be the first member of my family to attend the University of Georgia. Now, I have my whole family cheering “Go Dawgs!”

Degree objective:

B.S.Ed. in world language education and A.B. in Spanish

Other degrees:

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) certificate

Expected graduation:

Spring 2020

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

For me, the decision to attend the University of Georgia was an obvious choice, and it is impossible to highlight my accomplishments at this great institution without highlighting the ways in which UGA has uplifted me and continuously supported my pursuit of knowledge.

I am honored to have the endorsement of the University of Georgia on the national level as a candidate for a Fulbright Grant in the 2020-2021 cycle. I hope to serve as an English teaching assistant in Mexico and be a cultural ambassador representing UGA and the United States.

As a 2019 initiate of the UGA Blue Key Honor Society, I am blessed to be inducted into one of the most prestigious honor societies nationally, which is considered one of the highest honors on campus. Blue Key recognizes students for their outstanding character, their contributions to the school community, and their distinct achievements in scholarship, leadership and service. The historic impact of the UGA Blue Key alumni is extensive including current and former public officials on the local and national level, and I feel inspired as a member of such an elite society.

As the president of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, I connect members of the society to service activities related to the Spanish-speaking community in Athens, and I instituted a service requirement that members of the society must volunteer within our local community. Also, I promote the recognition of academic excellence in the Spanish language by encouraging UGA students to join our organization.

In 2018, I was awarded the William Moore Crane Leadership Scholarship by the UGA Honors Program for demonstrated leadership through public service and dedication to academics through merit-based success. As a Crane Scholar, I was published in UGA Honors Magazine, and I am thankful to again be recognized as a Crane Scholar for 2019-2020.

Being named an Honors International Scholar in 2018 was an incredible recognition because I have a passion for service on a local and global level. Through this scholarship, the UGA Honors Program has given me the opportunity to intern abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as an English teacher of elementary and high school students while studying at the Universidad de Palermo for a summer semester.

One of the most memorable teaching positions I have held was my work with the PAL Program, an after-school program that was established by the College of Education. As a teaching assistant, I was able to not only teach reading to elementary students, but also empower my students to believe in their own capabilities and envision themselves studying at an institution of higher education someday.

As the former volunteer coordinator for the executive branch of Thomas Lay, which is an after-school program serving low-income students in grades K-8, I have enjoyed tutoring and mentoring children in Athens-Clarke County and encouraging other UGA students to serve the community surrounding campus.

As a recipient of the Katherine John Murphy Scholarship in 2018, I am thankful to have the UGA Office of Global Engagement acknowledge my academic merit and strong commitment to the university through extracurricular and service activities.

Additionally, I was fortunate to have received the Office of International Education Global Excellence Certificate, which I was awarded for my efforts to globalize the UGA community and my future aspirations to be in public service as both an educator and attorney.

I am immensely grateful to the University of Georgia for allowing me the ability to flourish as a student and a person. The guidance and support I have received is invaluable and I will continue to strive to make a lasting impact on the lives of others with the knowledge that I have been equipped by the greatest university in the world.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I was impressed by how engaged UGA is in the global community and how UGA inspires its students to view society with a global perspective. Learning the Spanish language has always been a potent part of my life because my late grandmother taught me Spanish at a young age, so I was ecstatic to learn UGA has campuses in multiple Spanish-speaking countries and provides numerous resources for their students to become global citizens. I remember receiving my acceptance letter to UGA and feeling so overwhelmed with emotions in that moment and when I reflect on that memory, I am always reminded of what a privilege it has been to attend UGA.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

I love when UGA has the Involvement Fair at Tate because I always learn more about programs and organizations that are on campus. Also, participating in the fair as a representative of an organization was one of the most enjoyable experiences I had at UGA.

Also, I love sitting and relaxing by the fountain across from Moore College on a nice day because North campus is so beautiful to me.

When I have free time, I like…

I enjoy painting with friends, trying to cook new recipes, and spending time with my family. I have three siblings and two amazing parents, and I am truly blessed to have the constant support of my family in all my endeavors. I have very limited free time because I am always teaching, studying or working, but in my free time I also try to focus on self-care, being present and enjoying life.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

One weekend during my first year at UGA, my friends and I really wanted to go to Savannah, Georgia, so we made the four-hour drive on a Friday afternoon, and somehow we made it back in time for class Monday morning! It’s the first time I remember myself taking a risk as a young adult, and I am so happy that I did because that unexpected trip gave me so many priceless memories.

My favorite place to study is…

I love studying in the UGA Law Library because it’s the most peaceful location on campus. I have studied there since my first year because it’s quiet and always filled with very focused UGA law students, which encourages me to do my work attentively and visualize myself studying in the same way when I attend law school in the near future.

My favorite professor is…

During my time at UGA, I have met so many incredible professors and mentors that are UGA faculty, so it’s difficult to choose just one, but if I had to I would choose Tim Gupton.

Dr. Gupton is a professor of Spanish Linguistics, the director of UGA en Buenos Aires and the co-advisor of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society. As a researcher, author and a 2018 Fulbright grant recipient, Dr. Gupton has contributed to the field of linguistics for decades. I had the pleasure of accompanying him on a portion of his research regarding the phonetics of the Portuguese language. Dr. Gupton is a speaker of English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Catalan and Galician as he has acquired varying degrees in those languages.

I was first introduced to Dr. Gupton when he was my professor for the First Year Odyssey class, and I remember him speaking about the program in Buenos Aires in that class, which inspired me to later apply. Once I traveled to Argentina, I was honored to have Dr. Gupton as a professor again because his cultural knowledge of dialects and variations within the Spanish language is so extensive. He, along with the entire UGA en Buenos Aires team, guided all participants in the program as we navigated through a foreign city for the summer semester.

Following the UGA en Buenos Aires program, Dr. Gupton has endlessly supported me in my academic pursuits. He has nominated me for numerous awards, advised me on my future goals, and inspired me to continue studying and loving the Spanish language. UGA is fortunate to have professors that truly care about their students and encourage them to reach their greatest aspirations in life.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

Sharing an afternoon with Sunny Hostin would be a dream come true and such a surreal experience. Sunny Hostin is a lawyer, journalist, multi-platform social commentator an Emmy-winning senior legal correspondent for ABC News and a co-host of “The View.”

I would discuss with Sunny how she remained determined in life as a woman of color who overcame adversity at an early age while living in the Bronx. Sunny came from very humble beginnings and worked diligently throughout school, which led to her attending Notre Dame Law School and later becoming a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. I believe Sunny’s integrity gives her the ability to consistently utilize the law to defend what is right and ethical in the courtroom and on media platforms. As an FBI prosecutor, she dealt with crimes against children, and she never lost a case. Sunny credits her family and God for her continuous success.

Sunny, her husband and her family are currently building a medical center and learning center in Haiti. I aspire to be like Sunny Hostin because her willingness to serve others and her country is commendable, and I want to be that impactful in my profession while never forgetting to give back to my community and thank God for my blessings.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… move to a Spanish-speaking country after graduating from UGA without a plan or a job. I would just live without analyzing my next steps. I would take the risk of establishing a foundation immediately without funding that provides for the marginalized groups I wish to serve. Millions of children are living in poverty and being underserved. If I knew I could not fail, I would develop and implement a way to take care of every single child.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

With endless amounts of money, I would fund the schooling of every single child by providing children the resources they need to be successful academically and in life. I would provide food for children from families that cannot afford it, and I would provide clothes and school supplies for every child — particularly immigrant children, homeless children and children at risk of having to leave school due to reasons beyond their control. I would put money back into communities lacking means with the ultimate goal of uplifting children to know that they can achieve their greatest dreams and become everything that they desire.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

My life’s passion is to create equal access to educational opportunity and lead a fight against illiteracy while inspiring children through education. I believe in equality through equity and utilizing education as a tool of hope in discounted communities because inequities disadvantage deserving students and education provides opportunity that overrides systemic barriers.

My parents instilled in me that the privilege of higher education grants me the ability to use my position in life to help those not afforded that same privilege through impactful public service. I am committed to pursuing my passion as both an educator and as a lawyer. Although equal access to education is a huge feat to achieve, if I am equipped to help some children, then it is worth trying to reach all. My passion will fuel me to keep striving to eliminate inequities in order to establish equity because I believe true equality cannot be attained without making education equitable.

After graduation, I plan to…

I hope to again teach English in a Spanish-speaking country as I have in Argentina, and then I will return to the United States to pursue a law degree with a focus on educational policy and eradicating systemic barriers on behalf of children and immigrants. With the knowledge and preparation I have gained from teaching, I will return to Atlanta to continue working with Spanish-speaking immigrant communities and improving access to education.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

My first year on campus was the most memorable because I lived in the beautiful Myers Hall. I made the best memories at Myers, and I established friendships that will last my lifetime with peers I met at Myers. The true culture of UGA was displayed at Myers Quad every day of every week. From the Frisbee games, the tailgate celebrations in preparation for a Georgia win, the busy bus stop filled with students, the Dawgs After Dark events, and the close proximity to Snelling, I felt like I lived in the heartbeat of the UGA community. Living in Myers Hall has left a lasting impression on me and I will never forget how blessed I am to be a Dawg.