It has nothing to do with age since Walker, 22, is still in the bloom of youth. It has even less to do with where she is headed, since Walker is the first to admit her career is still up in the air.
Instead, it has more to do with where Walker has been that makes this “super” senior at Lee University a favorite among her peers and people more than twice her age.
Having lived abroad and throughout the United States, Walker has developed a certain sophistication that escapes many college students her age.
“My father is Chaplain Col. Bryan Walker in the U.S. Army,” Walker said. “He’s been a chaplain for 22 years — three months after I was born. I was born in Danville, Va., then we moved to California for three years, then we moved to Hawaii for three years, then New Jersey for six months.
“Then we moved to Tennessee, near Kentucky, while my dad worked in Fort Campbell, Ky., for three years. Then we moved to Georgia for three years and Kansas for a year. Then we moved to Freeport, Germany, for two years and Fespa, Germany, for one year. Then Dad was stationed in Virginia for three years.”
Walker elaborated on what it meant to spend her childhood traveling from place to place — something that was further complicated due to a chronic and undetected health problem.
“In first grade they almost put me in special education in Hawaii,” she said. “Then we moved to New Jersey for six months before we moved to Tennessee, so academically that was all jumbled up. On top of all this, I had real bad ear infections. So I didn’t speak properly.”
Her parents and teachers knew something was wrong. Still, it came as a surprise that she suffered from an inner ear infection. Once it was completely cured, Walker learned to pronounce words correctly.
“I was a little slower in my first-grade classes. My mom really worked with me,” she said.
Around this time, Walker said she entered a reading contest to see who could read the most books. Her thirst for knowledge paid off. Walker came in third. More importantly, she ignited an intellectual curiosity in herself.
“That was the first time I really started doing well in school,” she said. “I know it doesn’t seem like much when you’re in first grade. But a lot had happened from kindergarten to when I started reading in the first grade. Reading is what helped me.
“I assumed because I enjoyed reading so much I just started writing. I remember when I was in the fourth grade I starting writing poems. When I wrote in school, my teachers responded well to it. As I got older I started writing poetry to help with whatever emotions I was going through.”
Walker describes her high school experience as a “dark period in my life” when close-knit friendships were lacking and sports became her solace to help pull her through.
“The first high school I went to had only 350 students,” she said. “I played sports all year round that first year. I played volleyball, basketball and softball. The second year we moved to a new place and a new school where I played volleyball, basketball and soccer. There were 650 students there.
“Then in my third year of high school we moved to Virginia and there were 3,500 students in grades 9 to 12. Everyone had grown up with each other. It was a really cliquey high school. I was so socially awkward and shy at the time. I didn’t have the confidence that made it easy to make friends. So in those last two years I was really lonely.”
Walker said her writings reflected her inner loneliness, but the more she wrote the better she got, thanks to the positive feedback she was getting from her teachers. After she graduated, Walker chose Lee University to pursue a higher education.
“My grandparents, David and Sandy Bishop, lived in Cleveland most of their lives,” Walker said. “He is the former pastor of Westmore Church of God. I would come here during the summer. So Cleveland was a big part of my life. I think my mom brought it up as a possibility to go to Lee. One day I woke up and decided I was going.”
Walker, who is studying psychology and communications with an emphasis in journalism at Lee, said she wanted to hone her writing skills and sought an internship at the Banner in 2011. She got it.
Her ability to adapt along with her writing style immediately caught the attention of a few editors and within a short time, Walker was writing professionally.
“It was a great learning experience. I didn’t expect they would let me write articles!” she admits. “They had me working all semester and it was great! I got to write for the news section, the Lifestyles section, Cleveland Life, I did interviews and learned how to write obituaries and wedding announcements. I plan on learning how to write for sports.
“I learned a lot. I thought it was so much fun getting to know everyone — from the receptionist to the general manager and publisher — they were all great.”
Unlike most students who are anxious to graduate from college and get on with their lives, Walker said she was taking her time.
“The only reason I added journalism is because I didn’t want to graduate early,” she said, laughing. “I needed another reason to stay in school and I figured this would be a good time to hone my writing ability.”
When asked if she enjoyed school, Walker clarified by commenting, “I love to learn. In high school my favorite classes were history and English. Since coming to college I really enjoy abnormal psychology, which deals with abnormalities of the brain and the psyche. I enjoy studying theories about why people do certain things. I have an insatiable curiosity.”
Walker attributes her desire to learn, maturity and self-esteem to her parents, saying, “I have the best parents! My dad and mom have instilled in me a healthy dose of confidence. They nurtured it over the years. I never felt the need to get a boyfriend to feel good about myself.
“I have a strong male figure in my life, which is my dad and that worked out great for me. I didn’t really go through the teenage years where I was rebelling like crazy. My parents have always been fair and just with me.”
Walker said her love of reading, writing and sports have taught her important lessons in life as she looks to the future.
“I’ve been with the rugby team at Lee for four years,” she said. “I play the outside center position. I think I walk with more confidence because of it. It’s helped me become the person I am today. It’s helped with my leadership skills and my social skills. I’ve been an officer for the team — treasurer and secretary. It’s been great!”
Now that she is in her final year at Lee, Walker is preparing for life beyond her lessons and the opportunity to make a contribution in society.
“The reason I studied psychology is to help girls who had been sexually abused,” she said. “I’m thinking about pursing that. I like the idea of helping put an end to the sex trade. I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t know which ones I want to follow.”
With her career choice reaching a crossroads, Walker knows where she is going is also connected to where she has been. In the end, it will lead back to a life of learning, traveling and being a good sport.
“You know how a snowball rolls down a hill and it slowly gathers snow, then it turns into something bigger than it was? I hope that’s what I’m doing right now,” she said. “I don’t get everything right. I’m human. I’m never going to get everything right. But I think I’m learning different traits, skills and different things about people and myself. And I hope that’s all coming together to make me a better person.”