Contact & Location

Moscow

Psychology & Communications Studies

Temporary Physical Address:
McClure Hall 403B
PHONE: (208) 885-6324
FAX:(208) 885-7710
E-MAIL: seanm@uidaho.edu

HUMAN FACTORS
hfactors@uidaho.edu

Mailing Address:
Psychology & Communications Studies
c/o University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3043
Moscow, ID 83844-3043

Kelty Walker

Saving Kelty Walker

Transformative Education Redefines a Family Legacy


By Donna Emert

Kelty Walker, 21, is a poster child for education as a transformative experience.

Walker was raised in rural Blanchard, Idaho, where her father was a member of the Aryan Nations, and prone to violence at home. There was no public school education for Walker or her little sister. She did not attend school until she was 16 years old, when she ran away, taking her sister, then 13, with her. Their mother fled too, reluctantly, hobbled by fear.

While Walker’s childhood sounds like a tale penned by the Brothers Grimm, it was all too real.

“I was kept in isolation,” Walker says. “We rarely left the house, and never had visitors or friends. We just had our books, and my sister and I wrote and drew. I was never around people, except when we went to the store a few times a year with close supervision. Being around people took some getting used to when I ran away. It still does, in some ways.”

Her motivation for finally getting out was profoundly simple: “Our lives were in danger,” said Walker.

With the help of social services, they made their way to a women’s shelter in Sandpoint. Once there, Walker enrolled in a North Idaho College educational outreach program, and earned a GED in two semesters and associate’s degree in three more.

At age 19, she continued her education at University of Idaho-Coeur d’Alene, taking course loads of 18-21 credits per semester. After three intense semesters at the University, she successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Now, she’s enrolled in the University of Idaho master’s degree program in psychology and anticipates completion of her advanced degree by May 2012. Walker is the living embodiment of education’s power to transform lives.

She is already giving back: Walker works full time as a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist--a social worker, advocate and Medicaid service provider---for mentally disabled people. Through her life experiences, she brings important insights to the job.

“The first thing I asked for was to work with the most difficult clients they had, and that's what I'm doing now,” says Walker. “I can relate to them as far as the isolation they experience, and the mental trap that always follows from that isolation. It can drive you crazy, and it does.”

Early on, Walker identified education as the key to a better life.

“Not taking advantage of getting an education would have been one of the highest disservices I could have done to my family and my community, and to myself,” she says.

Fearlessness and the pursuit of higher education have become a family legacy: Kelty’s sister, who is now 18, is pursuing her GED, and their mom, 51, is embarking on a college degree this fall.