Valerie Walker, a timid sociology student with a passion for animals and a love for Spanish was determined to attend the 2011 Powershift with one goal in mind: to share her love for environmentalism and help students realize the imporantce of maintaining a sustainable campus and lifestyle.
“Open your eyes and look to the sky to see what really matters, we regular folks don’t benefit from those billows of smoke. Disappearing into the distance but the impacts they last longer, than those folks are willing to pay, open your eyes and arrive,” are lyrics to the original song “Open Your Eyes” by Walker, 21.
Walker said the song is a song of resilience.
“Writing music is an outlet for me to express my frustration due to the apathy of those in my community when it comes to environmental issues,” Walker said.
The Tallahassee native said her favorite pastimes include visiting her grandparents’ home in rural Alabama where she experienced farm life and was able to make a connection with the nature around her.
Spending time in her grandmother’s garden is where she developed a general understanding of the impact global warming had on what she loved so much: the outdoors.
Walker spent her freshman year at Tuskegee University in Alabama, where she studied clinical laboratory science and the analysis of human blood and body fluids with the intentions of attending medical school after graduation.
Throughout her studies she discovered a passion for environmentalism and activism, and applied to FAMU.
“I want to be able to deliver babies in a clean inverted world, one that isn’t destroyed by natural disasters that we could have avoided if we worked together,” Walker said.
Walker, A Center for Global Security and International Affairs Scholar, joined the FAMU Green Coalition to be around like-minded individuals and further grasp environmental issues plaguing the black community.
Krista Cabret, a second-year biochemistry student, said her first encounter with Walker was during the Powershift Conference in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. at a live fish market.
“I could feel Valerie’s passion in her voice when speaking to her about environment,” Cabret said.
Walker said she uses her foreign language skills and her sociological training to be a stronger advocate for uninformed minorities.
Walker’s vision is to see more students attend trips like “Powershift” and spread the message of the importance of environmentalism not only to peers but to community members.
“I was impressed with her interest in environmental issues, seeing as she was a Spanish major,” Katrina Herrera, a first-year environmental science student at Florida State University, said. “Her natural love for animals and the environment overshadowed my assumptions.”
Walker said by the end of the four-day conference, she was able to fulfill her goal of changing the culture of FAMU through learning more about the environmental issues minority students face.
“I’m looking forward to helping our people understand the true value and worth of looking into climate change and understanding how we can reverse its effects and make it less of a threat to our future,” Walker said.
“I couldn’t fathom anyone else leading our students on a mission of sustainability other than Valerie,” Micka Chavre, a first-year pre-pharmacy student, said. “She has brought to my attention issues I never knew existed.”
On July 4, Walker will be spending her 22nd birthday in Brazil, where she will be studying abroad and taking on yet another foreign language.
“This will be my first non-traditional birthday,” Walker said. “No fireworks, no Independence Day celebrations; just me and my mother, Earth.”