by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief
[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]
Finding your true calling can happen at the most unexpected moments.
South Plains College alum Kati Walker was destined to become a journalist. She currently serves as the news editor for the Levelland & Hockley County News-Press, using her journalism experience to fuel her desire to further her career in this field.
“Look at what you enjoy doing,” Walker said. “It might be the most minute thing that you do that you get the most joy out of. But there’s always something for everybody. And stick with it.”
The Levelland native said she knew SPC was the just the right fit for her after attending a small high school.
“I always thought South Plains College was a good starting place for anybody who went to a small high school,” Walker said. “It prepares you for college, the college life and what it really takes to be on your own. I still feel South Plains College really makes the success of their students a higher priority than universities, because it’s a more personal atmosphere.”
By Walker’s sophomore year at Levelland High School, she began to question what she would do with the rest of her life after high school.
“I kind of looked into journalism and fell in love with it,” Walker said. “I decided I really liked telling stories, and I really liked writing those stories, and I liked telling other people’s stories. I would always interrupt people and tell them, ‘No, no, no, this is what happened. Let me tell the story.’”
Beginning her junior year, Walker became the editor for the high school’s newspaper.
“I loved it,” she said. “I fell in love with page layout and everything to do with it. And I loved being able to talk to people, because I wasn’t really involved in high school. I wasn’t in a whole lot of extracurricular activities. But through journalism, I felt like I was involved in everything.”
While attending SPC, these feelings of inclusiveness were echoed.
“I really enjoyed it,” Walker said. “It’s just something that you can be so involved in it that you submerse yourself in everything else too.”
Once making up her mind to pursue journalism during high school, Walker quickly discovered a job assisting with circulation for the News-Press, thanks to a classmate who mentioned the job. Being right at that age when she felt she needed to find a job, Walker knew that was the perfect place to get her start.
“I really wanted to work there, I guess, because it was our town’s newspaper,” Walker said. “My tennis coach was the daughter of the owner, and so I brought it up to her and she got me a job in circulation, like inserting pages. I rolled newspapers and delivered newspapers to stores.”
Walker continued in this job until she graduated. She also was able to contribute stories here and there while still doing her circulation work, thanks to Stephen Henry, owner and publisher of the News-Press.
“He taught me everything he knew and kind of mentored me,” Walker said. “I didn’t know anything about sports, but he made me do sports. He told me, ‘If you can write about sports, you can write about anything.’”
Once Walker made it to SPC, she quickly went from staff writer to associate editor of the Plainsman Press. Walker said she wanted to jump right in and do everything, while still working for the News-Press. But it didn’t work out the way she had hoped.
“I feel like I really overloaded my plate at that point,” Walker said. “My second semester, I became the associate editor and I was sports writer at the newspaper (News-Press). Sports were so intense because you would have basketball games Tuesday nights and Friday nights. And there was always something Saturday mornings, JV games and freshmen games. And then I was trying to handle my paper nights on top of that, and getting my stories done, and other people’s stories done that they didn’t do. So I guess it just kind of took a toll on me, and I backed off for a while.”
Quitting the News-Press and graduating from SPC, Walker then took a year off from pursuing her education to work and eventually rediscover herself.
“I wasn’t writing, and I felt so lost,” Walker recalls. “I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I didn’t know where my focus was. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I was looking for a secretary job. And I was dating and wanted to settle down. But I just felt so miserable, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so miserable. And then it hit me. It was because I wasn’t writing anymore.”
Walker quickly remedied this problem by picking up blogging again. Soon after, she decided to go back to college, attending the University of North Texas in Denton to further pursue her education.
“I had never lived outside of Levelland,” Walker said. “To up and move five hours on a whim because I felt like I was missing out on something was a big leap of faith. I had to have a lot of confidence that this was what I wanted to do. And then it worked out great!”
In March, Walker officially interviewed for the position of news editor at her hometown News-Press, hoping to continue her career in journalism.
“I started in May, five days after I graduated,” Walker said. “There’s nothing I would change. It’s the best job I could ever ask for in the entire world, and it doesn’t feel like work. Honestly, if I wasn’t doing this, I feel like I would be missing out on something. Even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it, it wouldn’t make a difference; I’d still do it.”