Daveon WaDaveon Walker helping first-year student enroll in classes during FOCUS new student orientation.lker ’21, an electrical engineering major at Valpo, underwent a challenging transition to college. But in the process, he discovered a passion for helping others find their footing as first-year students.

“My first semester was difficult,” Daveon says. “I considered dropping out of Valpo because I hadn’t made many friends, failed two classes, and wasn’t heavily involved on campus.”

But Daveon didn’t allow early setbacks to derail his education. The support he gained from Valpo’s Persistence and Success Program influenced his decision to return to Valpo. The program, directed to helping low-income and first-generation students transition to college, provides academic and social support, career preparation, and financial literacy resources.

“First-year students in the Persistence Program gathered to learn how to be successful in college,” Daveon says. “A student mentor encouraged me to get more organized. I know it sounds so simple, but it really changed my life and led to my academic success.”

His commitment to bettering himself both academically and socially prompted Daveon to become more involved across campus, particularly through the Student Mentoring and Retention Team (SMART).

SMART connects freshman and sophomore students with upper-class mentors who excel within their majors and across campus. The program helps first-year students navigate a new academic culture and environment, access campus resources, and build personal and professional relationships.

After his sophomore year, Daveon wanted to give back to the programs that helped him continue his education. Like many students who start as mentees in the program, Daveon returned as a SMART mentor and served as assistant coordinator for the Persistence and Success Program.

While progressing through his time at Valpo, Daveon realized that many students face similar challenges in their first years as he did, and he found a career calling in the process.

“I am passionate about using my own Valpo experience to give back to future college students,” Daveon says. “My dream job would include working with first-year students to make them feel included and connected to their campus.”

Daveon took his passion for serving first-year students and became a Resident Assistant for Lankenau Hall (a predominantly first-year residence hall), worked as a summer conference assistant, and served as an Orientation Assistant (OA) for FOCUS new-student orientation.

“It was easy to put myself in the incoming students’ shoes,” Daveon says. “I wanted to keep my own freshman year experience in mind while connecting with them to help set them up for success at Valpo.”

In addition to his roles helping first-year students, Daveon is involved with the University Programming Council, for which he is currently the social justice chair, and Lambda Chi Alpha.

“Each year that Daveon has been at Valpo, he has added a new area of involvement and has worked hard at making Valpo a community that is welcoming and enjoyable,” Janelle White, M.S., director of Multicultural Programs, says. “I can honestly say that Daveon has found his place at Valpo.”

Through all of the adversity he has faced, Daveon attributes his continuing success to the home he’s established on Valpo’s close-knit campus.

“I’ve experienced some failure at Valpo, but I’ve had the opportunity to grow through that with the support of a great community of people,” Daveon says.

One facet of that community is the professional mentorship that Daveon has found on campus. He listed many faculty and staff members who recognized his enthusiasm for serving underclassmen and influenced him to seek a career in higher education.

Just as these mentors had a profound impact on his life, Daveon is confident that his time at Valparaiso University will allow him to advise and encourage first-year students, no matter his role.