Tribal member Katelyn Harker’s senior year at Lakin High School in Kansas moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, she took advantage of the opportunity to work toward a new goal inspired by those on the frontlines fighting the virus and the science behind a cure.

Tribal member Katelyn Harker hopes to become a traveling nurse, caring for people around the world. (Photo provided)

With her experience raising livestock and participation in 4-H, she intended to attend the University of Kansas veterinary program. However, the Anderson family descendant decided to enter the nursing program instead. During a video interview with the Hownikan, she said the recent focus on the medical community “has had an effect on my interests.”

“I don’t know why, but I always like the gory things, like dissecting and all of that,” Harker said. “I’ve always thought that was interesting, seeing all the bloody stuff. And also how molecules work and atoms … figuring out why things do the things that they do,” including viruses and bacteria.

Harker’s mom is a certified nursing assistant at a local retirement center adjacent to a hospital, and Harker sees the daily effort and affection her mom puts into her job.

“There’s times where it’s like, ‘Man, that stuff is hard work, having to feed a resident that can’t feed themselves, and then they don’t want to eat everything,’ and my mom is just there, helping them, convincing them to eat,” Harker said. “It’s just kind of amazing, the work that she does. (She’s) so patient doing all that.”

Harker has shadowed her mother and recently worked as a janitor at the same hospital. In spring 2020, she also took an eight-week CNA class at Garden City Community College, and it motivated her to make the change as well. She hopes to become a traveling nurse, working on mission trips or for a nonprofit.

“I decided that becoming a traveling nurse, I would get the chance to help people and to be able to travel someplace — kind of enjoy my work and be able to help others in different countries. I just like learning about different cultures and seeing new things,” Harker said.

Framing her future

A well-rounded student, Harker also paints and enjoys crafts. She began sewing masks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines created an uptick in demand. In approximately a month and a half, she made and donated over 160 to the local hospital, grocery store workers and others.

Katelyn Harker’s entry for the Frame My Future Scholarship contest. (Photo provided)

“The pandemic is affecting people’s paychecks and all that. Money is pretty tight for a lot of people in these situations. So, I just want to be able to give them something that they can use and that they need and not have to price gouge them or anything like that,” Harker said.

She highlighted her mask making in her entry for Church Hill Classics’ Frame My Future Scholarship contest. The custom framing company asks participants to take a photo or create a piece of artwork that shows their educational goals. In Harker’s image, she wears scrubs and a stethoscope as well as a cloth mask.

“I decided to include it because the deadline was during the pandemic, and that was a time when everybody needed masks and everything. And I thought it’d be cool to incorporate one of them that I made into the photo to kind of show that, ‘Hey, I’m giving to the community some,’” Harker said.

Work from other science classes and artistic representations of electrocardiograms in tattoos inspired her collage as well. Judges selected her first attempt at creative photography as one of 24 pieces vying for the popular vote, which she unfortunately lost.

Although the University of Kansas hopes to welcome students back for the fall 2020 semester, the probability that Harker begins her college career online remains strong.

“I’m kind of a little bummed because I was excited to go to campus and have all those experiences where it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! Look how amazing this place is. And look at all these classes and all these different supplies that we have and everything,’ and just being overwhelmed by what the campus looks like,” she said.

While she appreciates the efficiency of online learning, Harker looks forward to meeting her classmates and professors face-to-face and asking questions in person as she embarks on her higher educational journey.