Every Day is a Gift

Brianna Walker ’19 wasn’t supposed to live past her fifth birthday.

Spoiler alert — she did.

The Alverno graduate was born with a medical condition that caused her bones to grow at a faster rate than her heart, baffling doctors and surprising her parents with her recovery. “I treat every day like it’s this gift handed to me. Nothing is ever guaranteed in life. It’s just such a motivator to me,” she says. “I’m here for a reason, and I’m going to figure that reason out.”

This mission helps Walker navigate other obstacles life throws her way, including the fact that she was born with a cataract in her right eye, rendering her partially blind. While her disability doesn’t prevent her from pursuing her goals, it can cause others to see her differently.

“The biggest obstacle is when people hear that I’m partially blind, they start to doubt me. It’s disheartening,” she says. “But I’ve learned to overcome what other people want and expect from me and to trust my abilities. I know I can do this.”

For Walker, this perspective has guided her transformation from a shy high school student into a confident woman who gave the student address at Alverno’s December 2019 commencement.

“It is such an honor. If you would have told freshman Brianna that she would be giving the speech, she would never, never have believed you,” she says. “Speaking and representing my sister graduates was such an honor.”

Sisterhood and community are the major themes of Walker’s Alverno story. Growing up in the small Wisconsin town of Tomah, about 170 miles northwest of Milwaukee, she realized she didn’t want to end up just a number at a large school. At Alverno, she quickly found her home away from home and lived on campus for the entirety of her college education. “It is amazing being part of this community,” she says.

Ultimately, the sisterhood of Alverno is what helped Walker, a psychology major, thrive, and it’s one of the many things she’ll carry with her after she graduates.

“Alverno has made me a new person. It brought me out of my shell,” she says. “I’m so grateful that Alverno specializes in empowering women to not only believe in ourselves but also in our sisters around us.”

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