Student Profile: Ketia Valme ’24

Jan 18, 2024
Ketia Valme, an English major and class of 2024, wears a black, long-sleeved shirt and smiles before the Ely center.

Ketia Valme '24

Ketia Valme ’24, an English major, social justice peer educator at Westfield State, and peer tutor at the Reading and Writing Center, originally studied criminal justice at Westfield State. After deliberating during quarantine, she decided to change majors in 2021 and decided to concentrate on her love of writing.

Valme described herself as “not much of a talker” when she was younger, though the prolonged period of isolation and reflection brought on by COVID-19 allowed Valme to journal and therefore access a renewed interest in reading and writing.

Initially, the transition of majors was difficult, as the two disciplines are largely different in theme. Beginning in childhood, Valme had also dreamed of becoming an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and worked with the Cambridge Police Department during the summer in Cambridge, where she grew up. After hearing about the criminal justice program at the University, Valme quickly enrolled due to the thorough financial aid.

“It’s two different worlds,” Valme said about changing majors. “It took a team of professors to get me back on track. They never gave up on me, which caused me to not give up on myself.”

After settling into the English department, Valme was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in late 2023 for her newly published poem, “where do you think you’re going?”. The Pushcart Prize is a literary prize awarded by Pushcart Press, which recognizes poetry prose in publications. You can find the poem in Issue 6 of Last Leaves Magazine.

The poem analyzes the relationship between the macro and micro in relation to the black woman’s experience. She subtly contrasts phrases such as, “To the moon / Where we’re viewed / As gentle as a caterpillar in its cocoon”, with bombastic lines such as, “Our backs read the story of our ancestry” in order to bring attention to the jagged reality of racial discrimination.

She attributes this accomplishment to her professors, who helped Valme acclimate to the new field of study. "They’re so supportive in the English department,” she said. “You don’t find that anywhere else, and they’re very understanding. They’re willing to listen and help, and they’re not going to lie to you. They helped me grow, not only as a student, but as a writer.”

With further guidance from one of her professors, Beverly Army Williams, Valme will also be staying and completing an internship in Washington D.C. in Spring 2024 with the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, a non-profit organization which promotes advocacy and equitable legislation for Hispanic communities across the country.

While there, Valme will be aiding in the organization’s communications, focusing on public relations and social media management. “It’s perfect,” she said about it. “I want my writing to pay tribute to minorities and speak up for them.”

Between classes, internships, and socializing with friends, Valme described her experience at the University as “definitely worth it”. “There’s so many opportunities,” she said. “You just have to ask. There’s so much that you won’t know about if you just go to class and then back to your room. Express yourself and talk to people. The support is there. You just have to look for it.”