Kerry Saltvick ’16, Game Design
Kerry Saltvick ’16 has always been determined to raise herself up out of poverty, have a fulfilling and rewarding college experience, and honor her love of Japan. Through hard work and the generosity of others, she has been able to achieve it all.
“When I step onto the Becker College campus every morning, my breath catches in my throat,” Saltvick said. “I know it’s where I should be. Becker has become my home away from home, and I have had experiences of a lifetime here.”
Saltvick, an only child, was raised by her father in a low-income, high-crime area in Bakersfield, Calif., where she admits she never felt completely safe. She always wanted better for herself—in particular, a career in game design, a field she discovered by watching Japanese anime. Anime fueled her love for Japanese culture and customs. She started learning Japanese at age 11, and took free Japanese classes at a Bakersfield community college during her middle and high school years. After considering becoming an anthropologist or linguist specializing in Japanese, she decided instead to major in game design. “My interest in Japan fueled my desire for gaming,” Saltvick said. “The greatest games come from Japan.”
With gaming in mind, Saltvick began researching her next move. “When it came time to choose a college, I wanted prestige, a challenge, and to experience the best of the best,” Saltvick said. “I also wanted out of the Bakersfield area, to feel safe, and to get a great education.” She searched online for schools offering a game design major, and found a list of offerings on The Princeton Review website. When she was redirected to the Becker College website, she fell in love and made it her goal to move across the country and enroll in the College’s nationally ranked game design program.
However, it took the help and generosity of others to get her to Becker. A fundraiser breakfast organized by family and friends helped her with the initial relocation and first-semester tuition costs. Once she arrived in Worcester, Saltvick immediately jumped into her studies and loved her classes. “My major is about creating fun in a new frontier of technology,” she explained. “You can’t create fun if you’re not having fun while doing it. The professors are relaxed and enjoy themselves, and that makes the assignments not seem so much like work.”
Outside of the classroom, though, Saltvick started feeling pressure. Despite receiving scholarships and federal aid, and working four jobs to support herself and her father in California, who was going through health and financial problems, she was unable to stay on top of expenses that first year. “I was sacrificing so much, but it wasn’t going to be enough,” she said. Little sleep and high stress levels were also beginning to have an effect. “I could feel my own health slipping, too,” she said.
Then, Saltvick received the good news that she was the recipient of a “trifecta” of sorts: Becker’s Travelli Scholarship, the Alden Scholarship, and the D. Llewellyn Evans Scholarship. “I sobbed like a baby,” Saltvick said at the Becker Scholarship Breakfast last fall. “My hope had been restored, and I no longer felt like I was carrying the earth on my shoulders like Atlas.”
In addition to working three jobs and keeping her grade point average high, Saltvick’s list of involvements on campus is staggering. She has played on the Becker Women’s Tennis team, and served as a peer mentor and transfer buddy, helping to ease that transition of transfer students to Becker. She has been involved with the Student Government Association, worked with the Japanese Society club, and worked for Alumni Relations, Institutional Research, Admissions, Marketing, and the Office of Campus Activities and Student Leadership. She is also involved with the Becker B.L.U.E. Crew II, an organization that promotes leadership and global citizenship.
This past spring semester, Saltvick also achieved her ultimate aspiration of studying abroad in Japan, through KCP International. “It’s a school that teaches foreigners from all over the world how to communicate in Japanese from a direct method style,” she explained. “I had classmates from China, Korea, Sweden, the U.K., and more.” Her trip was funded through federal aid, scholarships, and another fundraising campaign to help with travel costs and living expenses.
On her way to Japan, Saltvick also got to make her first visit home to see family and friends since she came to Massachusetts for her freshman orientation. The cost of traveling across the country had always been prohibitive—but she had to fly over California to get to Japan from the East Coast, and was able to spend Christmas with her loved ones.
Saltvick is on track to graduate in May 2016 with a degree in game design and a double minor in creative writing and global citizenship. She hopes to work as a writer and storyteller for video games, and plans to continue to work to pay forward all the good karma that has come her way. “I have plans not only to continue to give back at Becker, but to hopefully be well off enough in the future to help someone in need like I have been helped,” she said.
Saltvick wants those who contribute to scholarship programs to know how much they are really affecting to the lives of others. “I know from working at the Becker Phone-A-Thon that some donors worry they are throwing money into a void, and that it doesn’t actually go anywhere or help anyone,” Saltvick said. “That’s not true. The money helps students like me, who come from all walks of life. Donors are angels in their own right, and they make college an option for people like me. They’ve allowed me to accomplish my dreams.”