Kiana Norton of Kotzebue received a special gift on her birthday this year: she became the first person off the road network to win the annual Alaska Fellowship Account 529 award.
Norton, 23, plans to use the $ 25,000 scholarship to help him achieve his dream of becoming a game developer. She wants to inspire players by creating unique characters, a space for players to connect with each other, and a chance for them to build their own stories.
Alaska 529, the education savings program offered by the Education Trust of Alaska, announced this month that Norton has won its scholarship account, which has been held for the past 12 years. According to the December 8 announcement, all 14,000 permanent fund dividend candidates who chose to pay at least half of their dividend into an Alaska 529 account were entered into the competition.
Norton learned of the victory nearly a month earlier – on his birthday, November 12 – during a surprise Zoom session. For a student taking a year off, this was great news.
“I was going through a really tough time at my current college, and winning it took a huge load off me and opened up a lot more options,” Norton said.
Norton is studying computer science at the University of Washington and wants to use his degree to create games that allow others to take the reins of story building.
“With video games, it’s not just about telling a story; there are so many little interactions you can put in that make it a story for someone else to make up, ”she said. “It’s just a lot more immersive.”
She explained that in one of her favorite games, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, players can “group your friends together on the same screen” and “it’s just you and your friends riding around in a trailer and explore together. The fun part of this is the story you make with your friends.
Before Norton started playing games as a child, she learned to draw. Her mother works as a schoolteacher and their house has always had “tons and tons of art supplies.”
“I was always doing art and playing with paint or crayons because that’s the house I grew up in,” Norton said.
In third grade, she remembered working with a large piece of paper which she glued to cardboard “to make it a little more chic” and drew “ladies in very fancy dresses, maybe. to be princesses “.
“This would probably be the first time I’d seriously started drawing,” Norton said. She also remembers math class where she finished her homework earlier than the other students and spent her free time filling sheets of paper with colorful artwork. “Drawing has always been fun for me, just because it was always so rewarding to look at the paper and see something cool. “
For Norton, drawing is also an act of meditation and a way of thinking about his stories and his characters. She described one of her inspirations, the character Grimoire Weiss in the game Drakengard. Norton explained that the character – a talking, omniscient, floating book – doesn’t have the most heroic role but is memorable and lovable. Without making different facial expressions, Grimoire Weiss conveys charisma and character through movements and gestures.
As for the characters Norton creates, they reflect what Norton thinks about or what she goes through in her life.
“The characters I like to focus on kind of reflect how I felt at the time,” she said.
Norton was born and raised in Kotzebue, where she currently lives. The pandemic struck while she was at the University of Washington, and she said she was happy to put her life on campus on hiatus. His move from Alaska to Washington did not go well: he missed the cold and calm of his Kotzebue home.
“My room (dorm) was on the corner of the seventh floor, on the side of the building that received sunlight most of the day, so it was very hot in there and it attracted ladybugs and flies every day,” he said. she declared. . “Even when I was all alone in my room and just wanted to enjoy a moment of calm, I could hear cars just in the distance and a low hum that sounded almost as loud as the plane taking off at Kotzebue.”
Norton is unsure whether she wants to return to Washington University or choose another school to complete her studies. Fortunately, she can use her scholarship money to pay for any college, university, or vocational or technical school that accepts federal financial aid.
“I’m still thinking about my options,” said Norton, whose story – for now – remains open.