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The Girl That Lived Her Life with Two Personalities

Angie Pleitez is a student at Santaluces Community High School in Palm Beach County, Florida, and a member of the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program. Below are excerpts of an article she wrote as part of the program. 

Hello. My name is Angie Pleitez and I would like to share my story, the story that made me realize to always be grateful for everything that happens to you, whether it’s good or bad. Ever since I was little, I was depicted as the person in my family that could be different from the rest. My parents always reassured me that I was going to be the one in the family to make a difference and rise to the top. They always told me that I had the opportunity that no one else in my family had, which was to get a full education and be someone important in the world. I am the daughter of two immigrant parents who risked everything to give a better future for their child. That’s a huge amount of pressure to put on someone, but I didn’t think much of it when I was younger. I just thought of myself as just another child that played outside and hung out with her friends. What I didn’t know when I was younger was all the actions happening behind the scenes.

To start, when I was little, I had to stay with a babysitter most of the time because my mother worked from the morning to the night and my father would work from the morning to past midnight. Sometimes they would barely get sleep because when they came home, they still had to take care of me. From the time and effort they put in their laborious jobs, they were able to afford my school supplies, my backpack, after-school care, all necessary components for me to have the best school experience. They always praised me for getting good grades, which gave me boosts in my confidence and self-esteem. I was on the honor roll and earned recognition for my intelligence. I was always very proud of my intelligence and perseverance at such an early age. It continued this way all the way up to 5th grade. It was getting to that point where my life was going to take a sharp turn, which was my teen years.

I was scared that I was taking a huge step in my life. I’ve never liked change ever since I moved away from where I grew up when I was 7. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was going to be in a different environment and going to be experiencing something I’ve never experienced before. My parents tried to reassure me that everything was going to be okay; that it’s just another phase of my life that everyone goes through as well, but I already had the idea instilled in me that things would go downhill from here. My middle school years destroyed not only my academic achievements but my self-worth. I was at my lowest point, and I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. I was especially hesitant to tell my parents because I didn’t want them to know their “star child” wasn’t shining as bright as before. As time passed by, I could feel that I was slowly starting to lose myself. I felt unhappy and unmotivated all the time, and I didn’t care for most things anymore. I felt numb and I felt like I wasn’t living a life anymore – at least, not the life I wanted to lead. I was willing to do anything to take the pain away which would have led to life-threatening consequences. I’m glad that I stuck around because I later on realized that the pain doesn’t last forever and that things get better, maybe not right away but they eventually do. This is when I found the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program.

The program opened my eyes to see that I still had an opportunity to turn myself around. It felt like this program could be my chance of getting out of this dark place I was heading into. I found it as I was entering high school, and I can honestly say that it turned my life around for the better. I felt myself getting my academic achievements back and the joy of feeling proud of myself back. I felt like I had a purpose again, a purpose to keep going and continue to always do better than the day before. I started doing better in school and got recognized for all the great things I was doing. I felt my parents grow happier and their pride for me grew. I talk to them about my future and college and they can’t help but be so overwhelmed with happiness. Yes, there are many obstacles that try to knock me down to the position I was in before, but I grew out of that point in my life and I don’t ever want to go back. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, no matter the circumstances my family and I go through.

The Take Stock/Johnson Scholars Program, my family, and the friends who actually want the best for me have helped me realize that life is worth so much. I can create a great future for myself if I want to. I can go to a great college if I want to. I have a chance that not many people have, and that means so much to me.


Angie Pleitez is a Junior at Santaluces Community High School

A Fast Track to Teachers for Visually Impaired Students

Imagine as a parent of a child with low vision being told there’s no teacher available to provide those vital early intervention lessons. Imagine being told your child would have to be added to the wait list until a teacher was available.

The nation faces a severe shortage of Teachers for the Visually Impaired, and the U.S. Department of Education has identified it as a key teacher shortage area. The same is true in western New York where VIA (Visually Impaired Advancement) serves students with low vision or blindness from 40 area school districts.

We knew that the direct link to providing services to more students was fast-tracking a new Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired. Thanks to a grant from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, VIA has made that happen.

To find the right candidate, we had to go no further than our pre-school program where Amy Lindstrom had taught since 2012.

Amy Lindstrom works with Lucas.

“That’s where my love for the role of a TVI had begun,” Amy said. “I began in 2012 as an aide, then as a special education teacher. I did have students with visual impairment in my classroom, who also were receiving services from a TVI. It was through the grant that I was able to go pick up classes and complete the courses that I needed. I’m happy to say that I did receive my certificate at Thanksgiving this year.”

Amy already held a master’s degree in special education, so she needed only complete the certification program and pass New York’s state exam to obtain her TVI certification. Now, she’s one of two full-time and three part-time TVIs at VIA serving students from birth to age 21 throughout 40 regional school districts in Western New York.

Her days involve travel to schools, homes and day care centers to provide individualized therapy to children who are visually impaired. She’s working with 13 school-age, six pre-school, and two early-intervention children. Expanding the number of individuals VIA serves not only assists those individuals but others as well because it provides additional dollars to supplement other VIA services for people who are blind or visually impaired.

For parents whose children otherwise might have been waitlisted, it means their education stays on track.

“We know that children who are blind really miss out on what we refer to as ‘incidental learning,’” Amy said. “This is all that we learn just by taking in the world around us, primarily through what we see. The children we serve need explicit instruction to develop concepts and an understanding of the world around them. They often fall behind their peers developmentally due to their vision impairment. This explicit instruction by a TVI becomes vitally important to filling in the gaps that put our students behind.

“Completing my TVI training and passing my New York State Blind and Visually Impaired State Exam has been an amazing experience for me,” she added. “Thank you to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation for making this happen.”


Renee DiFlavio is Senior Vice President at VIA.

The Importance of STEM Initiatives to Indigenous American Communities

Every child should have the freedom to dream big. At the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), it’s been our mission to encourage Indigenous children to not only dream big in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), but to make those dreams a reality.

The current, and increasing, underrepresentation of Indigenous people in STEM is cause for national concern because it deprives our nation of the potential for innovation and transformative solutions arising from a diverse STEM workforce (Corbett & Hill, 2015; National Academies, 2011). Further, research suggests diverse voices, such as those of Indigenous learners and professionals, contribute to creative and critical STEM enterprise of problem solving (Page, 2007; Spencer & Dawes, 2009). Equally, it is morally imperative to support all individuals, including Indigenous men and women, and Indigenous two-spirit and LGBTQIA+ individuals, who wish to pursue STEM education and careers.

Too many bright and talented Indigenous students at all levels encounter challenges academically for a multitude of reasons. Working with its partners, AISES creates brighter futures for them by ensuring equal access to STEM educational programming, closing gender and learning gaps, placing a premium on diversity, and improving access to essential support services and resources. And while encouraging Indigenous students to pursue STEM studies because today’s fastest growing, most in-demand jobs are in STEM fields, the skills and principles acquired through STEM education are equally important for those looking to create and manage businesses of their own someday.

For over 40 years, AISES has been committed to substantially increasing the number of Indigenous people in STEM studies and careers. AISES’ three key focus areas are student success, career support, and workforce development. In the advancement of our mission, AISES works with exceptional Indigenous students who all too often face educational and economic inequalities. As such, AISES offers programming and resources to encourage, guide, and fund Indigenous students on their pathway into a STEM field. Upon completion of their STEM degree or certification, AISES continues to provide supportive programming and resources as well as access to the nation’s largest network of individuals and institutions dedicated to supporting the ongoing career development and advancement of Indigenous people in STEM fields.

In 2017, AISES launched a STEM and Business initiative to expand opportunities and provide resources for AISES members who want to combine their interest in STEM with starting or expanding a business within their own tribal communities. Since then, AISES has engaged hundreds of students and professionals by delivering sessions at its annual conference, creating a cohort of individuals for entrepreneurship training and mentorship, and providing start-up capital to program participants. To support this work, AISES partners with allies who are also committed to providing resources to help grow and expand the numbers of Indigenous STEM students and professionals. One such collaboration is with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

With support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, AISES STEM and Business program is delivering an entrepreneurship training initiative to (1) expand access to the AISES STEM and Business curriculum via AISES microsite along with outreach and promotion of these resources to the entire AISES network; (2) create a 10-person STEM and Business cohort and recruitment of 5 professional mentors; (3) conduct a three-part series of STEM and Business trainings, two in-person trainings hosted in conjunction with AISES events and one virtual training; and (4) award mini-grants to support Indigenous STEM Business development.

Thanks to partners like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, AISES has enabled many Indigenous people to develop businesses. It’s helped grow tribal enterprises, and supported tribal communities as they strive toward economic independence and the assertion of tribal sovereignty. Now more than ever, it is essential for AISES to further expand our partnerships to create more opportunities for Indigenous youth and young professionals seeking careers in STEM fields. It is time to make Indigenous STEM representation a priority as a critical component of the larger global effort to develop the most innovative solutions to today’s most pressing problems and issues. Together, AISES and its partners are creating those opportunities – and I hope you too will join us.


Sarah Echohawk is a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, and is CEO of AISES.

On becoming a leader by becoming a soldier

Jhonatan Montejo Benito is a senior at Jupiter Community High School and a participant in the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program. He wrote this essay outlining his future plans as part of the program.

One afternoon, at the age of six, I was watching the news with my grandfather, and I saw how US Naval Carriers were mobilizing. I could only imagine their actual size and what they were capable of doing. With those images in my mind, I began to feel intimidated and to wonder if I could ever be a part of something that amazing. Some years later, the father of my closest cousins was ambushed on a bridge by drug traffickers, because he and other infantrymen were escorting equipment to another state in Guatemala. No one survived the attack. Both of these memories pushed me to begin working towards having a future in the infantry, because I honor those who are able to put their lives at risk, and because for me soldiers are the strongest people I have ever met. College for me is the place where I will build a strong foundation to be a great leader. The people closest to me are my strongest foundation, and they and my memories keep my motivation alive.

To begin with, I believe that the most effective way for me to reach my goal of working in the US Army Infantry is to train with the ROTC program to ultimately become a commissioned infantry officer. As a child I moved a significant number of times, and as a result, I don’t feel particularly attached to any one place, and thus I am committed to find the best education at the best place possible even if I have to begin at the bottom. Ideally, I would like to begin my college studies at either UF or West Point Academy, but my alternate plan would be to begin my college studies at a local state college where I will earn my associate’s degree and then move to a more competitive college, like UF to finish my bachelor’s degree. For me, going to college means that I am being prepared to work with the finest military in the world and that I am preparing myself to become a leader to which my soldiers will look up to. My goal to accomplish this is by continuing to improve myself in my favorite subjects, math and philosophy, and strengthen my body through training and making healthy choices. My parents, on the other hand, believe that going to college to then work in the military is a waste of time, and that the goal of college is a place for me to grow and become economically independent and successful. While I respect their opinion, I am determined to see my name on my uniform in service of the US Army. Overall, college will be the place where I will strengthen my foundations to become part of something bigger than myself and a person that others could look up to.

Moreover, as I grew up and traveled to different places, I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of influential people who have become very important to me, but even though I don’t see many of them anymore, I will make sure to conduct myself to bring credit to them. The first people to say thank you to are my family, beginning with my grandfather. He gave me important knowledge and skills that I have used and continue to use. He taught me how to tie my shoes and how to ride a bike, but most importantly, most afternoons he would sit with me and read to me either the news or the Bible. In addition, my parents were the pillars of my development. My parents are the people who are always there for me, but the most crucial part they had in my life was giving me a brighter future in the US, which opened for me a wide range of opportunities that I would never have had in a country like Guatemala.

Last but not least, there were teachers, faculty members, counselors and other people that I could not mention individually here because there is a limit of words, and the number of things they did for me are countless. But people that I would like to mention are various English teachers that I have had since sixth grade, my personal counselor, Mrs. Woeber, and my middle school second language support system. Mrs. Woeber was the person who introduced me to the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars program, and for her and them I am eternally grateful. But it doesn’t matter who it was, they are important to me because they built me a staircase in which I was able to improve and grow.

To conclude, the journey that I made from the small town of El Paraiso in Guatemala to the eastern shores of the United States helped me construct a future that will not only enrich my life but hopefully the lives of others that I meet along the way during my experiences in the military and elsewhere. The most significant part of this journey wasn’t mostly about me, but the people that created who I am today. They are people that work hard and do extraordinary things for others. They give more than their one hundred percent at their job, and therefore I will pay them back when it will be time for me to put my hands at work by being the best person that I could be for me, others, and my younger sister.


Jhonatan Montejo Benito is a senior at Jupiter Community High School and a participant in the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program.

 

Tribal Nations & The United States: An Introduction

Johnson Scholarship Foundation founder Ted Johnson Sr. believed strongly in supporting Indigenous people. Since 1992 Johnson Scholarship Foundation has been supporting scholarships and programs at tribal colleges and other Native-serving institutions. The goal is to catalyze economic development for Indigenous peoples by investing in entrepreneurship and business education and investing in capacity building for business and entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities.

Native American Heritage Month is a fitting occasion to share some information about tribal nations in America. The National Congress of American Indians published an update in February, 2020, to its publication, “Tribal Nations & the United States: An Introduction.  It provides an overview of historical and current information on Native Americans, including a section on economic development.

Here is some data from the report:

  • The need for sustained economic growth is critically acute in most Native communities across the country. On reservations, 39 percent of Native people live in poverty – the highest poverty rate in America.  On-reservation employment is highest in education, health care, and social services, followed closely by public administration.
  • Agriculture is a major economic, employment and nutrition sector in Indian Country, including 60,083 farming operations accounting for $3.33 billion in total sales.
  • Native-owned small businesses have grown over the last 30 years and are significant contributors to the growing tribal economy. Much of the growth is due to the Small Business Administration’s Business Development Program.
  • There were 272,919 American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses in 2012, a 15 percent increase from 2007.

Read the entire report at the National Congress of American Indians’ website here.


Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist with Johnson Scholarship Foundation

Bucking the Trends and Building a Bridge to Success

As the Great Resignation continues to make headlines, let’s take a moment to celebrate a young man committed to a job he has held since finishing high school. Traveon B. of Dallas has worked with Aramark Uniform Services for over four years. Traveon’s Aramark tenure is especially impressive when you consider that young adults hold on average five to six different jobs between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Traveon

When Traveon was 20 and a student at Multiple Skills Magnet Center, a Dallas vocational school where he took classes to learn how to work in a commercial laundry, he enrolled in the Bridges program, which helps young adults with disabilities prepare for and connect to competitive jobs aligned with their interests and abilities. Program staff from the Bridges program knew that Traveon would be an ideal candidate for a job at Aramark Uniform Services, where he would work as part of a large team that loads, sorts, washes, dries, and presses tons of laundry processed at the facility every day.

Dallas Bridges Director Rob Mollard says, “Traveon is one of the best workers Aramark Uniform Services has ever seen. He uses DART public transit for his daily commutes to the Aramark facility near Love Field, and he never misses a day of work. He has accumulated so much paid time off that his supervisor recently made him take a vacation.”

Now 25, Traveon is a seasoned Aramark team member, working full-time with benefits and earning a competitive salary that represents a significant contribution to his family’s overall household income. Traveon even helps train and orient new Aramark employees, showing them how to navigate the large warehouse facility that processes truckloads of laundry from area hospitals, universities, and cafeterias. “Traveon is such an asset that Aramark has recently hired another participant from the Bridges program,” says Mollard.


Allen Brown is a grant writer and communications lead with Bridges From School to Work, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

 

Helping Tovino Get One Step Closer to Dream Job

The following article is one of a series on Ability Partners from MDI, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation, It is shared with permission.

During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, MDI is saluting people who’ve stepped ahead, above and beyond in the name of equitable opportunity and employment for people with disabilities.

Meet Dave, CEO, Arrowhead Medical

I’m an entrepreneur, and Arrowhead is a small business with just 11 employees—but it’s a complex company that competes against billion-dollar organizations. And we come out on top—even during the pandemic. Our advantage is that we have people who get it done, whatever the job is—and then our growth comes about naturally. We’re able to be honest with our customers, and put heart into creating an ethical path in doing business.

I’ve learned a lot running my own companies. I know now that with perseverance, you can get through anything. And that the small stuff in a business is really critical to success. You can’t ever overlook anything that could be done better. I’ve learned to have empathy for both my employees and my customers. When a leader doesn’t have empathy, that’s a bad path for your business. And also how important it is to hire people with heart, who want to learn and get it done—that’s critical for growth.

I was there when my goddaughter was born. I’ve watched her mature over her life, dealing with life with a disability, and now she’s 34, works independently, lives in assisted living, joined the Y. It’s made me look at people very differently than most, because I can see who they are as an individual. I always look for the heart in them.

Tovino, center, with Dave at right, and a fellow coworker at Arrowhead Medical

So because of my relationships with my goddaughter and friends with kids with disabilities, I realized I could use my business to do some good and hire people who were truly seeking an opportunity to work—and for reasons bigger than a paycheck. If you can become more open in how you can help individuals who just need a smidge more patience or support, your business can benefit greatly, and in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Hiring people with disabilities requires thinking ahead a bit. You look at an individual and see where their talents are. You sort out how to help them develop the skillsets that will fit their duties. And after that, they can develop into roles that lead to more responsibility, setting goals for when they’re looking for more. It benefits everyone at my business, helping all of us feel like we’re growing in everything we do—not just building the bottom line but doing something more.

 

When I met Tovino, I thought, he’s got a big man’s body, and a big heart that goes with it. When you think about your own career and your path from a first job, we all had a little help from a wonderful manager. And that’s what I wanted for Tovino: someone who works together with him, helps him hone in on his duties and get better at those—and I think it’s worked out really well.

His ability to grow and develop has certainly been seen in his time at Arrowhead. Now when I put Tovino on a project, it’s not just that I want him to be successful as an employee. I want him to be a successful man, and have the abilities he develops help him move forward with his life.

Meet Tovino, Operations 1, Arrowhead Medical

Tovino, working at Arrowhead Medical

My choices have lead me to where I am today. I learned about a company called MDI through school. I heard they employed people with disabilities. So, I applied for a job at MDI – and got hired! I gained experience folding boxes and keeping things organized. After a while I was ready for a new challenge. MDI helped me get a job at Arrowhead Medical. When I started working at Arrowhead, I was excited to start something new, but I was worried people would look down on me, or not be good enough for the job. But Arrowhead’s the best.

I [at Arrowhead] put stuff together, I deliver to customers, and I get to meet new people. I’m learning a lot about tools, which is exciting because down the road, I want to go to college and be a mechanic—that’s my goal. I don’t have a favorite thing about working there or a favorite person—everything is my favorite. Thanks to these opportunities, I now have hope and the support to make my dreams happen.

Read the entire series on Ability Partners at this link.


MDI is a non-profit social enterprise manufacturer that provides inclusive employment to individuals with diverse abilities.

A Deaf Student Follows the Call of the Ocean

Nicholas Hohrman is a junior from Minnesota majoring in Biology at Gallaudet University, a core grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. He did an in-person internship at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) in Juno Beach, Florida, where he worked with sea turtles. He hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Oceanography. Because of the pandemic, he decided to seize the opportunity to intern and take online courses from Gallaudet simultaneously for six months. He shared this report about his experience.

 I did my internship at Loggerhead Marinelife Center for the past seven months during the pandemic while doing my online courses. I was able to do this because the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s support meant I could move to Juno Beach, Florida. These past seven months have been a great experience for me and I have learned a lot about sea turtles.

Also not only the sea turtles but I was able to learn what research was like. My supervisor was Deaf too, and working with her was a great experience because I never had that opportunity before. Working with the team was great because they were motivated to learn sign language while working with me and my supervisor.

While working at LMC I was able to learn and help out with data entering on the beach. We had to be on the beach very early in the morning; therefore, I had to be there at 5:45 a.m. to get everything ready before we could go on the beach. I would get the GPS, the turtle nest stakes, saddle bags, and make sure the ATVs had gas.

When arriving at the beach we would write down the time and start looking for the crawls on the beach. Crawls are the marks that sea turtles make when they come on the beach to nest. Some will nest, but some are false crawls, meaning that they didn’t nest. We sometimes got over 200 crawls on the beach so we would be on the beach until late afternoon, and it was a great experience because when we felt super-hot and needed to cool down we would go and jump in the ocean to cool down. It was fun to do that! Sometimes there would be down-pouring rain, therefore we had to keep going to make sure we were not missing any of the crawls.

After I had been working a few months at LMC on the beach, hatchlings were getting ready to hatch and head into the ocean. Then we would check for any tracks of hatchlings from the nest. How did we know where the nests were? We had to mark some of the nests. We do not mark every nest because if we did it would cover pretty much the entire beach, and people wouldn’t be able to sit. We have numbers that we follow that count down so that we would mark every 34th nest.

After 80 days when the hatchlings hatch, we would count how many eggs hatched or didn’t hatch. That is how they were able to get a percentage of how many hatched. Interesting fact is that if the sand is hot, that means that there will be more female sea turtles and if the sand is colder, then that means more male sea turtles. So that is why global and climate change is a big thing for the sea turtles and other mammals.

Also while I was there I was able to volunteer at the conservation center at LMC, which included working with sorting trash and entering data into their database. It was very interesting to learn how much trash washed up on the beach. We would find trash from different countries.

The past seven months was a great experience with LMC and working with my supervisor who is Deaf. I would totally recommend to the future students to take this opportunity with LMC and get the experience.


Nicholas Hohrman is a junior majoring in Biology at Gallaudet University.

A LEAP Ahead for Hearing-Impaired Students

One of the challenges teenagers who are deaf and hard of hearing frequently face is connecting and interacting with other teens with hearing loss. If not addressed, that challenge can lead to isolation and a lack of self-confidence. A new program of The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) called LEAP (Leadership Experiences and Adventure Program), established with the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, helps high school students who use Listening and Spoken Language connect virtually with peers just like them. The program is led by adults who are deaf and are achieving their potential. LEAP helps teens become more self-aware while acquiring capacity in leadership, self-advocacy, technology, work and life skills. Students who participate in LEAP learn more about themselves and their personal strengths and are excited to see how they can use their strengths to develop and achieve their future goals.

AG Bell has hosted three LEAP sessions so far this year in May, July, and September. To date, 87 students registered for LEAP from 21 different states and 6 different countries. Each session offered 5 ½ hours of engaging and informative interaction led by Catharine McNally, AG Bell’s past president, as well as six additional facilitators who are graduates of the long-standing LOFT (Leadership Opportunities for Teens) program, which strengthens leadership potential in students with hearing loss. Participants worked with facilitators in small group sessions where they connected with each other on a more personal level, and more easily engaged in self-exploration and discussion.

Guest speaker Ceil Weatherman, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, used the students’
“homework” of completing the Clifton Strengths Assessment to highlight the strengths of each student and the value that each brings to social, education and work environments. LEAP teens learned that people in their “strength zones” experience positive energy, are more likely to achieve their goals, are more confident, perform better at work, experience less stress and have more positive moments. Keeping their strengths in mind, the teens explored how their personal strengths can help them use technology more effectively, advocate more efficiently and plan for the future.

At the end of the two-day, virtual session, students were asked to share what they learned. Here is what a few of the students shared:

 “I learned when a person uses his Clifton Strengths, he is more successful at work and/or school.” (Anonymous)

 “One thing I plan to do differently now that I have done LEAP is advocate for myself more.” (Rachel, age 16)

 “[The Mentors] were amazing and showed us how we can be successful in the future.” (Anonymous)

 “I just wanted to thank AG Bell for choosing me for this LEAP program because it made me a better person and gave me a confidence to embrace my hearing loss.” (Leah, age 17)

“I learned that I am not alone in my hearing loss journey and that to get the best experiences I apply my values and strengths in everything I do in life.” (Anonymous)

“How to advocate for myself.” (Paul, age 17)

“I plan to use my hearing equipment in different and more creative ways.” (Anonymous)

“Use our strengths to discover our interests.” (Kiana, age 15)

“[I’m] inspired to pursue my future career by using my strengths.” (Nathan, age 15)

Through the generosity of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and other supporters, LEAP is offered free of charge to high school students. Six sessions will be scheduled throughout 2022, offered every other month. AG Bell offers placement of up to 50 students per session with a goal of 350 total participants. For more information and to apply to attend LEAP, please visit www.AGBellLEAP.com or email us at LEAP@agbell.org.


Julie Schulte is the Teen Programs Coordinator for the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Racing to Your Life Calling

One of my fondest memories as a child was career day in elementary school. On that day, everyone dressed up like the person they wanted to be like when they grew up. I remember one year I wanted to be a NASCAR driver. My mother dressed me up in a race suit and a cardboard box that she managed to make look like a race car. We then had the opportunity to go out to the bus parking lot to meet the people we wanted to be later in life.

When I arrived at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) as a transfer student, I had come a long way from wanting to be a NASCAR driver. I had my sights on becoming a youth pastor. However, I had no idea that was about to change, thanks to some people with a special heart for helping others.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation creators Theodore R. Johnson and his wife, Vivian Chesley Macleod Johnson, recognized the importance of helping people who were less fortunate, and so did PBA’s founders. One of PBA’s longest running traditions is Workship. This term was created by Doris Moody, the wife of PBA’s founding President Dr. Jess Moody. The Moodys believed that students who have been called to PBA were also called to be servant leaders in their community. Doris had combined the words “work” and “worship” because she saw the volunteer work in our community as a form of worship to the Lord. As a faith-based institution, PBA believes that one of God’s commandments is to serve and love others. Students learn how to respond to the needs in the community. Today, as the director of Workship, I have an opportunity to help students use their volunteerism as a way to discover their life-callings.

Johnson Scholar Judson Crawford, Assistant Pastor of The Tabernacle Church Kevin Jones and Workship Director Nathan Chau in 2019.

Johnson Scholar Judson Crawford was one student I had the pleasure of mentoring through the Workship program. He came to West Palm Beach from rural Georgia to study psychology, and the Johnson Scholarship helped make his PBA education possible. He quickly became involved with the Rosemary Village Afterschool Program in partnership with The Tabernacle Church. Through this program, Judson worked with inner-city youth. He helped them with homework and taught them important life lessons. The children who participated looked up to Judson as an older brother. He was the strong and positive male figure that so many of the children were missing in their lives. Judson saw the positive impact that he had with the children. 

As an educational institution, PBA shares the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s conviction that education is the best means to empower people. Judson’s PBA education in psychology empowered him to empower the families served by the Rosemary Village Afterschool Program. Because of his education, Judson understood why the children acted the way they did, and he communicated more effectively with them and their parents. In 2018, the Newman Civic Fellowship recognized Judson for his work with the Rosemary program, naming him a member of the 2018-2019 cohort. Judson’s volunteer work and psychology studies eventually led him to a career in law enforcement. Graduating in 2019, Judson landed a spot with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

It is stories like Judson’s that inspire me in my work. When I arrived at PBA in 2011, I thought I would be on a church staff after graduation. Instead, I discovered that student ministry could be done as a teacher, mentor, or even working alongside volunteers. I fell in love with PBA and did not want to leave when I graduated in 2013. When the opportunity arose to work with the Workship community service program, I took it! Here I am, over eight years later, loving every moment of what I get to do for the students and my community.

When students step foot on campus, we want them to dream and explore their interests. Our hope is that they discover their life-calling through their experiences and are recognized for their hard work. Judson was one of many Johnson Scholars at PBA who discovered his dream career through his community service.


Nathan Chau is director of Workship at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication in 2013 and a Master of Science degree in Leadership in 2016.