Carol and Bradley Johnson are a married couple who live in Watertown, South Dakota. They also sponsor a scholarship for a recent Form 6 graduate, coincidentally named Johnson!
The Johnsons recently made the trip to Arusha to celebrate Johnson’s Form 6 graduation. Thanks to the pandemic, the trip had been almost five years in the planning.
“Before we left, we would say to people, ‘The Johnsons are meeting Johnson!’” Carol laughs.
Because Carol’s work takes her all over South Dakota, she is a member of the Rapid City Rotary club, while Bradley belongs to the Watertown Rotary club in their hometown, 400 miles away. It was through the Rapid City Ccub that Carol first heard about St Jude’s.
“Pat Sutliff (a long-time supporter and Rotarian) shared the story about The School of St Jude to our club,” Carol recalls.
Bradley takes up the story, “Well, Carol told me what she knew about the school and asked if we wanted to sponsor a student and of course I said yes right away.”
Since 2020, the Johnsons have been sponsoring Johnson’s scholarship, sending letters back and forth and learning more about the driven student. However, it was their recent visit which really made an impact on them.
“I didn’t quite connect, yet,” shares Bradley. “Now, coming here, seeing the country and meeting the people has been extraordinary…This has definitely changed my life.”
Sponsorship has been life-changing for Johnson too, who started at St Jude’s back in 2009 when he was in his first year of primary school.
“It was great and wonderful to meet Carol and Brad,” he beams, as he stands wearing his yellow graduation sash. “It was beautiful to have them at my graduation.”
Carol agrees. “It was an amazingly beautiful ceremony,” she says.
To add to the excitement, Johnson was named ‘Best in Chemistry’ during the ceremony, which he kept secret in order to surprise Brad and Carol.
His secret to winning the highly-coveted award was, “commitment, focus and a positive mind-set.”
But the connection between Johnson and the Johnsons doesn’t end with Form 6 graduation.
“We’re going to make sure we support him through the Beyond St Jude’s Program,” Brad says.
Soon, Johnson will begin his Community Service Year (CSY) the first part of Beyond St Jude’s (BSJ), St Jude’s program for its secondary school graduates. During the CSY, Johnson and his fellow volunteers will share their time, skills and knowledge on campus at St Jude’s or in local government schools.
Already, Johnson is looking forward to giving back to the community.
“I am planning to participate in the CSY as a volunteer teacher in a government school where I hope to teach chemistry and mathematics. I want to do this so I can help many more people, especially those students who don’t have teachers,” he explains.
After the CSY, Johnson plans to study industrial engineering at university and then begin a career which will help boost Tanzania’s production capabilities, but he also nurtures a strong interest in politics.
“No matter where he goes, he’s driven, he’s bright and he understands the gifts that he’s been given,” says Bradley.
Thanks to a St Jude’s scholarship and the generosity of people like Bradley and Carol, Johnson and 106 other future leaders graduated from Form 6 this May. Without a scholarship, it’s likely that many of these students would have had to leave school early due to financial pressure.
Sponsoring a scholarship is a life-changing gift, perhaps best explained by Bradley.
“When you think about how you can change a life, you’re not just changing one student’s life, you’re changing hundreds, thousands of people’s lives through them.”
You too can support a future leader! Become a sponsor today.