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On to new heights of service: Crestwood High salutatorian heading to Harvard named Ron Brown Scholar

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 5/23/20

Graduating high school senior Travis Johnson will tell you he's been blessed with opportunities throughout high school, and, thanks to recently earning a top national scholarship, those opportunities will likely continue.

Crestwood High School's …

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On to new heights of service: Crestwood High salutatorian heading to Harvard named Ron Brown Scholar

Posted

Graduating high school senior Travis Johnson will tell you he's been blessed with opportunities throughout high school, and, thanks to recently earning a top national scholarship, those opportunities will likely continue.

Crestwood High School's Class of 2020 salutatorian and soon-to-be Harvard University freshman spoke this week on being named earlier this month as a Ron Brown Scholar Program recipient. The prestigious, national scholarship program selects about 20 college-bound African-American youth each year to participate in a leadership network while in college, offering them personal and professional development opportunities and experiences to help them succeed.

A $40,000 academic scholarship is also included, and the program involves a highly competitive selection process with generally about 5,000 applicants from across the country annually. The program awards scholars based on demonstrated academic excellence, leadership potential, social commitment and financial need.

The scholars program was founded in 1996 and named in memory of the first African-American to serve in the Cabinet as secretary of commerce, Ronald H. Brown. Brown, who served during President Bill Clinton's first term, was also the first black chairman of the Democratic National Committee and is remembered for his dedication to public service.

The $40,000 scholarship is the largest Johnson has received to date and will provide him $10,000 per year at Harvard.

A Lynchburg native, Johnson is no stranger to accolades, though. In addition to being his high school's salutatorian with a 5.345 GPA, he's the national Future Business Leaders of America president and two-time state FBLA president, and he has already earned a two-year associate degree from USC Sumter's Early College program. He will earn his high school diploma on Friday.

With all those accomplishments and multiple scholarships in tow to the private Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall, Johnson doesn't take a lot of personal credit for what he's achieved, instead crediting others for helping to pave the way.

"I recognize that none of us get to where we are today alone," Johnson said, "and I believe in giving back to other people."

He attributes his parents, Derick and Elaine Johnson, for instilling those qualities in him.

Johnson said he considers leaders such as former President Barack Obama on the national level and state Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter, on the local level as role models for him, and he wants to follow in their footsteps with a career in public service.

After graduating college, Johnson said he wants to attend law school at Harvard and become a lawyer.

His "dream job" down the road, he said, is to be a U.S. senator.

Johnson said he's fascinated with the role because a senator represents a significant population, has the opportunity to write legislation to help people and gets to debate that legislation.

Public service has been a passion of his for a long time, he said.

"Since I was a child, I admired the idea of public service," Johnson said. "I admired the idea of being able to contribute to society and helping other people realize their dreams and fulfill those dreams. My ambitions in life are to do something greater than myself. At the end of the day, it's always about serving people and raising them up and ensuring they can succeed just as I have."

Crestwood Principal Shirley Gamble said Johnson's parents instilled in him a strong foundation toward service and that he's humble and appreciative.

"Since I have known Travis, this has been his message, as well," Gamble said. "He's always wanted to be about service. Each time that he has had the opportunity to speak in front of crowds, that has always been his message. He acknowledges the help of others. He will acknowledge his teachers and past principals that he has had."

She added that Johnson is willing to share his accomplishments with others and desires to share the spotlight.

Through his accomplishments, Johnson has met many people in high school. He said he hopes being a Ron Brown Scholar will allow him to continue to do that.

"I feel like this program is a culmination of four years of hard work in high school," he said. "Now, being able to see that work pay off in college and after college by being able to network with people and potentially explore career options, I am excited about that."