Senior wins more than $456,000 in scholarships

Senior chooses Smith College to pursue her degrees

Congratulations to Ms. Johnson on her achievement

Courtesy of Jordana

Congratulations to Ms. Johnson on her achievement

Judy Babb, Adviser

Jordana Johnson, known by her friends as Dana, isn’t your average West Mesquite senior. Heck, she isn’t any school’s average senior.

She’s a girl with a fire in her belly and a desire to learn. She has goals for her future and while she is humble, it doesn’t take long to know she is going to achieve them.

Melinda Evans, Johnson’s Forensics teacher her junior year, calls her a strong, driven, educated young woman.

“Dana marches to the beat of her own drum,” Evans said. “I think a lot of Dana’s best work is when you let her just go at something on her own. She is great at thinking outside the box.”

Evans told about a project Johnson did on water use in the fashion industry.

“She showed us ways to upcycle clothes to reduce the amount of water wasted and to reduce the need for poor work environments in factories around the world,” Evans said.

Johnson’s work ethic and intelligence earned her more than $450,000 in scholarships including one to Smith College in Boston where she will be in the fall. While she didn’t get a full-ride there, she has enough scholarship money to graduate from Smith with a double major in Africana Studies and Political Science and a minor in French.

She chose French as her language because she loves France and because in many African nations, French is spoken.

She will start her adult life without college debt.

She will have one of the finest educations possible and one can be sure she will make the most of it.

The 17-year-old Johnson is one of the youngest seniors in her class. She says she is not necessarily the smartest in her class and she likes that.

“I can go to others for help,” she said.

She’s ranked 13 out of 436 at West.

She started high school at Samuell High School in that school’s Early College program. She attended there for two years, becoming increasingly unhappy with the school.

“The counselors would just put me in classes,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was getting what I needed.”

She was working with counselor Candace Norwood on her schedule. To her surprise, she got to pick and choose the courses she wanted. She had pretty much done all her required courses at Samuell. Now many of her classes were her personal choice.

“I just basically got to sign up for classes I wanted,” Johnson said. “It was not like my previous school where they just put me where ever.”

While she was always a good student, she didn’t have high-end colleges on her radar. It was through talking to students

Her junior year, she signed up for three AP classes. They were AP U.S. History, AP English Language, Composition, and AP Statistics. She also took Forensics.

“Forensics was my first period and it was really fun,” Johnson said. “It started off my day well. I had my AP Statistics the 4th period and it was really fun although I was not usually good at math.”

AP U.S. History teacher Katy Bennett had Johnson in Academic Decathlon as well as her AP class. Bennett admitted to being skeptical about Johnson’s choice of singer Nicki Minaj for her speech on a feminist role model.

“Dana crafted a very thoughtful argument that she supported with Minaj’s lyrics,” Bennett said. “The speech was unique, well-written, and effective. Her speech was one of the reasons West advanced to State in the spring of 2020.”

The fact that she had never been good in math made statistics an odd choice for her. She says she was never good in math. She credits statistics teacher Kelly Bender for making it fun and increasing her comfort level with math.

Her view of college changed as she talked to other students in DISD like those at the Townview Magnet and the Law Magnet. She realized she had a lot more choices.

A lot of her keen interest in her education came from workshops she took during the summer of 2019.

She participated in the Junior State of America Summer School at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for three weeks. Her classmates came from “super-rich families from California and the West Coast.” The group saw Washington, D.C. as a tourist never would.

It also helped her refocus her college goals as she listened to their plans.

One of those places she visited was the House of Representatives. She sat in a chair of a member of the House. She said all the places they went in D.C. made her look at the world in a way she never had thought about.

After the Georgetown experience, she attended a debate camp. That was where she realized she had more choices. She had been thinking Harvard because “it was Harvard.”

Summer 2020, Johnson started attending virtual information sessions – a different college every day. That’s when she realized that Harvard wasn’t the school for her. She didn’t like the feeling she got from them.

“They just weren’t excited,” Johnson said. “There was no energy.”

She kept looking and discovered the excitement of the elite women’s colleges in the Northeast and what they had to offer. She was accepted to Wellesley as well as Smith. She decided on Smith.

And Smith decided on her. The school only accepts 31 of 100 applicants and the average student’s GPA is 3.98. They sent her a book that was a list of all the firsts their female graduates had achieved over the years.

She will start at Smith in the fall and plans to live on the campus throughout her college career. About 97 percent of their students do.

Johnson has big plans for her future. Anyone who has spent any time visiting with her has little doubt that she will achieve them all.