By TERRI JOHNSON
With the new year right around the corner, the thought of reaching goals and making resolutions is at the forefront of thought for many. Four Minico graduates who attend the University of Idaho talked about grades, leadership, service and their goals. Paige Johnson, Michael Shea O’Donnell, Michelle White and Cody Lopez met at the home of Dr. Dac and Lori Johnson’s, Paige’s parents last weekend. These friends have all reached pinnacles of leadership and academics at the U of I in each of their respective educational pursuits. All four have made the Dean’s list and serve their fellow students and the community in sororities and a fraternity in spite of demanding classes and majors. Three of them are majoring in psychology. Two of those are pre-med students who also have a minor focus in a foreign language. The fourth one is majoring in math and secondary education with a minor in chemistry.
So what things have they learned since they left Minico and what would they say to encourage their younger peers in furthering their education?
“Go to college,” said Johnson. “You will learn a lot about yourself when you go. Take that leap.” One important thing she has learned and the others agreed is that it is possible to survive, even thrive away from home.
White who is a junior at U of I, first went to Utah State and came home quite often.
“I needed to go somewhere that I couldn’t come home all the time,” she said. “I needed to learn to stand on my own two feet.”
O’Donnell noted that being on your own and learning to make your own way is part of being independent and making choices.
“I wanted a sink or swim experience,” she said. “I think everyone needs to know they can make it on their own.”
All of them credited family support for part of their success.
“I am a first generation college student,” said Lopez. “My parents are living this college experience with me.” Lopez is involved as a leader in a fraternity, Theta Chi, which is first in the entire university for grades.
“My parents were not glad about the fraternity thing because of the stereotype,” he said. “But now they see what it is all about and they support me.” That stereotype includes hazing. The four noted that the U of I and each individual sorority or fraternity has very strict rules regarding these issues.
“There is no hazing allowed,” said Johnson who serves her sorority, Kappa Delta as the vice president in charge of member education. “That is the first thing we tell new members.”
Part of their participation in sororities and fraternities includes giving service. They noted helping with eye screenings for children, building confidence in girls and women by working with Girl Scouts and Campfire girls. Lopez and his fraternity have teamed up with businesses such as Pepsi to raise money for a fellow brother who was injured last summer.
“Dance and basketball were his life,” Lopez noted about his friend Shoup. “Now he is paralyzed from the neck down. We are helping raise money for his family to pay for medical needs.”
The four were adamant about encouraging others to go on to college.
“College is about growing up,” said O’Donnell, a pre-med student. “Go into it with big dreams. Some of them won’t work out, but you will learn to accept that and become more flexible and realistic.”
The four of them are looking to graduation from the four year institution in the next year or two. Then what? They want to travel and study abroad. The pre-med students have years of education ahead of them yet. White wants to teach.
“Never give up on your goals,” they agreed and noted that to make a difference in the world a person needs to “build more aspects of your character” and “reach out to the world.”
“Watch these kids,” said Lori Johnson, one of the parents. “They are going to change the world for the better.”