Going Far: Britt Johnson put his siblings through school, now it’s his turn
After dropping out at 17, Johnson sets his sights on his degree, law school and beyond.
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Written by: Emily Hollingshead
On March 15, Britt Johnson stood before the Seminole State College of Florida Board of Trustees and shared a story of self-motivation, discipline and perseverance. His story.
“At 17 I dropped out of school to help my mother with my younger siblings,” Johnson told the board. “So I worked my way up in the fast-food restaurant, I eventually became a general manager even without a high school diploma and I put my siblings through school. After they got done with school, I was telling myself that this ain’t it. I want my own education.”
On the Fast Track
In January 2020, at age 34 Johnson returned to his education, enrolling in Orange Technical College to earn his GED, which he was told typically takes six to eight months. He completed it in just 30 days.
Despite a global pandemic, Johnson began school at Seminole State that same summer, where one of the first classes he took was a Fundamental Law course. He had long been interested in politics and the law, and initially was in the legal assistant/paralegal associate program. However, after learning more, Johnson changed his mind. “I want to be a lawyer. I want to argue for the court. I want to construct the case and I want to defend people’s rights,” he said and switched to Seminole State’s Associate in Arts (A.A.) Legal Studies pathway.
Johnson is on track to graduate with his A.A. in just one year from Seminole State, taking on five classes a semester and working at the nonprofit Christian HELP, which helps families find employment, food and spiritual support. He credits the experience he gained working as a general manager to how he juggles his responsibilities. “Working in a restaurant and being in charge of people teaches you discipline, and you have to be disciplined to take courses,” he said. “It teaches you how to coexist with people who have different views than you and get people to work together.”
Excellence Through Involvement
Johnson jumped into his education with both feet, joining the Grindle Honors Institute, the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and attending the meet-ups that Professor of Legal Studies Jordan Camenker organized for his classes at Panera so they could discuss the course or ask questions about assignments. Camenker suggested he take over as president of the law club where Johnson organized a virtual trip to the Florida Supreme Court. They got to talk to Justice Jamie Grosshans, a Central Florida native, about what they could do as undergraduates to improve their law school applications.
That is not to say that Johnson didn’t have any doubts. He admits to struggling with worries before enrolling, wondering if he could tackle college after being out so long. “But I eventually took that first step and got enrolled in that first semester, and I was so proud of myself because I made the President’s List [a distinction for students with a GPA of 3.75 or higher],” he said. “That was a big thing for me because that showed I was proficient at something I wanted to do for my life.”
A major accomplishment was when I got my high school diploma. That really changed the whole narrative and outlook of my life.Britt Johnson.
Recently, Johnson appeared alongside Seminole State President Dr. Georgia Lorenz and Vice President of Student Affairs Johnny Craig on The Barbershop Conversation to encourage other Central Floridians to go back to school. “A major accomplishment was when I got my high school diploma. That really changed the whole narrative and outlook of my life,” said Johnson who viewed it as the starting point that opened up all his following opportunities.
“Thirty days to a high school diploma, Seminole State in a year, and now he is on to UCF. This young man is a testament to Seminole County,” Craig said of Johnson during The Barbershop Conversation show.
The Path Forward
While his path may have been non-traditional, Johnson relied on his experiences in the workforce to excel in his academic life, and his willingness to get involved to propel him professionally. “Once I became a recipient of the ‘We Change Lives’ award that really made me feel like I was in the ball game,” he said.
Currently, he is on track to graduate from Seminole State and use the DirectConnect program to attend UCF to pursue his bachelor’s degree in political science. Looking ahead further he hopes to attend law school and focus on civil law and human rights. He now knows the sky is the limit as to what his future holds and has considered becoming a judge, a United States solicitor general or even going into politics to better his community.
Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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