‘The opportunity of a lifetime'
First-generation college student Kania Johnson says that receiving the first-ever Josie Johnson Fellowship has given her “the opportunity of a lifetime” to pursue her goals around inclusive education for all students.
Johnson—a first-year master of public policy candidate in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs—grew up on St. Paul’s west side, attended Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, and was a standout basketball and track athlete.
She began her undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri, where her love of research blossomed. Johnson then transferred to the University of Minnesota for her senior year and completed her degree in family social science this past May. In just one year she made quite an impression; she was chosen to deliver the student address at the College of Education and Human Development’s commencement ceremony.
She conducted another research project last summer, as a McNair Scholar, which examined how experts on racial inequality in the Twin Cities talk about the topic based on their proximity to the communities they serve. “My eyes were opened,” she says. “I hadn’t realized the extent of the disparities in education, housing, and unemployment in the Twin Cities area.”
Her decision to study public affairs at the Humphrey School grew out of her desire to address the inequalities she was seeing.
“I find myself asking questions about why schools are failing. Why are black students underperforming? Why are their schools under-resourced?” Johnson says. “People who are implementing policies don’t have the same lived experiences as I do. How can I help kids so they have time to learn, and so they can advocate for themselves?”