Editor's note: This is the eighth in a series of articles highlighting local students and their accomplishments, in order to encourage young people to complete school and achieve their dreams.
ELKINS - A 2010 Elkins High School graduate said she has learned that there is more than one right answer to life.
Morgan Johnson, who was valedictorian of her class, said she always thought she had to follow set rules, color inside of the lines, and walk a predetermined path.
"Life isn't a ten step process or a list," Johnson said. "Sometimes life doesn't go the way you think it should, and that is okay as long as you don't give up on your dreams."
While she was in high school, Johnson was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honors Society and senior class treasurer.
With all of her accomplishments, she said she still faced some challenges.
"I played three sports, and took advanced placement and honors courses, so time management was always a challenge," she said. "I am glad that I got good at this in high school, because in college you have much more freedom, and I do best on a schedule."
Johnson said she credits many of her teachers with helping her achieve her goals.
"When I was in high school, I generally enjoyed all of my teachers," Johnson said. "They all helped me learn something different, and I respect them all very much. Two high school instructors that stand out in my mind, however, are Donna Isner and Joann Gable. Both teachers taught English, which was admittedly not my favorite subject."
Johnson said she had Isner for tenth and eleventh grade AP English, where she struggled at first.
"I was not always the best at the material or writing essays," she said. "I am very grateful for Mrs. Isner's patience and desire to teach, because she found me at her desk asking questions or wanting extra writing advice often. Although this was mostly because of my pedantic nature and somewhat perfectionist persona, she understood my drive and found my work ethic endearing. Over the course of two years, thanks to her, my writing skills improved vastly."
Johnson said Gabel was a huge help as well.
"I was in Joann Gabel's twelfth grade AP English class," Johnson said. "Her compassion for teaching and overall kindness towards people was very inspiring. She always seemed to have an uplifting demeanor even when she wasn't having the best day. Her unwavering confidence in my intellectual abilities has helped me to be strong willed in pursuit to achieve my dreams."
Inspirational instructors were not limited to Johnson's high school career. Barbara Criss, a fifth grade teacher at Midland Elementary School also had a great impact on Johnson's life.
"Mrs. Criss was the first teacher to recognize and voice my need for a higher challenge and advanced materials in school," Johnson said. She was my mentor for confirmation class at the First United Methodists Church. I am very grateful for this wonderful person and teacher, because she started me on the path I'm on for my education and my walk with God."
Johnson has advice to help those still in high school.
"Take advantage of the educational opportunities before you," she said. "Whether that's the higher level science, math and English courses, or exploring an interest in art or music, or learning a skill in the vo-tech center, don't waste time and resources available to you now. Also, make sure to thank those that help you along the way including parents, teachers, coaches and friends."
Johnson said some things in everyday life have changed since high school.
"I now am constantly checking food labels because of a gluten allergy and to help my body be healthier," she said. "Also, although I knew it would happen, I was definitely in denial about having to use a washer and dryer."
Johnson said her college career has been a great experience.
"I have conducted research at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University and at Shepherd University," Johnson said. I played on the women's basketball team for three years, and have had many adventures around Shepherdstown and in D.C. with friends."
"After college I will be attending medical school in hope of pursuing a career in orthopedics or intervention radiology, but I am not holding myself strictly to a specialty."