“I want to go home, pet my dogs, sleep in my bed and not be needed,” says Drew Johnson, outgoing Student Senate President.
Johnson, who graduates next week, has served as president since fall 2014. He is a communications major with a public advocacy concentration and minors in political science and philosophy.
“Some people really get caught up in the Obama comparison,” explains Johnson. “The parallels are pretty cool. He’s literally my idol. I know I can do anything I want because Barack Obama did what he did.”
Johnson was the first African American elected as Student Senate President at ESU. Since his election, one of his main goals has been diversification and “cultural competency.”
“If you go to the Senate chambers and look at the composite photos, it was very homogeneous. You had your typical political science/history major. [It was] mostly all residential students, all of one descent. And now we have hit diversity on every single one of its nails.”
In addition to his work in the Senate, Johnson has also worked as an orientation leader.
“As a tour guide or an orientation leader, we always say ‘this is the most diverse student population in the state system of higher education. Race, religion, sexual orientation; we’ve got it all here!’” says Johnson. “But what does that mean when the voice of the student body doesn’t reflect that diversity? Are those voices being represented?”
Johnson is most proud to say that he believes Senate now represents our diverse campus: “I am the first African American to have held this position, and I absolutely love that, but I also love that now our senate reflects so much more than just that.”
“Everybody should feel like their voice is being heard,” says Johnson, and he believes a diverse senate is the most effective way to accomplish this task.
Johnson says he is both excited and anxious for graduation. He wants to work in a public service field. “I like the fight,” he explains. “I like the idea of advocating on behalf of communities who have the ideas they need. They know what they want, but they don’t really know what steps they need to take in order to get it.”
Until graduation, though, Johnson plans to continue to focus his efforts on the university and its students. “I’ll focus on me May 10,” he insists. “I just want to make sure that everybody else is good and all ends are tied here.”
Following graduation, Johnson will miss a lot about ESU. “I will miss my seat at the table,” he explains. “I’m going to graduate and be an associate of something or have to take someone’s directions and probably go get someone coffee and it’s going to kill me.”
“I really want to get to a place where I can effect change, and I know that the senate allowed me to do that. I’m going to miss impact, I’m going to miss change and I’m going to miss helping people for the better.”
Johnson explains that the moments that humble him the most are the moments when students tell him he has affected their lives.
“I am thankful for the Facebook messages on a Tuesday at 1 a.m. from some random kid who’s saying ‘you truly inspired me.’ I just love having an impact on people’s lives.”
Coming to ESU from his hometown of Lansdowne, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, Johnson had to adjust to the small town community.
“[In Lansdowne] people don’t say ‘hi,’” Johnson says, “They don’t hold doors, and they don’t ask how you’re doing and actually wait for your response. I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss people being genuine, and I’m going to miss the comfort of feeling at home here.”
Johnson emphasizes the importance of making sure your voice is heard. Student Senate, he says, is here for your benefit.
“Make Student Senate work for you. I never felt silenced, and I never felt defeated and neither should anyone else,” says Johnson.
“No one is a mind reader. You have to be able to speak up for yourself because no one knows how you feel unless you voice it.”
Johnson also wants to encourage students to make the most of the opportunities presented to them in their time at ESU.
“Take full responsibility and take full advantage of your college experience. College is where you’re supposed to find yourself. I found exactly what I was made of sophomore year.”
Johnson is very proud of how he has distinguished himself at ESU. As a legacy student, Johnson followed his brother to the university. Johnson’s older brother was captain of the basketball team and led ESU to an NCAA tournament and two PSAC championships.
“To help out with that Johnson name, but not have to be tall and dribble a basketball in order to do it was the goal,” explains Johnson. “He has been my biggest cheerleader for sure, and likewise.”
When he has graduates, Johnson hopes that ESU will continue the discussion of diversity.
“ESU has a lot more work to do,” he says. “To those of you who are going to be here post-2016: Be better than us. If you hated something we did, do it better than us. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
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