Travis Johnson is an example of how when young people are reared with a proper value system, they can soar - no matter their ZIP Code or where they come from.
Born and raised in Lynchburg, Johnson, 16, is a 10th-grader at Crestwood High School, but he's not your average 10th-grader.
Johnson is sophomore class president at Crestwood, loves public speaking, possesses a 4.917 GPA and is just now stepping into opportunities afforded to the brightest youth in the area and state.
He credits his parents' influence, strong teachers, faculty and staff at Crestwood and God for his success. He appears to have the make-up for success later in life, and it's hard to argue with the results so far.
In conversation with Johnson, he appears to be a natural at public speaking, and he says it's something he's very passionate about. He says that passion started when he was in first grade in 2008 and listened with his parents at his Lynchburg home to then-President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago.
Johnson said he learned from Obama's speech that words have power and can be used to make a difference in life. He said he wants to use his public speaking talent to make the world a better place.
Johnson said Obama's victory speech also affected his own aspirations and goals.
"I was ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy, seeing someone who looks like you accomplishing such a big feat," Johnson said. "It basically told me: 'Set your dreams high because you can achieve anything.'"
He said his public speaking began in the fifth grade at R.E. Davis Elementary School when he spoke at graduation.
In eighth grade at Mayewood Middle School, Johnson said he was student council president. He has been class president both of his years so far at Crestwood.
Also, when his church - Mt. Zion Free Will Baptist Church in Olanta - has a fifth-Sunday-of-the-month service, he leads a devotional prayer and sings for the congregation.
Johnson said he wouldn't be where he is today without a reliance on God and the nurturing of his parents, Derick and Elaine Johnson.
His goals include attending Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and graduating from the college's law school.
He says he considers Obama his biggest role model and, like the former president, he wants to become a lawyer in order to defend issues and fight for what he believes in.
As a member of the school's chapter of Future Business Leaders of America and as an officer on its Southern Regional Council, last summer he competed in a national public speaking competition in Anaheim, California.
He also attended a South Carolina Governor's School Creative Writing Program in Greenville last summer and visited the Pentagon and Congress in Washington, D.C., as part of a National Youth Leadership Forum.
After completing this school year, Johnson plans to enroll with about a dozen other Crestwood juniors in University of South Carolina Sumter's Early College program. The program involves a 61-credit-hour curriculum taken entirely on the USC Sumter campus with the college's professors. The program includes dual-credit courses, allowing Johnson to graduate high school with an associate degree also in hand.
Because he's planning to go to college out of state after high school, he said he realizes none of those college credit hours will likely transfer over but that he still wants to do the Early College program.
"It will give me the opportunity to get in a college environment early and get accustomed to being on a college campus," Johnson said.
Crestwood Principal Shirley Gamble said Johnson serves as a role model for other students at the high school.
"Travis is a leader academically, and he's actively involved in clubs," Gamble said. "He will seek out opportunities in which he can excel. He's also so respectful to adults and also to his peers. When he sees his peers maybe demonstrating unacceptable behaviors, Travis will speak up and talk to his peers and ask them to re-think their decision making."