Crestwood High School junior 1 of 2 in state chosen for United States Senate Youth Program

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 12/11/18

Many high school juniors are still thinking about college applications, but one Crestwood High School third-year is already almost halfway through his associate degree and now has his sights set on a prestigious scholarship program that will land …

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Crestwood High School junior 1 of 2 in state chosen for United States Senate Youth Program

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Many high school juniors are still thinking about college applications, but one Crestwood High School third-year is already almost halfway through his associate degree and now has his sights set on a prestigious scholarship program that will land him in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Travis Johnson is one of only two students in the state to be selected as a delegate to the 57th-annual United States Senate Youth Program, an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where 104 of the nation's "most outstanding high school students, two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity" participate in an intensive week-long study of the federal government.

Johnson and the other delegates will have the opportunity to meet with senators, cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense, directors of other federal agencies, a Supreme Court justice and the president.

"That's not really an opportunity the average American gets to go to. The only time I've met my senator was on a plane, and it was a two-minute-long interaction," the Lynchburg resident said.

Johnson and the other South Carolina delegate, a senior at Socastee High School in Horry County, were chosen by State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, who said in a news release that the two "represent the very best of our students in South Carolina," noting the nomination process was "rigorous and extremely competitive."

Johnson, who also serves as the South Carolina Future Business Leaders of America state president, said he has been interested in politics and the idea of making positive change in the lives of Americans since 2008 when Barack Obama became president. Now, he said, he wants to go into politics to inspire others the way he felt inspired by Obama.

"[Politicians] have the ability to create change and improve someone's situation so they can grow up to achieve the American Dream," he said.

The trip, happening in March, was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by the Hearst Foundation since its inception, so no government funds are used. All participants also receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue their educational coursework in government, history and public affairs.

Johnson said he wants to attend college out of state after he graduates high school with an associate degree - he has already earned all the credits he needs to graduate high school - and study political science to either become a prosecutor or a corporate attorney.

He said he was in "complete disbelief" and was "taken aback" when he found out he was one of the two applicants Spearman chose, even though he felt confident in how his interview went in November.

Shirley Nelson, his guidance counselor at Crestwood, said Spearman couldn't have chosen a better person to represent South Carolina.

"He's a leader, but at the same time, he doesn't have to lead. He works really well in the background ... you know how some leaders have to always be the main person. He lets people do their own thing and could also help and organize things without taking all the credit," Nelson said.

She said he was taught to be highly motivated and had his strong sense of work ethic instilled in him through the support of his family.

"Wherever he turns, there's a support system there. At home, here, his friends, he surrounds himself with positive people," she said. "Every time I see him, he laughs and has fun but has a focus."

She said he participates in the student-to-student program at Crestwood where older students introduce themselves to new students to make them feel more comfortable.

Johnson agreed his parents play a role in his success.

"They taught me to set a goal and to never give up until you reach it," he said. "Because they held high standards for me and my [four older] siblings, I reach for the stars."