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Sarah Johnson Follows Her Heart to STLCC

October 13, 2016

Sarah Johnson  
Sarah Johnson

“Suivez votre cœur” is a French phrase Sarah Johnson holds dear. She even has it escribed across her clavicle.

Translated in English, it means, “Follow your heart.” These words have led her to pursue her career goals nearly 8,000 miles from home.  

A self-described “missionary kid,” Johnson was raised in Bujumbura, Burundi. Growing up in Africa, she spent time supporting her parents’ missionary work at schools for deaf and blind individuals and homes for abandoned babies. Together, these experiences instilled in her a desire to help others.

Now as a student at St. Louis Community College’s Wildwood campus, Johnson is on the path to building a career that will enable her to do just that.

Johnson enrolled at STLCC in 2014, shortly after becoming a U.S. citizen. In December, she will complete her associate degree in general transfer studies. From there, she plans to pursue a career in speech pathology, eventually earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Jenna Mueller, faculty member at STLCC, isn’t surprised by Johnson’s career ambitions.

“Sarah is a helper through and through,” Muller said. “Her positive attitude is infectious. When others are struggling, she is the first to respond with actions or words.”

After earning her credentials, Johnson’s ultimate goal is to work in Africa, providing speech therapy services to children and adults in need. Her decision to pursue this career is deeply personal.

“I’ve watched my younger brother struggle to speak because of epilepsy,” Johnson said. “His personal battle has motivated me to follow my heart and become a speech therapist.”

When making her college decision, Johnson had to be conscious of the cost for two reasons. She is the eldest of 10 adopted siblings, and the first in her family to study in the United States.

Sarah Johnson in France  
Sarah Johnson received a Benjamin A. Gilman International
Scholarship and spent the summer studying in France.

“I chose to start my educational career at STLCC because of its value and the fact that I have family in the area,” she said. “Looking back, it was the smartest decision I ever made. While I had some doubts about starting at a community college, some of the best opportunities I’ve had have come from my experiences at STLCC.”

Among those, Johnson has made lifelong friends through her classes and her involvement on campus. In addition to being a member of the Fine Arts Club, she serves as vice president of Psychology Club and president of Wildwood’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.

Moreover, she was awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad. Through this unique program, she had the opportunity to spend her summer in Paris, France, studying languages at AllianceFrançaise.

Faculty member Kimberlee Vaughn described Johnson as a joy to have in class.

“Sarah’s energy and dedication to achieving her academic goals is both admirable and refreshing,” said Vaughn. “She is an inquisitive person on the path to success.”

As Johnson prepares to graduate from STLCC, she is in the midst of applying for scholarships to further her education. While she has years of college ahead of her, she is committed to achieving her goals.

“Growing up in Africa, I saw first-hand the critical need for enhanced health and behavioral services,” she said. “I carry my home wherever I go, and I’m determined to follow my heart and help others.”