NEENAH — Noah Johnson set a goal when he started at St. Mary Catholic High School in the fall of 2014. He wanted his achievements to allow him to go to the college of his choice in the program of his choice. Goal accomplished.
Noah, the son of Sean Johnson and the late Dr. Gay Johnson, will attend Wichita State University in the fall of 2018 to study aerospace and mechanical engineering.
“Their program is one of the better programs in the country for aerospace,” he said. “My dad works for Insider Publications. They always do stories on the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), so he met the CEO and he led us to Wichita.”
Noah received support for college in the form of the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Initiative Scholarship. The recipient is selected by teachers and administrators. Requirements for the scholarship include the ability to overcome personal obstacles or other adversity, an academic record that represents maximum effort, and strong promise for success in a postsecondary environment.
Dr. Johnson, died on Aug. 17, 2017. She was initially diagnosed with melanoma before Noah’s first year at St. Mary Catholic.
“That was hard for me because it distracted me a lot from school and getting all my classroom work turned in on time,” he said. “She was really involved in the community and the school. She did a lot of stuff with the booster club and the concession stand for soccer.”
“I’m very proud of what Noah has accomplished, particularly with the events of the past year,” said Sean. “His drive to overcome and excel has been both a joy — and, quite honestly, a relief — to observe. His mother would be extremely proud of him.”
Dr. Johnson encouraged Noah to consider following in her footsteps in dentistry.
“She tried; she tried a lot,” he said with a laugh.
“She always told me to pursue what made me happy,” added Noah, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Neenah. “She knew that in the end that’s what really matters.”
During his four years of high school, Noah participated in the Vex Robotics program and played soccer for the Zephyrs. He hopes to start a Vex Robotics team at Wichita State.
“I came to St. Mary for robotics and the smaller class sizes,” he said. “Robotics is really interesting. It pushed me towards engineering. I can take a challenge, design something for that challenge and see it come to life in front of me.”
He added that he believes the success of the robotics teams at St. Mary Catholic is taken for granted.
“We are top 50 in the world,” he said. ”I’ve been to world’s (championships) three times, which is pretty good for any high schooler. Every year they’ve had a world championship, we’ve qualified for it. The past nine years, they’ve gone. We’ve had a pretty good track record. I don’t think people realize the caliber of the program.”
Noah overcame an injury to earn all-Big East Conference honors as a midfielder in soccer in the fall. He also found time for service in high school, including serving as a volunteer for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) days at St. Mary Catholic.
“Through robotics, we do mentoring, instructing younger students to get them into STEM,” he explained. “STEM is the way of the future. The earlier you can get their interest peaked in it, the more they can learn, the more they can get involved. We have a bunch of third through sixth graders come in and we show them what robotics is about. We fly drones and have the robots travel around.”
For the past four years, Noah has served as a camp counselor for SOAR Fox Cities, Inc., an organization whose motto is “Empowering People with Differing Abilities.”
“I just kind of happened upon it. I heard about it through some friends,” said Noah. “It’s really enjoyable because I get to help people who don’t have the same advantages that I have. I’m a counselor at the camp on Onaway Island on the Chain O’ Lakes (near Waupaca). My job is to take care of the campers and make sure they get to where they need to be when they need to be. Overall, I help to make sure they have a good time. The counselors are a really good group of people that I enjoy being around.”
Noah will be joining his older brother, Josh, in the field of engineering. Josh studies chemical engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
“My mom was a dentist and my dad is a journalist, so you can see who we got (the science interest) from,” said Noah with a smile.
Sarah Pamer, communications coordinator for St. Mary Catholic Schools, contributed to this story.