By Elizabeth A. Davis ’86
A.J. Johnson is an inquisitive leader and stellar athlete, and what she really loves and hopes to pursue as a career is math and science. Johnson ’10, now a senior at Baylor, credits Bright School’s morning math program with fueling her interest in that particular subject.
“(Bright) was when I first got into math,” she said. “I had Mrs. Little (in fifth grade), and we did math problems in the morning in the Kilbride Enrichment Center. That was when I really started to like math.” Morning math is open to first through fifth graders and takes place Wednesdays before school. Parents volunteer to lead small groups through math problems.
Johnson excels in math and has completed all available courses at Baylor after skipping pre-algebra early on and completing calculus and BC calculus before this year. Her coarse load includes AP Biology, AP physics, AP statistics and abstract math.
She enjoys “experimenting and creating things” in science and fondly remembers Bright science with Mrs. McMillan. The past two summers, she spent a week at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as part of HITES (High School Introduction to Engineering Systems). “Last year, I shadowed a professor working on surgical robots,” she said. Johnson and her fellow students got to make their own versions of the robots and prototypes.
Last summer, she also went to Washington, D.C., on the David M. Abshire Civic Leadership trip, which is connected to the Center for the Study of the Presidency and the late Abshire, who graduated in the Bright class of 1938 and was president and CEO of the center. Students learned about how to run a political campaign and other government activities, and it piqued Johnson’s interest in possibly running for a local office one day. “It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had a Baylor,” she said.
Johnson was one of 15 Baylor seniors selected to the school’s 75th Round Table, a literary discussion group. She was elected president of the group, which also includes faculty members in the discussions. Johnson called it “the biggest honor I’ve had,” and “one of the first times I’ve been able to discuss literature with teachers as an intellectual rather than a student.”
Softball season is in full swing, and she hopes to help win a fourth state championship. Johnson plays center field and has been on the varsity team since eighth grade. Last season, she was named to the first team in the Best of the Preps by the Chattanooga Times Free Press after hitting .519, notching 59 RBIs and scoring 54 runs. Johnson has been playing softball since she was 5. “My mom tried to get me into dance, but as soon as I played softball for the first time, I fell in love with it,” she said.
Johnson also plays softball in the summer on the Frost Falcons team and has traveled across the Southeast plus California, Texas and Colorado. “I am a competitive person. Softball is my outlet for that. When my select team won state that year, I wanted to win so bad because we were in the loser’s bracket and we had been playing all day and it was about 100 degrees outside,” she said.
When she is not studying or playing softball at school, Johnson also participates in community service. She has been tutoring a third grader from Chattanooga Charter School.
To be able to manage all this and remain an outstanding student, Johnson reflects on her experience at Bright. She still remembers lines to the plays she was in, her fifth grade trip, scooter races in P.E., fifth grade-kindergarten buddies and her fourth grade state project, which was Missouri. “When I got to middle school here, I was well prepared for the journey and opportunities ahead of me,” she said.