Catch her if you can; Destinee Johnson is everywhere.
As if studying a full senior course-load in biochemistry wasn’t enough, you might see her leading an Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society meet-and-greet. She’s also seen in the West Center, teaching four different gym classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Take a trip into Rock Hill and you could see Johnson painting houses of the underprivileged as the service learning coordinator of the Winthrop University Honors Association. She may have been crowned Miss Anderson County 2012 in her sophomore year, but she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty to help others.
This semester, she’ll be logging countless hours in Sims Science Building, preparing results for her Honors thesis as she readies for graduation in May. The Johnsonian caught up with Johnson last Friday. She told us about her post-graduate plans, her commitment to fitness and a particularly formative game of UNO.
The Johnsonian: This is your senior year, a big one for you. How do you plan to spend it?
Destinee Johnson: “On top, definitely. President’s List is my goal. I’m still leading as the president of [ODK] and I want to make sure that I can lead the programs I have in a way that they can be stronger after I leave. I want to spend more hours in the lab this year and hopefully publish in a chemistry journal.”
TJ: What are you working on right now?
DJ: “I’m studying cellular copper homeostasis right now. I’m spending at least ten hours a week in the lab, minimum. We’re pushing for publication and my Honors thesis is a continuation of it. We have copper in our bodies, but the way our bodies regulate how much we have is a big process. We’re finding out how cells regulate that.”
TJ: I’ve heard you had a fun summer abroad. Tell me about that.
DJ: “Yeah, I got to do a Maymester program in Italy. I stayed with an Italian family, a mother and two sons, so that cultural immersion was great. I really loved the home stay experience, to be side by side with Italian teachers. I taught English classes for a middle school and even got to do a lot of weekend travel [to Venice and Florence]. It was a great experience and I wish I could have stayed longer. I feel like everything I learn is bringing me back to teaching. That experience, when I was in the classroom, side by side with the Italian teachers, helped me understand students with other languages. I feel like I can work with diverse populations better now. It’s all starting to come together.”
TJ: You’ve been working as an instructor at the West Center for a while now. Why is that a passion of yours?
DJ: “I have a background in track and field, starting in 7th grade, I was running track. My dad was a collegiate sprinter for Clemson University in the 80s. It’s always been a family thing. It was also my platform for my pageants. It allows you perfect fellowship time. It’s my goal in life to help people see that.”
TJ: What motivates you to be so successful in your academics, among every one of your other activities?
DJ: “I think I’m very competitive (laughs). I wanted to naturally succeed, but I wanted to also beat my classmates. My competitive spirit started at a young age, with my mom. She would not let me win unless I won on my own. She instilled that competitiveness in me. UNO was a favorite. She was teaching me card games, but I couldn’t claim the victory until I won it fairly. It taught me not to be mediocre and work hard.”
TJ: What’s the plan for senior year? What are you up to now?
DJ: Right now, I’m studying hard for the GRE, taking that in September. I have a list of ten schools I’d like to look at after I graduate. Some are for Master’s and some are doctorate schools. People always say, ‘you can’t apply to Stanford, they don’t know Winthrop.’ But I feel like I can provide hope for those coming after.