Top-honor graduate keeps individuals informed
Top-honor graduate keeps individuals informed
V aledictorian and International English Honor Society member Jonesha Johnson, ’20, has a strong drive to educate others through the power of writing. The double major earned her degree in English and liberal studies in three years, with the help of dual enrollment and Georgia College faculty. Now, she is an upcoming digital entrepreneur, who wants to create her own organization for overlooked and underrepresented populations.
She would do this via YouTube called “ToMyPeople”—slated to launch in August. Her You Tube channel will offer visual storytelling in a hybrid documentary series blending poetry, music and film and interviews of rural residents.
“I’ll take people behind-the-scenes on my creative process and my journey with literary journals,” Johnson said.
Earning the rank of valedictorian, which means a perfect 4.0 GPA, wasn’t easy. Johnson always tried to stay an assignment or two ahead. During her time there, she was homesick, so she confided in her professors.
“School has always been serious to me,” she said. “I never took one of Dr. Beauty Bragg’s classes, but I cried in her office,” Johnson said. “She was always willing to sit down and chat or give me a pep talk.”
Dr. Hali Sofala Jones was her poetry professor whose homey office had lots of books Johnson liked to borrow. Jones and Bragg helped Johnson meet Alice Walker at her 75th birthday celebration in Eatonton—"an event that changed my life,” Johnson said.
She credits Dr. Marty Lammon for providing genuine, professional advice. He gave Johnson enormous support during her senior seminar course, which capped off her undergraduate career. Associate Professor Laura Newbern taught that capstone course, opening the literary world of writers for Johnson.
“She taught me to send works to literary journals, whose content I actually like, that publish writers I can see my work next to,” Johnson said. “I definitely plan to do my research and submit to journals accordingly.”
Other professors challenged her to think critically, as well.
“This skill is so pivotal for all writers, but especially for my primary genre, poetry, in which the slightest of syllables and line breaks matter indefinitely to the message, subject and being of the poem,” she said.
Although Johnson’s creative writing classes prepared her for her profession by building her skills in poetry, her literature-based English courses, Spanish courses and writing internships taught her one of the most instrumental lessons in developing as a person.
“My professors taught me how to formulate ideas into articulate meaning and to bend meaning and shape it to fit whatever it is I want to say,” she said. “Becoming ‘a steward of the English language,’ in the words of my senior seminar professor, was the best decision I ever made.”
Johnson’s creative writing professors taught her that inspiration can be drawn from anywhere.
“So, whenever I go out to those back woods of Terrell County or flip by a watered-down picture about slavery on television, I write,” Johnson said. “I draw from all these different facets of life, including music, heritage, death and birth in my poems and will feature many of them in my ToMyPeople series.”
Her time as a poetry editor for Peacock's Feet—Georgia College’s undergraduate literary journal—also provided her with a good foundation for the working world. Last summer, Johnson was an intern for The Atlanta Voice—the largest audited African-American community newspaper in Georgia. Her feature “Unconventional Spending: Five unique ways Black families can cut costs in Atlanta” helped open more doors for Johnson.
“It felt surreal when I saw my story with my name on the front page,” she said. “It was my first-ever publication. I was so happy. I still have at least three copies of that newspaper.”
While at Georgia College, she was also a student researcher and writer for Black Farmers’ Network where she compiled data, developed news stories and posted content on social media about the Black Belt Region, which includes her hometown of Albany.
“I enjoyed the warmth of belonging the most,” she said. “Dr. Womack and Kimberly Moore of Georgia College and Candace Dantes of the Black Farmers Network, gave me the welcome feeling I needed.”
“I didn't just get something nice to put on my resume; I got a support system of amazing women who look like me who make it their business to give back,” she said. “I watched and learned and will do the same for my community in southwest Georgia.”
Johnson also draws on her experience from an internship with University Communications, where she helped create podcasts and gained valuable experience in using cameras, microphones and editing equipment.
Johnson returned to her hometown and looks forward to informing individuals around the world.
“At the end of the day, I'm making a difference by telling stories of my people to my people, and my people are anyone open to hearing,” she said. “Perhaps I can aid in people of all ages, helping them realize that majoring in English and liberal studies or any art is beneficial and are ‘real’ majors that can provide a ‘real’ and satisfying career.”
-Top photo credit: Kevin Dantes courtesy of Black Farmers' Network