Amanda-Johnson-2Young Alumni Award – Reunion 2014

A Drew International Seminar changed Amanda Johnson’s mind, and changed the direction of her life.

Amanda, a Boston-area native, was attracted to Drew by its international study programs. In addition to her major in art history and minors in Spanish and writing, she enrolled in two Drew International Seminars—one in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and one in Eritrea. It was the Eritrea seminar that significantly changed her thinking. She says it really opened her eyes to the world, and taught her that she would find her own fulfillment in working toward the greater good. Although Amanda had expected to work in publishing after Drew, the Eritrea experience led her toward education. Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) drew her to Columbia University’s Teachers College, where she earned a master’s degree in applied linguistics in 2008.

Amanda did not suspect that her 12 years of figure skating (before college) would connect with her interest in education. While at Teachers College, she discovered Figure Skating in Harlem, a pioneering nonprofit after-school enrichment program that uses the discipline of figure skating to help girls achieve academic success, physical health and emotional well-being. She began as a coach; by 2007 she was the assistant skating director, then academic coordinator in 2009 and director of programming the next year. During these years she also was an adjunct lecturer, teaching ESL in several colleges of the City University of New York, at Pratt Institute and at the American Language Institute at New York University.

Within a few years, Amanda had achieved significant knowledge and expertise in educational nonprofit management. At Figure Skating in Harlem, she worked with students in the Oliver Scholars Program, an organization that seeks young people of African and Latino descent in New York City and enables them not only to gain admission to, but to succeed in, leading independent schools and colleges. The goals of the Oliver Scholars Program appealed to Amanda, and at Oliver she now has another opportunity to aid deserving students as they work toward success in their academic and future lives. She began at Oliver in 2013 as chief of staff, with significant responsibilities that included project coordination, communication, organization, financial oversight, recruitment and fundraising. When the organization began to seek a new executive director, she was chosen to serve during the interim, revealing just one measure of her success.

Amanda, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is grateful for her parents’ encouragement, and for the opportunity to see young people grow and develop through her work. She is a sports fan, loves to travel and does freelance photography when time allows.