Joey Johnson is the kind of student who motivates the faculty at Georgia Highlands.Â His is a story like so many GHC students â€“ but it is also one of the most inspirational and successful. Johnson, who currently works at GHC as a college recruiter, grew up in Cedartown and attended public school there.Â To hear him tell it, he wasnâ€™t a stellar student.Â In fact, he was pretty mediocre.Â What a difference a few years makes.
Because he didnâ€™t take much interest in school, he went straight to work from high school.Â He got a job at Engineered Fabrics (now Meggit Polymers), where he worked his way up to supervisor.Â He also learned a lot about chemistry.Â Because his company worked with dangerous chemicals, some of which make good bombs, it gave creative labels to some of its most dangerous compounds.Â Nevertheless, he learned the chemical names for them as well.
Johnson worked his way up to supervisor.Â While there, he got married and had a daughter.Â His wife wanted to become a nurse, a pursuit he energetically encouraged.Â To his surprise, she also wanted him to go to college.Â Thatâ€™s the way they both ended up at Georgia Highlands as students.Â Coming back to school after five years wasnâ€™t easy.Â He worked the overnight shift and helped care for his one-year-old daughter while attending classes part-time.
Ultimately, his wife Jessica got her degree in nursing, and he discovered he had an insatiable intellectual curiosity.Â He had already learned at his job that he was interested in science.Â As he pursued his core courses at GHC, he also found that he wanted to become a physician.Â So he earned four associate degrees at Highlands â€“ in philosophy, psychology, English and foreign languages.Â He began working at Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital at the same time that he went from part-time to full-time status as a student.Â To help financially, he tutored pre-nursing students.
When he had learned all he believed to be pertinent to becoming a peopleâ€™s doctor â€“ not just a scientist or business man, not just a diagnostician or surgical artist, but a doctor who listens, one who sees pain and uncertainty in his patientsâ€™ eyes, one who answers questions and takes time and calls back â€“ he decided to leave GHC and transfer to Shorter University.Â He had a 4.0 grade point average, so he received a full scholarship from the honors society Phi Theta Kappa.
Again, Johnson didnâ€™t stop with just one degree.Â He majored biology and religion, the former as a prerequisite to medical school and the latter to deal more fully with patient concerns.Â He just graduated summa cum laude last May.
Now heâ€™s come full circle, and heâ€™s back at Georgia Highlands.Â This time, however, he does the advising rather than seeking it from others.Â As an admissions recruiter, he relates well to students who may be the first in their families to attend college.Â So he tells them honestly what to expect.Â He walks them through the process.Â He gets them the best financial aid advice.Â How could anyone else relate to them as well?
He is deferring medical school for two years to save money for that lengthy and grueling venture.Â Meanwhile, he is interviewing soon at Georgia Health Sciences University (his first choice), Virginia Tech and Ohio State University.Â He hopes to stay close to home, but will go to the best program where he can get scholarship help.
He has chosen family medicine as a concentration because he truly wants to care for the whole person, not just that personâ€™s medical condition.Â He wants to contribute to the community where he lives and works.Â He wants his children to learn community service, and he believes he can do that only by serving as an example.Â Johnson says that contemporary medical practice is shaped by political philosophy, not personal preference.Â And while he canâ€™t change political policies, he can still exhibit compassion and genuine interest in those around him, including his patients.
So GHC has him for another year â€“ this soft-spoken, gentle man who wants to make the world a little better than he found it.Â Who wants his family to feel secure.Â Who wants to help people.Â Heâ€™s part of the college family, and always will be.Â Johnson is the face of so many GHC students.Â Non-traditionals who went back after working for a while, simply wanting more.Â Those who are the first in their families to attend.Â Those who want a better world.Â He went from poor high-school student to outstanding college student.Â Thereâ€™s no doubt that he will also become a physician among few â€“ who are successful not because of the money they amass but because of the wealth their legacy will provide.Â One that improves individual conditions and uplifts his community.