Meet Shona Johnson

By Mary Edet, Shona’s Program Coordinator

Shona’s involvement in FRIENDS FIRST programs over the past 6 years is unprecedented. Shona has exhibited enthusiasm and positivity when it comes to STARS. She is a mentor who takes the time to truly listen to her mentees, offering help, encouragement, and advice at all the right times. When she found out she was not able to be a mentor this year because of her school schedule, it nearly broke her heart. However, she rallied her attitude, made sure she could still attend the STARS National Conference, and made the choice to make lemonade out of the lemons.

Over the course of time I’ve known Shona and her family, I have seen her walk with dignity through some very trying times. During her 8th grade year, Shona experienced the difficulty of middle school in a compounded way. Her two best friends moved out of state, her social circles continued to turn against her and subjected her to physical and emotional bullying, both physically and emotionally; her parents were going through a complicated divorce; and at first, the only ways she thought to cope were through self-harm in the form of cutting, and food restriction. Fortunately she had a strong relationship with her older brother (who was a STARS mentor at the time) and knew she could also reach out to Mary, the school’s STARS Program Coordinator, for support.

When she entered high school more struggles came. The death of her grandmother rocked the barely-steady footing she was beginning to have. Her family life seemed to be crumbling, but she threw herself more and more into the STARS Mentoring Program, acting as a mentor-in-training and learning all she could to become a stronger leader and a competent mentor. Later that year she found the strength to begin sharing her truth (at the risk of criticism and disbelief from family) about past abuse, and through the support she received from her peers in STARS and her mentor, Mary, she got help to begin the process of healing. Shona was honored as “Mentor of the Year” by FRIENDS FIRST.

When she became an official mentor her sophomore year, she finally felt like she had arrived and was walking in the dream she had for her life. But come spring, she faced yet another obstacle: having her reputation challenged (and leadership positions put on hold) because of the influence of some friends with whom she chose to spend her time. Taking a step back from mentoring to get her life back in order was not easy, but it was necessary for both Shona and for the good of her mentees. She came back a month later having a new perspective on influences and the need for a positive peer group.

For some people, these kind of things would taint their attitudes, bend their wills, or break them altogether. Things are different with Shona. Her resilience is second to none. Her fighting spirit inspires me to press on when things look dark or scary. Her willingness to examine her choices, own them, take the consequences with dignity and respect, and learn from her mistakes shows what a humble person she is.

Shona is one of many, many examples of students who have benefitted from and have been a benefit to the STARS mentoring program! It is because of students like Shona that our mentor pool is so rich and impactful. Perfect people don’t make perfect mentors. People, in all their imperfections, make perfect mentors. It’s actually the imperfect people who are willing to learn and grow and walk through life with others who come out of the mentoring process with the most perfect of stories!

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