Melissa Leach

Janie Johnson from the Office of Enrollment Services spoke at the Potter’s House Convention this summer encouraging young students to consider college.

This session served as a culmination for a year that saw Johnson working alongside students promoting higher education.

Potter’s House is a large, non-denominational church with more than 28,000 members. The Potter’s House convention, attended by people from 14 different countries, was an effort to encourage the youth of the church to attend college. Johnson, the keynote speaker, was asked to participate in the convention because of her work with Preparation for Adult Living (PALs).

Johnson’s work with PALs includes helping students become familiar with the college applications process and informing them about financial aid.

Surprisingly, Johnson is new to the PALs program.

“Last year was the first time I ever heard of PALs,” Johnson said

Despite her recent arrival at the program, she rapidly established a rapport with the students she met. Barry Samsula, director of Enrollment Services, said Johnson’s community involvement has directly led some students to enroll at UTD.

“She develops a following and the students want to come to UTD because Janie’s here,” Barry said.

Though she has been successful in motivating kids to attend college, Johnson said she believes there is more work to be done with them after they have enrolled.

This summer she also spoke at Tarrant County College to 473 foster children as a part of PALs.

“These kids don’t feel anywhere close to being loved,” Johnson said. “Eighty percent have me crying every session. The hardest thing with these kids is the lack of motivation, so I have to try and give them the motivation that they need.”

Johnson said her year as a PALs speaker has been a learning experience for her. She says she can relate better to her adopted son better because of the foster children.

Johnson is the mother of four, and has one granddaughter. Her two adult daughters both graduated from A&M University. Her youngest daughter is a sophomore at Richardson High School.

Johnson graduated from Knoxville University, a historically Black college, with a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in education.

Johnson said she is humbled by the praise she receives. She makes it clear this is a collaborative effort.

“I couldn’t do what I’m doing without the understanding of my supervisors,” Johnson said.