Hanna Johnson, a senior at Richland 44 High School in Colfax, North Dakota, was recently accepted to not one, but three Ivy League universities.
Johnson, 17, is eager to concentrate in government at Harvard University. The Walcott, North Dakota teenager intends to enter the legal field and eventually hold political office.
Besides Harvard, Johnson was also accepted to Columbia University, New York City, and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. While she respects all three schools, Johnson looks forward to a future in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“I am planning on going to Harvard, as long as the financial aid is worked out,” Johnson said.
Johnson has until May 1 to make her final commitment. Attending Harvard would be a dream come true.
“It was exciting when I got my acceptance,” Johnson said. “I was talking on the phone for two hours afterward.”
The daughter of Gregg and Nancy Johnson, a multi-crop farmer and a retired businesswoman, respectively, Hanna Johnson is used to keeping busy.
On Wednesday, April 15, Johnson was announced as one of the seven North Dakota high school seniors who are semifinalists for the state Presidential Scholar honors. The semifinalists were chosen from 65 total nominees.
“In early May, one male and one female student from among the group will be chosen as North Dakota’s Presidential Scholars for 2020,” the state Department of Public Instruction stated. “A male and female Presidential Scholar are chosen from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and form families of U.S. citizens who are living abroad.”
Johnson is one of three females among North Dakota’s seven candidates. The semifinalists include students from Grand Forks, Turtle Lake, Lawton and Fargo, North Dakota.
Semifinalists were chosen based on their college entrance exam scores, DPI stated. It is an academic honor, Johnson said.
“Being nominated for Presidential Scholar consideration shows a student has a record of community service and accomplishment, as well as being an outstanding student,” North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said. “Their families, friends, teachers and the state of North Dakota as a whole should be proud of them.”
Mindful of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson said she is still hopeful about possibly visiting Washington, D.C. should she be chosen as a state scholar.
“I do want the opportunity to connect with my peers and experience such a great week,” she said.
Dr. Britney Gandhi, Richland 44’s superintendent and high school principal, said Johnson is an exceptionally bright young woman.
“She is talented in so many areas, both as a student and in her involvements,” Dr. Gandhi said.
Johnson’s accomplishments at Richland 44 and her community include playing the title role in 2019’s “Cinderella,” 12 years of dance and membership with the student council, local Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), local FFA, school yearbook and school newspaper.
In March 2019, Johnson represented North Dakota during the United States Senate Youth Program Washington Week. She met and listened to leaders including U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and President Donald Trump.
Johnson’s interests also include social awareness. Saying she is someone who has suffered from mental health issues, Johnson has founded a business designed to help companies that advertise to teenagers about mental health.
“I want to help contribute to ending the stigma,” Johnson said.
Dr. Gandhi is proud of Johnson.
“She is a delight to be around,” Gandhi said. “I’m not surprised she’s a Presidential Scholar finalist. I hope she gets it.”