ST. LOUIS — Francis Howell Central High School senior Amanda Johnson was the right student in the right place at the right time.
Last Saturday, the 18-year-old attended a mock job interview event in front of a small crowd at The Whitfield Foundation for Success in south city. The event gives teens a chance to practice interview skills before stepping into the real world.
"The interviewer is not going to call you back and say, ‘I didn't hire you because you did this, you were moving your hands,’ you don’t get that feedback. So, this is an opportunity to teach on that," said Marlon Whitfield, executive director of The Whitfield Foundation for Success.
Little did Amanda know that her pretend job interview was about to change things for her in real life.
When she stepped in front of the crowd, a college president had just stepped in the room.
“What made it even more magical: it was organic. I wasn’t scheduled to be there,” said Claflin University President Dr. Dwaun Warmack.
Everyone in the room was blown away by how Amanda handled off-the-cuff job interview questions, especially Warmack, whose university is in South Carolina. Claflin is among the top 10 historically Black colleges and universities in the country.
"I was just beyond amazed. I mean, her ability to articulate her focus, her laser focus, her notion of career objectives,” Warmack said.
So, in front of everyone, the president made an impromptu announcement.
"I said, ‘I want her to come to my school, and I'm offering her a scholarship.’ I didn't know her name, I didn't know her background, that she was a senior. Come to find out she had a 29 ACT and a 4.0 GPA. I said, ‘I’m not just offering a scholarship - a presidential scholarship. Full ride, 100% paid for, worth over $150,000 over a four-year span, books and fees as well.’"
To say Amanda was surprised is an understatement.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t talk. I think I said thank you a million times once I was able to speak. I was so grateful,” she said.
As for Amanda’s parents, the lifechanging news is still sinking in that their daughter’s college education is paid for.
"You would want your child to go to college, and you always think how you’re going to pay for it. I believe in God and his blessings, and I believe the blessing of the Lord just shined upon us and I know how it's going to be paid for now. Halleluiah," said Amanda’s father Lawrence Johnson.
Amanda’s employer Charlotte Russe gifted her $500 to use towards a computer for college. Amanda credits her interview skills to her current job where she's constantly talking to customers. Her managers knew she needed a computer for college and surprised her with the gift. Claflin University also sent her a new T-shirt to wear as she gets ready to head to school.