Meet Our Scholars


Gulfport, MS
Colgate University

JohnaYou may have heard the phrase, “Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy,” but our version is “Scholar, athlete, musician, leader” and describes the many facets of Johna, a LEDA Cohort 13 Scholar and junior at Colgate University. He is currently on campus attending a mix of in-person and online classes, and his hope for the school year is “to be well and to see my wellness is reflected in my grades, my experiences, and my growth. When I need that extra push, I think of my mother, I think of medical school, and I think about the communities of color I hope to serve as a physician one day.”

The current pandemic remains a looming concern, “encroaching on every aspect of my wellness,” in his words. During the summer, he was unable to see his family, who currently live in Italy, and was one of the few students remaining on campus. “Being on campus alone for the summer was challenging, and having people come back [in the fall] was a blessing,” he shared. Nevertheless, he expressed a strong sense of gratitude for the resources that Colgate has been able to provide, as well as a sense of perspective on adapting to a new normal. “As an athlete, adjusting to exercise in masks, team meetings over Zoom, and weightlifting with no one to spot me all paled in comparison to the adjustments I’ve already made in other areas of my life.”

Johna made the most of his time on the quiet summer campus by volunteering at a local ambulance corps, training for track and field five days a week, studying for the MCAT, taking an advanced math course, and starting to produce an album. His proudest summer accomplishment is founding an organization called Pre-Health Pathways (Instagram: @colgatephp). Now serving over 240 members, PHP focuses on streamlining resources to make the pre-health journey more accessible and on providing education about health disparities to promote more informed practice in healthcare careers. His goal is to help PHP “bloom into a robust program with engaged members who feel that they have a voice within our structure.”

This semester, whether it’s preparing to apply to medical school, representing the Colgate Raiders in track & field, diligently working on his guitar skills (and an album), or organizing resources and networking for fellow students interested in healthcare careers, Johna pursues his goals with a steady hand and a desire to make a positive impact. Click the video below for a day-in-the-life glimpse:


Johna hopes organizations like LEDA that support under-resourced students continue to help address the systemic disparities they face for remote learning. However, he also strongly encourages high school students to apply for the LEDA Scholars Program (deadline: December 14, 2020), irrespective of whether next year’s Summer Institute is on campus or virtual. “If you have the opportunity for a meaningful experience, take it,” he said. “There are only a handful out there, and LEDA is something you definitely don’t want to miss out on.”

As we begin to approach the end of 2020, stay tuned for a look back on what LEDA has learned and experienced in a unique year.

Published November 18, 2020

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