COLUMBUS, Ohio — This year has been a roller coaster, especially for the high school class of 2020 who headed off to college for the first time this fall. 

What You Need To Know

  • Ravionna Johnson learned to be adaptive as she realized things would constantly be changing

  • Blatant racism, spitting in a tube for COVID-19 testing, and keeping up with continuous changes in assignment due dates were the biggest challenges

  • Scholarships, family, and friends motivated her to keep going when things got tough

Nineteen-year-old Ravionna Johnson can breathe for a little bit now that she's on winter break. Working with her little brother on his school work, the Denison University student who is studying two majors, just made it through her first semester in college. From the start, she said college was everything and nothing she expected.

“I’m thinking my move-in day was going to be full of family and just, you know, this is one of my really good moments my whole family because I'm a first-gen student,” Johnson said. “So this was very important to me and it didn't happen at all, and I was very hurt.”

COVID-19 restrictions prevented her family from being there.

But she took it all in stride, even the way the university did COVID-19 testing, which was totally unexpected.

“They’re testing us by cohort for COVID,” she said. “So they're doing the spit test now. So we all happen to, and there's just tables for college students and we're just spitting into a tube. Like there's someone across from me, and someone beside me. There's someone else beside me and they're hacking into this tube.”

Regardless, with COVID-19, it all just became exhausting quickly, especially when it came to class. 

“So, maybe one day you'll be in person, but you'll also be on Zoom because there's some people that are completely remote somewhere in person,” she said. “But everyone has a laptop when they're there six feet apart on Zoom with other people and then the teachers up front and she's bringing her cameras and she's teaching because she has to switch cameras and switch to sharing the screen and then share the presentation and that was a lot.”

Being the planner that she is, Ravionna said she struggled as assignment due dates changed from one day to the next.

 “It taught me to definitely think on my toes, because before I was like time management and time management for sure it was something I had to learn, but more than anything, be adaptive,” Johnson said.

Growing tired of the ups, downs, and constant changes with COVID-19, Ravionna said there were days she had no plans of getting out of bed or going to class, but there were a few things that kept her from quitting.

The first was a full-ride scholarship that amounted to $100,000 dollars in savings. She, along with her roommate, were the two of the first from her high school to receive it.

“That's definitely something that caused me to rise to the occasion and definitely keep going at times I didn't want to go,” she said.

She also received the Helen Jenkins Davis Scholarship, which has a history behind it that involved Jenkins-Davis being the first Black teacher in Columbus City Schools, and her leading a lawsuit to desegregate the district Johnson graduated from this past year. 

Coming from a predominantly Black school and community, Johnson also had to adjust to being on a predominantly white campus.

“There was a moment where I encounter someone that was a little racist, a little prejudice,” she said. “I kind of didn't expect it to happen so blatantly to my face, but kind of expected, in the same way.”

Friends and family also motivated her as she recognized the trail she is blazing.

“I'm a first-generation student, but I also knew that my family was not contributing a dime to my education. There's no way we can. I have a humongous family.  We cannot afford it,” she said. “I kind of just know in the back of my head that I had to, you know, like, I know that a lot of people are counting on me, especially like my siblings.”

Although there’s’ a lot riding on her, Johnson is still looking forward to finishing what she started, regardless of the unexpected in future semesters. She hopes that other students who experienced an exhausting semester will take joy in everything no matter how small it seems.

She also hopes students will make it a point to not worry about the things they can’t control. ​