He’s got a name like a movie star, and he’s already a star at Plantation High School. Duane Johnson’s favorite class is aerospace engineering, but he’s right at home in AP calculus or on the football field. He’s played for the Colonels for four years, and if there’s a student government meeting, you’ll find Duane there, too.
This Duane Johnson is the Rock of Plantation High. He excels at everything.
“I’m ambitious, I want to adventure, I want to achieve many goals, and I just feel as if, if it’s reachable, why not?” Duane said.
Calling Duane a leader is an understatement. His friends call him the Role Model.
“That’s someone I would love to be like, he’s a great student, he gets all his work done, has the grades, has everything,” said Otis Ragin, one of Duane’s football teammates.
“He's a go-getter,” said classmate Adam Sachs. “He’s willing to do anything and just get the job done, he’s always looking forward and willing to help other people.”
To fully appreciate the status Duane has achieved, it’s imperative to know the obstacles he’s overcome to arrive at this point.
“To be honest, I believe that whatever I set my mind to now I can achieve it, because if that was my bottom, there’s nothing I can’t do,” Duane explained.
Duane’s “bottom” was being homeless for four years, with custody of him and his sister bouncing from his mother, who had severe financial problems, to a father Duane says was abusive.
“I played football, so I had an escape route to keep me away from my dad,” Duane said.
The problems outside of school motivated this young man to work as hard as possible in school.
“And it really made me a man, it molded me into the person I am today, because it made me want to be more successful, it made me want to look past everything that I’ve been through and you know I just thank god that I went through that early because it really made me a better person,” said Duane.
Duane knows his experience can benefit others, so he joined a police-sponsored mentoring group to help kids beyond the classroom.
“I mentor people in situations almost the same as mine so it’s just me reaching out to them, telling them my story, giving them hope, because a lot of people lose hope easily, and I’m like, you gotta be a fighter in this world,” Duane said.
His fighting spirit and work ethic have already earned Duane thousands of dollars in college scholarship money.
“He’s going places, I can’t wait to catch up with him in 10 years and see what he becomes,” said Joe Vallone, Duane’s aerospace engineering teacher.
A decade from now? Duane hopes he’ll be working for NASA by then. Looks like he’s already got lift-off.