sheila johnsonRunning Start Student Sheila Johnson Explores Photography and Higher Education

Centralia College Running Start student Sheila Johnson has an artistic eye. The soon-to-be high school senior has been practicing photography since her elementary years at Centralia Christian. She developed her passion into a striking skill, specializing in family photos, senior pictures and fine art pieces.

Her images are striking and artistically executed. When asked what she loves most about photography, Johnson simply replied, “Everything.”

Photography is just one career option for Johnson, however. She’s also contemplating studying political science or going into public relations. Whatever path she chooses, Running Start has put her in a good position to reach her goals. “Gaining credits I can transfer is really important,” she said. “And the people I’ve met here help me with my photography and with college recommendations.”

Johnson is also employed on campus as a Program Aid/Assistant to the Events Coordinator. She works closely with Events Coordinator Staci Sume and the Student Life and Involvement Center hosting a variety of events; everything from staging commencement to the college’s portion of the Seattle to Portland bike ride. Johnson has learned a great deal in the process. “Watching Staci work has helped me a lot,” she said. “It’s amazing every time we do a big event. We go from empty to completely set up, and the middle is all a blur. I just look at it and think, how did we get so fancy?”

Johnson also creates computer graphics, does office work, and tackles manual labor like washing tablecloths after each event. “That part’s good mentally,” she said. “It creates a mindset that you have to do the harder stuff and then you get to the fun stuff.”

Jonhnson is grateful to be employed as a student worker because the schedule works seamlessly with her classes – and still leaves time for friends and photography. “In Running Start, you’re only in class for three hours if you’re taking 15 credits,” she said. “Outside of that, if you don’t just do your classes and go home, you have time to meet up with people, go to coffee, and do homework and other stuff. I schedule shoots with people. I’ll leave home at 9 a.m. and won’t be home until 9 or 10 p.m. because I have so many things going on.”

She loves the college atmosphere and the friends she’s found here. “Our class has a huge Running Start group,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of us. We’ve overtaken whole areas of campus.”

Johnson also enjoys the college’s diverse class offerings, especially speech and political science. She’s found the program to be extremely beneficial. “Running Start pays for you to come, so there’s no tuition or anything,” she said. “It gives you more time, allows you to explore more areas of interest, and really allows you to develop as an independent person.”

But she cautions that the program isn’t for everyone; students need to be mature and mentally prepared in order to succeed. “No one’s checking up on you,” she said. “No one’s looking at your grades and no one’s checking if you go to class or not. It’s up to you to be an independent person, go to class, and study.”

Johnson advises incoming Running Start students to plan out all classes in advance, so they don’t wind up short of requirements at the end of the year. “And make friends,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s really easy to come here and do your classes and leave, which is fine but not as supportive. It won’t keep you going.”

Now over halfway through the program (she took a whopping 60 credits last year), Johnson is still going strong. She’s currently preparing to host a picture-taking event in Schaefer Park on Aug. 7 from 1-5 p.m. The cost for individuals is $20, couples are $30, and families are $40. For more information, contact Johnson via email.