Lakewood High grad soars despite hardships

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 6/8/18

A Lakewood High School senior showed that his will to do well in school is much stronger than his reading disability after he received more than nine recognitions, including six scholarships, during Class Day on Wednesday.

One of those …

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Lakewood High grad soars despite hardships

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A Lakewood High School senior showed that his will to do well in school is much stronger than his reading disability after he received more than nine recognitions, including six scholarships, during Class Day on Wednesday.

One of those scholarships, the Joseph Boozer Scholarship offered by the Osteen family who own The Sumter Item, was given to Justin Johnson, 19, for graduating as one of the top in his class despite having dyslexia.

The $500 scholarship was started by the Osteens after the 1988 drowning death of Joseph Boozer, 15, the son of a longtime employee.

Boozer, a 10th-grade student at the former Furman High School, drowned after falling off a large inner tube while playing with two friends in Lake Marion. His two friends were rescued during the incident.

The Boozer scholarship is awarded once a year to a minority Lakewood senior based on academic achievements. Students who apply for the scholarship must also write an essay and complete an interview to be considered, which Item staff conduct and decide who will be awarded.

This year's scholarship was awarded to Johnson, who displayed a similar academic prowess as Joseph Boozer, a student known for his hard work in athletics and academics.

"I have a very hard time reading quickly," Johnson said, "but that has not deterred me from reading."

He has been able to keep up with his classwork by listening to audio books and following along.

"I feel as though everybody needs to strive to find a way to make it work for themselves and work really hard," he said.

Johnson's determination to not let his reading disability hold him back led him to receive the highest overall GPA in English in his class. He plans to continue moving forward despite his challenges after graduation today by turning his hardship into a passion. Johnson intends to study English and business management at Morris College and write in his free time.

Elizabeth Boozer, mother of Joseph Boozer, and her daughter, Clara Clayborne, were excited to see Johnson be recognized multiple times while waiting to present him with the Boozer scholarship.

"I let him know that of all the years that we've been doing this he is the most decorated senior that has gotten the Joseph Boozer Scholarship," Clayborne said.

She said Johnson's determination to do well in school despite having dyslexia makes his story even more amazing. He didn't let that limit him, she said.

"It's a testament to the fact that if you work hard, you can," Clayborne said.

"That's an attribute my brother would have had," she said about Johnson's work ethic. "I can't even tell you how proud we are."

Clayborne said she and her family anticipate learning about the scholarship recipient every year to learn about the student's character.

"We are happy to be one of the [groups that is] going to be contributing to his future," she said about Johnson. "It seems that he is going to have a bright future."

"We want to thank the Osteens for setting up the scholarship," Elizabeth Boozer said.

It's not a small thing to recognize people after they pass because a lot of times people are forgotten, Clayborne said.

She said the fact that the scholarship was set up shows the bridge connecting the employer and employee.

Johnson received more than $19,000 in scholarships through Morris College, the Lakewood Leadership Foundation Boozer Scholarship, the Margaret Dyne Scholarship and the Catchall Masonic Lodge #425 Scholarship.

He was also recognized for completing the Morris College Upward Bound program, receiving the President's Award for Education Excellence and for participating in National Technical Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and Future Farmers of America.

"I'm deeply honored," Johnson said about receiving multiple scholarships and recognitions.

He also thanked his teachers and Principal John Michalik for their help and encouragement while attending Lakewood.

"I am just really thankful," he said, "and excited to go forward in my life."