2016-2017 Student of the Year: Ella Tazuana Johnson


Julie Spierer, Special Features Editor

“I grew up in the hood, and my racial identity was something I was aware of from a young age. You could’ve called me a statistic, if you will,” Ella Tazuana Johnson ’17 said.

On learning of the extensive list of her campus and community involvements, the casual onlooker can’t help but wonder about Johnson’s source of unwavering motivation.

“My driving force is my understanding of the world that I grew up in, and knowing that I want to explore the world I didn’t grow up in.

A member of Los Angeles Posse 4, Johnson came to the University in order to find a new sense of home in a different location. She was a member of the Humanities Residential College her first year, the Carey House her second year, and has been an active member of Fran’s House for three years of her college career.

Johnson, who is one of 12 siblings, grew up in a single-parent household and was homeless before coming to the University.

“I knew that I didn’t want to end up homeless in the future, and I knew that with my education, nothing can truly stop me,” Johnson said.

Johnson is a project assistant for the Lewisburg Prison Project, and was a civic engagement intern following her first year for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. Johnson is also a member of the all-female a cappella group The Silhouettes, a Buckwild leader, and has been involved in Alpha Phi Omega, the University community service fraternity.

“My favorite thing about Bucknell are the resources and opportunities it offers its students (and faculty). I probably wouldn’t have been able to study abroad as much as I did had I gone to a different school,” Johnson said, highlighting the clubs and organizations the University offers. “So by resources, I don’t just mean academically,” Johnson said.

As an African studies minor, Johnson was involved in Bucknell’s Africa Student Association (BASA) in her first year, and continued her involvement in the University’s Black Student Union (BSU) throughout her college career. She has also been an active member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

In March 2017, she joined a group of students on the Bucknell Advancing Communities: Educating and Serving (B.A.C.E.S.) service trip to the Dominican Republic, and in January 2015 and November 2016, Johnson was a member of the Katrina Recovery Team.

Johnson is no stranger to the vast world outside of the “Bucknell Bubble.” She hasn’t been back to her home in Los Angeles for three years now due to her extensive traveling and studying abroad.

Johnson spent the summer of her junior year in Ghana studying abroad, followed by a three-week study abroad program in the Caribbean, studying Caribbean literature, histories, and cultures. Immediately after this, she studied abroad for the remainder of the summer in Jordan.

“When I went abroad it forced me to look at the world in a different way,” she said.

Johnson’s life after graduation will continue to be characterized by new places and pursuits; she will be involved in a “Humanity in Action” fellowship in Bosnia and Herzegovina, focusing on the nation’s human rights violations and discrimination spanning from World War II to present day.

After her fellowship in Eastern Europe, she will travel to Ghana to visit her boyfriend, and then return to her home in Los Angeles. In September, Johnson will be joining the Peace Corps in Morocco. As an Arabic studies minor, she looks forward to living in an Arab country.

“I am mostly looking forward to learning Moroccan Arabic and applying what I have learned [at Bucknell] to that dialect,” Johnson said.

The person that inspires her the most is her older sister, Shaunsie. “She has been one of my biggest supporters since I’ve been at Bucknell, and she’s the only person in my family who has gone to a four-year college, which is rare,” Johnson said. “I look up to her so much, and I can’t wait to be the second person [in my family] to go to college and graduate.”

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