Becoming 'Part of the Change'

"I wanted to be a part of the change." Aisha Johnson '20 plans to place opportunities and education into the reach of marginalized children.

Aisha Johnson ’20

Aisha Johnson ’20 had a business career in mind when she arrived at Dickinson, but a first-year seminar opened a new world to her, and she hasn’t looked back. Passionate about child welfare, education and educational access, she declared an educational-studies major and accepted an internship at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. She now plans a career working directly with children, and helping to place a better future within their reach.


Brooklyn, N.Y.


Educational studies, with a minor in Chinese.

Clubs and organizations:  

First-year mentor, Multicultural Ambassadors special event coordinator, Seizing Every Opportunity (SEO Scholars), HUB supervisor, tour guide, Black Student Union, Prison Inmate Tutoring Club and service trip leader.


Kappa Delta Pi, Founders Scholarship and Samuel G. Rose ’ 58 Scholarship.

Dickinson in one sentence:

Dickinson is a place for advocacy, community service, change, fantastic communication and passion.  

Favorite book:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Favorite movie:


On choosing a major:

I actually entered Dickinson as an international business & management and economics major. Shortly into the semester, my interest changed when I debated educational policies in my first-year seminar. I researched topics such as the effect of student progress on teacher salary, educator retention rates, controversies about charter schools and equity vs. equality in America’s education system. I immediately fell in love with the field of education. I took educational studies courses during my third semester at Dickinson. I fell in love with the material and the professors and finally declared.

I decided to become an educational studies major because I was extremely disappointed with our system, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the change. I want to provide marginalized students with the opportunities, time and mentorship they deserve.

In a perfect world … 

… there would be no children living in poverty. Everyone would have equal healthcare, welfare and education.

Favorite place on campus:

The dance studio in the HUB.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a detective.

Favorite class:

Curriculum Theory. Similar to a lot of people, I did not know there are four different ideologies—learner-centered, scholar-academic, social reconstruction and social efficiency—implemented in the classroom. In the beginning of the course, I took a survey that determined I would be interested in teaching in a learner-centered and social-reconstruction way. However, after learning about all four ideologies, my initial interest changed completely. Now, I am an advocate for the social efficiency ideology.

Advice to first-year students:

Everyone should go on a service trip! It is a great way to give back to the community, meet more Dickinsonians and reflect.

About my internship:

I interned at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in Washington, D.C., as an education program and policy intern with the Beat the Odds (BTO) and Freedom School teams. [Associate] Professor [of Education] Sarah Bair introduced CDF to me. I loved how CDF is an all-child advocacy organization.

Before interning with CDF, I was very interested in having a career in educational policies and teaching, because I thought education was the key to solving America’s problems. However, the Children’s Defense Fund mission to end child poverty and to ensure every child has a healthy start, head start, fair start, safe start, and moral start helped me realize that when advocating for children’s rights, I cannot view the child in parts. I have to look at the child as a whole. I cannot separate issues that affect children equally. As a result, I stopped focusing solely on education. In addition, I realized that I did not want to work in policy. I want to work directly with students to see their growth and success.

During my time at CDF, I had a multitude of projects. I created a financial literacy workshop for BTO’s Create Ready for College Program. I created a financial-aid FAQ, financial-aid vocabulary worksheet, a budget worksheet and a college visit vocabulary worksheet. I also participated in a panel. One of my favorite projects was creating a new CDF intern recruitment list to build diversity and inclusion in the office. Lastly, I visited two freedom school sites and attended a school trip to a museum.

Overall, my experience was great! I would definitely recommend this to anyone who believes the future is children.

Post-Dickinson plans:

After I gradate, I hope to teach English in China, or join the College Advising Corps to help students like myself. I want to directly serve students in my community. I enjoy bringing knowledge and opportunity to students who, unfortunately, do not have privileges like others. In the future, I hope to continue my goal to become a principal, a mentor and a member of the school board in my district.

Read more Student Snapshots.



Published September 19, 2018