A college milestone for single mom, son

Sheryl Johnson was the first one in her family to attend college. She passed her love of education on to her two children, including DeAndre Johns.

As Johns’ high school career wound down last spring, they were unsure how to pay for college — until he discovered a life-changing email in his junk folder.

Johnson, a 10-year Army veteran with an 80 percent VA disability rating, knew The American Legion would soon be announcing the recipients of its Legacy Scholarship. She kept asking her son if he had heard anything and encouraged him to keeping checking his email, especially the junk folder.

That’s where Johns found the email. “It was the greatest feeling in the world,” remembered Johns, who received $12,000 for his freshman year at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. “College is here; it’s coming and I am going to be ready for it.”

He called his mom, and a celebration ensued. “As I was talking with him, I was standing on the deck screaming at him and he was screaming at me,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Yes, you are going to college now.’”

“When I got the scholarship, it did feel like a jump start,” Johnson said. “It made it feel like this is real. I can make my place in the world because of the scholarship.”

The Legacy Scholarship is available for children of veterans who died on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, or have a combined disability rating of at least 50 percent. Recipients of the needs-based scholarship can receive up to $20,000 each year.

The deadline to finish the application for the 2018-19 school year is April 9. To learn more about the scholarship, visit  www.legion.org/scholarships/legacy/about. To apply, visit www.legion.org/legacy-scholarship-application.

After hearing the news from her son, Johnson called her mom to share the big news.

“College to me is everything,” said Johnson, noting that she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees thanks to the GI Bill. “I have always told my kids, ‘Anyone can take everything from you except your diploma. The diploma has your name imprinted on it and you can take it everywhere with you.’ I am so thankful that he got this scholarship because it helps us tremendously.”

Johns is a motivated teenager, thanks in part to his mother’s encouragement and visioning.

“College is a major milestone for me because it has been a huge part of our family,” said Johns, whose sister is a junior in high school. “I know that it means so much to my mom. I know that she wants me to have a great life and to succeed in everything I do. It’s a huge milestone for both of us.”

The scholarship is not only a point of pride for the family, it is a relief to offset the cost of college.

 “It was a big lift off our shoulders so that he does not have to work a part-time job or take out a loan,” Johnson said. “As a single mom with two kids, it was difficult for me. I tell my kids all the time you have to apply for scholarships because they pay for so much. The American Legion Legacy Scholarship provided so much for him.”

Johnson takes pride in being a member of The American Legion. “The American Legion does so much — not just for the community — but for students who can’t afford to go to college,” she said. 

Each year, American Legion Riders help raise at least $1 million for the scholarship. The time and effort are not lost on Johns and his mother.

“I would like to say to The American Legion: Thank you so much for creating this opportunity for me because I know that you will do everything that you can and you are doing it with a good heart to make other people successful,” he said. “Without this, I don’t know if (college) would be possible for me right now. And I know that it helps more people than just me.”