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Rebounding in education, Gary teen shares how school choice gave him a fresh start in award-winning video

Zion Johnson, a senior at Gary faith-based school The Crossing, poses with Gov. Eric Holcomb at the Institute for Quality Education's annual National School Choice Week breakfast on Jan. 23. Johnson was one of three winners in the Institute for Quality Education's National School Choice Week Video Contest.

GARY — Zion Johnson, winner of the 2019 National School Choice Week Video Contest, didn’t know he was entering a contest when he created his video about why The Crossing, a faith-based private school in Gary, was the right fit for him.

So, when he learned he won the contest, competing against 200 students from 20 other schools across the state, Johnson was surprised, to say the least.

“I really just did the video out of interest and fun,” Johnson said.

The video contest, sponsored by the Institute for Quality Education, was initiated to help celebrate National School Choice Week last month. Every year, contest winners are invited to an annual National School Choice Week breakfast to share their stories with the governor and state legislators.

In his 1-minute, 37-second video, Johnson shared his passion for music — playing the drums and mixing beats — and discussed how his last year and a half at The Crossing shaped his educational experience.

The 17-year-old Gary teen credits the school with keeping him out of jail and helping him refocus his studies.

"I hated education. I hated school," Johnson said in the video. "Without The Crossing, I probably wouldn't have had that opportunity to bounce back, and get the rebound."

At The Crossing, Johnson said, he takes only three hours of class in person and has the option of completing schoolwork from home. He said the school's flexibility helps him keep up with class if he misses the bus and can't find a ride to school.

Johnson said the educators at The Crossing, even those not directly teaching his classes, are a driving factor in his renewed interest in education. It was with those teachers' encouragement that Johnson decided to take on the National School Choice Week video as an extracurricular activity.

"They see something in me I don't see in myself," Johnson said. "They don't necessarily have to be my instructor. I want to see them every single day."

Selected as one of three winners, Johnson was awarded a $1,000 prize. The 17-year-old senior said he put it back into supplies for school.

Johnson said he's taking chemistry, math and English classes and plans to graduate at the end of the year. He plans to study audio production after high school to pursue a career in music.

"I want to graduate," Johnson said. "I want to have my own source of income — just work and make it."

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.