The story of Ben Johnson ’17 is that of a young man whose challenges seemed insurmountable – until the kindness of a stranger and the gift of a Ridley College education changed the course of his life.
Ben always enjoyed a love of learning and possessed an innate mastery of science, but prior to Ridley, he did not have a nurturing community that would allow him to excel. After years of struggling to overcome challenges, Ben came to a critical juncture in his Grade 11 year, when he was moved to an emergency shelter.
At the shelter, he found it difficult to focus on his studies while dealing with the challenging circumstances of his personal life. In spite of the hardships he was faced with, he recognized he had to persevere and pursue his dreams. With the caring guidance of his godmother, Ben’s grades skyrocketed. Encouraged by this scholastic success, he began to explore the possibilities available to him after high school.
Ben’s drive and determination did not go unnoticed. Julia Bertollo, former Director of Summer Programmes, invited Ben to attend Ridley’s Summer Academy – which included his tuition and board. While studying during the summer, he learned more than just Grade 12 chemistry. He discovered the importance of independent living. At the same time, he took advantage of Ridley’s music department and practiced his co-curricular skills.
While Ben’s talents flourished that summer, an anonymous donor took notice and decided to fund Ben’s final year of high school at Ridley. This generous gift allowed him to attend a school where he could continue to thrive, with the anticipation of continuing to university.
While in Grade 12 at Ridley, Ben embraced the vast opportunities given to him. He became an editor for the TigerPost, Ridley’s student-run publication and was a valued member of the film club, writing the score and recording music for a student film. He immersed himself in the arts, which enabled him to experience the positive influence creativity has on one’s academic achievements.
Ben viewed his academic success as a personal responsibility and took his education very seriously. “As someone who has the desire to make the most out of an education, Ridley was an exceptional place for me to study,” says Ben. Although he was at Ridley for only one year, he ensured that he absorbed as much experiential and academic knowledge as he possibly could. He loved that he was able to incorporate his personal interests into all his classes and personalize his education.
“My Ridley experience was very well-balanced, proving to be encouraging, both on a personal and academic level. My classes were all intriguing, as they expanded on the material in a way that allowed me to discover the various areas of what I personally liked about the subject at hand. My classes, in particular, were mainly in the sciences, however, I frequently took opportunities to bridge together different disciplines in a way that was of my personal interest. I also appreciated the challenges: the workload was demanding, but it was only for the benefit of my education, as it fostered important time management skills and efficient study habits that I know will be necessary for lifelong success.” – Ben Johnson ’17
Ben was the recipient of three scholarships by the time he graduated Ridley. The first was the Brock Niagara Principal’s Scholarship, which he was awarded alongside fellow Old Ridleian, David Biggar ’17. This award is presented to students in the area that demonstrate exceptional academic results as well as a dedication to community service. Not long after, Ben was awarded Ridley’s Robert J. Malyk Prize for Biology. “I was able to meet Bob in person and thank him; he generously funds this annual scholarship to those who share his passion of Life Sciences and hold significant potential in their scientific careers,” says Ben. Most recently, he was the recipient of the PenFinancial Scholarship after he submitted a moving video that expresses the obstacles he’s overcome and the goals he hopes to reach.
This past September, Ben began his post-secondary journey at Brock University in Neuroscience, with a focus on Neurocomputing. While he has only just begun his programme, he is setting his sights on the future. “Main career pathways are research or medicine. Both interest me, however, I am currently aiming for medical school following my undergraduate programme,” declares Ben.
“[At Ridley] I had the opportunity to experience a wider scope of an education. I find this translates effectively to the university environment, as not only am I already engaging in clubs and activities on campus, but a broader skill set makes me able to make deeper connections with the new people I meet.” – Ben Johnson ’17
As a student who embraced all that Ridley had to offer and didn’t take this opportunity for granted, Ben says this: “My advice is to embrace your opportunities. You are in a position that can bring you to great success if you put in the effort. There are others in this world who do not have the same opportunities, so always be thankful. The main way to show appreciation of your opportunities is to make the most out of them, which means putting in blood, sweat and tears. But at the same time, don’t forget to take a moment and enjoy the blessings that you have, for it will help you stay motivated.”
It is hoped that Ben’s story is an inspiration, demonstrating how acts of kindness can powerfully transform the lives of talented youth.
Donate now to enable more bright minds to unlock their potential at Ridley.