What qualities come to mind when you think of a strong and effective leader? Perhaps someone who is driven and passionate. Selfless and caring. Encouraging and motivating. Polished and experienced.
It can be challenging to find these characteristics in a single person, let alone a teenager. But that’s exactly what can be found in Tobias Johnson, an 18-year-old 2020 graduate of Piedmont High School.
Tobias’ resume reads like that of a seasoned politician or executive, including impressive experiences such as United States Senate Youth Program delegate, American Legion Boys Nation delegate, Oklahoma Association of Student Councils state president, Oklahoma Hall of Fame Teen Board chairman, Piedmont High School Student Council president, PHS DUCK (Doing Unselfish Charities for Kids) Week co-chair — and the list continues on with leadership and community service experiences galore.
But what really stands out about Tobias is his drive and motivation.
From ideals to action
Tobias recalls walking along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., during Boys Nation while hearing veterans’ stories of heroism and sacrifice. That opportunity inspired him to serve his nation and community by pursuing a career in public service.
HIs parents, Emily and Trinity Johnson, taught him to embrace his potential to be a positive influence and build a strong work ethic.
“My parents instilled in me the idea of setting a good example and always doing the right thing,” said Tobias. “I have to always remember who and what I’m doing it for.”
The teen also gives credit to Alissa Antwine, leadership and Student Council sponsor at Piedmont High School, for helping mold him into who he is today.
From all his mentors, Tobias takes the ideals instilled in him and puts them to work.
“One thing I strive for when leading a team is to clearly communicate our goals and to get everyone on board, to show them what they’re capable of,” said Tobias of his leadership style. “I always want to be dedicated to excellence.”
Antwine recalls that as PHS Student Council president, Tobias led just as well as, or even better than, most adults.
“One of the things I admire most about Tobias is his desire to not only put in the time and energy to make sure that everything he does is a success but to help those around him succeed in their endeavors as well,” said Antwine.
President John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” a sentiment that Tobias strives to embody.
Always seeking to learn from the examples of others, Tobias began researching internship opportunities with the U.S. Senate as a junior in high school. Though he discovered those internships are typically reserved for college students, he did find an application for the U.S. Senate Youth Program, a unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service.
After a months-long process of applications, interviews and tests, Tobias was chosen as one of only two students to represent Oklahoma for a week-long program in Washington, D.C. He was looking forward to connecting with and learning from some of the nation’s heavy-hitters, such as Chief Justice Roberts, Oklahoma Senators Lankford and Inhofe and even President Trump, as well as his fellow student delegates.
Unfortunately, the program, scheduled to take place over spring break, was canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Tobias was understandably disappointed, he sought a silver lining in connecting with the other delegates via social media. These future world-changers have been discussing current events and exchanging ideas and advice for following their dreams of bettering their communities through public service.
A clear vision of big dreams
In true Tobias fashion, the high school graduate has a detailed plan for pursuing his dreams.
He will attend Dartmouth College in the fall to pursue a degree in political science and economics, then aspires to earn a law degree from Yale University. Tobias dreams of clerking for the U.S. Supreme Court before working for Becket, a nonprofit law firm specializing in religious liberty. But he ultimately plans to enter the public service arena through elected office or the judiciary.
“As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I will carry all of the lessons I’ve learned through my leadership opportunities,” reflects Johnson. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is the value of service. It’s not always easy, but as I lead in the future, I will always try to serve my community, Oklahoma, our nation and everyone around me.”
Editor’s note: Kristy Blosch, MBA is a former marketing and communications director and current stay-at-home mom to two boys, Noah (4) and Judah (2). She is married to Cody, and together their family can usually be found traveling, hiking, camping, cooking and cheering on the OSU Cowboys.