In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Lane College and did an interview with Demetris Johnson Jr. the 2022-2023 Student Government Association president.
The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes in being elected by their peers to lead. Johnson, who is majoring in Physical Education and Biology, is from Earle, Arkansas. He is a proud Fall initiate of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the Basileus of the Kappa Sigma chapter of the fraternity.
We interviewed Demetris Johnson Jr., and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2022-2023.
Read the full interview below.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an SGA president so far?
The biggest thing I have learned from being an SGA president is time management. I have realized in order to get things done, you have to have patience. You have to keep people in your life who truly love you, motivate you and make you happy. Lastly, If you know people who do not fit this criteria, LET THEM GO!!!
What made you decide to attend Lane College for undergrad?
The reason why I attended Lane College was to get a bigger purpose out of life and to make something of myself. I was never a kid to get called on when things needed to get done due to my IEP that I had when I was in grade school. Teachers told me I would end up in jail or will never amount to anything just because I was a troubled child. Comments like this limited my self-esteem. As a result, I told myself college wasn’t a place for me; I thought I was below average.
Years later things turned around for me when I met my coach/godfather Albert Coleman. Coach Coleman pushed me to be successful and made me feel like I did have a purpose in life. Coach told me “you are well capable to attend college; never limit your success just because what people think about you.” With that being said, I started reaching out to colleges and doing applications.
I was accepted to six HBCUs and visited only one college and that was the great Lane College. When I visited my college, it was like home. My home town Earle, Arkansas is predominantly Black and located in rural area; that’s the first thing I noticed about Lane College. I didn’t look at that in a bad way! I thought, I’m going to make something great of my self here due to the environment and people; they made me feel like I was at home. I felt the love and care Lane College has for their students.
How has Lane College molded you into the person you are today?
Lane College molded me into the outstanding man I am today. I cannot stress this enough. If it wasn’t for Lane College, I wouldn’t be Council Demetris Johnson, Jr. today. Lane College made me realize the potential within me by providing opportunities for me, such as Lane College student government association when I started out as the freshmen class vice president in 2019. This position enhanced my leadership skills beyond measures. In the 2021, I made history in the state of Arkansas.
Due to the preparation and confidence developed at Lane College, I decided to run for city council in my hometown, Earle, Arkansas. One thing I always will remember; if it had not been for Lane College, I would not be City Councilman Johnson; I would not have been the youngest nominee for Arkansas House of Representatives; I would not be the Basileus of the Kappa Sigma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated and I would not be President of the Student Government Association.
What specific initiatives have you headed up this year (or are planning) and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?
One of the events I have in store for this year is a Campus Beautification Committee. This is a team where they make sure campus stays up to part as we have many guests visit, plus it keeps the campus alive not only for the faculty & staff, but for the students as well. Campus Beautification has things intertwined such as campus clean ups, keeping flowers together, making sure that places such as the benches & or the pond are also kept together. For the past few years, the SGA & other students have done an amazing job with this committee, and it truly helped keep the campus beautified.
I am also planning a Town Hall meeting hosted by the SGA and this platform here gives the students & faculty the room to voice their opinions and truly speak on things that we can all work on as a whole. We had one this past year and it truly helped Lane take steps to things we should work on, like bringing more life to campus, & solving the concerns of the student body. With my board, we are the voice of the student body, we plan to hear the concerns, & work to resolutions.
How is your SGA administration/school currently working on attending to the mental health of students?
As being a team that listens to the voice of the student body, we plan to implement programs such as a Red Table Talk, where we have mental health counselors/advisors, there to have topics the students are comfortable with enough to talk about. In this way, it gives them a clear head, mind, & heart, & it also can make them feel as one of the biggest orgs on campus, that we truly do care. Plus we can have them know that we truly do care, & remind them that we are students as well. When you work with people & show them that someone cares, it goes such a long way. Mental Health check-ins are what my team wants to do with our student body.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means being able to take a step forward, even if you feel as if you’re out of your comfort zone. Leadership is the key to success because in life, everything can’t be done for you, you have to learn how to take the initiative to get things done. The door of opportunity is always open, but will you be the one to open that door for yourself? In this generation there are things such as peer pressure, learning to navigate through life & have good leadership roles keeps you away from things like that, being a true leader means that you’re willing to make a positive different for those around you!
We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2022/2023?
I do feel as if promotion is key. Promotion when it comes to a lot of things no matter what the subject is key to getting any type of attention for schools. Since social media & the online world is so big, we all know that this generation, & many other generations are online, so if schools are more engaged online with updates, school spirit, & so much more, it brings the attention to those students to interact with it more.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?
I believe Watch The Yard is important to Black students & college culture is because it gives you a insight of what really goes on in college, such as fraternities, sororities, & how college life is in general. Speaking of fraternities and sororities, Watch The Yard also gives you an insight of all the things they do for the community, and for their campus. Being a Fall 21’ initiative, and the Dean of spring 22” my Line Brothers/Sons and I have truly been able to do different things for the campus to get our students involved, and have participated in community service events to give back to the community of Jackson, TN.
Being in a fraternity or sorority isn’t just able the letters or being able to stroll, it’s about what you can do for your community and how to give back to your school. Watch The Yard let’s the students know that, and gives them the insight on how things of that nature works, and it gives them the space to give back to their school/community wherever they’re in a fraternity or sorority.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
I plan on going back home after graduation to pursue a career in being a football coach & a teacher back in Earle, Arkansas. Helping the children is one of my biggest priorities to me, besides running for Arkansas State Representative for District 35. Being in school, my school was full time while being into politics was part time for me. Coming so far through my career here at Lane, keeping school first has taken me a long way. Growing up and not having the most like other people would, or not having so many opportunities as others, I had to make opportunities for myself. Putting my school first has truly gotten me to where I am now, education means everything to me. That is also something I want to teach to the younger kids, & be someone that can teach them so many things, & be there for them. I want to be a very good role model for them, as I would want one for myself. I know for a fact I will be able to accomplish my goals after graduation!
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Demetris Johnson Jr. for his work as the SGA President of Lane College.