By John Grennan

Born in Liberia, raised in Ghana and an immigrant to Portland, Ore., junior Luke Johnson was used to adapting to different surroundings. So when he arrived at Saint Mary’s in 2005, he was ready for something different.

In Africa and the United States, Johnson had always lived in urban areas. When Brother Dominic Berardelli showed him around campus, Johnson caught his first glimpses of deer and wild turkeys.

“I love that the school is outside the city,” Johnson says.

Life away from the hustle and bustle of the big city agrees with Johnson. As a science student, he especially appreciates the personal attention from professors.

Johnson came to Saint Mary’s after graduating from the Brothers’ De La Salle North Catholic High School, founded to serve lower-income students in Portland. A recipient of a Lasallian Leadership scholarship, he was eager to continue his education at a Christian Brothers school.

“Without a scholarship and financial aid from Saint Mary’s, I might have gone to another college, but I prefer to go to a Lasallian school,” he explains. “Being Lasallian means being involved. It’s not how much you have, but how you touch the hearts of the untouched.”

Johnson is a frequent volunteer at the LEO Center, which provides academic assistance to Oakland schoolchildren.

“In Africa, everything is more community-based. We were always playing soccer together and things like that. Here, kids don’t have that as much.” Johnson, an avid soccer player and fan, is excited that the World Cup will be bringing people from around the world to South Africa in 2010.

After graduation, Johnson wants to do service work either in the Peace Corps or somewhere in the United States. He then plans to go to dental school, and would like to make frequent trips to Africa to offer assistance to communities in need.

“I’m grateful to Saint Mary’s and to America for this opportunity.”

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