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Eagle Feature : FGCU Students Exceeding Education’s Expectations

Marieb College of Health and Human Services Spotlight: Sofia Johnson
Jessica Piland

Sofia Johnson, a junior exercise science major at FGCU, hasn’t always had the sporty, health-oriented outlook on life she is known for today. Growing up, she was uninterested in athletics until her 6-foot-1 stature caught the attention of high school coaches. 

As a child, Johnson was well acquainted with people asking what sports she played. The answer was always ‘none’ until freshman year of highschool. She grew tired of the questions and looks of unharnessed potential. After nudges from her family and school coaches, she tried out for basketball. At first it felt foreign, but she learned to love the fast-paced nature of the sport. When the season ended, Johnson knew she needed to either begin conditioning or find another sport. 

“I’ll start running,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t run a half a mile without stopping so I just started walking and running around my neighborhood to try to build up my endurance. By the end of the summer I could run a mile without stopping.”

She was encouraged to join cross-country by a basketball teammate who was on both teams, so she did. Running and health became her niche as she loved the way her upgraded level of health made her feel. During her last two years of high school, Johnson captained her school’s track and cross country teams.

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When deciding on her major, Johnson knew she wanted to pursue an education that would foster her passion for health. Despite not knowing exactly what she wanted to devote herself to, she landed on exercise science to propel her in the general direction she feels called to. 

“I want to help individuals just kind of maintain that level of health in their life that I didn’t really realize before,” Johnson said. 

The summer before Johnson left for college, she experienced a tragic loss. Her best friend, John Goodwin, suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. While his condition was being monitored, he went into cardiac arrest and passed away. Goodwin was a healthy teenager, aside from his heart condition. He played football and was very active. 

“Since coming to school, and dealing with [Goodwin’s death], learning about myself and how I want to honor his memory, I’ve gotten a little bit more involved in wanting to work in healthcare,” Johnson said. 

In 2020, Johnson’s sister got her a web domain for Christmas. She wanted Johnson to have an outlet to showcase her passion. She started her website and named it Sofia Strides. She promotes a healthy lifestyle through motivational quotes, recipe ideas and blog posts regarding her passion.

Jessica Piland

“I really just started Sofia Strides to make my own little positive corner of the internet and just share the things that I’m passionate about. And hopefully other people become passionate about them too,” she said. 

Johnson has excelled in many classes at FGCU and created relationships with professors and companies. Dr. Valerie Weiss, a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, met Johnson during an Anatomy and Physiology II course. 

“I’m always cheering her on. She is truly exceptional—both as a student and a person. I am always impressed by how Sofia is so supportive of her friends too. She has a kindness and likability towards which other students gravitate, forming study groups and helping to explain concepts,” Dr. Weiss said. 

Johnson also sprang at the opportunity to take a class on the medical device industry. Through this class, taught by Dr. Shawn Felton, she discovered Arthrex and a potential career in medical devices. 

The class partners with Arthrex to help students experience what the medical device industry is like. At the end of the class, there was an opportunity to earn an extra certificate for their resume called the Fundamentals of Medical Device Industry Digital Badge. Students are also partnered with a mentor who showcases the company and how the industry works. 

“From the first time I spoke with Sofia, she was composed, personable, motivated and professional. She was eager to learn and take advantage of the opportunity. She brought some healthcare experience to the table but was willing to explore, listen and absorb advice. I’ve always said the best providers know how to balance their skill set and personality, she has certainly proven to embrace both,” Brent Van Germert, Johnson’s Arthrex mentor and the manager of physical rehabilitation at Arthrex, said. 

Johnson was one of five recipients of the American Heart Association’s Empowered to Serve Scholarship in 2022. She currently works alongside the Southwest Florida chapter of the American Heart Association. She has partnered with them on numerous community events and hopes to be a bridge between students and the important knowledge the American Heart Association can provide. 

“They have really opened up my eyes more to just the importance of cardiac health, and the little things that I can do to help myself in my community and the big things too. Maybe I’ll end up with a job in that field,” Johnson said. 

While Johnson is still unsure what the future holds for her after college, those who have worked closely with her don’t doubt she will go on to do great things. 

In terms of the future, I want Sofia to dream big. She is capable of doing so many things and I can’t wait to see what that might be!” Dr. Weiss said. 

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About the Contributors
Addyson McCullough, Eagle News Assignment & Features Editor
Addyson McCullough has had a love for writing since she could hold a pencil. In her high school English classes, she had to write a mock article and fell in love with the style of writing. She is currently a sophomore majoring in journalism. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her roommates and her hedgehog, Hamlet!
Jessica Piland, Eagle News Photo Editor
Jessica Piland is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in global studies. She found her passion for photography during her senior year of high school after shooting some film for fun with her grandfather’s camera from the 80s. In addition to her work as photo editor for Eagle News, she works as a staff photographer for FGCU Athletics and is a photography intern with the University Marketing and Communications department. As she enters her third year as photo editor, she is excited for the fun stories, campus events, and breaking news that Eagle News will be covering!

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