Heading to the Naval Academy wasn’t something that was at the forefront of Johnston’s mind when the process of choosing a college began. There were certain things she was looking for in a school, but going the military route was not exactly what she was looking at.
“Actually, when I was looking into colleges, academics were always at the forefront,” Johnston said. “I was looking at prestigious places. My best friend (Lindsey Adams, who graduated from Geneva) got an appointment to the Naval Academy in 2012 and she said I should come check out the Naval Academy.
“It’s in Maryland, that’s kind of hard to do. They have a summer seminar. It’s basically a week-long boot camp where you get to visit the academy, work out, check out classes and see what the academy is all about.”
The Academy made quite an impression on Johnston right from the start.
“I automatically knew I wanted to be surrounded by people who were motivated and wanted to be successful,” she said. “I knew I belonged.”
That doesn’t mean Johnston didn’t consider other options, some of which were the more prestigious schools in the country.
“I applied to Georgetown and Case-Western,” she said. “I received my letter of assurance and was accepted to Georgetown before I could apply to Columbia and Rochester. Once that happened, I didn’t even finish the applications.”
Johnston has family members who have served in different branches of the military, but that wasn’t the reason she felt it was her calling.
“My dad was in the Army,” she said. “But that wasn’t a driving force behind going into the military. I’ve always been very involved with community service and other things that were bigger than myself. Being in the military fits that.”
That doesn’t mean the news that their daughter was joining the military sat well with Johnston’s parents, at first. But, as they’ve always done, the Johnston’s supported their daughter’s choice.
“My mom and dad were both very nervous,” Johnston said. “Parents don’t want to hear their kids are going into the military, but they’re very supportive. I’m lucky they’re so supportive.”
The Johnstons saw their daughter was happy with her choice and threw themselves into learning about what she was going to do.
“It came back to academics,” Johnston said. “We talked about how I liked the Naval Academy. They were apprehensive when I wanted to visit. After I visited and we went to some other places, they saw I still wanted to go to the Naval Academy. My mom did the research and now she knows all the little fun facts. They’re very supportive of my decision.”
The challenge of the Naval Academy ultimately appealed to Johnston.
“At the beginning of my high school career, I knew I would work hard,” she said. “I wanted to go to a school that challenge me. I didn’t want to go to the same school everyone else would go to if I was going to work so hard to be at the top of the class.”
Choosing the Naval Academy over Georgetown wasn’t easy, though.
“It was a very tough decision,” Johnston said. “I fell in love with Georgetown. People say when they walk on a college campus they believe they fit in there. The Naval Academy was that for me.
“There are great instructors. There will be opportunities available to me through the military that are more numerous than other places.”
And then there was those challenges Johnston was looking for.
“I’ve always pushed myself,” she said. “My family has pushed me and I’ve pushed myself to be the best I could be. Why not push myself at the best place I could go? Everyone pushes themselves to go to good colleges. I wanted a little bit more than that.”