Friday, May 26, 2017

Conner Johnson: Looking Out for the Underdog

Conner Johnson asks a most intriguing question: “Do you want to talk about my eye?”

OK. Sure.

Your eye?

Seems Conner has a prosthetic eye – a glass eye, as they’re commonly known – and has since he was 9. Born with cataracts and glaucoma in his left eye, he was in and out of the hospital those first years of his life, until at age 9 his doctors decided it was time to remove the eye.

“It was only in one eye,” Conner said. “I got lucky.”

You’d never know about the eye unless you were looking for it, and even then you might not notice. There’s nothing physically that makes the prosthetic eye stand out.

But that’s Conner. While he’s a terrific student – he has completed every dual-credit course offered and will graduate on May 27 with 24 hours of college credit, credit that he’ll take with him to Texas A&M this fall – he’s a student who’s comfortable in the background. He sang in choir for four years, and is a member of the National Honor Society.

“His vision is not that great,” said Stratford counselor Greg Fore. “But if ever a kid had a vision in his heart, this is the kid.”

And that heart has room for everyone, Fore said.

“Conner does not subscribe to any one group (at Stratford),” Fore said. “For instance, at lunch he sits off to the side with a few of his buddies, and anyone else who wants to join them. He accepts them all.

“You know, the best way to have a friend is to be a friend,” said Fore. “That’s Conner.”

It hasn’t been that easy for Conner, who grew up in SBISD and West Houston and attended Wilchester Elementary, Memorial Middle and now Stratford.

He said people described him as a “social” baby, but all the hospital visits as a child made him more reserved. He said one of his hardest transitions was into sixth grade because he was so far behind in his schoolwork.

And he dealt with “his share of mortality,” as Fore puts it, during spring semester of his freshman year and the subsequent summer.

His dad, Craig Johnson, hadn’t been feeling well when he and Conner’s mother, Annette, took an anniversary cruise to Mexico. Things worsened while aboard the ship; Craig Johnson came home in a wheelchair. The diagnosis was late-stage bone cancer that had already invaded most of his body. He died soon after.

An uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer, then an aunt was diagnosed with the same sarcoma and died about a year later.

“It was a very strange summer,” said Conner. “I was hit right and left with cancer.”

His dad had been the one who handled the school issues while his mom was working. It was a difficult adjustment for the family, made even more difficult when the family lost their home and had to move in with relatives.

“My mother is an amazing woman,” said Conner. “She’s a real trooper about all this.”

A self-described video gamer, Conner can likely be found at his PC when not studying for those demanding dual-credit courses. He said his father and brother got him into video games at an early age.

“It’s a way of communicating with people all around the world,” he said. “I play – I’m even friends with – people around the world.

Fore, who says he’s known as “the Johnson family counselor” because he worked with Conner’s older sister at Stratford, said that Conner cracks him up.

“He’s just a funny kid,” Fore said.

Conner wants to study history, or maybe economics, at Texas A&M. And while he remains undecided on the major, if he studies history he does have a career in mind.

“I know it sounds weird,” he said, “but I like the idea of being a high school history teacher.”

by Rusty Graham


Post a Comment

Do you have feedback? Tell us.