With graduation just around the corner, SUU’s College of Performing and Visual Arts Valedictorian Danikka Johnson was asked to share the story of her life and the time she spent at Southern Utah University.
Johnson was raised in Tooele, Utah and is the oldest of three children. As she watched her mother raise a family on her own, she looked to her as a source of strength and inspiration. Of her mother, Johnson said, “Although she was raising three rambunctious children on her own, she never let anything stop her from achieving her own goals or pushing us to do the same. She never took no for an answer.” This prepared Johnson to pursue her toughest ambitions. “Her undying love and support really allowed me to shoot for the stars and live for the impossible; I knew she would be with me every step of the way.”
When it came time to choose where to attend college, Southern Utah University presented an opportunity most other universities don’t offer. “SUU awarded me a talent scholarship as a freshman dance major, and I took a leap of faith. SUU is unique in the fact that the University will allow you to double major in substantially difficult majors. I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I needed the financial support of my dance scholarship. I came to SUU as double major in Dance and Pre-medical studies (later switching to a major in Nursing).”
The faculty at SUU made it possible for Johnson to pursue both majors and stayed in contact with her throughout the years making sure she was able to accomplish all of the requirements that came with her majors, as well as keeping good grades. “The faculty members I worked with in the dance department, as well as the sciences, were nothing less than exceptional. They provided me with all of the tools I needed to succeed and challenged me to go above and beyond minimum expectations.”
While working in the College of Performing and Visual Arts, Johnson fell in love with the dance department. She spent much of her time performing in each of the faculty and student dance concerts and representing SUU at the American College Dance Association every year. Participating as a member and briefly as president of the Orchesis Modern Dance Company, a dance club on campus, Johnson’s extracurricular activities were surrounded by her passion for dance. She even found time to teach modern, jazz, and hip-hop as a job, working with the Point Academy and All-star Cheer here in Cedar City and working with students in Tooele on competition solo routines.
Through her busy schedule, Johnson had one mentor who helped her succeed while juggling all that she was doing. She celebrated, “Kay Andersen really stuck his neck out to ensure I had all the support I needed to flourish and grow. Never for a second did he doubt what I was capable of and he provided me with so many opportunities to be a leader, to develop as a dancer and choreographer, and to showcase my talents.”
Johnson is a bright light of positivity and lives her life by a great motto, “I am a firm believer that there are so many people in the world that will tell you no; you cannot be the first one. Throughout my degree I adopted the motto ‘She believed she could, and so she did.’ There were several times I wanted to quit. I had reached my wits end and couldn’t handle any more stress. The support of my friends, family, and mentors really gave me the strength to push through. Look for positivity in all situations and you will have a happy and successful future.”Of her future, Johnson has many more goals and aspirations to achieve. “As I leave SUU, I am planning on continuing my nursing studies: attaining my second Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I am continuing to teach dance, and I am also happy to announce I am starting a family of my own. There is so much in store for my future and I feel so blessed to have had my experiences at SUU to continue to mold and shape the person I am and who I will become.”