Talent From The Heart… 

- May 17, 2022 -

WORDS: Sheri Roca
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Talent appears in many varieties, styles, and proportions. There are those that can lift our emotions with music and brilliant scientists that help shape the world. We recognize talented painters and artists from decades and centuries past, and we pay to watch athletes, gymnasts, and dancers perform and compete. But it seems to me that true kindness and a giving spirit are completely undervalued talents. 

5th grader Kendall Johnson is a gifted athlete, currently playing with the boys’ Magic soccer team. She is a model student who maintains near-perfect grades and is even a Safety Patrol at her elementary school. But what is most impressive about 10-year-old Kendall Johnson is how much she cares about her community and her desire to give to others.  

Described by her father as fun, quirky, athletic, outgoing, and giving to all, Kendall strives to help others in any way that she can and has chosen to be involved with many local community service organizations. She is the President of the National Elementary Honor Society, but she is also a member of Kiwanis K-Kids, rings the Salvation Army bell during the holidays, and helps bring food to local children through EFELT Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies. 

When asked why she spends so much of her time helping others, Kendall exclaimed, “I just love doing it; it’s fun!” 

It is a matter of debate whether certain personality traits, such as a giving spirit, are taught or inherited, or a little of both, but either way, it seems clear that Kendall gets it from her family. The Johnson family is a family full of humanitarians, and Kendall has been tagging along while her family was doing volunteer work for most of her life. Her mother, Andrea, was a member of the Junior League and the Teen Court Program for many years and often brought Kendall and her brothers along when she could, stating, “I think it is important for the kids to understand why I dedicate some of my time when I could be at home, to helping others.” 

“Kendall is passionate, kind, and really does care about the community, and it has been her choice to join all of these giving organizations.” She continues, “Our entire family is very proud of her.” 

Membership in many of these organizations requires more than just the desire to help others. Most organizations draw their members from students who excel academically and model exceptional responsibility and show signs of service and leadership in their school and community. The National Elementary Honor Society has a scholarship requirement with a minimum GPA. Students who meet the scholarship requirement have an opportunity to complete a form detailing their other accomplishments and attributes. Some organizations even require an invitation to join. Once you are inducted into a local organization, there are many obligations and commitments involved with each membership that need to be met.  

Thankfully, all this community service has not kept Kendall from her schoolwork. What are her favorite subjects? “Science, math, English, engineering, well, pretty much everything!” Kendall says with a giggle. 

According to her teacher, Ms. Jacqueline Simpson, “She is truly a gem. She is hard-working and high achieving in all areas.” In previous years, Ms. Simpson had been Kendall’s engineering teacher at Palma Sola Elementary School, mentoring Kendall and her classmates for approximately 50 minutes once a week. 

“This year, I’ve had the privilege of having Kendall in class all day as her fifth-grade teacher, and her personality has really shone through,” she exclaims. “Kendall LOVES music. We use a program for our weekly vocabulary words that presents the words as a hip hop or rap style song. You will often find Kendall’ jamming out’ in class at her desk, singing along with the songs while wearing a pair of sunglasses,” she recalls with a smile. 

Let’s not forget Kendall’s other “superpower”: playing soccer. Kendall started playing soccer at an early age because both of her older brothers played. Initially, she played on the local recreational team and enjoyed it, but after a while, she wanted something a bit more challenging. 

“All of our kids have always gravitated towards sports,” says Kendall’s mom. Because there is no local competitive girls’ team, Kendall tried out for the boys’ Magic soccer team and was one of two girls who made the team. 

Even though it is a huge time commitment and requires some juggling of schedules, practicing two nights a week and traveling to away games, Kendall loves playing for the team and says, “Coach Cookie, his real name is Coach Strawn, is awesome!” When asked how she keeps up with it all, Kendall quickly rattled off her weekly schedule and states, “I guess it just works!” 

With all of that, it is surprising that Kendall has any free time, but when she is not kicking a soccer ball, doing her homework, or feeding hungry children, Kendall likes to jump on the trampoline while listening to fun, upbeat music, cruise around in their golf cart, play with their German Shepard, Sheba, and watch the sunset at Bishop Point. She has recently found a new passion on a dirt bike and is saving her money to buy one of her own. She assures me that it is not dangerous, “as long as you wear your helmet, because it is pretty hard to fall off, with resistance and gravity and everything.” 

What does a young philanthropist, stellar student, and amazing soccer player dream of for her future? Her current goal is to be an Architectural Designer. 

“My mom bought me an architecture book, and I was like, ‘I LOVE this! I want to be an architect now. Not the kind that builds, but the kind that designs the buildings,” Kendall confides with excitement. You can bet that whatever Kendall decides to do, she will do it with passion and determination. 

If you, or your caring youngster, would like to learn more about any of the organizations mentioned above, check out these helpful websites. 

National Elementary Honor Society – www.nehs.org
Kiwanis’s K-Kids – www.kiwaniskids.org
Salvation Army – https://salvationarmyflorida.org/manatee-county/
Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies – www.efelt.org
Manatee County Teen Court – www.manateeclerk.com/departments/teen-court/  

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