Stephen Johnson, a fifth-year civil engineering technology student, was awarded the Howard Freckleton and Roy Hamel Endowed Scholarship for his work as a volunteer firefighter. In addition to firefighting, he volunteers with Second Wind Cottages, a housing project for homeless men, and spent two months in Long Island after Hurricane Sandy to help with cleanup efforts. Johnson manages to balance his academics and volunteer work while also maintaining a job at the post office on campus.
Question: Where are you from?
Answer: I am from Freeville, N.Y.
Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: I came to RIT for the co-op program and quarter system. I also liked that a more hands-on learning experience was offered.
Q: What have been some of your favorite experiences during your time at RIT?
A: Many of my favorite experiences have been building some great friendships that have helped make the classwork more bearable. I also got to be a part of the Corner Crew when the women’s hockey team won the national championship and that was a lot of fun. Doing a study abroad was easily one of the best experiences, though. I got to sail a tall ship from San Diego to Honolulu, conducting science experiments and learning to handle the ship along the way.
Q: What made you want to become a volunteer firefighter?
A: My father became a volunteer firefighter when I was young, which confirmed his status as a hero to me. I decided that I wanted to do the same thing when I was old enough. It’s been an excellent way for me to give back to the community that gave me so much while I was growing up.
Q: What have your experiences as a firefighter taught you?
A: The primary thing that my time as a firefighter has taught me is the importance of being aware of your surroundings. So many of the incidents that we respond to could be very easily prevented if everyone paid more attention to what they were doing and what is going on around them.
Q: What is the Howard Freckleton and Roy Hamel Endowed Scholarship?
A: The Howard Freckleton and Roy Hamel Endowed Scholarship is a scholarship given to an RIT student who is a volunteer with a fire or ambulance service. It is given in the memory of two local firefighters who served as first responders throughout their lives but have since passed away.
Q: What does it mean for you to be awarded this scholarship?
A: It is an honor for me to receive this scholarship and have my name associated with two men who gave selflessly to their communities throughout their lives. I hope that I will be able to do the same.
Q: How will this scholarship help you?
A: Obviously when it comes to paying for school, every little bit counts, so it will be very helpful in that regard. It is also just very encouraging to have something that you put time and energy into recognized, so it will be further motivation to continue firefighting in the future.
Q: What are your plans for after graduation?
A: I don’t have specific plans yet but I am starting to look for jobs. I do, however, plan to continue volunteering both as a firefighter and in other ways wherever I end up.