Teaching Teen: Explore the life of Mackenna Johnson, a teenager enrolled in Ball State University


Photo by Noblesville Schools

Mackenna Johnson helping a student at the Boys and Girls club. She assists here after school for her apprenticeship.

Brenzlee Johnson and Santi Leon Torres

You hear outdated, dark green lockers slamming and wet sneakers squeaking against the linoleum floor. Next thing you know, you’re staring at a bright screen in your bed, listening to your professor’s muffled voice over Zoom. Now you’re chasing after a six year old runaway, making sure each child leaves with their corresponding parent. Immediately after that, you’re at the forefront of an upscale eatery, finishing up the last of your homework in between each customer. School, college, teaching internship, and work; such is a regular day for NHS junior Mackenna Johnson.

Johnson’s schedule wasn’t always this packed. Just last year, she was just an overachieving high school student. It wasn’t until her father’s colleague, Carrie Lively, Executive Director of The Pursuit Institute, proposed a brand new path to Johnson’s dream career, that her schedule changed. Lively wanted a program for students who a want to pursue a job in the field of elementary education—the job that Johnson has always dreamed of. Lively created a program which allows students to be enrolled in college, studying elementary education, while completing their high school education.

“This program started through Carrie Lively,” Johnson said. “She had the idea for a registered apprenticeship in teaching for Noblesville students to go,” Lively said,  “A student who enrolls in this program as a junior will take coursework with Ball State University and Ivy Tech Community College, while earning high school credit,” Lively said. “The student will be employed and have the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom in their job while earning certifications that will allow them to be employed and work with kids.”

This apprenticeship also allows for Johnson to receive a number of benefits, such as scholarship money, hands-on experience, and even graduating from college a year early. Another person to help make this happen, NHS assistant principal Kevin Stuckwisch illustrates some of the benefits of the program.

“Successful completion of the program means guaranteed admission to the teacher preparatory program at Ball State University,” Stuckwisch said. “[It] should save participants up to $25,000 in tuition because the entire first year at Ball State will have been completed before the student sets foot on campus.”

Balancing this huge opportunity with her personal life can make things challenging.

“While I love the apprenticeship, at times it can be stressful,” Johnson said. “I have to balance my honors and ACP classes at the high school while also taking college classes and working two jobs.”

Although Johnson says she is handling the pressure well, that might not be the case for some people. NHS counselor Cosette Fehribach says a packed schedule may not be suitable for all students.

“Students realize they need to drop some responsibilities in order to have more recovery time. The key is balance, knowing yourself, and adjusting as needed,” Fehribach said.

Even with all the different responsibilities that lie on Johnson’s shoulders, she still found a way to maintain equilibrium in her life, even though it wasn’t easy at the beginning.

“Finding a balance between working two jobs while also completing college work and high school classes was extremely hard at first,” Johnson said. “I learned that I needed to plan out my day and communicate about issues or problems I was having with my professors and teachers, so by planning out my day and the assignments that I needed to complete, I knew what I needed to finish and by what day.”

While a schedule like this carries some stressful moments, the opportunity also presents some life changing ones. Just last month, Johnson and Lively were able to go on FOX59 to explain this internship in depth.

“I was super nervous because I had never been on TV before,” Johnson said. “But it was such an amazing opportunity. It was fun going behind the scenes and meeting all of the hosts.”

Carl Johnson, senior architect at BSU, former school board member, and Johnson’s father, supports his daughter’s choice and is excited to see how far this program will take her.

“Mackenna works hard to relate to others she works with and create a fun atmosphere,” Carl said. “There’s a genuine sense of excitement surrounding not only what she’s doing but what the people she interacts with on a daily basis.”

Though this program is still in its beginning phases, Johnson is handling the pressure and the workload well, and is continuing to work toward the job of her dreams.

“I have always loved working with kids and I believe kids are my passion.” Johnson said. “My goal is to have a calm classroom where kids feel safe and they come to school everyday wanting to learn.”