For Center for Higher Independence (CHI) student, Michael Johnson, being social has always come naturally. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, he grew up as an only child, diagnosed with Borderline Intellectual Functioning (BIF), enjoying every second of what life had to offer though not knowing what he would do with his future.
“Now I see life’s too short to make sure you get everything perfect. The trick is to try your best at everything you do and hope you’re successful,” he responded when asked about his plans after graduation this April.
It’s been almost a year and a half since he first set foot on campus, but time has flown by for him.
“I feel like I started the program just yesterday,” he laughed. “I remember telling God one day while I was playing baseball, ‘If there is somewhere You need me to be right now, where I can help people and be helped in return, I’ll go willingly – just say the word.’” Two days later, he said, God answered him through a phone call from his DARS social worker recommending him to the CHI program.
“I wasn’t as independent as I wanted to be, so when I came to visit, it really seemed like it could be the place to help me reach my full potential,” he said, sharing his reason for enrolling in the program known for helping young adults with disabilities learn to live independently.
He immediately felt at home and, over time, learned disciplines that have proved to be invaluable to his success both on and off campus.
“I was so careless about spending money before,” he said, “but I’ve learned how to save, maintain a budget, pay my bills and still have money left over for fun things.”
Having learned to contribute to his savings account, cooking for himself more frequently instead of eating out, Michael recently graduated from CHI’s Culinary Training Program taught by the San Antonio Food Bank.
“I’ve learned what spices work really well together and what knives to use, as well as the right temperatures and how long to cook different food items,” he said, describing his new insights. “You know, it’s amazing because I find this training has affected me in the kitchen and everywhere else, as well!”
These days, Michael is not only quite the chef on campus, with students begging him to make his specialties for them, but he has also landed a job at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
“I love working in the food industry, especially because I get to interact with customers. I’m really a people person,” he smiled.
Crediting CHI as the place he learned to communicate better and interact more easily with people, he admits to a difference in his perspective on life.
“CHI has helped me learn how to focus on what is important,” he said. “I really appreciate that because it has helped me establish my priorities and I really think I’ve become a better person.”
Clearly, from the light in his eyes, Michael is ready to meet the world, grateful for the time, now almost behind him where, like a sponge, he has been able to soak up the wisdom and guidance his teachers and friends at CHI offered him.