Abilene Christian’s Shay Johnson Changes Lives One Word at a Time

first_imgFRISCO, Texas – Many student-athletes receive attention for the work that goes into honing their craft, or attention from fans or attention in the classroom. But there is another aspect of attention that can easily go unnoticed to the outside world. With so many matters pining for the consideration of a student-athlete, it is often difficult to add in a service to the outside world. Through team-initiated events or personal ones, these collegiate athletes have shown time and time again that they are willing to represent their institutions by serving others and continue do so with a smile on their faces.Shay Johnson of the Abilene Christian women’s soccer team is the latest example of a Southland Conference student-athlete taking time to provide attention to those in need. Johnson recently spent an entire month of her summer vacation traveling to Kampala, Uganda, for a mission trip with Hope Speaks.Hope Speaks is a nonprofit organization based in Uganda that seeks to provide speech therapy, education and advocacy to children with disabilities. While a major aim of the organization is to seek out and assist children and families that live in poverty, their reach is not limited to any one specific socioeconomic group in Uganda.Shay initially heard about the Hope Speaks organization after the group made a visit to the Abilene Christian campus during her freshman year. However, her schedule at the time did not permit her to meet with the group about their internship program. But, with a seed planted in her mind, Johnson took it upon herself to get in touch with the organization in order get her foot in the door.After joining a pool of 250 applicants, Johnson was selected in February to be a part of the Hope Speaks team. Upon arriving in Uganda, the junior joined a group of seven other interns from around the United States to begin working with local children in need of speech assistance.As the only undergraduate pupil in her Hope Speaks group, Johnson was initially unsure of how much practical experience she would be allowed with the clients enlisted in the program. However, after two intensive days of training coupled with the collective knowledge gained in her time at Abilene Christian, she was given the opportunity to create speech assessments and therapy plans for her very own clients.Upon their arrival, Shay and her group members faced a language barrier with the native families that they were serving. Lugandan stands as the inherent language for the Kampalan people. However, the local children are also taught English by the teachers at their respective schools. With that being said, a large portion of the clients who sought out the help of Johnson and her co-workers were often impaired past the point of spoken language. Fortunately for Shay and her group members, there were always translators present for each therapy session in order to properly communicate with family members while also assisting in the instruction of activities for the clients.Abilene Christian speech language pathology majors are required to log a minimum 30 hours of practical application in the undergraduate program. In just one month, Johnson was able to breeze through the program-mandated application time, working five or more hours per day on a Monday through Friday schedule. Although her weekdays were packed with creating therapy sessions and assessments, her weekends were not simply limited to leisure activities. Johnson immersed herself in the local culture on her off days while still meeting with select lower-income families.After a month packed with fulfilling moments, the speech pathology major returned home with a revitalized enthusiasm for her program and her future as a speech and language professional. “I knew I wanted to be a speech pathologist, but I was kind of wavering in how I wanted to do that or even if I wanted to do that,” said Johnson. “So, going out there and spending that month in Uganda really solidified that this is the career that I want to do for the rest of my life.”Johnson and the Wildcats are back in action Friday afternoon at the Southland Conference Tournament in Beaumont, Texas. ACU is the tournament’s No. 5-seed and will square off against the No. 1 Central Arkansas in the first of two SLC semifinal matches. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Following shortly after, No. 7 Stephen F. Austin will take on tournament host No. 3 Lamar in a 7 p.m. kickoff. The semifinal rounds can be viewed on the Southland Digital Network.last_img