By Molly Wampler
“You’re the best!” one student yelled to former Diner employee Shanece Johnson-Wilson during our interview. Several others stopped by with hugs, miss-you’s and stories, and she has only been gone for a week. With her high spirits and loud laugh, Johnson-Wilson liked to make herself known on campus, and students loved her. “She is energetic and funny and relatable, and treats you like family,” senior Kristina Braverman said.
After four years at The University of Puget Sound, Johnson-Wilson left her stable job to go back to school.
“Of course it’s hard,” Johnson-Wilson said. Even though it’s only been a week, she already misses the University. “I miss the interactions with the students, I miss conversations, the hugs,” she said. “The students were my life.”
And they were her support system, too. “We went through the election together, we went through a lot of political things together, laughs, cries, everything,” she recalled. “We went through all these transitions together and it’s kind of hard just to leave.”
An opportunity to go back to school pulled Johnson-Wilson away from Puget Sound. “I didn’t want to leave,” Johnson-Wilson said. “I had to leave because there was no way that [the Diner] could work with my school schedule.” She is now enrolled in her first term at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, where she is studying to become a medical assistant.
However, Johnson-Wilson isn’t sure that she will stay on the medical assistant track. Clover Park also offers a hospitality management major, which is of more interest to Johnson-Wilson. “[Becoming a medical assistant] doesn’t really make me happy. Hospitality makes me happy,” she said. For now, Johnson-Wilson isn’t exactly sure what she will be pursuing, but is just glad to be back in the classroom after taking nearly a decade off after high school.
To make up for her full-time employment at The Diner, Johnson-Wilson now works two part-time jobs: a nightly graveyard shift at a local home for autistic boys, and weekend janitorial work.
She has class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, and spends time with her 3-year-old daughter, Journey, in the evenings. “It’d be different if I didn’t have a child,” Johnson-Wilson said, in reference to making the tough decision to leave Puget Sound. “But the fact that I’m not just supporting myself, I’m supporting my child as well … it throws a wrench in things.”
In her little free time, Johnson-Wilson is working on a new project at her school. “There are a lot of minorities on campus,” she said. “I’m trying to create a club that focuses more on minorities.” She wants to create a safe space for these students, a place where people can find others they relate to. “At the end of the day, some people need a safe space to vent, especially the way the world is going now … they need to feel like they are loved and wanted.”
The campus community will miss Johnson-Wilson, but there is the possibility that she might come back to the Diner in March to work on-call covering shifts.
“I am excited for her to start the next phase of her life,” Braverman said, “but also selfishly sad that she won’t always be around to light up my day.”