Alumnus connects with next generation of Grinnell students through GRASP program

Sept. 11, 2018 — A tight-knit community and strong mentorship components are two of Steven Johnson’s ’08 favorite things about Grinnell College.

Steven Johnson '08
    Steven Johnson ’08

Johnson, a technical advisor for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Baltimore, reconnected with his alma mater by taking part as a Fellow in the Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program. GRASP Fellows serve as an extension of the Office of Admission, acting as ambassadors of Grinnell College and promoting awareness of the institution.

“I trained with a base of young alumni to engage with the next generation of Grinnell College students,” Johnson says. “It was great to connect with students and hopefully provide some wonderful insight into Grinnell College.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, Johnson was unaware of Grinnell’s existence. That changed when he became a Posse scholar. Grinnell quickly jumped out as a college destination, and he’s thankful for what the College has taught him.

Moving from New York to Baltimore without any strong ties really emphasized the importance of community to Johnson.

“Posse is all about community and my time at Grinnell made me realize the value of it because Grinnell brought me folks I could depend on. It laid a foundation for a true meaning of community; it’s having someone there you can turn to in moments of need, folks that genuinely connect with you and want to give back to the world.”

Johnson studied sociology at Grinnell. He was a member of many of the student groups, held several campus jobs, and was very involved with the music scene during his time.

One skill that has drastically been improved as a result of Johnson’s Grinnell College experience was his writing.

“I have to write federal regulations, briefing documents, PowerPoint presentations, and review the work of my colleagues” he says. “The education and foundation that I received from Grinnell helps me out on a daily basis and for that alone I am grateful for the College.”

Since graduating, Johnson has been very involved in training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai (martial arts), mentoring children with mental illness, and most recently has been volunteering with the Meals on Wheels.

When the opportunity to volunteer with GRASP came along, he knew he had to apply and get involved. It was the perfect opportunity to give back to the school that has meant so much to him. Johnson said helping with GRASP marries two things that he loves doing: writing and giving back.

“Grinnell is important because it was where I found my niche, a connection to people through social justice programs,” he says. “I like bringing that experience in my volunteering. I enjoy talking and connecting with potential students. I find that we are like-minded in many ways: we believe in social justice, in giving back, and being active.”

In addition to his GRASP activities, Johnson attempts to connect with fellow Grinnellians when possible.

“As a person now in the real world, it is nice to connect with people who understand the world as it is and still continue to make a positive impact” Johnson says.

He encourages fellow Grinnellians to give back to the College by making it an active part of their donations and actions.

“Grinnell is an amazing place where people start creating their ideas and true selves; we are a massive think tank,” he says. “GRASP is one of the ways we are cultivating and bringing about the next generation of innovators and individuals that will bring about change.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro & Graciela Guzmán ’11 (Alumni Council)

For your information:

Learn more about Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program (GRASP) and how volunteers get involved.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.