On Thursday, February 21st, Rippowam Cisqua School alum Whitney Johnson ’99 returned to the School's Upper Campus to speak to students, teachers, and alumni at an assembly and be presented with the Rippowam Cisqua School Distinguished Alumni Award.
Whitney is the founder of Ubuntu Africa - an organization dedicated to helping HIV-positive children in South Africa (http://ubafrica.org/). Whitney is an ardent activist and youth leader. Inspired by her experiences while studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and volunteering in an orphanage in the nearby township of Khayeltisha, Whitney was drawn to the cause of supporting HIV-positive children. She noticed a gap in services and sustained assistance for children living with HIV and she wanted to ensure that HIV-positive children received the support they needed to live long and healthy lives. Whitney graduated from Colorado College in 2006 with a degree in psychology and, at the age of 21, established Ubuntu Africa.
Rippowam Cisqua math teacher Missy Swan, who was Whitney’s advisor during her time as a student here, welcomed everyone before introducing ninth grade student Alex Needham. Alex has been working with Ubuntu Africa as part of her Ninth Grade Portfolio project. The portfolio program is a wonderful opportunity for ninth grade students to explore areas of interest, and the focus of Alex's portfolio is on helping others in meaningful ways. After speaking about her project and the impression Whitney made on her, Alex had the honor of introducing Whitney.
Whitney spoke to the gathered students, teachers, family, and guests about her experiences working in Africa, and she shared the mission of Ubuntu Africa by screening a brief film on the organization. She then took several questions from the students, who were engaged and inspired by her work. Whitney’s message to the students was clear: Everyone can do something to help others. Explore your interests and your passions, and use them to improve the world around you.
Following Whitney’s remarks, the Chair of the RCS Alumni Association, Christopher Wirth ’94, presented her with the Distinguished Alumni Award for outstanding achievement, leadership in her profession, and service to others. Whitney is the third RCS alum to receive this award, which was last presented to Ambassador Nicholas Platt ’50 during the 2011-2012 school year.
Following the assembly and award presentation, Whitney and her family, friends, and former teachers gathered in the Upper Campus library for a breakfast reception. Several RCS alums were in attendance as well. During the reception, Head of School Matthew Nespole welcomed the crowd and congratulated Whitney on her accomplishments.
Rippowam Cisqua School salutes Whitney Johnson for her great work, and congratulates her on receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award—a well-deserved honor indeed.
To learn more about Rippowam Cisqua School, please visit www.rcsny.org.