A rising Davenport North High School sophomore has won a $10,000 grant for a new project to improve computer skills for local veterans.
Abigail Johnson was nominated for the Pilot Pen 2021-2022 Science FriXion STEM Student Grant by her grandmother, Kathy Lake, after Lake saw it promoted on the Kelly Clarkson show last fall. Abigail had seen the needs at her local American Legion for further technology support and education, according to her mom, Sally Johnson.
Her goal was to form a program where technology classes could be taught and on-demand support could be given to veterans and their families. Her grandfather, Michael Lake, is a Vietnam combat veteran.
Abigail was selected as a finalist for the grant at the beginning of June and submitted a four-minute video detailing her plans (watch it HERE). Nationally, there were 2,000 applicants for the grades 9 and 10 grants. There were also STEM student grants for high school juniors and seniors.
The Pilot Pen Corporation notified Abigail that she won, and $2,500 of the grant goes to Davenport North with $7,500 for Veterans Tech Support (veteranstechsupport.com), the company she started this year.
“Since I was little, I’ve always loved computers,” Abigail said Friday. “But I also love veterans. My grandpa is a Vietnam veteran and the American Legion has helped me with so many things and it’s just an overall great place filled with amazing people. I wanted to help them to the best of my ability. I wanted to give back for all that they’ve done for me.”
The first American Legion to benefit from Veterans Tech Support will be Blue Grass American Legion Post 711, where Abigail is a member of its auxiliary. She plans to purchase computers that can be used in monthly classes for the veterans.
While she will teach the classes herself, Abigail plans to enlist other volunteers for the Blue Grass Legion. She and her family live in Blue Grass, and membership in the auxiliary is open to families of Legion members.
Plan to bring program nationwide
Commander Polly Graham has taken Abigail’s company to the state level and it has been well-received, Sally Johnson said. Abigail hopes to get continued funding to start spreading Veterans Tech Support to other American Legions at first in Iowa and then across the nation.
She spoke to the American Legion in Blue Grass Thursday night about the project.
On Friday, Abigail posted on the Veterans Tech Support blog: “While we have been working behind the scenes for a while now, last night was the first opportunity I had to announce the creation of Veterans Tech Support to the members at large of Blue Grass American Legion Post 711.
“The program has been incredibly well-received and I can’t wait to begin classes (hopefully next month pending receiving the debit card for our official business account and purchasing laptops/secure cart/etc.),” she wrote.
Since this is all so new, she is still waiting on the debit card to start purchasing laptops for the Legion to start classes, Sally Johnson said Friday. They have officially registered with the state as a nonprofit and submitted forms to the federal government.
Abigail started her computer journey at a very early age and at 15, she started noticing that her skills were well above those of others when it came to computer and technology knowledge, according to the website. She wanted to do something to help others with their skills and found the perfect opportunity at the American Legion, where she’s a member of the Auxiliary.
There she started Veterans Tech Support, helping local Legioneers and their families with technology needs. She hopes to expand the program to many other locations in the future.
First in her class and more
Abigail is first in her high school class (with a 4.0 GPA), and also is enrolled at Scott Community College, taking dual-enrollment classes at Davenport North. She expects to complete her associate’s degree at the same time as her high school diploma (in 2025).
She is a varsity cheerleader, a member of the tennis team, on the student council, in the anime club, and sings in the chamber choir.
Abigail is Miss Scott County Cheerleader USA Junior Teen, and will be competing for the national Junior Teen (ages 13-15) title next week in the first-annual Cheerleader USA competition in Little Rock, Ark.
She won the Scott County title this past March, her mom Sally said. The winners in three divisions will be crowned July 30, and after that, Abigail and her folks will be going to Oklahoma City, where she’ll participate in the supreme level of the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic leadership development group.
That’s a meeting they have every two years, and her mom said she memorized a text of 3,000 words, which she will read (typically split among seven people, her mom said).
Abigail is a Grand Officer for Iowa in the International Order of Rainbow for Girls — which “prepares girls for responsible and purposeful adulthood through character and leadership development, encouraging unselfish service and higher ideals in life, and promoting teamwork and effective interpersonal communications,” according to its website.
Outside of school, Abigail also is the First Vice President of Iowa’s Children of the American Revolution and the president of the regional society of the group; and loves to read, write and draw. She’s in Children of the American Revolution since her family traces its lineage back to the Revolutionary War, for whom one of their ancestors fought — Capt. Samuel Swearingen (1732-1824) of Pennsylvania.
After high school, Abigail hopes to pursue a medical degree and bring her technology skills to the field of cardiovascular surgery, specializing in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.