Duke University | Baldwin Scholars Program

Rebekah Johnston


Rebekah Johnston

Hey! I am Rebekah Johnston, a native of Jacksonville, North Carolina. Living there, in a military community, has shaped much of my political opinions and views as well as exposed me to tremendous diversity without every having to move. My high school was just like any other public school where it was up to me to make my experience something special. I love sports and being athletic so my involvement in Cross Country, Track and Soccer for all four years defined much of who I was. But as a senior I wanted to make a bigger impact on my school, hopefully affecting many classes after I went off to college. This led me to break through city policy barriers and start a recycling program. I was able to share my passion for the environment and now every classroom has a recycling bin, and my school has become a model for other schools to take a greener initiative.

At Duke, I am studying Mechanical Engineering and possibly Environmental Science and Public Policy. I plan to take those majors, go to law school and work to actively make and change Environmental Policy to better people’s abilities to move forward in a sustainable manner. However, my dreams differ quite a bit from my realistic goals. Currently, I fantasize about following Paul Farmer or Greg Mortenson’s step, starting an NGO and virtually moving to another country to create relationships with foreign people and serve the needs of others. Whether this would lead me to start schools, medical clinics, a clean water initiative etc. I don’t care. Similarly to my high school experience, I just want to make an impact.

As far as my activities at Duke and pursuit of an making an impact here, I pole vault for the track team and am involved in volunteer and environmental groups on campus. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to my school through athletics and love staying active. I am also looking to gain experience with policy by sitting on the STARS committee, a student run group that approves or denies sustainable grant proposals. Through this and Dorm Eco-Reps, I am getting involved in the environmental initiative across campus. Lastly, I just started participating in WOODS, an organization that teaches young Durham students about the environment. This one hour is by far the most gratifying part of my week. Giving back to the community, but more importantly, learning from these young students is an experience that is unmatched by any other involvement opportunity at Duke.