Getting into Harvard University usually comes with the utmost praise, but comments from a former educator sent a California high school senior into a social media whirlwind this past month.
Drake Johnson of Marina, Calif., had announced his decision to attend the Ivy League school on Twitter, choosing over schools like Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, UCLA and others.
However, George Clayton, a former Texas State Board of Education member, then tweeted at Johnson, who's biracial: “Congrats. Were you admitted on merit or on quota?”
Johnson decided on the Michelle Obama-mindset of “When they go low, you go high” and listing his achievements as the best way to respond, he said.
Johnson replied “Thank you! Valedictorian, ASB President, World Champion, good SAT, and a couple handfuls of other involvements, so I would think merit?”
The exchange soon made national headlines, garnering overwhelming public backlash towards Clayton and support for Johnson.
Johnson said he went from 600 followers on the social media site to now more than 3,000.
“I remember my Twitter would freeze when I was on my notifications because there was just so much going on constantly,” said Johnson.
Clayton eventually apologized on his now-suspended Twitter account, but Johnson said he did not buy it. Johnson said Clayton did not mention him or any other students he had targeted in the past and only tagged other media outlets in his apology.
“I found it interesting because he wasn’t saying sorry to us, he was saying sorry to say sorry, which is a little bit disheartening and disappointing,” said Johnson. “At the end of the day, even if he has the same mindset, he learned something.”
Johnson said he felt the strong response from the public came because Clayton was an educator himself with a prominent position.
Outreach from a Harvard professor is what Johnson said was his favorite Twitter interaction from the publicity so far, said Johnson.
“It meant a lot, it means I have a connection now to a teacher who could potentially be a mentor and could be huge in my future in getting me to where I want to go,” said Johnson.
Johnson attributes his extracurricular activities, more specifically his cheerleading team The Cali Black Ops, as his key to success in academics. Johnson just became a two-time world champion with his team at The Cheerleading Worlds this past weekend.
“The values that that coaches instill in us of focus, of perseverance, of grit are a huge factor and impact of why I’m to succeed or reach as far as I’ve reached,” said Johnson. “It’s allowed me to be successful.”
Johnson said the response he got on social media was enormous but a bit distracting while trying to focus on his academics. Now that the situation has died down a bit, Johnson said he is feeling the effects of the surge in his popularity.
“I got a little bit burnt out from the whole situation,” Johnson said. “It’s not like I’ve ever been this popular. It’s very interesting to go through that.”
Johnson plans to have a relaxing summer vacation before heading off to Harvard in August.
Johnson has made it clear that he has a desire to run for president of the United States one day and said he was first inspired to do so after visiting Washington D.C. in eighth grade.
“I want to help the next generation carry on and get to where they want to be,” said Johnson.
Follow Cristian Ponce on Twitter: @CristianPNews