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‘Other kids look up to him’

Student Leader: Aamir Johnson

Northview — It’s a good bet that if you ask teachers who the student leaders are in their building, one name will come up again and again. At Highlands Middle School, that name is Aamir Johnson.

“He is a kid who really seems to empathize with other kids,” teacher Marli Oliver said of Aamir. “Kids who maybe aren’t always the easiest to get along with, he is there for them. He has done things this year that I tear up just thinking about. If someone said something rude to him the day before, that’s in the past. If the next day that person drops some stuff, he’ll help them pick it up.”

Added teacher Julie Williams: “(Aamir) has a really, really, really, really kind heart. Other kids look up to him, because he’s a good person.”

Highlands Middle sixth-grader Aamir Johnson is a big presence at his school

Oliver recalled a getting-to-know-you activity in her class, when students shared their favorite things and others could stand up if they also liked them. When one student expressed a like for a certain video game character, nobody joined him at first.

“Then I saw Aamir look around and just go, ‘Yeah, (that character) is cool.’ Then two other boys stood up. … Other kids just follow his lead.”

Teacher Keith Hillary said it’s one example of how Aamir “is always super positive, and other kids see that. It’s a great influence in the classroom: a strong leader who brings others along with him.

“And he’s got school figured out,” Hillary added. “A well-rounded, solid, solid kid.”

The Golden Rule Applied

The soft-spoken sixth-grader has been a student in the district since kindergarten. He currently is on the football team at school and plays on a traveling basketball team. And he is one of four student hosts of HTV, the school’s morning announcements that are broadcast to every classroom. 

He’s humble about being called a leader in his school, but he takes the accolade seriously. 

“You want people to look at you as a good person,” Aamir said. “I always like to treat people the way I want them to treat me. If you can tell that somebody is feeling down, or sitting by themselves at lunch, just go sit with them and talk to them.”

He said he’s been on the receiving end of not-nice treatment. “It doesn’t make me feel good, but I can get past it.”

Aamir Johnson, second from right, with fellow Highlands TV team members, from left, Marin Kunnath, Ellamae Lee and Shawn Fairbairn on the day of their Halloween broadcast

Where does that attitude come from? Mom and Dad, Aamir said without hesitation.

“He raised us to be good people, even if someone isn’t nice to you. … (And) she always tells me to be a good friend and help people.”

And the middle of three children admits with a grin that he’s probably not as consistently mature and responsible at home.

“I like to get down on the floor and play with my little sister and her toys,” he said. 

Read more from Northview: 
She’s a mentor, performer, editor ‘with a servant’s heart’
‘I want to change the world’

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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