Ever since she graduated from Connetquot High School in 2017, Victoria Johnson knew she wanted to join the U.S. Army. But she never thought it was something she could realistically do.
Now, the SJC Long Island junior is set to serve her country as an Army mental health specialist.
“It feels amazing to finally be going after a dream of mine,” said Johnson, a therapeutic recreation major. “I’m extremely excited to experience what’s ahead of me, and I’m beyond grateful to have this opportunity.”
Taking a Leap
Regretting not joining the Army out of high school, Johnson decided to do some research to learn about what jobs they had. When she found the mental health specialist position, she quickly called the recruiting office in Patchogue to schedule a meeting.
“After the first time I met with my recruiter, … I knew it was something I wanted to do,” she said.
In her new position, Johnson’s responsibilities include collecting and recording psychosocial and physical data, assisting with the care and treatment of psychiatric drug and alcohol patients, and counseling clients/patients with personal, behavioral or psychological problems. She will work with active duty military personnel and veterans.
“Throughout my years at St. Joe’s, I realized I really want to help people with mental disabilities, whether it be as a recreation therapist, a mental health specialist or as a psychologist,” Johnson, 20, said. “It is definitely a passion of mine.”
Johnson is set to complete basic combat training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma in January. Following basic combat training, she moves on to advanced individual training in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
“I do still plan to take as many classes as I can while I’m enlisted,” Johnson said. “I’m not positive what classes I can take online, but I know I can take some. This is definitely something I have considered and most likely what I will do.”
Finding Her Passion at SJC
As a freshman, Johnson was a biology major working toward becoming a dentist. She quickly realized biology wasn’t for her, and she started looking in to nursing. During her search for the right major, Johnson was referred to Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., professor and chair of recreation and leisure studies.
“I scheduled a meeting with (Dr. Lamberta), and while talking about the therapeutic recreation major, I realized how perfect it was for me,” Johnson said. “I have loved the major ever since.
“My dream job as a kid fluctuated frequently,” she added. “However, it was always something in the medical field — from doctor to surgeon to dentist. Now that I’m old enough to realize what I’ll be happy doing, I know it’s helping people with mental illnesses.”