The city of Labadie isn’t known for its vast opportunities to scuba dive, but that didn’t stop James Johnson from pursuing it anyway.

“When I learned to dive it changed not only my perspective of the world, but it also changed my outlook on life,” he said. “I enjoy diving so much I became a scuba instructor. I get great satisfaction watching it change the lives of my students.”

While his love for scuba is unwavering, he knew it wasn’t his complete future.

“Unfortunately, teaching scuba is not a profession that will pay the bills in the Midwest,” he explained. “So, I began my search for a career that not only interests me, but something I felt could help people and possibly change their lives.”

Johnson was already trained to teach CPR and first aid, and is always the first to offer help when   someone is injured.

“A career in nursing just felt like a natural path for me to take,” he said. “Nursing gives me the opportunity to help people not only when in good health, but also when they might need it the most.”

After nearly a 20-year gap, he decided to go back to college.

“East Central College has been great so far,” he said. “I’m impressed by the academic services offered, such as the Learning Center, and the ambition of my instructors for their students to succeed.”

Johnson thought fitting in socially might be one of his biggest challenges. 

“After starting classes, it did not take long to see the diversity in age of ECC’s students,” he explained. “It’s been interesting to share my life experiences with some of the younger students.”

Johnson is currently taking general education requirements this semester and is working toward his Associate of Applied Science in nursing.

“My motivation to help others, have a stable income and a possibility for retirement keeps me on track to succeed,” Johnson said. “I believe I’m better prepared for college at this point in my life than straight out of high school.”