South Fulton County

Local teacher using award money to pay for students to take DNA tests

SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — A local teacher is making sure students stay true to themselves.

The Westlake High School teacher recently won a $7,500 award – and she wants her students to benefit from it.

Teacher Toni Johnson grew emotional telling Channel 2’s Tom Jones about what she is doing with the money -- she plans to pay for DNA tests for her students.

Johnson said she thought the best way to spend part of it was on helping students learn more about themselves and where they came from.

“I really hope they have an understanding,” Johnson said.

The ninth grade literature teacher won the Atlanta Families Awards for Excellence in Education back in March.

Johnson didn't want to just spend the money on classroom essentials. She wanted to make an impact on students.


“Cause we're really building global citizens,” Johnson said.

So she came up with the Make Your Mark project.

Students had to create tiles that would detail where they come from. They complete an essay and do a community service project, like cleaning up their community or getting people to vote.

“So they'll get $150 to do their project,” Johnson said.

The students will then receive the My Heritage DNA kits after the project.

Johnson hopes when people set lower expectations for her students they will remember what they learned.

“I want them to be able to say, ‘No this is who I am and I’m proud of it,’” Johnson said.

The students will take those DNA tests in two weeks.

Johnson said her students are really hungry for knowledge about themselves.

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