Forecast looks sunny for Richards senior, an aspiring meteorologist
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent May 3, 2013 2:08PM
Brendan Johnson, of Richards High School in Oak Lawn, wants to be a TV meteorologist and recently job-shadowed Tom Skilling. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 7, 2013 6:02AM
Brendan Johnson, a senior who is about to graduate from Richards High School in Oak Lawn, used to be afraid of storms.
That was then. Today, the 18-year-old has taken his fear and turned it into his passion. He loves weather and wants to pursue a career as a television meteorologist.
“A lot of meteorologists are brought into the field by a fear of storms. I turned that fear into an interest. I like looking at the weather,” Johnson said.
To that end, he recently managed to score an opportunity to shadow WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling, one of Johnson’s role models.
“I was there an hour before the newscast until an hour after,” he said. “It was very enjoyable and I got to see what the actual job looked like. Tom Skilling is the best in the country.”
Johnson knows that studying math and science could get him where he wants to be, so he’s doing just that. He’s a member of mathletes and regularly takes honors and advanced placement classes.
“I’m doing the things I need to do to prepare for it,” he said. “I need physics, which isn’t offered here, but I’m taking all the math and science classes I can.
“I’m trying to prepare myself for this to get those pre-jitters out of the way,” he said.
Johnson is an Illinois State Scholar, a member of National Honor Society and achieved Honors with Distinction, the highest academic honor a student can achieve at Richards.
He is also trying to get some hands-on experience in broadcasting as a star on the speech team, for which he excels in the categories of original oratory and radio speaking. Johnson has earned accolades in both categories but really enjoys radio speaking. He’s participated in it for several years. This year, he made it to the final rounds of sectionals.
“Radio is a prep event, which means I am put in a prep room and we have 45 minutes to construct a radio broadcast,” he said. “I get a packet of news stories and you have to put it into a broadcast that runs between 4 minutes and 50 seconds to 5 minutes and 5 seconds. If you deviate from that 15-second window, you get marked off.”
The time constraint can be challenging, but Johnson enjoys the event just the same.
“I like it because it is a way to prepare me for my future occupation as a meteorologist or broadcast journalist,” he said. “I just like delivering news to people, finding all these local news stories and seeing what happens around the world. I like current events a lot.”
He also excels in music as a trumpet player. Last year, he was a member of the Illinois Music Educators Association All-District band.
He plays in marching band, where he was field commander this year, and also performs with the concert and jazz bands.
Johnson especially admires his band director, Charles Martin.
“He makes it like a family,” Johnson said. “It is one of those activities where you come in and have a great time. You perform your music, and you get to do it with your friends. It is like a hobby that I do. I don’t do many sports so this is something I can do that people enjoy.”
Outside of school, Johnson is very involved in his church, Our Lady of the Ridge in Chicago Ridge.
He credits his parents, Kevin and Kathy Johnson, of Chicago Ridge, with setting the bar high.
“They worked very hard throughout their lives,” he said. “They make a good living and provide for their family, which is what I want to do in the future.”
Next school year, he will be attending Valparaiso University, where he plans to pursue a major in meteorology with a minor in broadcast journalism.
Seeing other people’s success as a result of working hard is what motivates Johnson.
“If someone is successful, I want to apply what they did,” he said. “For radio, I’ve seen the good friends who went before me. I take bits of pieces of what they do, use those things to make them mine and push me in a better direction.
“When I get to be a weatherman, the thing I want to do is make that expertise and make the environment personable and enjoyable. Until then, my motto is to take the example of the people before you.”