By Rachel Morford, news correspondent

Alexandra Valentine Johnson, remembered by loved ones as a scholar, activist, volunteer and committed friend, passed away on June 18 after suffering complications relating to a seizure. She was 19.

“It was pretty hard not to be drawn to Alex,” said Alisa Jin, Johnson’s friend and rising sophomore electrical and computer engineering major. “She was incredibly outgoing, and she could approach just about anyone.”  

Jin is one one the many friends Johnson, a physical therapy major, made due to her participation in Northeastern University’s (NU) Ujima Global Leaders program. Rising sophomore and finance major Tiffany Cabrera also met Johnson through the program.

“She made you feel special, which is not something you can find in a lot of people,” Cabrera said. “She just had a way about her that made you feel comfortable and welcome and that you just fit.”

Born Feb. 13, 1997, Johnson was a native of New York City. Throughout her childhood, she grew to love the densely urban and diverse environment the city provided, Cabrera said. Johnson attended Fayetteville-Manlius High School, where she ran track and field before graduating in 2015.

In addition to her athletic and academic achievement, Johnson received an American Visions Medal for her oil painting “Redline at Midnight” as part of the 2015 National Art & Writing Awards. According to Scholastic News, past recipients of the award include famous figures Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote.

From there, Johnson was accepted to NU’s Honors Program. She was also an active member of the National Black Student Association (NBSA), on which she served as historian alongside her friend and rising sophomore biology major Savanah Rumbika, who presently serves as the board’s secretary.

“We went to lunch together almost every day of the week and hung out all weekend,” Rumbika said. “Her humor was a lot like mine and we really just clicked in so many ways. It was unlike any friendship I had ever had up until that point.”

Johnson’s other commitments included volunteering as an SAT coach at a local high school and serving as a team leader in both NU’s and Fayetteville-Manlius’s Relay for Life fundraisers.

“She just wanted to help people,” Rumbika said. “We called her ‘Momma Alex’ for a reason. She was a caretaker and a giver at heart.”

Kailee Loa-Sugihara, a rising sophomore civil engineering major, also experienced Johnson’s maternal instinct.

“She was such a mom to all of us,” she said. “She would always text us to make sure we were in the place we needed to be. It may not seem like a big deal, but in a time where people are so cutthroat and only think about themselves, Alex was the complete opposite. She was selfless.”

Kyle Taylor, a rising sophomore journalism major and deputy sports editor at The Huntington News, attested to her overall uniqueness as an individual.

“She was confident and genuine,” Taylor said. “She was always going to be Alex, always very true to herself.”

According to Cabrera, Johnson’s future goals included spending a summer session in Argentina, minoring in Spanish and potentially pursuing a career in sports medicine.

Johnson’s funeral service will be held at Memorial Baptist Church in New York City on Friday, June 24. She is survived by her mother Cheryl, sisters Selena and Alicia Johnson and her older brother.

Johnson’s friends said they will remember her for her trademark radiant personality.

“She was such a spirit and a light,” Cabrera said. “No matter what you felt about her, you felt it. I knew she was special since the moment I met her. It didn’t take her passing for me to recognize that.”
Grief counseling is available for students through University Health and Counseling Services, WeCare and the Center for Spirituality Dialogue and Service. Staff at the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute are also available to support students during this difficult time.

Courtesy of Alexandra Johnson, Facebook