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Zachariah Johnson of Northwest Christian takes leadership skills to Washington Army National Guard

UPDATED: Thu., June 3, 2021

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Zachariah Johnson will be missed at Northwest Christian.

His teachers appreciate the example of hard work, service and leadership that he’s modeled for fellow students.

“Zach is super motivated and really focused,” said teacher Chris Wells. “He’s always on the go.”

Indeed, Johnson vividly remembers his first job.

“I was 7 when my neighbor hired me to pull weeds and pick berries for their organic berry farm,” he recalled. “I used the money to buy more Legos.”

He understands luxuries must be earned, and he takes nothing for granted – including the opportunity to attend NWC.

“My aunt and uncle, Angie and Irv Zakheim, paid my tuition so I could to go to Northwest Christian,” he said. “I’m so blessed.”

Last year during the pandemic, he and his friend Graham Clark, launched their own business.

“It was at the start of corona(virus) and jobs were scarce,” he said. “I needed the income to pay for my car insurance and gas.”

Previously, he’d worked as a lifeguard, and taught swim lessons at the YMCA and Spokane County parks.

His mom showed him the Nextdoor app, where many people had asked for help with home and yard tasks.

Soon, he and Clark were weeding, mowing and doing lawn care for dozens of customers.

“I ended up hiring seven of my friends, because our wait list grew to two to three weeks,” he said. “In the beginning we both worked 70-hour weeks.”

When school resumed, they cut their workload to 50 to 60 hours per week. Last month, the friends launched an upgraded version of their business.

“We now do sprinkler systems, concrete work, and landscape work,” Johnson said. “I’ve always been somewhat of a country boy – I learned how to do a lot of stuff.”

He attributes his work ethic to his friends.

“They say you’re like whoever you hang out with, and all my friends are hard workers.”

Wells admires his student’s entrepreneurial drive.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he owns seven businesses at 30,” he said. “He’s great with people and a good communicator.”

Despite putting in long days at work, he still kept up with schoolwork, and served as captain of the cross country team during his junior and senior years.

While he enjoys fitness and working out, the cross county captain doesn’t like running.

“I actually hate running,” he said. “But I love my coaches and the team, and it turned out I had a bit of natural talent.”

He’s no slouch as a student, either.

“Zach’s very intelligent and a top-performer in all of his classes,” said Wells.

Johnson shrugged off the praise.

“I’m not a 4.0 student,” he said. “But I’ve been given a major opportunity to go to Northwest Christian and I don’t want to slack off.”

Wells said the staff appreciates Johnson’s positive attitude.

“When personal issues or setbacks happen, he uses them to spur him on to be better,” he said.

Johnson has enlisted in the Washington Army National Guard and is excited about serving his country.

“The discipline I’ll get in the military will affect every aspect of my life in a positive way,” he said. “Plus, I’ll get paid to do pushups.”

After basic and AIT training, Johnson will attend Eastern Washington University. He’s already signed up for the ROTC program.

“Not to be cliché, but I love America, and I feel like I owe it at least one enlistment,” he said. “My personal belief is that I’m called to protect those who can’t protect themselves. I’ve always wanted to be a soldier, and now I am one.”

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Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com

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