By Jessica P. Ainley

Killeen Daily Herald

Karlynda Johnson plays soccer, baseball and softball. She takes advanced level classes at Killeen High School and participates in the school's International Baccalaureate program, taking college-level courses. Johnson also has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten.

What sets her apart from other students like her? Johnson was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 5.

Because of her success in overcoming the hardship that attempted to hold her back, Johnson won one of 10 national 2007 Discover Card Tribute Award Scholarships of $25,000. This is in addition to the $2,500 she received at the state level.

"I almost cried when I found out I won. I was so excited. The fact that I won still amazes me," said Johnson, adding that when she applied, she did not really think she had a chance of winning anything.

To win the scholarship, Johnson wrote three different essays: one about her leadership role as the president of Venturing Crew 229, one about her involvement with Camp Celebration and one about overcoming epilepsy.

Johnson, now a KHS junior, suffered seizures throughout elementary and middle school, sometimes having as many as three seizures in a day.

She would often miss two to five days of school each week because of medical problems.

Despite the tiger waiting in her path to success, Johnson chose to look it in the eye and take it out. She did not let her illness dictate her life.

Against doctors' suggestions, she enrolled in the advanced courses and competed on the local sports teams. Johnson coaches youth soccer at the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation center.

Before eighth grade, Johnson was hospitalized for a week. She was completely taken off her medication and has been seizure-free since.

Johnson has put about 178 hours into Camp Celebration.

"I still go check on things and camp with the younger girls," Johnson said.

Johnson's scholarship money will be put to good use, paying for tuition, books, fees and other miscellaneous expenses.

The Discover Card Tribute Award Scholarship Program has helped nearly 6,000 students achieve their dream of continuing their education by awarding more than $14 million in scholarships.

"We are proud of our winners and the contributions they make in their communities," said David Nelms, chairman and chief executive officer of Discover Financial Services.

National winners like Johnson are chosen from 300 state-level winners. Applicants must be current high school juniors, maintain at least a 2.75 cumulative grade-point average on a 4.0 scale, and demonstrate accomplishments in community service and leadership while overcoming a significant hardship.

Jennifer Grisamore, of Discover Financial Services, said that this program has been very successful and has helped many students achieve their dream of continuing their education.

Johnson plans to attend either the University of Texas in Austin or Baylor University in Waco and major in neuroscience. She wants to become a neurologist and work with pediatric epilepsy. She also stated she plans to write a book about growing up with epilepsy.

"I am so proud of her for what she accomplished and has overcome," said Johnson's mother, Sherry Johnson. "She wanted to do things independently, and that has given her strength. I believe she can do anything she wants."

Herald editor Olga Pena contributed to this story.

Contact Jessica P. Ainley at (254)501-7553 or

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