Special humanitarian

It’s been a symbol of student kindliness for 19 years, but the C.P. Johnson Humanitarian Awards ceremony will never be the same.

Johnson’s final awards ceremony

It’s been a symbol of student kindliness for 19 years, but the C.P. Johnson Humanitarian Awards ceremony will never be the same.

Bothell resident Dorothy Johnson, 89, has ended her involvement with the Northshore School District event, which honors dozens of youths each year.

“It’s not that I would ever get tired of it, but I’m getting old,” she said.

Dorothy has been inching her way onto the stage with a walker in recent years to meet recipients of the award, which is named after her late husband.

She can no longer make the rounds with each of the honorees and hang medals from their necks as she once used to.

“I told the district that this should be the last year,” Dorothy said. “It’s run its course.”

This year’s ceremony took place May 13 at the Northshore Performing Arts Center.

The C.P. Johnson Award has gone to two students from every Northshore school since 1989, honoring youths who exhibit the spirit of humanitarianism through their leadership and kindness.

Hollywood Hill Elementary nominated Grant Kamien for his willingness to “help anyone without being asked, especially the younger students for whom he donates countless hours of coaching, playing and mentoring.”

Kenmore Elementary selected Cristalle Barnard for the award, noting that she “confidently steps up to intervene or express an opinion, even if it is not popular.”

“It’s nice to have an award that’s not necessarily about athletics or academics, but strength of character,” said Kenmore Elementary teacher Janice Reed, who was on hand during the 2008 ceremony.

Many students have received numerous medals through the years, while others follow in the footsteps of older siblings.

“You can tell that character is being nurtured within certain families,” Reed said. “You never are surprised when they’re the same students.”

Northshore’s School Board established the C.P. Johnson prize after earning the first-ever Washington State Award for Excellence in Education back in 1987.

The award came with a monetary gift of several thousand dollars for the district.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, who was serving on the School Board at the time, recommended using the funds to establish a humanitarian award for local students.

She nominated her neighbor, C.P., as the namesake.

Both of the Johnsons were involved with education at local schools.

C.P. joined the Northshore School District in 1969 as its first coordinator of minority studies. His job was to raise awareness about the values of ethnic diversity.

“He was always collecting kids and collecting teachers,” Dorothy said. “He taught kids to get over their anger so they could learn.”

The Johnson’s, both African American, had experience with the frustrations minorities were dealing with. They grew up in the south when schools were still segregated.

C.P., born in 1909, was raised near New Orleans and attended Moorhouse College, as well as the University of Washington, where he obtained a master’s degree in school administration.

Dorothy earned her bachelor’s degree from Wiley College and studied under Melvin Tolson, the English professor depicted by Denzel Washington in “The Great Debaters.”

She later obtained a master’s degree from the University of Texas, Austin. The school was largely segregated at the time, and only accepted Dorothy because she applied for a new program that was designed to train special-education teachers.

“It was another world, especially when I got into the field,” she said. “Now it’s grown in every direction.”

Dorothy became the Shoreline School District’s special-education coordinator after moving with C.P. to the Seattle area in 1961.

McAuliffe eventually harnessed Dorothy’s expertise to help two of her own children overcome their problems with dyslexia.

“She helped me find a way to guide them,” McAuliffe said. “She told me afterwards that I had to find a way to help all kids.

“I’ve been involved in education for 35 years because of her guidance.”

McAuliffe currently serves on the state’s Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee.

Northshore spokeswoman Susan Stolzfus said the district will continue to recognize students for humanitarianism, but with a different format from the C.P. Johnson awards.