Berns, Johnson earn MFL MarMac’s top academic honors

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Destiny Berns

Eli Johnson

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

Destiny Berns has earned the title of valedictorian of MFL MarMac’s class of 2020, and Eli Johnson is the salutatorian.

Destiny, who is the daughter of Sally and the late Bob Berns, of Monona, said the honor is one she’s worked toward throughout high school. She follows in the footsteps of sister Kasey, a previous Bulldog valedictorian.

“My freshman year, I had the mindset I would work toward it. I wanted to make my parents proud,” she said. “So I tried my best, and hoped it would land that way.”

Eli is the son of David and Heather Johnson, of McGregor. Being one of the top students wasn’t a specific goal, he acknowledged: “I always tried to do my best, always tried to perform well.” Salutatorian is a nice reward for that effort.

In high school, one of Destiny’s most influential classes was English 9 with Lynn Jones.

“I’ve always loved writing,” she shared, “and I loved writing about memories of my dad.”

That love continued in Jason Thompson’s composition class.

“By then,” Destiny added, “I could see how I’d grown, and how I could express my feelings.”

Eli enjoyed a variety of classes, including personal finance with Diane Rothmeyer, history and government with Adam Simon and English courses with Jones and Thompson. Science teacher Dan Anderson was a favorite, though.

“I respect him a lot as a teacher and as a football coach,” he said. The two also share a passion for the outdoors and have fished together. “He’s been a mentor.”

Eli said MFL MarMac’s teachers are good at helping students and giving advice. 

Principal Larry Meyer “likes to talk about being good people and treating others with kindness and respect,” he noted.

At MFL MarMac, Destiny said she’s learned how to be prepared, responsible and on time.

“Teachers are like your boss,” she explained. “You have to change how you work depending on the teacher. You have to meet their needs.”

The school encourages students to get involved in extra curricular activities too, Eli said. Over the past four years, he’s participated in football and trapshooting.

Destiny’s pursuits have included swim team, dance and cheer, show choir, speech and National Honor Society. She’s also the class secretary.

Being involved, she said, “helps you become well-rounded. Even if you don’t think you will have any friends, you meet people along the way and become close with others you don’t normally talk to. It gets you out of your comfort zone.”

Before COVID-19 disrupted the school year, MFL MarMac’s senior class had experienced a successful run in sports, fine arts and academics.

“That reflects on the people in the class—their attitudes and the work they put in,” said Eli. “There are a lot of very good students in this class, and that’s translated into a lot of different areas. It will add to success later.”

He hopes that’s how he and his fellow 2020 graduates will be remembered.

Destiny said it’s been hard being physically separated from her fellow seniors these past two months.

“Right away we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll be back.’ Then we realized we might not go back,” she reflected. “We didn’t know our last goodbye was going to be our last goodbye.”

She’s been happy with the school’s response to the pandemic and its efforts to make sure the class of 2020 is still recognized, including this Sunday’s virtual graduation ceremony.

“You have to look at the positives. We can have that now, and then, hopefully, an in-person one,”  Destiny said. “No one’s ever had two graduation ceremonies before.”

“It’s definitely interesting,” Eli added, “but, like anything else, we’ll get through it.”

Both Destiny and Eli will attend the University of Iowa this fall. Destiny will pursue business as an undergraduate, then seek a law degree. It took time to settle on that path.

“I was all over the place,” she said, “but I really loved writing and speaking.”

An opportunity to job shadow, and learn from, Monona attorney Greg Schiller opened her eyes to the career.

“I think it will fit me well,” Destiny quipped.

Eli will major in mechanical engineering—plans derived from his love for tinkering, building and designing.

“I like how versatile [the field] is,” he said. “Everything has an engineer who helped put it together.”

MFL MarMac’s virtual commencement ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. The event can be viewed live on the district’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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