The idea to use tap dancing as a way to make ends meet didn’t come to Josh Johnson until he was an undergraduate at Penn State University. The foundation to pursue such a bold vision was laid years earlier, however, as a member of the first CFES cohort at Wadleigh Secondary School in New York City.

Still in middle school at the time, Johnson learned the Essential Skills of perseverance, leadership and goal setting that he later utilized as a communications and marketing major at Penn State to overcome academic and financial challenges. “CFES gave students options and something to look forward to,” says Johnson. “I didn’t have the resources I needed, so I had to use tap dancing as a side hustle.”

Johnson was introduced to tap dancing in eighth grade and fell in love with the art form. Balancing a full course load and a full-time job at Penn State, he would travel to New York City on weekends to raise money by tap dancing on the subway. His talent and moving story inspired the passengers he came across on their daily commutes. The New York Times featured Johnson during his junior year, causing his story to go viral.

Johnson has gone from performing on the NYC subway to sharing his story around the world and across the United States. He has performed for Ellen DeGeneres, Dancing with the Stars, and more. “I want to see what’s on the other side of the world,” says Johnson. “I wasn’t able to study abroad at Penn State, but I’ve been traveling since graduation and sharing the art form of tap dancing.”

After graduating, Johnson traveled to Germany, Spain, and China to act, dance, and teach tap dancing workshops. Today, Johnson is working with a publishing company on a new book series titled Make It Happen! In the book series, Johnson shares his journey and helps students build the skills that have helped him reach his goals.