Zoë Johnson lives in the Monroe, Wisconsin area just south of Madison. She grew up in Lena, Illinois, about a half-hour from where she lives now. She graduated from high school in 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic.
“We graduated at the end of July,” Zoë explained. “We wore masks. There were no pictures. We didn’t have a class trip.” Zoë shared that she graduated in a class of 64 students. “We were a close-knit class.”
College didn’t go as Zoë had planned either because of the pandemic. She attended the University of Dubuque for one semester with the intent of studying Elementary Education. “I love kids,” she shared. “I love helping them learn and grow.” But because of the pandemic, Zoë returned home and went to work.
“I have worked in day care since I was 15 years old,” she explained. So, Zoë, at the young age of 19, soon after opened her own daycare in her home. “I loved it. I loved my kids. They became my family. So it was really hard when I closed. Sickness,” she said due to COVID, “was a big issue.”
Both her and her boyfriend Andre were getting sick a lot, and the parents of her day care children started working from home. “I loved what I was doing but I had to provide for my family,” Zoë explained. Not only that, but Zoë added that her grueling schedule providing care for 12 hours a day, not getting a break all day and having to clean and disinfect her home every day due to the pandemic became too much. “I became overwhelmed,” she continued. She explained that her community was hit hard by the pandemic.
She explained how much the pandemic impacted her as a young adult with her business and in high school. “It was really hard to make it work when everything shut down,” Zoë shared. “It was hard to live out my senior year when you couldn’t travel or work.”
Zoë explained that her and her high school friends stayed social through their phones and would secretly meet at a local park. “We socially distanced ourselves,” she shared but as “crazy high school kids … we were losing our minds.” Even her class trip and prom were cancelled although they had a “prom” at a friend’s farm in July after everything had shut down. “It was the first time we all saw each other.”
“COVID is still there,” she added. “There are still precautions,” but she said it “sucked when I graduated.” That said, Zoë said she felt COVID somehow brought her and her family and friends closer together. “We got through it,” she added.
After closing her day care, Zoë said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go back to school and after reading Marine Credit Union’s (MCU) mission statement and reviews, she applied for work and started as a Member Service Representative in June of 2022.
Zoë said she loved her boss and the girls she shadowed with during the hiring process. “I (also) loved how we get to work with members every day. I absolutely love it here. I love it at MCU and can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.”
Where did Zoë get the heart to help others? “My sister had cancer when she was 10,” Zoë shared. “I was only six.” Zoë explained that her parents struggled financially and emotionally during the time when her sister battled with brain cancer.
“It was up and down,” Zoë continued. “Such a roller coaster. My sister was my best friend. She was all I had. I felt I was getting that taken away from me. It was super hard.” Zoë shared they had experienced a cancer diagnosis for their grandmother two years before her sister’s cancer was detected as well.
When my sister was diagnosed, they shaved her hair. I shaved my head for my sister. My parents didn’t know. We were sitting on the porch. She was a mess to have to go to school bald,” Zoë continued. “She was my best friend.” Zoë told her sister, “I’ll do it with you. I’ll be sick with you.” And Zoë picked up the razor and shaved her own head.
Zoë’s sister Ally survived her battle with cancer, is now 24 years old and got married the week before Zoë’s Heart of MCU interview. “We still go see the doctors and surgeons at the American Family Children’s Hospital because they helped her survive.” Zoë explained that her family also started Ally’s Toy Chest to collect and donate toys to the hospital every year. “We dress up as Santa and elves and take gifts to each of the kids,” she shared.
Zoë and Andre are pet lovers, having Mika, a chocolate lab, Freddie, a black lab and golden mix and an eight-week-old chocolate lab, Beau (short for Lambeau) who was a Christmas gift. They also have two cats, a calico named Pepper and a six-month old they named Turbo.