An Olympic Medal in the Camelot Family
When Melita Johnson saw her daughter Nia Ali cross the finish line in the Women’s 100 Meter Hurdles during the 2016 U.S. Olympics, her sense of pride, joy and elation was overwhelming.
Johnson, the director of special education at Camelot Academy in Philadelphia, said it was a moment she will never forget. It was amazing to see her daughter, who has overcome several personal trials, literally run into Olympic history.
“It was truly amazing,” Johnson said. “The way she’s handled some of situations in her life; her father’s death, becoming pregnant and being a young mother, it was all God’s plan. She never gave up; she came back from all of it to become a silver medalist.”
Johnson said she’s been with Camelot Education since they came to Philadelphia, 12 years ago. The support, friendship and sense of mission present at Camelot is a source of continued strength for her, said Melita.
“Camelot has always been very supportive of us,” Johnson said. “They followed my Nia collegially. They always gave me time to go to her meets. They really are like a family.”
Melita said she’s been watching Nia run since her daughter was six years old. She herself is a runner, both of her daughters run track. In fact, she comes from a family of track runners; her father and mother also being competitive athletes.
“Watching Nia during the trials was initially scary,” Johnson said. “It made me very nervous because I knew how much she wanted this and I know how hard she worked. From the time she was six years old she would do whatever Coach Daryl Murphy told her to do. She really puts trust in her coaches, so I wanted her to make the team for herself because she works so hard. So when I saw her name on the Olympic trials, I just broke down. It was an amazing feeling.”
In 2009, Nia’s father died in a murder-suicide incident. At the time, she was running track at the University of Southern California. Instead of defeating her, Melita said her daughter came back stronger than ever.
“We’ve always been a spiritually-based family. With God nothing is impossible, and we’ve always believed that,” Johnson said. “While she was at the university, I know she struggled a lot. But she sought out people to talk with. She leaned on those people for support. Being a young mother has strengthened her resolve to excel too. Many young people who have been through what she has will give up. I think now, they’ll see her as an inspiration to not allow the struggles of life hold you back. My favorite line in all of this is “there always has to be a next”. I want young people to know that fact. Nia is this “next”. I am so proud of her. She’s an inspiration to me and she’ll inspire others to be great. Anything is possible.”