DREAM Scholar Nikita Johnson finds family, support and success at LCCC

Nikita Johnson is one step closer to achieving her dream of being a social worker.

The Lorain woman is graduating in this summer with an associate of arts from Lorain County Community College. She’s already working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work through Youngstown State University and LCCC’s University Partnership. She will be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

 

 

Johnson was named a 2021 DREAM Scholar by Achieving the Dream (ATD) - the nation’s most comprehensive organization in advancing student success and equity. Johnson is one of just eight students in the country to be selected as a DREAM Scholar. The DREAM Scholars are resilient community college students, determined to reach their goals and lift up their communities.

“For other busy people, especially adults like myself who work and have other obligations, this is the best opportunity I could have ever asked for.”

Simone Yalanty of LCCC's Fast Track to Employment program

A single mother, Johnson said she hopes earning her associate degree and bachelor’s degree will lay a new path for herself and her four children. Her goal is to break the generational cycle of poverty that has played a pivotal role in her life. She hopes her future career in social work will help others, too.

“Growing up in poverty, social workers a lot of times have a negative meaning associated with them. I’d like to change that. I want to show children and others the positive side of being a social worker,” she said.

As a child growing up in Cleveland, Johnson lived with the harsh realities of poverty, crime and violence. That environment took a heavy toll on young Johnson.

“I dropped out of school in the eighth grade. I became a teen mom when I was 15. Life was hard. I felt trapped in a life I did not choose,” she recalled.

Still, she was determined to make a better life for her new family. She worked a variety of jobs, including various positions in fast food and nursing homes, but landing those jobs was a struggle. In 2014, she decided it was time to put those thoughts into action. She took a leap of faith and signed up for the GED. She failed the math section, but passed the other parts of the test. She never gave up. By 2017, she passed the math part of the test and earned her GED.

The achievement moment was a huge step forward and the confidence boost that Johnson needed to keep moving forward. As a GED graduate, Johnson earned a $500 scholarship to continue her education at Lorain County Community College.

Once at LCCC, she was invited to share her story with LCCC’s Equity Team, a group of faculty, staff and students who actively work to ensure LCCC’s commitment to equity is achieved through improving success for students from marginalized and underrepresented populations.

Johnson knew her life was changed from the first meeting. From that day forward, the Equity Team became her support system.

“It seems like every time I am at my breaking point I receive a text from the Equity Team giving me words of encouragement to keep moving forward,” Johnson said.

She’s helping others find that support, too.

“Whenever I hear someone in class say they’re struggling, I let them know about the resources at LCCC, and that people genuinely want to help them. LCCC truly cares about each student and treats you like family,” Johnson said.