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Class of 2016: Ebony Johnson — Overcoming Adversity

Posted On May 13, 2016
Categories News, Nursing

Few undergraduate nursing students can withstand the challenges of a rigorous degree, the loss of a family member and balancing an overnight job to pay bills. However, ACE nursing student Ebony Johnson is no ordinary student.

Her mother was a nursing student who died when Johnson was young, but her mother’s profession gave the May graduate’s her a career passion. When Johnson began taking her anatomy class, she realized how much she wanted to be a nurse, that she wasn’t in school just to honor her mother.

Johnson relocated from New York to Georgia State at the urging of her late aunt, Lalitia DuBose. Accepted into the fast paced ACE program, she dared to take on a challenge working late night shifts at UPS. In turn, UPS offered her tuition assistance.

Faculty cautioned her about working while in the challenging ACE program. They tell students that working is difficult at best for traditional nursing students and is nearly impossible for ACE students. Johnson accepted the challenge and threw herself in school and her job.

“I had no social life. No friends who weren’t nursing students,” she says. “But I never thought about quitting. I knew my success depended on my classmates.” After struggling with one test, Johnson buddied up with fellow nursing students to drill each other on the material. She earned a 90 on the next test.

Four months after Johnson relocated things took a turn for the worse. Her aunt suddenly died from complications during surgery. The passionate nursing student struggled to stay focused on school. However, she knew her aunt and mother would want her to finish nursing school. Johnson took another blow when UPS laid her off after her working and school hours collided. She never missed class and made sure that faculty knew her, which paid off when Johnson approached Teresa Bates about her financial situation. Bates took her directly to Joan Cranford, interim director of nursing who pushed through the paperwork for an emergency grant.

Others helped encourage her along the way. Teresa Kibler looked out for scholarship opportunities and Felisha Norrington, director of Academic Assistance, checked on the nursing student regularly. For this support, Johnson is grateful.

“No one knows what you are going through unless you tell them,” she says of her decision to open up about her struggles. “What were the chances that I would meet Professor Bates in that first semester after losing my job?”

Johnson also appreciates other resources on campus, such as the Panther Pantry. Being able to get food when her money ran out helped her stay focused on school.

In addition to emotional support, Johnson says the faculty gave her the best education she could receive. They worked hard to be sure she and her classmates understood the material, and she credits them for giving her more valuable skills than just learning to be a nurse.

“They [the faculty]taught us to think critically. Not just memorizing procedures but how to problem-solve,” she says.

Johnson hopes to get a job with Grady Hospital because she is inspired to give back to the community. In her first clinical rotation at Grady, one of the doctors took the time to pull her aside for a teaching moment. She always found a way to be helpful to the busy Grady nurses. If her preceptors were busy caring for one patient, she would find another nurse who needed her assistance with even the most mundane tasks. This willingness to work helped Johnson build a strong network at Grady.

She completed three rotations at Grady in the stroke ICU, medical ICU and burn unit. She did her senior practicum in the critical care cardiology. One CCU nurse told her to stay in touch after graduation.

Despite all her challenges in completing school, Johnson remains remarkably upbeat about her past situation and wants to share her experiences with other struggling students.

“I wouldn’t change one moment [of her college experience]. Georgia State gave me better dreams and a way to fulfill them,” she says.