By Angela Higginbotham
Born and raised in Jacksonville, Felicia Johnson is proud to call the Southside home. As a young mother, Johnson was forced to leave high school and pursue her General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Knowing that continuing her education would lead her on a path out of poverty and into success for herself and her children, she worked tirelessly to continue school, eventually earning her bachelor and master’s degrees in education. She is currently working on her doctorate degree.
Johnson has served as the Neighborhood Network Coordinator with the Jacksonville Housing Authority for the past 29 years. She spends her day with students much like her younger self, working to complete their GED and pursuing goals that will better their future. Johnson is passionate about helping students feel loved, safe and understood.
“I want them to know that I was like them. Our scars do not determine our destiny and although we can’t change the past, we can change our future,” she said.
Johnson has four children and is the proud grandmother of 18 grandchildren. In earlier years, she often sacrificed her own needs to insure that her children were fed and well educated; today, Johnson continues to use her life and her struggles to inspire her family and others to stay on the right path.
- What do you enjoy most about living on the Southside?
The St. Johns Town Center. I love that the bookstore is close and I enjoy the restaurants.
- What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
Finishing my education. I wouldn’t be where I am without my education. I’ve been promoted four times and I’ve written two fiction books, both of which would not have happened had I not been determined to stay in school. I just want to be a great example of what you can be if you study and work hard. I want the kids I teach to know that they can be anything they want to be. After they complete their GED, I connect with partners to help get them employed and also on the right path to college or trade school, if that’s what they desire.
- What inspired you to start writing fiction books and do you plan to write more in the future?
My friend wrote a book and she inspired me to start writing. I wrote my first one within three months and I just love creating things. I love that I can make up a character and take a story in any direction my imagination leads. I do hope to write more in the future, possibly non-fiction. I’d like to write about depression. There have been days when I couldn’t get up out of bed. No one is exempt from depression and it’s important to come clean and tell your story, so that people understand that they aren’t alone.
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Working on my doctorate. I also enjoy photography, traveling, spending time with friends, meeting new people and reading. Reading is one of the most important things in life.
- What is something many people may not know about you?
I’m a history buff. I enjoy learning about what my ancestors sacrificed so that I can live the dream they fought so hard for. It’s a gift to live where we live and do the things we get to do. I’m humbled and very grateful.
Photo courtesy Felicia Johnson