Full-Time Employee, Grandmother of Four Proves College Degree Attainable

Pine Bluff, Ark. (December 20, 2017) – Marilyn Johnson of Pine Bluff has been a non-traditional student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for four years while working as a computer lab technician in the School of Business & Management. Her oldest son “CJ” suggested that she enroll at UAPB. She took him up on the idea!

She enrolled in 2013 and attended classes every semester and during summer sessions. A student and full-time employee, Johnson also tended to her four grandchildren, ages three months to five years. She never missed a beat and babysat her youngest grandchild every weekend.

Johnson says she received encouragement from her family and friends, who pushed her to complete her education. One of her main cheerleaders was her grandmother, Earma Mooney.

“You’re going to make it,” she recalls her grandmother often telling her. “My other son, Carvis, was with me all the way!”

This past summer, she was left with completing her final class, intermediate algebra. During this time, her grandmother became very ill and her son needed surgery. She found herself spending time traveling back and forth to hospitals. Sadly, her grandmother passed away.

“I couldn’t concentrate,” she said.

Life’s distractions caught up with her and she didn’t pass the algebra class which was all she needed to graduate. The class would cost nearly $400 to retake and Marilyn had now exhausted her financial resources.

She was advised to visit the Student Success Center (SSC), a comprehensive one-stop shop for student support services at UAPB. There she learned that she qualified for a Senior Completion Award, which is given to graduating seniors who have one year or less to complete school.

Known as “Destination Graduation,” the program is implemented by the SSC and helps low-income senior-level students graduate. The pilot initiative purports to reduce the number of students nearing graduation who officially withdraw from the university because of unmet financial need. These one-time alumni and donor funded-grants are distributed through the Office of Institutional Advancement to pay a portion of tuition to keep senior students enrolled during the last one or two semesters.

With a GPA of 3.3, Johnson was awarded the Dorothy Magett Fiddmont New Millennium Leaders Scholarship, which covered 75 percent of the cost of the class. She retook the class, earned a B, and graduated on December 15, 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management/Administration.

“I made it,” said Johnson with excitement. She is thinking about pursuing her master’s degree next.

For more information about the Destination Graduation program, contact Ms. Kim Jones Sneed, SSC Senior Completion Coach at 870-575-8370 or Rita D. Conley, SSC Director at 870-575-8368.


Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.

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