How This Mom Made the Remarkable Rise from Homelessness to a College Degree
Sometimes, you just need a small bit of help to take your shot.
In 2012, Porshea Johnson wasn’t sure that was in her future. The newly divorced mother of two small sons under the age of 5 didn’t have a home, and wasn’t sure how she’d get her feet under her again. But when she sought shelter at the Dayspring Center in Indianapolis, the kindness of strangers gave her hope.
“They didn’t make you feel like you were just some random person off the street,” Johnson told IndyStar. “I never really experienced homelessness before, but they made you feel comfortable.”
Johnson stayed at the shelter for four months, then moved to transitional housing. With her life stabilized, she was able to think about the future. She enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College (ITCC) and not only that, she won a scholarship from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust that paid her tuition in full.
This spring, she’s graduating from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis with a bachelor’s in general studies with a concentration in philanthropy after transferring from ITCC. It was a six-year journey, and she spent most nights studying with both of her boys, Jovan and Jamal.
“We made it a family thing,” Johnson said. “Not only am I going to college, but they’ll be college-ready. That’s the goal.”
Lori Casson, executive director at Dayspring, told IndyStar that the boys were key to Johnson’s success. “She knew in order to improve their lives and their outcomes, she had to improve hers. Looking in the face of her children gave her the motivation to carry on.”
Cheri Bush, former director of the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars at Ivy Tech, has known Johnson for five years and says her passion for helping others makes philanthropy a great fit for her.
It was the Nina Scholars program that changed Johnson’s life forever. The fund, which serves nontraditional students (adults with dependents, those with disabilities, or other special needs). “I can see her directing a nonprofit, getting people excited about whatever that nonprofit’s mission is,” Bush told IndyStar. “She just has a way of drawing people in, making them feel welcome and then really stewarding those folks.”