Press Release
Posted May 1, 2021

Sophia Johnson of North Ridgeville had made several attempts to earn a college degree since graduating from Avon High School in 1992. But it wasn’t until October 2020 that she decided the time was right to finish her degree.

Sophia Johnson in graduation cap and gown
Sophia Johnson

“We put our daughter through college and our son will be graduating from the University of Toledo this December,” she says. “Last summer I lost my job due to the COVID economy. So, in an effort to make myself more marketable I answered an ad about a non-credit return-to-work program that LCCC was offering.”

However, Michelle Pawlak, a career and academic advisement professional at LCCC, convinced her to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Pawlak also directed Johnson to Ohio Means Jobs of Lorain County where she could get financial assistance to finish her degree. “This was how I was able to return to school and finish what I started almost 30 years ago,” Johnson says.

Completing a degree before was challenging, she notes, because she had her daughter at the age of 18. “After she was born, my husband and I tried very hard to balance work, school, and family life. It quickly became apparent that my education had to go on hold,” she says.

While attending college during the pandemic has been stressful for all students, it also brought several other issues to the forefront for Johnson as an adult learner.

“The biggest barrier I overcame while earning my degree was learning how to be successful in an online platform,” Johnson says. “I was used to classroom learning but with some practice the system was easy to learn.”

She also had to develop better time management skills, which included building a disciplined study schedule, to balance school and family responsibilities and ensure her success.

“It’s too easy to put things off when there is no one in front of you holding you accountable,” she notes.

As a support system for her nieces and nephews, she helps drive them places, tutors them, and is a big fan of their sports teams and other activities. “If I was going to continue helping them, I needed to do my assignments before they needed me. It is also important that I set a good example for them,” Johnson says.

When she came back to LCCC in October, a transcript review of her credits from LCCC, Cleveland State University and Bowling Green State University showed she was just two classes away from earning an associate degree. She completed the courses in an eight-week session, earning her associate of arts degree in December and she will participate in the May commencement. She is now enrolled in CSU’s Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership through LCCC’s University Partnership.

“Through the guidance and exceptional knowledge of everyone at LCCC, I am fully prepared for my next step with the University Partnership,” Johnson says.

She credited the help she received from Pawlak, Carrie Delaney and Julie Ford at LCCC with creating the pathway to her educational goal.

“Michelle told me about the Ohio Means Job program and showed me that money wasn’t going to hold me back. Carrie got me the information I needed and offered some wonderful pep talks when I needed them,” Johnson says. “And my advisor, Julie, was amazing in helping me figure out what classes I needed and choosing the best ones to set me up for my transition to the University Partnership.”

Johnson’s determination to complete her degree this time, combined with a great educational experience at a low cost, has put her on a pathway to success. When she completes the bachelor’s degree, she hopes to start a career utilizing all that she has learned either working for herself as an executive coach, in higher education or corporate training or human resources.

“I chose to attend LCCC because it provides an excellent education at a low cost. It also has a culture of inclusivity that made me feel comfortable about returning to college,” Johnson says.