Cornelie Johnson

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Social Work

College/School: Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work

After high school, Cornelie Johnson found herself going in circles. She was working three jobs—housekeeping, at a fast-food chain and at a grocery store—while taking classes at a Connecticut community college.

She didn’t have the best childhood, suffering ongoing abuse and being told she was slow by her teachers because her first language was French and she didn’t learn English until first grade.

Cornelie moved out of her mother’s house as soon as she could and into her aunt’s, but it became safer for her to sleep and shower at the 24-hour grocery store where she worked. Life at home was simply too stressful.

At 21, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After nearly eight years of service, she was medically retired for an injury and debilitating migraines. During her time at Andrews and Laughlin Air Force Bases, she advocated for sexual assault victims among her fellow airmen and airwomen. She stood by them through the process of reporting the mistreatment.

This was the genesis of her interest in social work; she decided she was going to be the social worker she never had. At Stempel College, she studied with professors Victoria Gray and Phyllis Baker. Her FIU experiences inspired her to obtain a service animal certification for Xai, an eight-year-old Boston Terrier.

Cornelie has resolved the pain from her childhood and she is ready to help others do the same. After graduation, the Johnsons are moving to Alabama. She will apply to master’s programs in social work and will continue pursuing her license.

By Galena Mosovich