The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

A delicate balance of survival and success

Ursula Yost-Johnson with three of her four children. Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson | Staff Photographer

Elasha Young | Guest Writer | [email protected]

Ursula Yost-Johnson juggles study, work and family with determination and hope

Beep, beep, beep, snooze. Beep, beep, beep, snooze.

Five more minutes, and the alarm clock still manages to win the fight every morning. Wake up, wash face, brush teeth, and eat breakfast.

It’s a routine most parents live by.

Especially single mother of four Ursula Yost-Johnson, 33, a City College student. She never stops to think about herself as she strives to make life better for herself and her children. Through all the trials and tribulations, she never stops or gives up. She fights every day, not to fail, even when life says, “Give up.” Instead for Yost-Johnson, hope whispers, “Just try one more time.”

When Yost-Johnson was 24, she says she made a regretful mistake that ended with her going to the Central California Women’s Facility, also known as Chowchilla, for two and a half years while pregnant with her third child.

“I thought my life was over,” says Yost-Johnson. “I thought I would never see my babies again. It was like dying.”

She says life was telling her to stop fighting, to just let go. But she couldn’t, at least not with a bun in the oven. She eventually made contact with prison offi cials and was approved for the Community Project Mother/Infant Program in Oakland, where she was able to serve her time and keep her unborn daughter, Paris Williams.

“I’m glad my mom was able to keep me with her,” says Yost-Johnson’s 10-year-old daughter Paris. “I can’t picture life without my older brother and sister or my mom.”

Time passed and eventually Yost-Johnson says she was released back into society, with a newfound lease on life. Signing up for college to further her education was one of the first things she did.

“Now that I’m in school, I have to worry about my homework, as well as my children’s homework,” says Yost-Johnson.

Friends and family can see the amazing things Yost-Johnson tries to accomplish with her children.

“It’s a real sight to see Ursula and the kids all sitting at the table together doing homework. It looks like they all help each other in a way,” says longtime friend, Aisha Cole.

Calm, cool and collected are the mannerisms that Yost-Johnson lives by. Even when things get rough and tough she tries to remain her “chill-self,” cool as a

The year 2014 was a major milestone year in Yost-Johnson’s life.

“I lost a good friend to lies and deceit, and I was almost made a grandmother before my time,” says Yost-Johnson while shaking her head and thinking back on the past year.

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“It’s a hard job, but my mom doesn’t mind,” Paris says. “I think she likes it.”

Yost-Johnson says that she had to get used to being a mother. Having her first child, Isaiah Broadway, at the early age of 17 was a struggle. Yost-Johnson’s own mother, she says, was addicted to crack-cocaine during most of Yost-Johnson’s childhood.

Her mother quit cold turkey the year Broadway was born. She pressed her restart button.

“I live for my kids,” says Yost- Johnson thinking back on her childhood. “I would do for them, even when they don’t deserve it. I think that’s what my mother realized.”

It was a struggle growing up in the 7th Ward in New Orleans, Yost-Johnson recalls.

She was uprooted from a place she had called home for more than 10 years and dropped in unfamiliar California when she was 13.

Yost-Johnson and her older sister, Erica Yost, who was already a teenage mother at the age of 14, fell in with a bad crowd, the North Highland Gangsta Crips. With her newfound friends, Yost-Johnson met her husband of 12 years.

Yost married Arthur Johnson at age 20 and stayed loyal when he was arrested in May 2005 and sentenced to 62 years to life in state prison. She says she never gave up on him until he told her it was time for her to move on with her life and raise their kids right.

“It was hard to let go, but I had to, for me and for my kids,” says Yost-Johnson.

Moving on with life was difficult, but quitting was not an option.

“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” says Yost-Johnson’s 16-year-old son, Broadway. “I wish for my wife to be just like my mom, all strong and independent.”

Being a full-time college student with two children who are in high school is not easy. It gets hard when Yost-Johnson has homework, and there are soccer games and dance recitals to attend. However, she gets it done.

“I have to prioritize my time and make deals with the kids. I rotate my time with my kids. I’ll go to two soccer games a month and two dance performances, and if I can attend more, I do,” says Yost-Johnson.

It can sometimes be time-consuming, she explains, to go to school every day, and go home to cook dinner, help the kids with their homework, and then hit the books.

“If I want my children to put forth the effort, I have to put my best foot forward and show them that their mother can do it, and they can, too,” says Yost-Johnson.

Never stopping, Yost-Johnson pushes past locked doors to build a better future—not just for herself, but for her children, as well.

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