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

Marissa Johnson

(left to right) Marissa Johnson, business office associate and communication studies major and her 6-year-old Jonah, 16-year-old Josiah, 11-year-old Nathaniel Jr., and husband Nathaniel Sr. Johnson family at Sacramento State. Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Pam Alfaro | Guest Writer

Her day starts at 6 a.m. She wakes up, gets herself ready for school, and then helps her three boys out the door to their schools. She is a true story of balance: a mom, a wife, a worker and a student, all rolled into one.

Marissa Johnson is a determined woman. At the age of 40, she returned to City College after taking nearly five years off from school. She has been a wife for 13 years, and a mother for 16 years. Like many returning students, she struggled with fulfilling requirements after returning from a long hiatus. Nonetheless, she was determined to finish her education, no matter the obstacles.

Johnson would stop at nothing. Her determination runs so deep, she wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

“But then it dawned on me, that no, I worked so hard to get this far,” Johnson says. “I looked into my options and met with a counselor last summer.”

So Johnson overcame the first obstacle she was challenged with, but there were still more ahead to overcome in the future. After returning to college, she struggled with finding her place and staying on top of the coursework.

“I felt like I couldn’t keep up,” Johnson says. “I kind of gave up. I was really discouraged.”

Once again, Johnson says she felt lost. She would have to start over with her academic requirements if she made too many changes. Little did she know that it would all work out for her in the end, because she would eventually take a class that would lead to changing her major.

After taking a mass media communication course with journalism professor Dianne Heimer, Johnson enjoyed the class so much, she decided to look into changing her major. Upon talking to her counselor, she felt communication studies would be a better path for her. She had also completed most of the prerequisites for math, so she wouldn’t have to worry about clearing that hurdle.

“The most difficult for me was the math requirement,” Johnson says.

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With three boys and a husband, her hands are full at home. Her sons are 16, 11 and 6. She’s involved in her children’s schools, including volunteering at her oldest son’s track meets, which usually occur at the end of Johnson’s school day.

Johnson understands the importance of balancing education and family. And employment. She works at a car dealership, which can be pretty stressful. But she says she still enjoys her job.

Her coworker Shazia Ashraf is amazed at Johnson’s positive outlook, no matter what the day brings.

“I have seen Marissa come to work exhausted and sick, but she still shows up,” Ashraf says. “So, I can see her being the same way with school.”

But Johnson knows she doesn’t have it all figured out.

“I kind of just wing it and try to find pockets of time for myself and my family,” Johnson says.

Krissy McGill, who has been Johnson’s friend for over 10 years and now lives in Seattle, remains close with Johnson. She was recently in town to visit with Johnson over spring break.

“For as long as I’ve known Marissa, she has always been a go-getter,” McGill says. “I mean the girl never quits, and that is part of what makes her so amazing.”

It seems as though Johnson has determination running through her veins and will stop at nothing once she has set her mind to it. Johnson is looking forward to graduating in May, and then transferring with her associate’s degree in communication studies to Sacramento State, where she’s been accepted for the fall semester.

In the end, Marissa Johnson stayed determined and kept her goal in mind—always. Now, she’s crossing the finish line.

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