Everyone Has a Story-Joan Johnson

Brittany hinkel, Shift Editor/ Cartoonist

For most students, college is the part of one’s life stage that comes right after high school. It is easier to get financial aid, the study habit is already down, and there are slightly more, but still few, responsibilities.

However, for a non-traditional college student, the college life is not as glorious or quite as simple.

Joan Johnson is a 62-year-old non-traditional at Northeast Community College. Her major is now graphic design, though she sometimes thinks she should have been an art major.

Johnson had already been to college to attain her nursing degree and become a Licensed Practical Nurse. She had been a licensed nurse for seven and a half years.

She worked in Denver, Colorado at the Children’s hospital in the intensive care unit. Being a mother herself and having the compassion and patience to be over-qualified, the Children’s Hospital was her favorite so far.

After two years there, Johnson met her husband and moved back to Nebraska where she became a night nurse here in Norfolk for about 5 years.

She then moved to Iowa for a short time, and then to Minneapolis, where an unfair and unfortunate twist of fate transpired.

Joan Johnson had gotten into a horrible car accident. While the driver tried to pass a vehicle on the highway, another had turned and pulled right in front of them. Johnson was riding passenger, and though she survived, she lost her 4th child and the injuries from the crash had left her unable to do nursing ever again.

After she took some time to heal, she eventually came back to Norfolk to take care of a few of her family members, mainly her surviving son.

Johnson’s son owned a car and truck business called Max PSI, where he did custom vinyl designs and other body work for cars and trucks.

Unfortunately the business closed; however, it was at this point that Johnson began to realize her passion for design work and art, and decided to re-attend college for a second time.

“It’s more challenging to be a student now than it was when I went the first time. There are more things that I’m responsible for.”

She has found retaining information to be more difficult because of age difference, not to mention the challenges of her accident. “It really gives you a different perspective on things.”

However, she does feel that all non-traditional students need some kind of “custom design” programs that target them specifically.

Even with all of these challenges, Joan Johnson has a positive outlook on life. She is still fighting, still learning, and still growing. She refuses to give up on herself and others even when faced with tragedy.

“Things happen for a reason, sometimes we will never find out what the reason is, but life goes on.”