One of Us: Felicia Johnson couldn’t change her past, but did change her future

By Charlie Patton

Posted Nov 6, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Felicia Johnson did not get off to a good start in life.

“I was a regular teenager,” she said. “I didn’t want to listen to anybody.”

She dropped out of Stanton High School when she became pregnant at 15 with her first child.

She married the baby’s father when she was 18 and had five more children. But her husband was violent toward her.

Eventually, she said, “I had to leave. I feared I would be killed.”

So she took her children and went to live with her mother in the home on Commonwealth Avenue where she had grown up. She went to work for the Jacksonville Housing Authority. At her mother’s urging, she went back to school.

“She was a great inspiration for me,” Johnson said. “She knew what I could do and what I could become.”

Johnson earned her GED high school equivalency degree from Florida State Community College, then earned an associate’s degree from FSCJ.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Edward Waters College and a master’s degree in business administration from Everest University. She’s currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Walden University, an accredited online university.

Over the years, she has held various jobs with the Jacksonville Housing Authority. For the last decade, she has been the neighborhood network coordinator, helping people who never finished high school to get their GEDs. During her time as neighborhood network coordinator, she has helped more than 800 students earn their GEDs.

Many of the people she works with live in Section 8 housing. Poor families can rent from private landlords who offer discounted rates because they receive federal subsidies.

It’s a program Johnson understands intimately, having once been a Section 8 renter. It’s a life history she openly shares with her students.

“I have the credentials that establish I know what I’m talking about,” she said. “I am one of them ... Statistics don’t determine who you will be in the future. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.”

When she’s not working, the 56-year-old mother of six and grandmother of 18, loves to read.

Reading, she tells her students, allows you “to travel without leaving where you are.”

She also loves to write. Under the pseudonym Alicia Shine, she’s published two novels, “Social Butterflies” and “Apple Don’t Fall Far From the Tree.”

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413