KSU student earns business degree after 33 years of hardships

Graduation 63 years in the making

- Many Kennesaw State University students will graduate this week, but one non-traditional student will end her educational journey after years and years of challenges. 

Bonnie Johnson had to overcome a number of obstacles to earn her degree in business administration. She started her journey in 1983, which was 33 years ago, but quickly found out life has a way of putting things on hold. 

"I had two pre-mature children that were born with special needs," Johnson told FOX 5. 

According to Johnson, two marriages that didn't work out left her a working, single mother. 

"There never seemed to be enough money to go back to school when their medical needs took precedence." 

Along the way, Johnson fought and beat cancer. In 2011, she entered a program at KSU to try again for a degree. Cancer came back to try to derail her, but she fought it again. 

"I beat that, so I continued to take my classes," she said. 

Beforfe entering her final year at KSU, Johnson found out about a non-profit organization called Emerge Scholarships. It's an intense process, but she applied for and earned a scholarship to help her through her last year.

Stacy Sollenberger with Emerge Scholarships was one of the people who reviewed Johnson's application and found she met their criteria. The scholarship is for women who have begun a higher education, but have had to put it on hold due to hardship. The women applying have to have a plan and must show they are willing to give back to their community. Sollenberger read Johnson's story and found among all hardships, she still gives back to the community through volunteer hours with Junior Achievement and Habitat for Humanity. She found Johnson also supports community affairs at her job in at a Marietta company called Assurant. 

"We want to have a ripple effect. We want to support women who are going to make a difference in their community," said Sollenberger.

Johnson is grateful and graduates May 10 at 10 a.m. at the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. 

"I love my job now, but I would really like to find a role to where I can use my degree to give back to my community in some way and also maybe become a big part of Emerge going forward and help other women like myself," Johnson said. 

Information on Emerge Scholarships, including how to apply, can be found at http://www.emergescholarships.org/

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