In 2004, 25-year old Jackie Johansson saw her future dimming. Lacking education beyond high-school, dependent upon her live-in attorney husband for sustenance, and saddled with three unplanned children, Jackie was desperate.
"After Jenna, my first kid, I was kinda excited. But after Kenny and then that last one, I felt I was on the fast-track to nowhere, " Jackie recalls.
But one late summer day that year her next door neighbors brought a ray of hope into the desperate mother's life.
"My neighbor friends Leeza and Janelle told me about Columbia University's Scholarship for Single Mothers program. I knew it was for me!"
Jackie immediately enrolled in the New York university and, upon finalizing her divorce, was accepted into Columbia's Women's Studies curriculum.
Amazingly, now just 3 and ½ short years later, 28-year old Jackie has graduated, cum laude no less, and enjoys a new, liberating lease on life.
"It was a tough road" stammered Jackie, reminiscing upon the several challenges and sacrifices she was forced to make. "I really had to be creative with my kids' time. But by the end of the first semester I had it worked out. Monday was Grandma Day, Tuesday through Thursday they stayed at the Overnighter ChildCare, Friday was Aunt Nancy Day, and every other weekend they traded between (ex-husband) Howey in Brazil and Leeza and Janelle."
At her tear-jerking commencement honors Jackie conveyed how the weeks leading up to final exams each semester were especially tense and challenging. "I went weeks without seeing my children. Then they'd drop in, unannounced, just as I was trying to finish a report" she recalls, pounding the podium.
Columbia's Dean Brenda Turner beamed with pride during the ceremony. "Jackie serves as inspiration, not only to other women at Columbia, but to all mothers throughout the nation."
Having overcome multiple distractions, and the odds stacked against her, Jackie now proudly hangs her B.S. in one of her home's three bedrooms-turned-studies.