When I attended NLU for undergraduate studies, I was enrolled in the B.A. in Applied Behavioral Sciences (ABS) program, and it was an incredible experience. This interdisciplinary program is accelerated and intended for adults with significant life experience who have completed previous college coursework. The program is taught using a cohort model, which means I went through the entire program with the same group of students. There was such a trust and bond that formed that the cohort became like my new extended family.
I was born and raised in Chicago. When the Army recruiter came to my high school, my ears perked up. I knew I wanted to be a law enforcement officer and learned a great deal about the field through my roles and responsibilities in the Army. My two primary roles in the Army were as a military police investigator and army recruiter. In 2011, I retired with 22 years of active duty in the Army, along with an additional 10 years of service in the Reserves.
It is a cliché to say, “I started writing when I was a young child,” but it is true. Being diagnosed with chronic asthma at the age of five often confined me to the indoors, and there were only so many cartoons I could watch before becoming bored out of my mind. So I began to spend a lot of time reading and writing. I wrote short stories to entertain my family about growing up on a farm. I also wrote short stories with fictitious characters and pets; sometimes my pets talked and were heroes. One of my favorite pastimes was writing stories and making them into little books for gifts.
I grew up in California and moved to Texas at age 14 and then moved again to South Carolina. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a criminologist and get as much experience as I could. However, I discovered that I had to be at least 21 to be a criminologist. I wanted to get solid hands-on experience in the field, so I joined the Army at age 18 and served for five years in Germany and Fort Carson, CO.
I knew that as soon as I got out of the Army, I would go back to school to pursue my degree. I returned to civilian life in the fall of 2009. I am married now and have a six-month-old daughter. I live in Algonquin, IL, and attend National Louis University’s Chicago campus once per week.
Even today, eighty-eight years after historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Black History Month (BHM), honoring and celebrating it is still a very controversial issue among blacks and other races. Strong opinions of why it should and should not be celebrated are voiced throughout the year and specifically in the month of February.
Like many adult learners at NLU, Alphonso Johnson experienced a moment of realization about the course of his life: He wanted to commit himself to living up to his full potential, as a worker, a student and a member of the community. There’s only one difference. He experienced this epiphany in jail.
“My last time in prison I told myself you’ve got to grow up,” he said. “You can’t blame anybody. You can’t justify or rationalize your behavior. You just have to grow up. You have to take the same effort and energy you used to create this criminal person and redirect that energy and effort into building who you are.”
When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with chronic asthma. Due to the severity of this disease, I was told that I would have a very short life expectancy; I would not live to see my ninth birthday. With such a dreary prognosis, I was forced to grow up fast, as my normal daily activities were drastically affected. I required lots of hospitalization, home health care and medical care. Throughout my childhood and adulthood, I basically lived in a bubble, being under close observation by my parents and numerous doctors. My family and I educated ourselves about the illness as much as possible and modified our lifestyles to reflect what we learned. My mother had a strong Christian faith and believed in the power of prayer.
I grew up in State College, PA, near Penn State University. My parents moved us away when I was in high school, and for a while I really was looking for some guidance. The military helped me find that, and now that I’m a student Veteran at National Louis University, I feel like I’ve got another strong advocate. I currently live in Morton Grove. I’m married with three children, ages 9 to 24.
In terms of my military background, in 1992 I entered a special program in the U.S. Army. I was part of artillery and rocket shooting fire missions. My work in the military is difficult to translate into a career in the civilian field. I was told the closest match for me would be as a cartographer, but that didn’t interest me.