At one point, Cornelie Johnson spent nights sleeping in a grocery store. She moved out of her house as a teenager and became an advocate for sexual assault victims as a member of the U.S. Air Force.
Now 31, Johnson graduated from FIU on Sunday with a Bachelor of Science in social work. She wants to give back while using a skill she continued to develop throughout her collegiate studies: question everything.
"If somebody tells me one thing, I’m going to Google it, I’m gonna Wiki it, I’ll ask experts," Johnson said. "There’s so much out there in the world."
Johnson grew up in a single-parent household and said her "childhood wasn’t always the best." She moved out of her house as a teenager to live with a relative but then felt it would be best to sleep and shower at a 24-hour grocery store where she worked.
Johnson then decided to enlist in the Air Force, which sparked her interest in social work. And she has a message for kids growing up in comparable circumstances.
"We saw a lot growing up that no kid should ever have to deal with or see," Johnson said. "DCF was always in and out of our home. That pushed me to want better for myself, for my future children and even for my siblings."