Human Services Student Joins A Graduate Program Cohort, Finds A Second Family

Human Services Student Joins A Graduate Program Cohort, Finds A Second Family

Brandon R. Johnson
Brandon R. Johnson, left, with his late mother, Joanna Johnson-Harris, and his siblings, Alex and Reggie.

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. – During Brandon R. Johnson’s last advising session at a prior institution, he was told that to graduate, he would need to continue for an additional two years on top of the four-and-a-half years he had already completed.

“Feeling defeated and out of financial aid, I did not know if I would continue my degree or not,” Johnson said.

That summer, he was lamenting his situation with an Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. fraternity brother about his next steps. That fraternity brother, Orilan Codrington, happened to be an admissions counselor at Lincoln University’s School of Adult and Continuing Education at University City.

“[He] told me that there was a place for me at Lincoln University.”

Johnson, a graduate of Upper Darby High School in Delaware County, submitted his application to complete his bachelor's in human services.

“Within 48 hours, I was a part of the SACE family to continue my undergraduate studies.”

After Johnson decided to matriculate to Lincoln, his mother, Joanna Johnson-Harris, decided that she wanted to finish her human services degree as well.

“I went from the possibility of not graduating, to graduating in one year and taking most of my last year courses with my Mom – a blessing I would not see as a blessing until a few years later.”

Johnson finished his coursework in 2015 and his mother completed her coursework in 2016.

In January 2019, Johnson returned to Lincoln’s University City location to begin his Masters of Arts in Human Services program.

“Because I had already completed my undergraduate studies in human services and saw the value in my degree as an educator, I seized the opportunity.”

That same month, his mother’s pancreatic cancer came out of remission. His master’s program cohort, most of whom he started and completed the program, became truly like a family.

“A lot of times [my classmates] would be at the hospital with me. They were an amazing support system.”

“The Lincoln student is a caring student. They believe in holding you up.”

Johnson’s research defines urban-traumatic stress disorder by analytically contextualizing the difference between post-traumatic stress disorder and urban-traumatic stress disorder. He said his research argues that due to chronic community violence and complex trauma, the cognitive development of urban children is negatively impacted.                                                                           

But he had far more than research and classes to think on his mind.

“Throughout my graduate-level experience, I coped with watching the demise of my mother and the responsibilities of grad school.”

His mother passed away in December 2019 after a long battle with cancer. Heartbroken, Johnson remembered that she was a champion for higher education and made sure he completed his last semester with honors—a feat he said he couldn’t have accomplished without the support of his grandparents, Bill and Geneva, his siblings, Reggie and Alex, and his godmother, Dr. Toya G. Corbett.

Joanna Johnson-Harris

The late Joanna Johnson-Harris, who completed her studies alongside her son, Brandon R. Johnson.

Johnson’s grandmother Geneva Johnson said that he has always been a good student and a caring grandson. She recalled sitting in the audience as he gave a speech at his Upper Darby High School graduation.

“He got a standing ovation. It was overwhelming. He has just been a pleasure.”

“He was a wonderful son to my daughter. His siblings look up to him.”

Johnson graduates this month with a Master of Arts in Human Services.

Johnson serves as the academy leader for the Global Leadership Academy Southwest on Pine Street in Philadelphia. Currently, he is applying to doctoral programs. Johnson’s goal is to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Education.

“Ultimately, I intend to inspire ingenuity and mentor other urban educators to be more trauma-informed.”