Lincoln News

Verlonda Johnson-Baker: The Adversity Recovery

Verlonda Johnson-Baker
Verlonda Johnson-Baker

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. – For Verlonda Johnson-Baker, discovering her passion to help people with disabilities came from overcoming educational and personal adversity.

“I grew up with learning disabilities. I lacked hope and guidance. It wasn’t until I came to Lincoln that I received the support and mentorship I needed to help me succeed,” said Johnson-Baker.

When she first arrived at Lincoln as a first-year student, she expected campus life and the classroom environment to be similar to what she learned from the television sitcom A Different World that aired on NBC from 1987 to 1993 about the life of students at Hillman College, a fictional historically black college. What she experienced was that and more.

She said from her first semester at Lincoln, the health science major and human services minor found a new home where she met lifelong friends, learned meaningful life lessons, and made vital connections.

As Johnson-Baker navigated her new normal of becoming a task- and goal-oriented college student, life took a tragic turn at the end of her first semester.

On December 11, 2015, while en route home to Washington D.C. with her sister and mother for winter break, they experienced a horrific accident that resulted in her mother’s passing.

“Due to this unfortunate situation, I had to take medical leave for the spring semester to recover from the injury I obtained in the accident.”

“As a result of losing my mother, I lost my primary means of financial and emotional support. From the beginning stages of my grieving process, I struggled with healing and the will to press forward. Nevertheless, when all the odds were against me, that meaningful connection that I made in that short time at Lincoln was the only motivation I had.”

When she returned to campus in the fall, she said she relied on the support of professors, staff, and friends. She sought out co-curricular activities such as interning in the Office of Institutional Equity; serving as the President of Varsity League (2019-2020) and a resident advisor; and participating in the National Council of Negro Women and M’Brace, an organization created for women with extra curves".

“Before and after the accident, Lincoln University professors were exceptionally supportive. My involvement in student organizations and my role in residence life has given me a true support system and the real feeling of the Lincoln family.”

"I had Verlonda my very first semester teaching at Lincoln,” said Chasity L. Brown, lecturer and internship coordinator, department of health science.

“She was quiet and reserved, sat in the front row during my 8 am class. We struggled to understand one another in the beginning, however with my open door and open communication policy she came to my office to have a chat.  

I am happy we chatted, and she shared her story with me.  I too, lost my mother in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. From then on it was an instant connection. I am honored to have the opportunity to watch Verlonda grow into the woman she has become.  She often says she does not know how she will ever repay me for the things I have done.  The say when one teaches two learn and the truth is, she has taught so much and has helped me grow personally and professionally for which I am forever thankful.  I am excited to cheer her on and follow her through her next chapter in life."​

Johson-Baker reflects on how much she has advanced as a scholar and leader since she arrived at Lincoln after graduating from Phelps High School, Washington D.C., she defines her journey thus far as the adversity recovery.

This fall, Johnson-Baker will begin the Master of Social Work program at Temple University’s College of Public Health that will further her ability to help others.

“I am grateful Lincoln University has supported me by continuously giving me a place to call home.”

Verlonda Johnson-Baker

Verlonda Johnson-Baker

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--Terrance J. Young, M.Div.