If positivity could be a person, it would be 22-year-old Johana Steward, which is pretty amazing because she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. At her young age, she’s somehow figuring out how to balance it all.
Johana grew up on Cleveland’s West Side with her mother and her sisters. She went to Louisa May Alcott Grade School and Barbara Booker Middle School. She graduated from John Marshall High School. “My mom was strict and hard on me, but looking back, I know it’s what she had to do. I am an A and B student, and I cried when I got a C,” Johana said.
Her father died when she was just one month old. “I’ve always been curious about my father, who he was, what he was like,” she said. “I finally found one of my stepsisters, her name is Antoinette. She’s 19 and we are becoming friends. I’ve looked for my father, too, and I finally found out where he was buried, at the Highland Park Cemetery. I haven’t been there yet. I wonder, am I really ready to meet this person I’ve been looking for all my life and when I find him, he’ll be in a grave.”
Johana’s lupus and spina bifida make it hard for her to get out of bed some mornings, but she almost always manages. “My Mom will see me struggle and she will want to help me, but she also knows I want to do it on my own,” she said. “She is always there when I really need her, and she’s even there when I don’t need her.”
Any day now, Johana is going to give birth to her second child, a boy named Khalil. Her daughter Kaliyah is two and has been coming to The Centers’ Gordon Square campus’ Early Learning Center since she was 8 months old. “She absolutely loves her teachers and feels so comfortable around them, I know they are good people. Everyone here has been such a huge help to me. When I’ve had to work late, a teacher will wait for me and keep the center open. The Centers’ staff is always helpful and encouraging.”
Johana wants to be a teacher herself one day and is working on her financial aid paperwork to attend Tri-C when Khalil is old enough to be enrolled at The Centers’ early learning program like his older sister. “I love being around children and I enjoy teaching them how to count and say their ABCs. I also love to read,” Johana said. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that her favorite book is a children’s story by P.D. Eastman: The Best Nest. It’s a story about a pregnant bird looking for the perfect home for her baby. She goes from place to place, not finding somewhere quite good enough for her child. Then, when she is almost out of energy, she discovers that home is where SHE is, and all is well.
Johana lives with her mother on the Near-West Side.
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