http://breaking-the-cycle.com/ Johnetta McSwain My Story In order to accurately understand where I am coming from and where I am going I would like to share my personal and professional journey with you. My sister and I were born and raised in Birmingham Alabama to a single mother who physically and mentally abused us throughout most of our childhood. The Beginning - As an African American female growing up in a poverty stricken, disease infested community where racial tension, injustice and inequality were still very much an actuality; I witnessed first hand childhood domestic abuse and violence from within my own family and in within my neighborhood. I became a victim of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from the tender age of five until as long as I can remember at the hands of my three uncles and other strange men my mother dated throughout my adolescent years. The Cycle - The conditions were deplorable while living with my mother in mostly Section 8 housing. I slept on a tiny worn out couch in the living room where the walls had holes so big you could vividly see and hear small mice running in and out of the holes, occasionally falling on me, as I slept. In addition to living in these very poor conditions, we moved a great deal, which left little room for a stable home life and an environment conducive to academic study. In the 11th grade I dropped out of high school continuing my family cycle. I began working minimum wage jobs at local restaurants and warehouses. The birth of my son out of wedlock at the age of 19, forced me to become a welfare recipient, while this was the norm in my family and community, how ever it made me feel diminished as a person. My dependence on the first of the month for a welfare check and food stamps led to the realization that I needed to establish a better way of taking care of my child and myself both emotionally and financially. In order to do so I enrolled into a state funded General Education Diploma (GED) program. The means tested program provided me with childcare and a monthly stipend in order for me to have reliable transportation on the city bus. I attended every class regularly and gained the skills needed to successfully pass all parts of the examination. It was a very proud moment for me personally to speak at the commencement ceremony, despite my family’s absence. At age 25, I enrolled in a community college with a concentration in office administration. I worked a part time job until I became pregnant with my second child, which led to dropping out of school, thus, repeating the cycle. A month after the birth of my son I entered into yet another state funded program, The Computer Institute. The program curriculum included job training skills such as typing, resume writing, interviewing, and basic word processing. The program was a turning point in my life. Immediately after graduation I started working for various temporary agencies as an administrative assistant making above minimum wages. The Decision - I was in a better situation, yet it still wasn’t sufficient for my family’s survival and my personal satisfaction. At 32, I realized I still was a product of my environment and living in a community contaminated with every socio-economic disparity there was from being plagued with drugs, gang violence, murder, racism, disease, and self destruction. For these reasons I re-located to Atlanta with the determination to break my generational curse and become the first in my family to receive a four year degree as well as become a role model for my two sons. I rented a truck, packed my furniture and drove to Atlanta twice in the same night. I applied and was accepted to Kennesaw State University in January, 2003. I attended classes fulltime including summers. I graduated May 11, 2006 in just three years with a Bachelor of Science in Communications, the first in my family to ever receive a college degree. I was accepted to Clark Atlanta University’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work (WMJSSW) Master of Social Work (MSW) program in the fall of 2006. I graduated with a 3.95 GPA with honors May 2009 with a Masters of Social Work. I am now the CEO and Founder of Breaking the Cycle, Beating the Odds, an organization that empowers women to break those negative self-destructive cycles that cripples them from reaching thier fullest potential in life.