‘I just knew I had to keep moving’: A Bellevue woman’s journey from teen mom to grad student

Deambra Johnson of Bellevue, a single mother who saw education as her path, pushed through poverty, violence and abuse to graduate from college. Now, she’s planning to earn her master’s to become a special-education teacher.

Deambra Johnson sits serenely at the glass-top table in the kitchen of her apartment in Bellevue, reflecting on the night three years ago when she took her young twins in hand and climbed aboard a Greyhound bus in Philadelphia with tickets to Seattle.

She had never been to Washington. Had no connections here. No job lined up. Just a dream, $500 from her church’s leaders and a determination to disentangle herself from the violence, poverty and abuse that marred so much of her young life.

Johnson says she cried all the way across Pennsylvania, and again, three nights later, when the bus traversed the Interstate 90 floating bridge to Seattle.

“I was so excited and bursting at the seams with joy,’’ she says.

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Within weeks, she had two jobs. Within two months, she was living with all four of her children in a two-bedroom apartment that had her name on the lease. Two months after that, she was back in college, juggling parenting with work and school.

On Friday, Johnson marked another milestone: She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Capella University, an online institution. In August, she’ll start working toward her master’s degree in education, moving a step closer to her goal of becoming a special-education teacher.

“I never thought I would be a success,’’ says Johnson, 30, who recently won a scholarship toward her graduate studies from the Women’s University Club of Seattle. When she accepted the scholarship at the group’s awards dinner, she seemed surprised at the rousing applause that accompanied her life story.

“For her age, she’s been through a lot,’’ says her friend and former classmate, Michael…

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