For Braculus Johnson, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science at Fort Valley State University was not about achieving a personal goal; it was about teaching young people the importance of getting a college education.
Most people would say the 42-year-old has already “made it” in life because he is a successful businessman. In 2007, the FVSU alumnus went into business for himself, and founded Johnson Produce, a company specializing in delivering fresh vegetables to restaurants and businesses in Georgia. Two years ago, the entrepreneur expanded his business to farming. He grows squash, peas, cucumbers and peppers, as well as mustard, turnip and collard greens on his small Warner Robins, Ga. farm. One of his largest customers is S&S Cafeteria in Macon, Ga.
Johnson probably didn’t need to return to college; however, he became concerned when youths within his community came to him, desperate for advice about which paths they should follow to succeed in life.
Johnson believed that earning a college education was the path out of poverty for many of the students he encountered.
“I started selling produce before I became interested in political science. Selling produce and seeing how things were happening in the world, I decided to come back to school. I felt that I needed to show young people that despite my age and full-time job it is important to earn a college degree,” the entrepreneur said.
In 2010, at the age of 36, Johnson decided to enroll at FVSU, and become a living example for the young people he counseled, showing them that it was possible to do something meaningful through higher education.
“While growing up in Cordele, Ga., I heard a lot of things about Fort Valley State, and how its alums went on to have successful careers,” Johnson said.
To continue day-to-day operations of running a produce business, making deliveries and maintaining the farm, Johnson took the majority of his courses online.
“I had a wonderful experience at FVSU,” Johnson said. “Most of my classes were online. I worked to deliver produce all over Georgia, but every chance I got, I came to campus to finish my education.”
During classes, Johnson sympathized with fellow classmates’ hardships, and decided to help them by purchasing textbooks to ensure they remained in college.
“I knew the struggle of students who needed to find and keep a job, along with buying books for school,” Johnson said. “I purchased books online for students so they could stay in their classes. Additionally, I gave books that I no longer used to classmates instead of selling them.”
Johnson said he has helped six or seven students remain in college.
“My advice is that no matter how hard it may seem, never give up,” Johnson said. “There is always a solution to your problems.”
“Dr. Meigan Fields, (director of FVSU’s Honors Program) was the biggest help,” Johnson said. “She looked up my transcript when I was having problems with my online courses, and told me which ones to sign up for in order to graduate.”
Since graduating from Fort Valley State in Dec. 2015, the alumnus continues to give back to campus. He recently donated to FVSU’s annual scholarship luncheon to help struggling students who dream of earning a college education accomplish their dreams.
Johnson had this advice for students, “Don’t wait to figure out what you want to do with your life after college, start today,” he said. “Think about who you are and what you want out of life.”
To help transform the lives of promising students, contact the FVSU Foundation, Inc., at (478) 825-6474, or visit www.fvsu.edu/give-online.