My name is Johna Rivers. I am 21 years old, and I’m a survivor. I was put into foster care at the age of nine, not understanding why this is my story. I attended Jordan High School in LA, known as one of the worst schools in California. I graduated high school in 2011 by the grace of God because I was focused in the midst of my trials.
It was during high school where I discovered I was a leader and joined leadership, where I learned how to publicly speak in front of crowds and the values of a leader. Ms. Syd Stewart was my mentor and my teacher along with Jenifer Holley — I promise I wouldn’t be who I am without their guidance. They taught me to own my narrative and not let my narrative own me.
Only the strong survive so I kept moving forward after high school, where I gained a lot more mentors in the industry and in advocacy. I looked up to them, watched them and learned from them.
In 2009 I was selected to fly out to Atlanta with Usher. It was then that I knew that I can do anything I want, and nothing is impossible. I continued to be involved and became a champion in the fight against malaria for the United Nations Foundation.
A few years later, I met Aqueela Sherrills and he consequently introduced me to Spirit Awakening Foundation — and boy has my life been changed for the greater!
Through Spirit Awakening Foundation I’ve been able to tell my story, performing my original pieces in “Voices of the Unheard.” I’ve been to the beautiful Esalen Institute and I got to travel to the motherland and visit Ghana, W. Africa!!! I am now the Foster Youth Outreach Liaison for Spirit Awakening Foundation and I have been given the opportunity to help other foster youth connect with Spirit Awakening Foundation.
The moral of the story is: “Never be a product of your environment or your life — become a product of your CHOICES — for one choice can change your whole life.”