Gloria Moorer Johnson redirects children toward success

Published 8:30 am Monday, June 19, 2023

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By Wanda Mitchell

The Greenville Advocate

Gloria Moorer Johnson knows a lot about hills. From being born at Methodist Hill in Butler County to climbing up the hill of personal success at Alabama State University, Johnson uses her knowledge of hills to help young people conquer their own hills and redirects them toward the path to success.

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Family makes her stronger, she said, and family ties are the ropes she has used to climb every mountain in her path.

“I came from poverty and I grew up always wanting to make a difference,” Johnson said. “I wanted to make a difference in society and in the world at large.”

Johnson said that even though she grew up poor, she could see that there was more to life than where she was and what she had.

Johnson’s belief in herself began with her belief in something outside of herself – God.

She attended Butler Chapel Church growing up and her church nurtured a faith that can never be broken, torn down, or side stepped, Johnson said.

Growing up, Johnson spent a great deal of time with her grandmother. 

“She instilled a love of reading and learning in me that continues to this very day” Johnson said.

The struggles of attending a segregated school for 12 years, and then moving on to an Historical Black College and University (HBCU) allowed her to see the world at large through not so rosy glasses, Johnson said.

“I knew that education is the key. And once you get knowledge, that’s something that cannot be taken from you,” Johnson said. “Reading will free you.”

Now Johnson wants to pull out the possibilities in all children, the “Big P” as she calls it.

“I have an innate love for children. I also have a thirst for learning,” Johnson said. “I believe that everyone should be a life-long learner.”

So in 1995, Johnson started the Sav-A- Child Center in her own home. There she met with children on Saturdays but since that time, her vision has grown.

“Education will give you a bigger picture of the world,” Johnson said, and she believes that with all her heart.

Johnson has seen a marked improvement in the children who attend her after school center.

“Some children just need that extra nudge, just somebody to see something in them,” Johnson said. “So, we are partnering with the school system -the superintendent, and all three principles –  to help the children in kindergarten through eighth grade. I have a working relationship with all three principals and the superintendent.” 

The children bring her their progress reports and show her how their grades are improving. The reports indicate they are learning the connection between reading and knowledge and how everything comes together and joins to create a bigger picture.

“We’re connecting those dots for the children’s success,” Johnson said.

Volunteer teachers help children with their homework and provide tutorial help in math and reading.

Jenny Keen, a retired language arts teacher from Greenville Middle School, volunteers as a teacher at the center

“If [students] come in and don’t have homework, then we have work here for them to do,” Keen said.

And, Keen has recently added something new to the after school program.

“Mrs. Keen has been working with a second language,” Johnson said. “She’s been giving lessons in French, and is currently scouting for a person to teach Spanish.”

Johnson believes it’s important to teach children many different things. 

“Respect for yourself and respect for others makes you a good citizen. I want to impart that kind of knowledge to them,” Johnson said.

Besides teaching children, Johnson is also an ordained minister.

“If you teach these children about the world around them, then they gain the respect for the world at large and respect for life. Sometimes you have to see life through other people’s lens, in order for you to get your lens focused,” Johnson explained. 

“Life is more than just waking up and existing,” Johnson said. “[Children] need goals. They need a mission. They need a purpose in life.”

Sherry Turner, also a volunteer teacher at the Center, said, “I’ve known Gloria for many years. When she talked about her vision, about this place,  I knew this was something I wanted to do when I retired.”

Another volunteer, Melissa Peagler, believes in Johnson’s vision. She currently works with fifth through seventh graders, but sometimes she’ll work with an eighth grader or two.

“I work with the middle school level students,” Peagler said. “My first degree was in commercial and graphic arts . My mother told me there was a teacher inside me. I’ve learned that kids can learn anything, but they have to know that you are invested in them.”

There are 37 children enrolled in the center at this time. On an average day, around 30 children show up after school. The Center is open Monday-Thursday.

“Children and their parents must come in to register. There is an application to fill out, and a very small fee,” Johnson said.

Johnson has a favorite poem, “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole, is framed and hung on the wall of the Center. The last two lines sum up her position  and her vision for the next generation of children that will follow her, she said.

“He too must cross in the twilight dim— Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”