A 28-year-old single mother of three boys graduated from UCLA with three degrees. A packed house at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion cheered for Deanna Jordan Friday night.
“I needed for my sons to see there was a legacy that preceded them with college. I am the first in my family to go to college,” Jordan said.
Jordan grew up in Compton. After high school, she got pregnant at 18. She had her third son at 22. “I had him and in the hospital I remember thinking, ‘I’m 22, there’s no future unless I can create one,’” Jordan said.
After two years at West Los Angeles Community College and three-and-a-half years at UCLA, the department scholar is graduating with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in African-American Studies. “She had limited time, plus she took the initiative,” said Dale Tatum, a UCLA lecturer.
Jordan also founded the Compton Pipeline Taskforce—she and UCLA volunteers work on academics at Compton schools, including Carver Elementary, where she attended.
“I saw the difference in how my boys were in school in Brentwood and then how schools were in Compton where I came from,” she said.
Jordan credits family support and UCLA for making her dreams a reality. “You can’t really succeed unless you fail, and I failed a lot of times, but it was my persistence and my willingness never to give up,” she said.
Jordan, who also works in the Compton mayor’s office, plans to take a year off before she heads to law school. She plans on becoming a district attorney.
RIVERDALE, Ga – Dr. Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, mayor of the City of Riverdale, has come a long way. Her story is a testimony to her ability to overcome the odds and persevere through difficult times. At her lowest point she was a homeless single mom raising four young kids and contemplated suicide by throwing herself off a bridge.
In a frantic attempt “to find a way out” Wynn-Dixon made her way to Pryor Street Bridge in Atlanta, overlooking I-75, and was prepared to jump. “I felt as if everything was gone and I’d ruined my life with one poor decision.”
She says her life spiraled out of control after she became pregnant during her first semester at Fort Valley State University. Dixon, a high school honors student, was forced to abandon her scholarship and drop out. Upon returning home, her mother passed away, leaving her with a six-month-old baby to care for.
Soon afterwards she got married, partly to avoid the stigma of being a single mom. She had three more children, but then the relationship fell apart, her husband walked out and subsequently Dixon was evicted with four infants, aged between 8 weeks and 6 years old.
A vision saved her life
Dixon, an Atlanta native, says she only snapped out of the overwhelming desire to give up when she saw a vision of her mom. “I was selfish but in the end I couldn’t do it.” It took many years to recover. But Dixon knew her only option was to educate herself out of welfare. She went back to school, earned an associate degree and later a Bachelor of Science. In her early forties, Dixon graduated with a Masters from the University of Georgia with her two sons.
Later she completed a PhD in public health and forged a successful career as a case worker at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, specializing in neurology, before taking on a new challenge as director of a hospice. Still, it has been a difficult journey. When she first returned to higher education she made a six-mile trek from school to home because she was unable to afford public transportation.
“If one person can hear my story and think, ‘if she can do it, so can I,’ then I have done my job. I didn’t let my zip code make me. I made it for myself.” In 2007, at the age of 59, with no prior political experience, Dixon launched a campaign to become mayor of the City of Riverdale in Clayton County, Georgia.
A new chapter
“I never desired to be in politics, never ever.” But Dixon, a devout Christian, says a prophetic visionand the hand of fate opened doors for the start of a new chapter in her life. “I prayed for it to be a sweat-less victory and for God to order my steps,” says Dixon, who was already well-known in the Riverdale for her commitment as a community foot soldier. “The campaign cost less than $3000. We had a runoff and I won.” The highly-accessible ‘People’s Mayor’ says from the start her dream has been to “change the branding and imaging of the City of Riverdale.”