Paul Johnson knows that it’s hard for people from the outside looking in to understand his story and his struggles. His life, he said, was never straightforward.

Johnson, 26, attended and graduated from Overbrook high school and took a few college courses at the Community College of Philadelphia before dropping out. He soon took a path that led him to spending time in and out of jail before being sentenced to six months for missing court dates due to driving under the influence. Once released, he had trouble securing a job.

No one really wanted to take the chance of hiring someone with a record, and he received a lot of rejections from employers after handing in his applications.

Then his probation officer connected him to the PowerCorps program through the Philadelphia Water Department, where Johnson learned about the history and use of Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and was able to do work that included basic maintenance on drains, landscape and infrastructure work. He was also able to meet people with similar backgrounds as his.

Johnson spent six months in the program, graduated and was hired by AKRF, an environmental engineering and consulting company, where he became a Green Infrastructure Maintenance Technician.

Billy Penn was able to catch up with Johnson and talk about his time spent in jail, his progression through the PowerCorps program and his continuing drive to better himself.

Read the rest of the story here…

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Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia journalist. He is one of the founding editors and writers of the North Philly Metropolis, blogger for The Huffington Post and contributing writer to numerous online publications. Click here to learn more about Peak.