Mississippi Strong: Janie Ballard Johnson

Published: Mar. 15, 2018 at 8:27 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2018 at 9:36 PM CDT
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Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT

MADISON COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) - A 90-year-old one-room schoolhouse in Madison County has gone through lots of reincarnations and is now a school once again. The building was built by a determined grandfather who was living Mississippi Strong.

Janie Ballard Johnson knows this building well. Not only has it been in her family all of her life, she went to school here as a child. That wouldn't have happened had it not been for her grandfather who, decades before her time, had a vision for education for the young children in the area.

"This room we're in right now is the one-room school built back in the 20s; early 20s when blacks were not allowed to go to public school," said Johnson. "My grandfather Nelson Ballard built this one room with his own funds. But his neighbors helped him to build the structure.

After public education became available the old school was converted into a residence. But Janie Johnson says she was STILL taught some fundamentals about life growing in this house. Those lessons served her well. And now, full circle, her grandfather's schoolhouse is a school once again. Not necessarily for academics, but for learning how to live.

"I have learned that if children's behavior improves, if they understand how life works and what their relationships should be with themselves and with the teacher and the parents that grades go up. For real," said Janie. "He understands life. That he doesn't need to be fighting against parents and fighting against the system. He needs to understand why. Why do we have curfew? Why do parents need to tell you what to do, what not to do when and where? Why? What's the point of that? It's not something to fight. It's something to protect you."

Janie Johnson has a piece of advice for us grown-ups that, whether she even realizes it or not, has to be a carry-over from her grandfather's attitude toward young people or he wouldn't have bothered to build this school.

"I want people to really try to have confidence in children again," said Janie. "So your children can have a chance. But if you think they are going to mess up, that's what they'll do for you, mess up."

So expect what you want to happen, not what you don't. That's what Janie Johnson's grandfather was doing when he built this school and it is still educating and training. Nearly a hundred years later. And turning out more young people who are living Mississippi Strong.

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