Corey Johnson: “I’ll help anybody who wants my help.”
This story is part of a series of profiles of African American employees OUC is featuring during Black History Month. Today: Corey Johnson.
Black History Month is a” big deal” to Corey Johnson, a member of Mayor Dyer’s Martin Luther King Jr. Committee since 2008. He attends events commemorating the month’s focus on his heritage, including the Dream Series, festivals, concerts and other activities. And on the fourth Sunday of the month, the Johnson family dresses in African attire for church service.
“It’s a big deal for our community,” says Johnson, Supervisor, Meter Operations. “Kids do skits and speeches about our great historical figures such as Fredrick Douglas, Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and various other icons of the African American community.”
Community involvement and helping others are a constant theme in Johnson’s life. From the two brothers he took in after their mother died to students he’s mentored to co-workers he helped obtain high school diplomas, Johnson seems to be “always paying it forward to pay back the people who helped me.”
Like Joe Chessa, the now-retired Director of Water Distribution. “He pushed me and gave me opportunity…in the water meter shop,” said Johnson, who joined OUC in 2000. Johnson says he still stays in touch with Chessa.
In 2010, Johnson partnered with now-retired OUC executive assistant Audrey Brown, Ph.D., to offer employees a GED program after a new employment policy required a high school degree. Five water techs went on to earn diplomas.
“Whenever some of them had problems they would come to me and say, ‘I’m about to give up,’ ” recalls Johnson. “I would encourage them to not give up and I would get them help.”
Johnson can relate to going back to school after taking a break. An Oak Ridge High Class of ‘91 grad, he earned a degree in business administration from Florida Metropolitan University in 2007. A few years later, Brown encouraged him to get an MBA, which he did from University of Phoenix in 2012.
Since 2010, Johnson has been mentoring students at Jones High, the predominantly African American school from which his son and daughter graduated. He’s also been giving back as the chair of the local chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, which sponsors the Youth Energy Academy’s summer field trips to OUC, Duke and Siemens.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up so when I go out and mentor I tell these young people to find a career or a career will find you,” he says. “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working hard for.”
But perhaps his most compassionate act came after his mother died in 2011. The two youngest of his 10 siblings, Thaddeus and Matthew, came to live with his family. Thad, now 26, has Down’s syndrome and remains in Johnson’s care while Matthew, 22, attended college with his big brother’s help.
“I’ll help anybody who wants my help,” says Johnson.
All that giving must have rubbed off on his two kids, Corey Jr., 28, who has a master’s in psychology, and Courtney, 25, who earned a sociology degree. Both work in fields where they can help people.
*Photo taken at a safe distance of 6 feet.