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ECC keeps mother-daughter employees close

Lisa and Samantha Johnson

Director of Child Care Services Lisa Johnson and her daughter, Financial Aid Assistant Samantha Johnson

It's a long walk from the Building M Early Childhood Lab School to the Building B Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. But, it doesn't seem like it for Director of Child Care Services Lisa Johnson and her daughter, Financial Aid Assistant Samantha Johnson.

That convenience is what Lisa Johnson relies on when she's had a rough day. She enjoys being able to pop into the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office to say hello to her daughter, or go for lunch together.

“She's my little bit of sweet,” Lisa Johnson said.

Although Samantha Johnson has worked at ECC for eight years, she's played an important role in the development of the Early Childhood Lab School-then called the “Tot Spot” when Lisa Johnson began in 1987. Noticing the college didn't have an infant program, Lisa Johnson established one and her then six-week-old daughter was the first enrollee.

Samantha Johnson admires her mother's passion for the lab school, which has evolved from a child care center to a facility that offers educational opportunities to its little customers and ECC students. Her mother is her role model, she added.

In addition to being the lab school's first infant, Samantha Johnson started her first two years of work at ECC there in 2008. After leaving for a few years to finish her bachelor's degree, she worked in the ECC Bookstore for a year and is now in her first year working as a financial aid assistant in the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office.

No matter where she's been, Lisa Johnson said her daughter has been a “talking billboard” for her program, telling parents about it whenever she sees a parent with a child in the financial aid office. Although the Johnsons work in different areas of the college and speak with the same people, no one makes the connection that they're related.

“When we're out together and they see us together, they're surprised. I love to see their reaction,” Samantha Johnson said. “They finally do see the resemblance.”

Both say working at ECC is very convenient for them. Samantha Johnson said having her mother nearby is helpful, especially if she needs anything. Lisa Johnson relies on her daughter to drop off things to her sisters-who both attend Northern Illinois University-since she lives near them.

We caught up with the Johnsons to ask them some questions about their roles at ECC. Here are their responses.

In your words, what do you do at ECC?

Lisa: I administer the budget, hire, train and evaluate staff. I look to the future and plan accordingly. I don't do any of it alone as I have the most supportive network of people around me that anyone could hope to have.

Samantha: I help students and their families navigate the process of applying for and using federal funding and scholarships for school.

What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been here?

Lisa: Expanding the program to include infants and toddlers was huge! Also, moving into our current location in 2003 totally changed this place forever.

Samantha: In 2012 I graduated with honors from Northern Illinois University with my bachelor's degree in anthropology and received a Research Scholar Award.

What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?

Lisa: I would require everyone who works at the college to come down and observe what happens at the Early Childhood Lab School. Unless people have contact here, they have no idea how hard these people work.

They sing, dance, play, teach, plan, observe, care for and care about, run, sit on the floor, listen, and explain. And then they teach and teach and teach.

And that is only in the first hour! Then they repeat for nine hours every day.

Samantha: I would petition the City of Elgin to immediately cease all construction on McLean Boulevard. And I would build a parking garage on campus.

If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?

Lisa: Ellen DeGeneres. Not because I look anything like her, but because she is fun and funny. She cares about people and she loves to play pranks on people.

Samantha: Emma Watson (Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter” movie series). She is classy, very intelligent and well-educated, and is a powerful advocate for women's rights.

What's on your “bucket list?”

Lisa: I have always wanted to go to the Louvre in Paris.

Samantha: So many things! To name a few:

  • Tour Egypt.
  • Learn jiu jitsu.
  • Work at an archaeological site.
  • Earn at least a master's degree.
  • Work in a museum.
  • Rescue a dog and/or cat from a shelter (or however many of them my husband will let me).

What's one fact we should know about you?

Lisa: I am the youngest of six girls in my family.

Samantha: I love rock music from the 60's and 70's. Thanks Mom and Dad!

What's something about your job that others should know?

Lisa: I think that we have adopted ECC's mission statement with a little change. Our mission is to “improve the youngest lives through learning.”

Samantha: We are classified as financial aid assistants instead of administrative assistants or secretaries because we are directly involved in the financial aid process. We do much more than answer phones and schedule appointments.

We are trained to complete the FAFSA application and we are responsible for knowing federal financial aid guidelines and must be able to communicate these requirements to the public in a way that is attainable. We are the face of the office to students and visitors but we actively participate in helping to complete their financial aid file accurately.

What was your favorite class in school?

Lisa: As a high school senior at Mother McAuley High School (in Chicago), I worked in the preschool lab there. It was wonderful!

Samantha: Art and Architecture of the Ancient Near East when I was in college.

What was your first job out of school?

Lisa: Fresh out of college, I took a job as an administrative assistant at an electrical contractor business. I made it three months before I was working with children again as a preschool teacher.

Samantha: I worked at the Shoe Carnival in Bloomingdale during and just after high school and worked at the Village Commons Bookstore in DeKalb during and just after college.

Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because … “

Lisa: The parents that we see move through the program, the children that we see move through the program and all the people that make it possible. You know who you are!

Samantha: The community that we serve. This community is so diverse and exciting. We have so many students that are talented, intelligent and motivated for success. Our students will change the world some day and I am honored to have a hand in helping them achieve their goals.


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