She started on foodstamps, and now leverages a $24 billion economic powerhouse

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If you haven’t heard about Gloria Johnson-Cusack, then you might be missing something. Gloria was named CEO of the National Human Services Assembly. The company, according to CNN Financial, leverages roughly $24 billion dollars in purchasing power, giving her a great deal of influence on the economy around her.

The company is in partnership with HeathTrust Purchasing Group, with NHSA directing purchasing activity for 80 non-profits, including the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, and United Way.

Johnson-Cusack was raised in Washington DC and struggled economically in her upbringing.

“I grew up in D.C. with three siblings. We looked like the “Cosby” family on TV (literally, in our house with a white picket fence) but – financially – we were more like the lower income inhabitants in Bill Cosby’s cartoon creation, ‘Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,’” she said.

Johnson-Cusack says that her father ran a watch repair shop and her mother was a government worker. When her parents went through an ugly divorce battle, she says that she ended up on foodstamps with no dental or medical care and no savings whatsoever.

“Students from my junior high school were famous for ransacking buses that transported kids from three public housing projects. Our students were in the news for tearing out the paper ads inside the buses and throwing them out the windows; that’s in addition to the typical graffiti works,” she told CNN.

Johnson-Cusack’s life changed when she was given the opportunity to attend the same prep school that President Obama’s children attend today. It seems that no one wants to send their kids to public schools, even the politicians who ask us to send our children to those same institutions.

“In retrospect, I was saved by my zip code. Even though our family finances were awful, I still spent my formative years in a safe neighborhood with intact families. We had high expectations from Dad’s stories about being a Morehouse classmate of Dr. King and from Mom’s stories about escaping sharecropping,” she said.

Johnson Cusack says that her experience let her know that a person’s zip code was the greatest indicator of whether or not they were poor. She says, however, that many people from impoverished communities have the same work ethic as anyone else, and are only in need of the opportunity to get ahead. So, it appears that she hasn’t forgotten where she comes from.

Johnson-Cusack is also wise enough to know that if we don’t start using some of our best human resources, the entire nation is going to suffer because of it.

“When I work with business and philanthropic partners, I aim for more equality of opportunity, irrespective of zip codes. It’s that outcome, or else our workforce and our country will stagnate amidst enormous potential,” she said.

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