TWPDC Partner Success Story: Byte Back

October 27, 2013 by Main, Successes No Comments

TWPDC Partner Success Story: Byte Back

Working Together to Make DC Work

The last two years have been transformative ones for Rhonda Harrison-Johnson. Though she once struggled with addiction and mental health issues, she’s now an aspiring novelist who has learned to channel her energy and creativity into her work. Since beginning her courses at Byte Back last spring, she has completed Memoirs of an Addict: Fact or Fiction, a creative retelling of her struggle with addiction.

“This project has been two years in the making – had the title, had everything, just didn’t have the skills,” Ms. Harrison-Johnson said. “I give Byte Back credit for that – I wouldn’t have had the computer, the skills, [or] the Internet [access].”

Last year, Ms. Harrison-Johnson sought help in her recovery process from PSI Services, Inc., a rehabilitation program, and started a clerical internship there that gave her some new skills and a living stipend. She decided she’d like to learn more about computers, so she enrolled in Byte Back’s beginner computer class. Her computer skills before coming to Byte Back were, she admits, “terrible.” Not only could she type less than 15 words a minute, she thought she had to delete a file as soon as she was done with it. “Now I realize you don’t go ‘delete, delete, and delete,’” she said, “You definitely don’t do that!” Despite this slow start, Ms. Harrison-Johnson demonstrated a natural aptitude for technology.

Her instructor, Andrew Quilpa, noticed how quickly she picked up the beginner skills and suggested she enroll in the more advanced class, Office Track. Not only did she successfully complete both classes, she also enrolled in our PC Hardware class to learn more about how computers work.

“[Andrew] he kept things at a realistic level so you want to come back. For me, as a student I hadn’t had that type of care,” Ms. Harrison-Johnson said. “You want to do better. You want to come to class every day. That was one of the major tools to start writing my book.”

Ms. Harrison-Johnson wanted to be able to share some of the writing she had done with others. Using the skills she learned at Byte Back, she started typing up and editing her book. She’s even created promotional materials and recently started a blog. Gaining access to the Internet has also allowed her to reach out to a wider community of writers and artists. She attended the National Book Festival, where she was able to converse with a number of other authors (including one of her favorites, Jeffrey Eugenides).

Her life these days is filled with discovering or rediscovering what she loves. In addition to her computer classes and her creative work, Ms. Harrison-Johnson has been reacquainting herself with riding a bike and spending time with family. She looks back on her years of addiction as “misspent energy,” and she credits three things for her current success: getting help, going to PSI, and coming to Byte Back.

“Within the last two years, since I really got help, I’m just finding my purpose. Coming to Byte Back — it gave me the sense to get back into life,” Ms. Harrison-Johnson said. “I always had a creative mind. Even with being a wife and mother, I never knew how to channel that energy until recently. Now I put it into words instead of drugs. That makes me happy.”


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