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Former Rams linebacker now defending education

March 30, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Frank Johnson was the motivational guest speaker at the learning center at Brawley Union High School on Thursday.

Johnson has been in Imperial Valley schools this week motivating students to finish their education and attend college.

Johnson shared his experiences as a child growing up with a learning disability in a poor neighborhood in San Francisco.

As the first person in his family to go to college, he used football as a "vehicle" to a better life, although Johnson warned the students not to depend on their athletic skills as their only "way out."

"Sometimes you become a superstar," Johnson said of depending on athletics as a career. "Next thing you know, you've become a falling star."

He issued strict warnings to the students about what the result of not preparing for the future would be.

"In the real world they're going to expect you to produce. If you don't, you won't have a job," he said. "The bottom line is you have to be able to compete with everybody."

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Johnson encouraged students to work toward college.

"This is your foundation to possibly having a good life — your education," Johnson said.

Johnson didn't just lecture the students, he provided a solution.

Johnson works in conjunction with local organizations to provide motivation, help and jobs to students.

Student workers for the Youth Employment Opportunity program also spoke to the gathered students.

The youth employment workers encouraged students to use their services.

"We help with job assistance, career planning, peer counseling and tutoring," said Larry Valenzuela, a student worker for the Youth Employment Opportunities program.

Nadia Cejas, 18, also a student worker for the YEO program, spoke about her experiences as a teen mother finishing school and working part time.

"I'm struggling, but I'm getting there," Ceja said.

The employment program is part of the state Employment Development Department, which is working in partnership with CalWORKS to provide services for students to help them succeed in school.

"We encourage them to continue their education," said Ceja.

As a motivational speaker, Johnson travels throughout the state to promote local programs and the opportunities they provide to students.

He made an impression on at least one student.

Maria Cisneros, 17, a junior, said, "It's cool that he came to talk to us."

Maria recently moved from Twentynine Palms and has been looking for a job but was not aware of services provided for students who are in school and working.

"I'm going to contact them tomorrow," Maria said, adding she has had secretarial experience and hopes to find a job in that field.

Johnson finished his speech by telling the students, "It's not about me motivating you, it's about giving you the opportunity to help yourself."

For more information about the YEO program, call Nadia Ceja at 768-7108 or Larry Valenzuela at 352-4094.

For information about the EDD call Rose Mary Rubio at 352-4392 or call 339-2722.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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