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Johnny’s Story: Caring Adults Can Make All the Difference

Johnny’s Story: Caring Adults Can Make All the Difference

Last week United Way launched the United Way NFL Player Scouting Team, a core group of civic-minded, college-educated NFL players committed to helping United Way recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. George Wilson (Buffalo Bills), Calais Campbell (Arizona Cardinals), Leigh Bodden (New England Patriots), Josh Cribbs (Cleveland Browns) and Nnamdi Asomugha (NFL Cornerback, Free Agent) visited United Way in Alexandria, Virginia for the kick-off.

The players were told about three local students at risk of dropping out. After learning the kids stories, the players decided to surprise the kids with a visit, and see if they could convince them to stick it out in school.  

Over the next three days, United Way will post the stories of Johnny, Darius, and Furius, and the visitors they weren't expecting.  

Johnny's Story

Johnny is 18 and having fallen far behind in school, had decided to drop out. Calais Campbell from the Arizona Cardinals and George Wilson from the Buffalo Bills knocked on his door around 9:00 AM. Johnny opened the door, surprised to see two very tall men wearing NFL hats and LIVE UNITED shirts.  

"May we come in?" the players asked after they introduced themselves.

Johnny and his mother were home, and the players asked Johnny about school. He talked about his dream to work in the auto industry, but believed the obstacles in his path were too great to overcome. Most of his friends from school have graduated, and he is still considered a sophomore due to the classes he failed. To graduate in 2013, he will need to complete two more years of high school including summer classes.

George Wilson leaned in and told Johnny that he could achieve any goal he sets.  Calais Campbell echoed these sentiments, adding "It's all about attitude, it's how you look at it."  You could see Johnny's eyes begin to light up.

"Johnny, the road ahead will be hard, but what you have described are not obstacles, it's a plan" Wilson said.

"It's just waiting for you" Campbell added.

Johnny looked up at each player and responded, "I don't want to look back someday and see that I only did what was easy."

The players pledged to support him through high school and expressed their confidence in him. As the conversation began to wind down, Johnny said something incredible. With his eyes wide and new hope in his heart, he looked at Wilson and Campbell and said, "I think I want to stay in school."

Before leaving, the players introduced Johnny to Preston, a local mentor paired up to ensure he has the support system he needs to succeed in school. 

Johnny's story is one of many playing out across America in which a caring adult could be the difference between a graduate and a dropout.

Take Action for Johnny

Take the Pledge to Become a Volunteer Reader, Tutor or Mentor

Already Taken the Pledge? Change Lives by Recruiting More Volunteers

Learn about the United Way NFL Player Scouting Team

Read the Series

Johnny's Story: Caring Adults Can Make All the Difference

Darius' Story: The Importance of a Good Coach

Furious's Story: Mentors Are Key to Success