Charles 'C.J.' Johnson
Paraprofessional safety worker
North Dallas High School, Dallas
Alliance-AFT, Local 2260
At the opening session of the 34th annual PSRP Professional Issues Conference, Charles "C.J." Johnson was honored as the PSRP Everyday Hero for 2011. He was warmly received by his fellow union members, and by Jerimi Gonzales, an "adopted son"—one of the 38 homeless children he and his mother have taken in over the years.
Jerimi Gonzales congratulates Charles Johnson on receiving an AFT Everyday Hero Award. Photo by Michael Campbell.
Gonzales described Johnson as a selfless, devoted and humble man. "We honor him today for being a hero," said Gonzales, who is a student at Southern Methodist University. "I honor him for being mine as well, and [a hero] to many others—for being our light, our rock and our captain who steered our ship of life in a positive direction."
After thanking the AFT for the award, Johnson noted, "I’m not the hero." It’s the kids who overcome difficult situations, he emphasized. "The kids are the heroes to me."
Johnson was named an AFT Everyday Hero for taking dozens of homeless students into his own home over the last 15 years. Last November, the North Dallas High School employee and graduate received a prestigious local award recognizing his leadership in improving education for low-income people in Dallas. Past recipients of that award have included state senators, a school superintendent and prominent attorneys. Johnson has become a bit of a local celebrity in Dallas, having been featured several times in the Dallas Morning News and other media.
He sees no boundary between his home and his work as a paraprofessional security adviser. Over the years, he and his mother have taken in as many as four homeless teenagers at a time, providing the steady environment they needed to succeed in school and in life. For his efforts, Johnson has seen many of his students graduate from high school. Some have gone on to earn college diplomas.
Johnson often refers to the students he takes in as "my kids" and doesn’t just provide the basic necessities for them, but takes on the role of father figure and mentor. To instill a sense of responsibility, he requires all of his students to perform some type of community service along with their schoolwork. And his concern doesn’t end there. Johnson stays in touch with the students long after they've left his home.
All this makes Johnson "the epitome of what it means to serve," wrote the person who nominated him. And if you think this man has a pretty amazing resumé, she adds, "he is even more amazing in person." [video by Matthew Jones]