Habits aren’t always bad, especially when serving the community becomes habitual. Michael Johnson, information technology worker for Chambers County Schools and Boys & Girls Clubs worker, has made it a habit to invest what time he has into the local Boys & Girls Clubs.
Johnson is an Opelika native, graduating from Opelika High School in 1992. He grew up in a single-parent home with one sister.
Before the Boys & Girls Clubs, there was nothing to occupy time while Johnson was growing up. Mike Anderson, the unit director during Johnson’s childhood, was said to drive down the streets of Opelika recruiting youth to join the club.
“He recruited each and every child that was in the club at that time, and because of that we had something to do,” Johnson said.
Johnson was deemed the Youth of the Year for the Lee County Boys & Girls Clubs in 1991. This award is given to a student that exemplifies all of the valuable lessons that are taught in the clubs.
“Back when I was in the club, the slogan was ‘The club that beat the street,’ and I took that literally,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of friends that didn’t make it, a lot of friends that went to jail, a lot of friends that just took the wrong path. Meeting the positive people at the club kept me on the right path.”
Johnson also won the slam dunk contest that year. He spent time playing basketball for fun at the club, but when challenged, the group of boys beat the Opelika High School varsity basketball team. After showing off his skills, the coach asked if he would like to join the team.
“I had bragging rights thanks to the Boys & Girls Club,” Johnson said. “I got on the team even though so many guys tried out and didn’t make it. That was really the first step.”
After Johnson graduated in 1992, he received his first paid job at the club. He continued working at the club until he enlisted in the military in 1994. During his service, he was stationed for training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, and Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Today, Johnson has a wife and three children. He is excited for his two youngest to become of age to participate in Boys & Girls Clubs events, following in his steps. His 22-year-old daughter was a member of the club and played basketball, just like her father.
Johnson hopes to continue working with the students at the club. Mentoring is one responsibility Johnson has picked up over the years, and speaking with the children one-on-one gives a different perspective while working with the children. Living just down the road from some of these kids makes the job a full-time commitment, Johnson said.
“These kids, they grow on you,” Johnson said. “One wrong decision for these kids and their life is over, so we watch out for them.”