HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Dashawn Johnson, who has experienced a lifetime of trouble and turmoil over his first 19 years, is looking forward to a newer and brighter future after signing a commitment to attend New York City's Vaughn College in the fall.
Johnson, a star basketball and baseball student/athlete at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, signed his papers Tuesday, April 29, in the office of MLK Superintendent of Schools Amy Goodman with his mother, Carol, and younger brother at his side.
"It's a dream come true that I would never have thought of dreaming before coming to MLK," said Johnson, who came to the Hastings-on-Hudson campus three years ago after legal problems forced his hand. "Knowing that I have been able to get my life back means so much to me. I am a college athlete now. I could have been in jail or dead instead like many kids I knew."
Johnson, who has come to be a team leader and role model for fellow students at MLK, thanked guidance counselor Bridget Fox, Principal Paul Tobin, teammates and basketball coach Scott Green for "a second chance" to turn his life around. The senior helped lead the varsity basketball team to Section 1 and State Regional basketball titles last winter.
"I was going to give up, but I decided that I had to make a choice to succeed," Johnson said with a wide and winning smile. "Now I know that I can do anything I put my mind to. I tell other kids that they can do it too. You just have to stick with the plan and listen to mentors and teachers. My goal is to graduate from college -- it may take four years or more -- but this is my next goal."
Carol Johnson said she had lots of trouble with Dashawn, the middle son of eight children, growing up on the streets of New York where run-ins with the law eventually pushed the move to MLK and its program for at-risk youngsters.
"I'm so proud of my son because he has done a 360 in his life and accomplished this," Johnson said. "A judge made the decision to have him come to Martin Luther King. He didn't want to come, but he has made it happen. I know he can be a great student and leader."
Fox, who has aided Johnson in his day-to-day studies and staying on point, said her young protege was showed patience and determination.
"Dashawn wanted to graduate last year with his class, but I knew he could become a better student," Fox said. "He is now an honor student and ready to go to college. He visits me every day, and we talk about everything. He will be a success."
Referred by MLK teacher Alyse La Padula, a former standout college athlete herself, Johnson was recruited and signed by
Vaughn College men's basketball coach Ricky McCollum, who called his incoming freshman "high-energy."
"Dashawn has amazing athletic ability and a court presence that stands out," McCollum said. "His energy level really impressed us. He will improve in all aspects of his game with training and the college environment. We're expecting him to be a leader on and off the court."