Stepping Up to Have a Say

by Robert Larios, CEO, The Club

Robert Larios

Attentive readers of Alive! in print and online might notice that we photographed the new Olivia E. Mitchell Youth Council in a handsome but common place – the steps of City Hall. Anyone associated with the City of Los Angeles knows those steps.

But I feel the purpose is deeper. I imagined the youth council photographed there because the meaning becomes richer: It tells the story of the powers of youth meeting the powers of City government for mostly the first time. These young adults representing 800,000 other youths in LA belong on those steps, and they deserve to have a voice. Because of the hard work of the City Council and the new Youth Development Dept., they can. And will. In this month’s interview, please read all about the historic work done by General Manager and Executive Director Lisa Salazar, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Governmental Affairs Aksel Palacios and the entire staff. We also thank Karen Arevalo for reaching out to us. Lisa, Aksel and Karen are all Club Members.

I also want to note Club VP of Marketing Summy Lam and Alive! designer and Webmaster David Jamgotchian for their stellar photos and designs capturing this moment. We enjoyed working around the countless and very excited families and friends who accompanied the youth council on their big day. Chaotic, but fun!

Beginnings and Endings: As I mention youths rising in LA governance, I remember the other side of the equation. At deadline, we learned about three recent and notable passings: Retiree and Club Board Member Phil Orland; national Hispanic engineering pioneer and former RLACEI Board Member Americo Garza; and the Club’s own Jim Thompson, an important staff member who endeavored behind the scenes to make your Club experience better. I look forward to talking more about all three in a future Alive!

And One Who Retired: Lastly, I congratulate Pouria Abbassi, General Manager, LA Convention Center, upon his retirement after 20 years of City service. When the Convention Center was still managed by the City, we worked with Pouria to bring you stories about the Center. Congratulations, Pouria!

Worth Considering: Below this blog post, I share a personal remembrance of a former teacher of mine who passed away recently. He meant the world to me, and I want to share his life lessons for all to embrace and incorporate. It is not always easy to see the future, but it’s there all along. Don’t give up hope or become discouraged when you don’t know what will come next—everything can work out in your favor if you keep on going!

¡Gracias por leer!




Dear Club Members,

Recently, I attended a tribute event in San Diego County for a former 8th-grade teacher of mine, Sherman Johnson, who died June 18 after a six-year fight against cancer. Mr. Johnson taught in the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District for 38 dedicated years.

I posted these words to my personal social media channels, and I hope you find meaning in them, too.

Thank you for reading.

– Robert


Photo courtesy Susan Park Johnson

Sherman W. Johnson
… teacher, coach, father, husband, grandfather and friend

If you grew up in Pauma Valley, Calif. and went to Pauma Elementary School in the 1980s and ’90s, blessed were you to have had Mr. Johnson as your eighth grade teacher. He taught more than just subjects in math, English, history, etc. He also trained these students with the skills required to become productive members of society as law-abiding citizens.

To him, each student was talented and gifted. He saw their potential as successful people in life, and in that way he was different than most teachers. For starters, he could remember the most-minute detail about each student. Additional examples: He could remember each of their names, key conversations – word for word – and he could tell you what grades and what years they graduated, he kept every grade book (to be sure he was always right about those grades), he kept class photos like historical documents, photos of field trips, photos of them participating in sports, photos of the talent show, the eighth grade plays, and championship softballs signed by his students. He was distinct in that way, different than most other teachers. That’s why you remember him most, right?

But why did it all matter to him? Why did he exert that effort?

Because he loved his students.

Mr. Johnson will be missed by so many people, especially by those to whose lives he made positive impacts. From the hundreds (if not thousands) of students he taught. From the academic community that he challenged and fought in a tug of war so that those administrations would become a better version of themselves – demanding that they become a reflection of the students he taught. From his friends, whose relationships were strengthened and forged with loyalty over the years. And then of course I cannot begin to calculate the positive impact he made on his wife, Susan Park Johnson; Michael Johnson; Matt; and Jamie; along with his entire family.

As we celebrate and remember Mr. Johnson, a teacher, coach, father, husband, grandfather and friend, let us pray for his eternal peace … that his light shines on us every day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.