INDIANAPOLIS - July’s Jefferson Award went to a local man who helps to shape the lives of young men so they have a shot at a brighter future.
With school out for the summer, kids need something to do to keep them busy and out of trouble.
Fortunately for those at Watkins Park Family Center on the city’s northwest side, they have basketball and park manager Alonzo Johnson, Sr.
"You do basketball, the next day you come in and you're-- somebody's got issues that are going on in their life. Especially some of these young people, their parents are not at home," Johnson said.
Johnson is married with three sons of his own, and he knows how important it is to be a father figure to some of these young men.
He said keeping them focused and on the right track is part of his job.
"He sets goals for us, like a list of goals, and what we want to accomplish," Robert Owens said.
Every Wednesday afternoon, Johnson breaks up the game to focus on a program he calls Ironmen.
He takes the opportunity to try to get the young men to focus on what careers they want to pursue.
"If you're really, really looking to do something with your future, you really, really are serious about it, you really want to get into it, come see me," Johnson said to the kids.
Each day brings a different struggle, but Johnson does have success stories.
"I decided for whatever reason to take him back in and he's graduating this year, been accepted to two schools to go to college, going to the Air Force, I mean the kid has made a complete turnaround and it excites me every day I think about it," he said.
His wife, Angela Johnson, knows how dedicated he is to his job and the city's youth.
Later this summer, he will be very busy volunteering his time running an inner-city youth football league.
"He puts everything, he puts his heart into everything he does," Angela Johnson said.
Johnson now has another positive story to share with the young men that look up to him -- how hard work and a positive attitude can really pay off.
"So you do see a lot of negative and you gotta, you know, just keep on pushin’. That's all you gotta do is just keep on pushing," Johnson said.