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Fifty-Two Reasons to Feel Good About the Future

March 01, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

By the power vested in me, Thursday has been declared Good News Day.

There will be no portrayals of teenagers as delinquents, punks or demented souls.

It's a day to feel secure about the future, for 52 high school seniors will receive scholar-athlete awards from the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame during ceremonies at the Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills.

This is the one banquet guaranteed to cure depression and conquer disillusionment.

Each tale of success offers a dose of inspiration.

Take the story of Julius Roberts, a defensive end from Poly High. He'll become the first family member to attend college. He's the first Poly football player in more than a decade to receive a Division I scholarship directly out of high school.

He takes a 45-minute bus ride from his home in South-Central Los Angeles to study at Poly's math-science magnet program.

An L.A. County lifeguard during the summer, he wants to be an elementary school teacher and has a 5-foot pet python named Edna.

"I come from a neighborhood that most kids don't make it as far as I have," Roberts said. "If I'm there to teach kids in elementary school, I can make a difference."

Roberts is 6 feet 6 and 220 pounds. He had 12 1/2 sacks for the Parrots and received a scholarship to Boise State.

But for all the aggressiveness and power he displays in football, his kindness and understanding as a teacher's aid at an Arleta elementary school made far more of an impact on the third-graders than his football exploits.

"You see a 6-6 person walk into their school, they look up to you," he said.

"Kids need to learn at the beginning, and that's what I taught them."

During high school, Roberts said his mother twice pulled him off sports teams when his grades didn't measure up to her standards. He didn't agree at first, but he admits it helped in the long run.

Strong family guidance has kept him on the right path.

"It's hard sometimes, because peer pressure is there," he said. "You see other kids but your mom's in your head. I think being afraid of my mom and my stepdad caused me to go the straight rout."

Roberts has an 8-year-old brother who expects his big brother to do the right thing.

"He looks up to me," Roberts said. "Everything I do, he wants to do. If I play my best, it will give him the courage to play his best."

The criteria for being honored as a scholar athlete includes maintaining a minimum 3.0 grade-point average and combining outstanding campus leadership with strong performance on and off the field.

Defensive back Dujuan Shakespaere of Chatsworth will not earn his school's scholar-athlete award. That goes to USC-bound Matt Cassel.

But Shakespaere will receive a special award Thursday for having the most improved grade-point average.

During the first semester of his sophomore year, Shakespaere's GPA was 2.0. Last semester, it was 4.0.

How does someone go from a C average to an A average?

"I had to get back to my original study habits," he said.

Shakespaere's GPA fell so low he was ineligible to play football his junior year. His mother "was ready to tear out my throat."

Instead of hanging out at the mall or going skateboarding, Shakespaere started doing his homework and studying.

His transformation into an A student convinced Shakespaere there's hope for the future.

"It means I can get somewhere," he said. "It makes me know I'm not just going to sit around and work at a fast-food restaurant. High school is important because that's what's going to get you a life."

One by one, the tales of the 52 honorees will be told.

There's Philip Koosed of Harvard-Westlake. He played center and was co-captain of the football team. He worked for a brokerage house last summer and wrote a U.S. history paper on the stock market crashes of 1929 and 1987. He hopes to be accepted to an Ivy League school.

There's Jared Bazar of Hart, a record-breaking receiver who scored 1410 on the SAT.

There's John Turner of Chaminade, a lineman who has a 4.0 GPA, has played piano for 12 years and is headed to Dartmouth.

There's Brad Cohn of Granada Hills, a lineman who's never had a grade less than A and wants to become a doctor.

There's Ruben Zaragoza of Kennedy, an All-City quarterback who's never missed a day of school in four years.

What a deserving, positive group of teenagers to honor.


Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or



Justin Richter, Agoura

Nick Keleshian, Alemany

Vincent Grillo, Antelope Valley

Kyung Gim, Bell-Jeff

David Black, Birmingham

Omid Kianersi, Burbank

Alan Stout, Burroughs

Matt Bernstein, Calabasas

Aaron Kerr, Campbell Hall

Marlin Rivera, Canoga Park

Marcos Ballestros, Canyon

John Turner, Chaminade

Matt Cassel, Chatsworth

James Bethea, Cleveland

Marc Salazar, Crespi

Shaheen Jahangard-Mahboob, ECR

Jeremy Lopez, Faith Baptist

Tyson Larson, Grace Brethren

Brad Cohn, Granada Hills

Kyrie Nava, Grant

Jared Bazar, Hart

Phil Koosed, Harvard-Westlake

Jonathon King, Highland

Tyrone Tutogi, Hueneme

Ruben Zaragoza, Kennedy

Keon Montgomery, Littlerock

Scott Swenson, L.A. Baptist

Deandre Phillips, Monroe

Patrick DuRoss, Newbury Park

Matthew Hicks, North Hollywood

Patrick Wade, Notre Dame

David Levy, Oak Park

Travis Morse, Palmdale

Brian Whisler, Paraclete

Julius Roberts, Poly

Kevin Bush, Reseda

Kevin Krause, Royal

Sonny Sundel, St. Genevieve

Fernando Camberos, San Fernando

Corey Pearson, Saugus

Andy Bruce, Simi Valley

David Contreras, Sylmar

Brandon Hance, Taft

John Sweeney, Thousand Oaks

Stephen Stokes, Valencia

William Yun, Van Nuys

Wes Anderson, Vasquez

John Tirres, Verdugo Hills

Artin Sedighan, Viewpoint

Jason Stauffer, Village Christian

Raymond Cruz, Westlake

Jordan Slater, Westmark

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