A Graduation Story: Gonzalez Keeps A Promise

Johnny Gonzalez made a promise. He kept it, and then some, following up his bachelor’s degree by participating a second time in the San Jose State University commencement ceremony inside Spartan Stadium last Saturday, May 23, to mark the completion of his master of arts degree in counselor education.

“My parents had the biggest influence on me,” explains Gonzalez of his father, Juan, and mother, Dalia. “They only went up to the eighth grade, and ever since I was little, they stressed education. I always wondered why, but they did. They didn’t have the opportunity to further their education, because they had to work and they had big families in their country. As an only child, I made a promise to myself and to my parents, that I would advance my degree and be something in life, at a professional level. My dream was always to become a professional soccer player. It didn’t work out for one reason or another, but I’m sure to be a professional at something else.”

Gonzalez first earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology, with a concentration in family, in May of 2006. He took a year off to work and pursue his dream of playing soccer professionally. As a forward and four-year letterwinner on head coach Gary St. Clair’s team from 2002-05, he was one of just three members of the Spartan men’s soccer program to earn all-conference distinction at the conclusion of all four seasons, with two first-team and two second-team awards. Though he attended a few professional combines, mainly on the East Coast, his only real opportunity to keep playing came from his parents’ native country of El Salvador. Gonzalez turned it down, however, preferring to continue his schooling instead of settling for the non-optimal terms of the deal.

“I figured that if I wasn’t going to be a professional soccer player, I might as well be professional at something. All I knew I was good at is working with youth, working with kids, whether it was academically, or with sports, so I decided to go into the counselor education program at San Jose State. Coach St. Clair helped me with a letter of recommendation, and fortunately it worked out. Before I knew it, I got accepted, and I saw that as a great opportunity to not only advance my degree, but become another male with a minority background to move up in this world.”

Already the first in his family with a high school diploma and an undergraduate college degree, Gonzalez began his master’s in the fall of 2007, and completed it with a thesis written on potential preventative measures to combat the high pregnancy rate among Latina girls aged 15 to 19 in the state of California.

Along the way, Gonzalez was an intern counselor at Fischer Middle School and Pala Middle School, both in San Jose, and most recently, at Evergreen Valley College, also in San Jose, five days a week since March, for class credit.

By no means has he distanced himself from the sport he loves, while pursuing his master’s degree. Gonzalez played for the San Francisco Seals and the San Jose Frogs, both of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) during the summers of 2007 and 2008, respectively. This summer, he has hooked up with BayArea Ambassadors FC, based in Hayward, Calif., of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), playing home games at Chabot College through the month of July. He has scored one goal in five games thus far, as the team is off to a 3-2 start.

Gonzalez, who recently moved from Pleasanton to Dublin, also has coaching mixed into his busy schedule. Since last year, he coaches the Livermore Elite Soccer Club U-17 girls. During the three winter months, he is the head coach of the junior varsity girl’s team at Foothill High School in Pleasanton.

Studying, working, playing or coaching, San Jose State is not far from Gonzalez’s mind.

“San Jose State, in general, will always have a place in my heart. As far as the men’s soccer program, I have a lot of pride in it. I’m always checking the website, always following their schedule, their results, seeing how they are doing. I always said I would love to go on and represent San Jose State at a professional soccer level, but I figured if I couldn’t do that, that I might as well do it academically. If I could share my story with the current players now, I would just tell them that hey, things may not work your way, and if they don’t, it’s not a big deal. You can go the academic way, which is the secure way, and make something out of yourself.

“My future plans include either being a high school counselor, or a college advisor. Specifically, I would like to be an athletic advisor for a state school or a UC school, a community college, and share my story and tell them that you’re a student before you’re an athlete. I think that’s what I would emphasize, because a lot of college athletes tend to focus on the athletic side, but forget about the student side of it. I would stress that academics is important, because you do have to stay eligible, and you’re here for a degree, after all. I would like to find some kind of counseling position where I know I can be effective and do my best at it, just like I did on the soccer field when I was at San Jose State.”

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