Palmetto church hosts second annual Next Generation Youth Forum

PALMETTO -- Brother Curtis Johnson Sr. has spent 40 years of his life, mostly at the Eleventh Street Church of Christ, providing spiritual guidance and life lessons to the people.

He's also spent 30 years training athletes, among them his Olympian sprinter son, Curtis Johnson Jr.

Today, Johnson will host the second annual Next Generation youth forum that will touch on the importance of keeping those in the right perspective.

"Many of our young folks have a one-track mind: I'm going to be a professional athlete," said Johnson, 60. "The percentages of that happening are very low. Studies are what take you further.

"After you make your last play or last point, when you fill out a job application, there isn't going to be anything on there for how many yards you got or how many points you scored or how fast you used to be."

Reinforcing that message will be a panel of speakers who are well-known in the community.

When they relate their own experiences, folks will listen.

They include:

Ray Bellamy -- Lincoln Memorial High School alum who integrated University of Miami football.

Barbara Harvey -- Longtime Manatee School Board member.

Adrian McPherson -- Southeast High alum and Montreal Alouette quarterback.

Henry Lawrence -- Palmetto native and three-time NFL Super Bowl champion with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.

Charles Smith -- Palmetto City Commissioner.

There are 10 panelists, each of whom will talk for about 10

minutes. Afterward the panel will engage in a question-and-answer session with the audience.

"This is like a platform for individuals who can tell the real side of the story," Johnson said. "It's a platform for information -- not only for the kids, but for the parents, too.

"Some parents need this more than the kids. Parents can also have a one-track mind -- 'My kid's going to be a millionaire athlete and he's going to buy me a big house.' That's not true."

Johnson's own background mirrors that of Lawrence, former Lincoln teammates who went to Manatee at the start of integration.

"Everybody looks at those Super Bowl rings, but you need to know what work it took to get there," he said. "Henry was a migrant worker before he made it in the NFL.

"I was a migrant worker once, too."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: Next Generation youth forum

When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. today

Where: Eleventh Street Church of Christ, 513 11th St. W., Palmetto

Who: The panel of speakers includes John McInnis, North River Fire District fire chief; Barbara Harvey, Manatee County School Board; Ray Bellamy, University of Miami Hall of Fame; Walt Bellamy, National Negro Basketball Hall of Fame; Charles Smith, Palmetto City Commissioner; Devan Cheaves, 2012 Florida State graduate; Adrian McPherson, Canadian Football League; Joanne McRae, State College of Florida; Craig Cheaves, husband, father and former prison inmate; Henry Lawrence, 14-year NFL veteran.

Information: 941-729-2873