San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Dwayne Johnson Jr. assists families in need of resources for virtual learning

File photo
Then-junior safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. lays a hit on a BYU receiver during the Aztecs’ 13-3 victory on Nov. 30, 2019 at SDCCU Stadium. With the help of former SDSU cornerback Ron Smith and his sister, Johnson Jr. started a GoFundMe page called the Building Connections Project Fund, assisting low-income families with online learning resources.

San Diego State football fans know senior safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. as a force on the football field. This past season, Johnson Jr. was named a Pro Football Focus honorable-mention All-American, was an honorable-mention all-Mountain West selection and started in 13 games with 92 tackles. 

COVID-19 caused uncertainties with football when the season was first postponed to the spring, to now kicking off October 24. One thing that has remained certain during an unprecedented time is Johnson Jr.’s determination to make a difference in his community. 

Johnson Jr. has become an advocate on Twitter, recently tweeting about getting students access to Wi-Fi and computers. He became passionate about providing technology resources to students in need after coming across a photo on Twitter. 

On August 27, Johnson Jr. saw a photo of two young students sitting in a fast food drive-thru to connect to their Wi-Fi. He instantly shared the photo on Twitter with a call to action.  

The tweet received 31,000 likes and 14,300 retweets. 

Johnson Jr. said he aims to give back to others whenever possible, prompting him to help families lacking online learning resources.

“I’m one of those people who hates to see another person down,” Johnson Jr. said. “I’m not really fond of holding on to something I can get back the next day. Monetary value means nothing to me, so I have no problem helping people when they need help.”

Twitter allowed him to reach people all across the county. Johnson Jr. started to receive direct messages from families, parents and students all over San Diego County who were in need of help. He also received messages from others wanting to get involved. 

Head coach Brady Hoke wasn’t surprised by Johnson Jr. stepping up as a leader in the community.  

“He’s one of the guys who’s a terrific leader on our football team,” Hoke said. “He’s a good player also, and he’s proved that part of it. So he has earned a lot of respect from the guys on this team and a lot of respect from the guys who are coaching him.”

Johnson Jr.’s teammates showed their support of his mission by retweeting and sharing the message. 

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety said much of his inspiration is owed to watching his father help others when he was growing up.

“I have a big heart, comes from my father,” Johnson Jr. said. “I’ve watched my father help a lot of people, so I definitely picked that up from him, that I have no problem helping the next man.”

The positive influence from Johnson Jr. comes on and off the field. 

“He’s a wonderful individual, he’s a wonderful football player,” Hoke said. “I’m glad he’s here and it doesn’t surprise me and doesn’t surprise me that his influence is so important on our team.”

With such a large amount of people reaching out, Johnson Jr. needed a way to stay organized. 

An excel spreadsheet soon followed. Johnson Jr. was determined to get in contact with every single person who reached out. 

Johnson worked with former SDSU cornerback Ron Smith and his sister to start a GoFundMe page, originally shared via Twitter on Aug. 30.

He called it the Building Connections Project Fund and has raised $3,422. 

The mission of this project is to help make sure that students in education have access to technology resources needed for the new online learning setting. Johnson Jr. wants to give all students an equal opportunity to learn. 

“Our mission is to ensure that K-12 students have internet connection and a working device in order to accomplish their academic goals,” the GoFundMe page read. “The Building Connections Project will work to provide families with community resources, a computer or other technological device, and/or financial assistance so that they may have internet connection at home.” 

So far, 48 people have donated to the fundraiser and 35 people have shared it on social media. Johnson Jr.’s tweet of the GoFundMe page had 98 retweets. 

Johnson Jr. quickly found that the city was in need of more than just Wi-Fi help. He was getting people set up on AT&T and XFinity plans, but there was still a need for more resources. Some students, and even teachers, were in need of laptops and tablets as well. 

Johnson Jr. quickly researched all technology resources available in San Diego. He found an organization called Computers2Kids San Diego. The organization has a COVID-19 Technology Assistance Program where those in need could fill out an application for a computer loaded with Windows10, Libre Office Suites, Educational Programs, Antivirus and 1-year of Free Tech Support.

He started sharing a link to the application and encouraged people to direct message him on Twitter once they had filled out the application.

Through all the uncertainty that COVID-19 has caused across the nation, Johnson Jr. has continued to use his platform to help his community in a positive way. 

Johnson Jr. said he hopes to make an impact now through the GoFundMe page, but hopes the nonprofit can help families on a long-term basis.

I started a GoFundMe to be able to help people right now and I actually submitted paperwork to get a nonprofit started, so that’s all in the works right now,” Johnson Jr. said. “The name is Proving to be the Difference and we’re getting all that up and rolling.”

This nonprofit service he created is something he plans to continue so all students can have access to Wi-Fi and technology. 

Sports editor Kyle Betz contributed to the reporting of this story.

About the Contributor
Amber Salas, Senior Staff Writer
Amber is a fourth-year journalism student from San Clemente, California. This is her second year writing and reporting for The Daily Aztec. She hopes to one day share the stories of athletes as a sideline reporter covering the NHL or NFL. Amber is a big fan of the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Angels. She loves following all of college football as well. Amber is also a member of the SDSU Cheer team where she has competed three times at the UCA College Nationals in Orlando, Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ambersalass.
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Dwayne Johnson Jr. assists families in need of resources for virtual learning