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The Story of Higher Paths

Tremier Johnson, Lacuna Partners

Part I - The Origin

Winter of my Senior year in High School I found myself in a strange position. I had a decent athletic career but not good enough to merit scholarship consideration. I was a very good student with strong extra curricular activities. I had every intention of attending college after high school. Yet, I had not taken many of the steps necessary to get into college. Basically, I didn’t know what to do. Neither of my parents nor anyone in my family attended college so we were all completely uninformed about the steps necessary to get into college.

Luckily a counselor at my school pulled me aside. Suspecting I hadn’t truly pursued college attendance, he took it upon himself to lead me in the right direction. He led me through the processes necessary to get into college. Not my parents. Not my coach. Not a teacher. A counselor, who wasn’t even technically MY counselor, held my hand and got me through the processes necessary to attend a highly-ranked small, private, liberal arts college. It changed the course of my life. If not for the initiative of Rob Waters (RIP), I would have definitely taken a different path.

I have always been grateful to Rob for what he did for me. Unfortunately, he passed away before I truly had the opportunity to show him what I had accomplished, academically and personally because of his efforts. I certainly thanked him in the moment. But I would have loved to have had the chance to sit down with him in retrospect and discuss just how he changed my life and just how thankful I was for what he did.

As my life progressed I took opportunities to work with young people off-and-on. I volunteered for the Rock Island High School’s Minority Teacher Incentive Program (Shout out to Bobbi LaStrapes) and later when I moved to California I volunteered for the Continued Academic Excellence Program (Shout out to Dr. Jason Allen). I also dedicated myself to making sure my children had the guidance they needed to get to and succeed in college. There has always been something inside of me that has wanted to provide what Rob Waters provided for me.

Unknowingly, an annual tradition would spark an opportunity. Every year since 1993 I gather together with my friends to watch the first four days of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. A large number of my friends are educators and coaches. In about 2016 or 17, I began to notice they would have similar conversations. “Where’s [Kid A] going to school next year?”.

Inevitably there would be one or two kids that elicited the following (similar) responses:

  • “Kid didn’t qualify, so...”

  • “Nowhere that I know of. Family not really involved.”

  • “He/She’s still scrambling to figure out what to do.”

So in 2019, after hearing this for a few years, I piped up and said, “There really needs to be a program to help these kids and their families.” Everyone agreed, yet no one really knew where to start! So, around that table that day, we started talking about the issues and what would help these kids and their families. I took some notes and volunteered to see what I could put together. I had conversations with tons of people - teachers, administrators, parents, High School and College students, retired educators and anyone willing to offer advice. By that summer, The Potential College Athlete Information Program (PCAIP) was born. The concept of PCAIP was to partner with High School District’s around the country to assist Administrators, Counsellors, Teachers and Coaches in the provision of current, effective and easy-to-use information to potential student athletes and their parents/guardians. PCAIP would empower students and their families to utilize easy-to access and centralized information and resources needed to get their high school student-athlete into college and participate in college athletics. Then 2020 happened… (to be continued)

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