Meet Jonny: College, Family & Kendrick Lamar

Jonny is featured in the What's Your Gold video (below). Read on to learn more about his story.

Photo Credit: Jemimah Zonio Panganiban.

Photo Credit: Jemimah Zonio Panganiban.


What’s your gold? Why is this your gold? What does it mean to you?

My gold is to graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism to improve not only the quality of my life, but my family’s life. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I knew that I didn’t want to be a statistic — I’d be the first person in my family to graduate from a four year university. Graduating from college is something that me and my family had always talked about— it’s always been a dream of mine to go to college so to be able to do that with their support means the world to me.


What is one struggle you encountered along the way?

While I’ve encountered many struggles throughout my time at the University of Oregon such as not making the basketball team as a walk-on and lacking focus and falling into academic probation due to being concerned about my family back home, the biggest struggle I’ve encountered is losing my mom to sickle cell disease. She passed on January 21 of this year — I had just spoken to her the day before, it was our routine phone call before she went in for her transfusion. Next thing you know, I’m on a plane the next morning headed home to Los Angeles to be with her and my family. She had suffered from a stroke right after her transfusion and wasn’t doing well. Seeing her on life support and having to be the one to decide that it was time to let her go home to be with God was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. There are no words that can describe the pain — walking across that stage to receive my diploma was not only my dream, but hers as well.


What is one breakthrough you encountered along the way?

One of the breakthroughs I’ve encountered was being given a chance to be a part of the Journalism school. Although I’m not a full major yet, knowing that the faculty and staff believed in me enough to let me take classes with them was something I needed. A couple of weeks before my mom passed, I was in somewhat of a limbo — I had just switched my major to general social sciences because I was told that my petition to get into the School of Journalism and Communications had been denied. But the day after I had switched, I got an email from one of the professors telling me that my status had been changed from “denied” to “conditional.” I remember calling my mom to tell her about it, she couldn’t stop telling me how proud she was of me and that I was going to do well. 


What is something you learned or that you will take away from the process?

If there’s one thing I learned throughout this whole process, it’s this: “We Gon’ Be Alright.” I know I’m quoting Kendrick Lamar, but in a way, I’m quoting my mom too. She’s usually not into rap but for some reason, she really liked that song when she first heard it and I can see why — it speaks into every part of not just her life, but mine and everyone else’s that I love. The journey hasn’t always been easy, but now that God’s got her and she’s smiling down on me, I know that she’ll be with me every step of the way. Instead of hearing about it through FaceTime or a phone call, she gets a front row seat to see me live out what we’ve always dreamed of — going for our gold of me graduating college.