MJ93 program prepares for first graduates

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dallas County football star and NFL player Michael Johnson is preparing locals for a career in technology from hundreds of miles away.

Johnson’s charity, MJ93, will have a graduation ceremony for its computer initiative Thursday at 6 p.m. at the George P. Evans Convention Center on Lawrence Street. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey will be the guest speaker. Ivey is scheduled to speak about increasing job skill levels in the area.

“It’s quite exciting we will be able to have the lieutenant governor come and speak,” Johnson’s mother, Thomasene Johnson, said. “She is from the Black Belt. It’s her community.”

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Michael won’t be attending, but Thomasene said she hopes to have him speak at the graduation through Skype — an internet-based video call program.

The computer initiative began in July and trained eight adults to be computer technicians.

In addition to learning a skill, the students also received a new laptop and materials to prepare for the computer technician certification test. Course instructor Rufus Ford said the cost of training students to become computer technicians averages $3,500 per student and the average starting salary for computer technicians is $40,000.

The entire cost of the training was paid for by MJ93.

Ford said the students would be employable immediately after graduation and passing a certification test.

“This is a high-end course,” Ford said. “Most courses just teach Microsoft Office or basic skills, but we take the next step. People can come and get a high-end job skill.”

He said the class is vital because of a low technological skill level in Selma.

Thomasene and Ford came up with the idea for the computer technician training after Michael’s football camp last year. Microsoft held a workshop after the camp last spring. Afterward, Ford approached Thomasene about a class that would certify students.

But the first eight students may be the first in a long line of people who receive training through MJ93.

“We are trying to keep it going and may add one more class,” Thomasene said. “Michael was raised with some things others could not do. He feels like he needs to reach out when he has more than the next person.”