A champion in many different ways

Published 12:53 am Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson may make mostly left turns when he races, but Johnson made a “right” turn Thursday.

That’s when Johnson announced he is awarding more than $520,000 in educational grants. It appears Johnson, who’s an expert at steering racecars, wants to help steer students down the right track.

The Jimmie Johnson Foundation has distributed more than $2 million during the past three years to schools in North Carolina, Oklahoma and California. Johnson and his wife, Chandra, have donated money to 44 schools in their hometowns and the Charlotte area, where they reside, in the past three years.

Johnson announced this year’s recipients at Sadler Arts Academy in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where Johnson’s wife was born. The school received $30,000 to extend its outdoor classroom. It was the first official foundation visit to Oklahoma, as four Muskogee schools won grants, according to The Associated Press.

This year, $254,000 of the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grants went toward science and technology needs, with 13 schools in the three states being awarded grants.

With many public schools and private schools facing budget constraints, grants like those awarded by Johnson and his wife help improve the educational environment for hundreds of students. Those grants may help keep students motivated, with those students becoming researchers who may find a cure for cancer. A grant for a school’s history project may lead to one of that school’s students becoming the next Ken Burns. A grant for a school’s drama program could result in producing the next Meryl Streep, Al Pacino or, yes, Adam Sandler.

Johnson may not defend his Sprint Cup title this racing season, but as long as he continues to support education, he’ll always be a champion.