Athens’ Johnson honored with Big Voice for Children award

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Tim Johnson

Athens activist and nonprofit manager Tim Johnson recently was named one of this year’s “Big Voices for Georgia’s Children.”

The Atlanta-based child welfare group Voices For Georgia’s Children gives the awards annually. Johnson is the only person outside Atlanta among those to be honored at an Atlanta banquet tonight.

Johnson is the executive director of both Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens and Whatever It Takes, a community coalition that aims to make sure that by the year 2020, every child in Clarke County graduates from high school prepared for post-secondary education.

“He deserves it,” said Athens lawyer Bertis Downs, who nominated Johnson for the award. “There are a lot of people in Georgia who have worked on behalf of improving opportunities for kids, and Tim has spent the majority of his career doing this.”

An Athens native, Johnson counts among his early influences the late Cobern Kelley of the Athens YMCA and the late Eugene Odum, a world-famous ecologist at the University of Georgia who happened to be the young Johnson’s next-door neighbor.

Odum turned backyard jaunts into little ecology lessons, Johnson recalled.

As a college student, Johnson led a group that lobbied for changes in state law to protect tenants, but has spent most of his professional career working on issues related to children.

“Not everyone is always on the same page as Tim, but he keeps striving on,” said Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children.

Johnson’s Family Connection group also launched the OneAthens anti-poverty initiative that grew into a huge community collaboration that involved hundreds of people in planning.

Johnson has aided in projects that helped reduce teen pregnancy and reduced child abuse and neglect in Clarke County, and also helped found the Classic City Performance Learning Center, an alternative school for students who for various reasons don’t fit or don’t like traditional high school. One state study said the Performance Learning Center actually boosted the Clarke County high school graduation rate by 8 percent.

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