Johnson, who has now driven to a record four straight NASCAR points titles, stopped at Crest Elementary School where, 25 years ago, he was a student dreaming of racing and telling everyone he could about it.
The NASCAR driver, who mostly grew up in El Cajon, talked about his memories of the school and changes since he attended. He remembered a lot of skateboarding, bike riding, making soap in one of his classes and working in the cafeteria.
"It is amazing to come back and drive by the house I grew up in, the neighborhood. It's unlocking so many memories of growing up," he told students. "It really, really means a lot to me. And being able to give back not only to the schools I attended but to schools in the area is really, really special."
When the floor was opened up to students, the first question asked was about his grades. Johnson laughed and then deferred to his former teacher who called him a "goal setter" in grade school.
"Be kids every second you can," he told the school.
The Jimmie Johnson Foundation held a golf tournament as a fundraiser earlier in the year and raised $500,000. From close to 100 proposals, eleven schools in San Diego County were chosen to receive grants and those were distributed Monday to loud cheers from the students at Crest Elementary.
Among the grants:
- $19,500 for Chase Avenue Elementary to purchase a bilingual communication system to promote education in multiple languages.
- $32,495 for Crawford High School to explore the use of alternative fuels in their automotive education program.
- $45,900 for Crest Elementary School to create hands-on activities in science, technology, health-fitness and the arts.
- $100,000 for Emerald Middle School to create a science, technology, engineering and math lab.
- $31,155 for Granite Hills High School to assist in their stadium renovation.
- $31,572 for Greenfield Middle School to provide a safe lunch area for students.
- $20,714 for Johnson Elementary School to create a health and wellness program to learn about healthy eating and exercise.
- $28,000 for Magnolia Elementary School to purchase student responder systems for interactive teaching.
- $87,000 for Multi Media and Visual Arts School to create a high-tech art collaboration lab
- $90,000 for Point Loma High School to construct a weight room and exercise facility
- $13,600 for Rios Elementary School to purchase an online accelerated reading program.
The foundation awarded close to $1 million in grants across the country Monday.
Later Monday, Johnson will move north to Camp Pendleton where he'll host a fan fest for more than 500 Marines and their families starting at 3 p.m.
Fans can see him in person at the Lowe’s in Santee from 7-10 p.m. The event is open to the public and doesn’t require any RSVP, according to Johnson’s Facebook page. Johnson will make an appearance and also have a special Q and A with the fans. In addition, there will be live music and an evening full of great events.
Lowe’s is at 9416 Mission Gorge Road and can be reached at 619-212-4100.