Eight years after her son’s untimely death, NUSD Trustee Sue Heredia continued his legacy Monday night by awarding memorial scholarships to Natomas High athletes committed to two of her son’s favorite things: football and education.
Nighthawks Jadon Johnson and Jamar Walker received $500 scholarships in the name of Salvador Heredia-Arriaga, a graduate of Natomas High who returned to his alma mater – as “Coach A” – to coach junior varsity football after graduating from UC Santa Cruz.
“I think your legacy is related to the number of people that you touch, and come into contact with, and can help,” Dr. Heredia said of the scholarships, a Natomas High tradition. She said it’s important to her family to give back to the community that gave so much to her son, who died at age 26.
Dr. Heredia and her husband, Salvador Arriaga, met with Jadon and Jamar before officially presenting the scholarships at Natomas High’s annual awards night.
Both Jadon and Jamar, standout athletes and honor roll students, plan to continue their education and to play football in college. Both will attend community college next year – Sierra and American River, respectively – and plan transfers to four-year universities.
Dr. Heredia urged Jadon and Jamar to keep in touch and “do the kids proud here in Natomas, because they’ll look up to you.”
“And do yourself proud,” added her husband, Salvador.
“We look forward to hearing good things about you,” Salvador told the duo.
Jadon said he felt amazing and considered it a blessing to be selected for a Heredia-Arriaga scholarship. He said he’s proud to carry on the legacy. “I’d love to keep in touch,” Jadon said of Dr. Heredia’s request. “It would be an honor.”
The memorial scholarships are awarded to Nighthawk football players who maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average, possess a positive attitude, exhibit good citizenship, and help to make the community a better place to live.
Through her son, Dr. Heredia learned that football teaches students many positive values, including discipline, focus, commitment, team spirit and collaboration.
“He loved football,” Dr. Heredia said of her son Monday as she explained the scholarships to Jadon and Jamar. “This is our way of keeping his memory going. And he was really dedicated to education.” In addition to coaching, her son was a substitute teacher and was attending law school.
Jamar said the Heredia-Arriaga scholarships are unique because not many students are chosen and they represents something very personal and special. To be singled out as reflecting the values that Coach A stood for means a lot, he said. “It’s a great experience.”
Jadon served as a student member of NUSD’s Board of Trustees this year. In addition to excellent grades, Jadon earned the state Seal of Biliteracy, was a member of Natomas High’s Link Crew that mentored freshmen, and was named all-league and honorable mention All-Metro in football.
Jamar hopes for a career in professional sports, he loves football, but if that doesn’t pan out he might eye a career as a real estate agent. He has excelled in the classroom as well as the gridiron, a running back who rushed for 550 yards on 67 carries this year – an 8.2-yard average – and seven touchdowns, according to MaxPreps online news service.