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Lathrop chamber honors Junior Spartans efforts

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POSTED April 12, 2013 1:49 a.m.

LATHROP — Jaime Hernandez knows football.

It’s his love. It’s his passion. It’s what he has dedicated more than a decade of his life to – the founder and president of the Lathrop Junior Spartans.

But Hernandez also knows respect. He understands that sports can be an incredible vehicle for delivering some of life’s biggest lessons. And in his given profession – law enforcement – he knows all too well what happens when kids don’t get the guidance that they need at their most impressionable age.

And those around him have taken notice.

Tonight Hernandez will accept the Lathrop District Chamber of Commerce’s Organization of the Year award for the youth football organization that he started in 2001 and steered through a dozen different seasons – outlasting other organizations that started up during the same timeframe and sticking with the program long enough to see some of those he coached take a much different field on Saturday afternoons.

“Throughout the years I’ve watched these kids go from – we’re talking over many years now, but they come in as babies at six-years-old and go on to the high school level and then onto places like UNLV and Fresno State and Idaho,” Hernandez said. “To get those phone calls from kids wanting to tell me how they’re doing and saying thanks for the years that I coached them.

“That’s where I get my happiness. That’s what keeps me with this.”

While football is the name of the game, Hernandez built the organization to put a sharp focus on things like discipline and character – the sorts of things that he felt were important and lacking in other arenas and avenues.

Academics also took center stage.

While progress reports or parental oversight would have been a step further than most, Hernandez went so far as to bring in actual tutors – hoping to develop the sort of habits in the young men and women involved with the Lathrop Junior Spartans that would carry over when they made the jump to Lathrop High School.

The community approved.

Hernandez reached out to Lathrop seniors and the Rotary and Lathrop Youth Focus and any other community group he could think of to get them involved in some way, and said that seeing the turnout at the games and the support that the small community gives to its team reinforces the time and effort he has selflessly given.

“It’s not just about teaching these young men and women the fundamentals of football and cheerleading, but life lessons as well,” he said. “I consider us the people that get to plant the seed for their future – to teach them to respect their coaches and their parents and become upstanding citizens and members of the community.

“We’re getting them at a young age, and this is the chance that we have to make a difference.”

Sponsoring tonight’s awards and installation dinner at Chez Shari are San Joaquin Worknet,  San Joaquin Building Trades, River Islands at Lathrop, Wells Fargo, CBC Steel Buildings, Anthony’s Auto Body, Benham Accounting, City of Lathrop, Mossdale School, Boys & Girls Club of Manteca/Lathrop, Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Swiss American Sausage, Gordon Trucking, Lathrop Junior Spartans, Papa John’s Pizza, and Holiday Inn Express.

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