SSAB Americas is “reinventing the future of steel” and futures for Club kids by supporting Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama (BGCSA) through their philanthropy by sponsoring BGCSA Golf Tournaments and Youth of the Year Ceremonies), employee volunteer efforts, on-the-job internship opportunities, and tours of SSAB facilities.
Now, Johnny Sjostrom, President SSAB Alabama, is making a personal investment. He took time from his busy schedule to share his story about choices, leadership, and perseverance during a visit with Club Kids at the Bernard-Malkove Boys & Girls Club on Thursday, November 10. His polished demeanor, educational attainments, and business accomplishments imply he’s led a life of affluence where successes were simply a rite of passage.
However, he dismantles those assumptions about working hard and succeeding despite hardships. “It wasn’t easy for me, and I grew up in a home with challenges,” Sjostrom says.
He recalls many sleepless nights and feelings of anxiousness at home, living with a controlling father. Holidays, especially Christmas, weren’t those “Hallmark moments” synonymous with the season nor special school events such as prom and homecoming. “When many of my friends were looking forward to Christmas, I hated Christmas,” he says. His family couldn’t afford to spend money on Christmas, and his dad was always drunk.
While sharing his struggles as a youth, Sjostrom encourages Club kids to find an outlet to air their frustrations. He applauds the great work of BGCSA for being that outlet and safe place for children and youth.
Sports was his outlet to deal with feelings of uncertainty and challenging times. Weightlifting gave him the confidence to turn thoughts of inferiority and helplessness into something positive. “I got my superpower,” Sjostrom says. “I told myself I will never feel helpless and weak again.”
His thirst for wanting more out of life inspired him to put in the work. He worked hard, studied hard, and became self-sufficient. He desired to have what he didn’t have growing up – the comfort of a peaceful home environment and the opportunity to make a decent living and have a family. He chose to distance himself from those taking alternate paths – doing drugs and other crimes. “Some of those guys are dead now or in prison. There is no doubt that could’ve been me if I chose that path,” Sjostrom explains.”
Furthermore, making responsible decisions and daring to go your way is the challenge for Club kids. Decisions and paths one chooses for their life are choices by them-not by parents or friends. “I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.”