By Antonio Ewing Jr.
The 29th annual Grand Rapids Community College Diversity Series lecture season is here and GRCC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has chosen to lead off with a keynote speaker, Johnny Agar, who has been described as someone with an “iron heart.”
Agar is a Michigan native who was born in Royal Oak, to Jeff and Becki Agar. A month after Johnny was born he was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy– a neurological condition that primarily affects muscle control and movement. It is characterized by stiffness in all four limbs and often the torso, making it challenging for individuals to move, walk or perform daily activities.
Despite his limitations physically, Johnny and his parents remained unshakeable. In August of 2009, 15 year-old Johnny and his parents (TeamAgar) finished their first 5K run, a month later Johnny was able to participate in his first triathlon with myTeam triumph.
Fast forward 14 years later Johnny and TeamAgar have been in over 200 races all over the globe. Those races include half-marathons, five full marathons and a handful of 25k, 10k and 5k races, including the Grand Rapids River Bank Run. TeamAgar has been featured in many different stories for their tenacity and humility.
In September of 2022 TeamAgar completed their first full distance Ironman, where Johnny finished the race by walking across the finish line. Johnny and his team have traveled the world talking about their journey and encouraging everyone to to dream, excel and believe in themselves and their team.
According to their website, Johnny’s cerebral palsy taught three important life lessons that TeamAgar and Johnny live by, Obstacles are learning opportunities, failure is part of the process, and the most important lesson that Johnny and his team have lived by since his diagnosis is to take small steps. All of these lessons helped mold the mantra for TeamAgar, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”
When TeamAgar participates in races, they approach each foot, yard, and mile one step at a time. At the beginning of the race, the distant finish line remains out of sight and they deliberately avoid fixating on it. Instead, their focus remains firmly on the immediate step they’re taking, recognizing that each step brings them closer to their ultimate goal. If doubt ever begins to seep in, their attention narrows down to that singular, next step in front of them.
The GRCC and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will be hosting Johnny and TeamAgar to kick off this year’s lecture series on Thursday Oct. 12, at GRCCs Applied Technology Center in room 168 from 4-5 p.m. If students wish to attend the lecture they can RSVP using this link.