“If you saw him in a dark alley at night, most people would be scared,” said Keanon Alderson, associate professor of business and director of the Business Administration Program at California Baptist University, when speaking of the fall graduation’s student speaker.
Clad in his signature flannel and motorcycle vest with tattoos on his 250-pound frame and a bald head, Tyler Johnson, senior business administration major, is not what some people would expect of a student speaker at graduation. However, some believe it is exactly what makes him influential.
A Riverside native, Johnson graduated high school at 16. He joined the military the next year and was deployed to Sicily, Italy.
After returning, he attended CBU and during his sophomore year, he heard about Bikers Against Child Abuse while watching the news. BACA is an organization built of motorcycle riders intent on protecting children who have been abused.
He said he unintentionally met a representative the exact day he had decided to call for more information.
“I wanted to focus on something that would be positive with my biker image, but wasn’t even thinking of using motorcycles to do it,” Johnson said.
After speaking with the representative, he attended two consecutive meetings, which are required for people interested in joining and became a supporter for a year.
To be a supporter, BACA candidates must have a thorough background check and are later evaluated to determine if they are dedicated members. Once a member, they receive a patch on their cut, or jacket, to signify membership, which Johnson said he wears proudly every day.
As a BACA member, Johnson said he has the privilege of helping kids feel safe.
The organization has two different levels of participation and protection, which include guarding and escorting the child where they need to go and holding “awareness rides” in the area to announce their presence and show support.
“These kids are braver than I could ever imagine,” Johnson said. “They have instilled so much strength into me.”
Lisa Singer, administrative assistant in the Career Center, said society’s expectations on how someone should look do not apply to Johnson.
“(Johnson) may look one way, but he has a heart that is pliable,” Singer said. “He has taken the investment of an education seriously. He recognizes it as a gift. And in turn, he wants to pour into others so it is important for students to see that. He comes in, looking hard and rough around the edges, then you get to know his heart. He has a heart that wants to serve.”
Singer said Johnson is a relatable person, regardless of the way he looks to society, who will make an excellent speaker.