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11/14/11 11:45 AM EST

Fifth-grader takes Marlins' Johnson to school

Miami pitcher preaches education as part of local promotion

MIAMI -- Students at Ethel F. Beckford/Richmond Elementary School in Miami may have noticed a new student roaming the halls on Monday.

Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson visited the school, thanks to fifth-grader Jayden Oliva. The young Marlins fan's name was randomly drawn from hundreds of entries in the MetroPCS "Take Josh to School" promotion.

"It's awesome to come out here and maybe change somebody's day and make somebody happy for however long," Johnson said. "It's great to be a part of this. If one kid decides he wants to play baseball from all of this, then I've done my job."

This is the fourth year the club has teamed up with MetroPCS to have a lucky student take a Marlins player to their school. This year, South Florida students in grades K-8 were eligible to sign up at local MetroPCS store locations for a chance to "Take Josh to School." The promotion began on July 23 and ran through Aug. 25.

"We like the opportunity to bring athletes and people that are known in the community down to the students and let them have an opportunity to talk to them and hear about how they got to where they are," said MetroPCS director of advertising and public relations Linda Richardson. "It's a good community event. The kids love it, the teachers love it and it's a nice thing for us to do for our community."

Johnson joined Oliva in Ms. Colzie's fifth-grade class on Monday morning. The All-Star pitcher took questions from the students, signed autographs and posed for pictures. Each student was given a gift bag filled with Marlins and MetroPCS items. In addition to a visit by Johnson, Oliva also received a MetroPCS phone.

Part of Johnson's focus on Monday was preaching the importance of education. Johnson was selected by the Marlins in the fourth round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft and chose to forgo a commitment to the University of Oklahoma and turn pro. But the 27-year-old mentioned that he had a clause put in his contract stating that the Marlins would pay for his college education should he choose to attend a university.

"Pay attention and learn as much as you can," Johnson told the class. "Make sure you work hard, because it will pay off in the end."

Johnson's message was well received by Oliva and his classmates.

"He said it was really important to stay in school and get a good education," Oliva said.

For Colzie, a visit from one of her students' heroes meant much more than spending time with a famous baseball player.

"The students need to see that people that are considered celebrities are normal people, too, and that they were once young and had to work hard," Colzie said. "These students need to understand that is what it takes to succeed in life -- not just to become a celebrity, but to become a great person that is doing something for society. Hopefully this helps them open their eyes and understand that this is real."

Johnson's message to the students may have been different a few years ago. But now that he is the father of two young boys, the big right-hander has taken a more parental approach when speaking to children.

"It definitely changes a lot of things," Johnson said of being a father. "All I want to do is make sure that I put forth a good example that they can follow. I tell them to always work hard, never give up and continue to do the right thing. That's what I preach to my boys and what I told them in there today."

That is exactly the message Richardson and MetroPCS, along with the Marlins, hope to convey to the South Florida youth.

"I hope that when they hear it from somebody like Josh Johnson, that they do need to stay in school and work hard, because there is a whole purpose behind it," Richardson said. "If you do that, maybe one day you could end up like a Josh Johnson."

David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.