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Letters to ‘Mr. Jamail’ reveal true role model

Published: Thu, February 10, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.


The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Jerrell Shorter, an eighth-grader at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, shows a letter he wrote to the late Jamail Johnson, the YSU student who died in Sunday’s shootings.


The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Wilson Middle School eighth grader Lynell Lockhart holds a card he made in memory of the late Jamail Johnson who was a math tutor at Wilson.


The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Woodrow Wilson Middle School eighth graders, from left, Allen Torres, Ramses Terry, Charles Dorsett Jr. and Jo’Nell Jackson, talk about Jamail Johnson, a Youngstown State University student killed in a weekend shooting. Johnson worked as a math tutor at the school and students wrote letters, created cards and made posters in his memory.




Jamail Johnson helped eighth-grader Jerrell Shorter grasp fractions as well as taught him about the importance of staying focused in school.

Johnson, the Youngstown State University senior who was killed in a weekend shooting near campus, tutored Woodrow Wilson Middle School eighth-graders in math.

“I’d describe him like an older brother to me,” said Jerrell, 14, who will read a letter he wrote to his mentor at the Saturday funeral.

He acknowledged that presentation may be difficult.

Johnson told the younger student how things were on the streets and how they were in college.

Johnson instructed Jerrell not to act up, to pay attention in class and to stay in school. Early in the school year, Jerrell had suspensions, but Johnson’s influence taught him to behave.

Jerrell and many other Wilson students, who called their tutor Mr. Jamail, wrote letters, created posters and made cards to send to the family.

School librarian Violet Simpson and seventh-grade science teacher Andrea Lewinsky put the letters onto nice paper and put them on the school’s website so other people may see them.

“He was a great man, and he was a hero,” said Allen Torres, 14. “People should be proud of what he did.”

Reports from those at the off-campus party have told police that Johnson was ushering other party-goers from the fight that led to the gunfire when he got shot.

“He was a cool dude in school and out of school,” said Lynell Lockhart, 14, adding that he misses him.

“Mr. Jamail” taught the students, but he knew how to joke around with them and have fun too, he said.

Dan Smith, behavior-intervention coordinator at the South Side school, said Johnson started tutoring students at the beginning of the school year. Johnson’s fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, had adopted the school, Smith said.

Charles Dorsett Jr., 15, said he’s easily distracted in math class, and Johnson told him to just block other things and people out and concentrate on class.

“He was a great role model,” Charles said.

Johnson taught Jo’Nell Jackson, 14, about positive and negative numbers, she said.

In a prayer in Johnson’s memory, Jo’Nell wrote about how Johnson helped her through her frustration with math work.

“I was getting so frustrated, and I said, ‘I quit!’” she wrote. “Jamail said, ‘Don’t quit. Try it. You are not bad in math, you have to try. As long as you try, you will get better.’”

She wishes he were still here.

It’s Time To Say Goodbye

Dear family and friends,

It is so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. It seems like I just saw Mr. Jamail at work. When I walked into Finish Line his words were “Hey boy, how you been?” Then we had a little talk. His last words were, “Keep your head up!” I said, “All right, Mr. Jamail, I will try.” But, at the time, I was not thinking. I should have said, “All right, I will, Mr. Jamail.” Mr. Jamail was a great guy. He helped me with my math. He would pull me out of class just to have ONE-on-ONE men talk. Mr. Jamail was a leader, not a follower. He wanted me to be a leader. He would tell me to stop hanging with the thugs and hang with the books. And, the reason that I had respect for him was because he treated me like a little brother. He stayed on my back and now I am glad because it worked out. A lot of things changed after we had that talk.

Now, the whole town is in tears because somebody took Mr. Jamail’s life away from all the people who loved him. I wrote this letter because I have respect for Mr. Jamail and his family and friends. So, farewell my brother. I will see you at the crossroads so you won’t be lonely.

I Will Miss You, My Brother.

Jerrell Shorter 2-8-11 Woodrow Wilson Middle


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

If ‘Mr. Jamail’ was a true role model, why did he allow all those underage kids at the fraternity drinking party that night? I don't think he represented the right kind of values I would want high school kids to have. Just my opinion.

I am sorry he died - no one deserves to die by the bullet of a hoodrat. RIP.

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2Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, just your opinion, which we needed ever so much, as usual. Thank you for never thinking there's ever a time when people don't want to hear your opinion.

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3misterlee(118 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

UnionForever- Have you ever volunteered to tutor at a city school? Have you ever done any thing to encourage kids growing up in poverty to do well in school so they can make better lives for themselves? No, you just sit at your computer and b**** about the world. Get off your a** and do something with your life, then maybe people will care what you think.
It really sounds like Jamail was a good kid and it's a loss to the whole community that he's no longer with us. If this story doesn't get you choked up, check your pulse.

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4Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

It is hard to believe that some will use anything to show their hate and bigotry.

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5autumnrenee(1 comment)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Unionforever- You obviously are one of those people who just like to talk to hear the sound of your voice. Did you even read the article? This man took time out of his schedule to be a positive influence in many young people's lives.. I no longer reside in Youngstown, but I keep up with what's going on by reading the daily paper. Our kids are slowly going down a path of destruction. To have a young man in his mid 20's striving to be a positive influence and break this vicious cycle is admirable! How dare you try and assassinate his character, where were you, since you obvioulsy are the perfect person and have all the right values?? Have you even been to a college party? If so, did you card everyone that walked thru the door? I seriously doubt it. So this is what I want you to do..Next time stop and think before you speak...just my opinion.

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6roototheque(6 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Unionforever- You are an idiot, you are on every article throughout this tragedy with your negative comments. Get a life, you do something to better the community. I bet you wouldn't have protected anyone that night, you would have been in a corner balled up crying. Stop being such a jerk!!

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7haggard126(1 comment)posted 5 years, 5 months ago


A previous article concerning this story stated that the police found no signs of underage drinking.

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8Morrigan(83 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

This story truly tells what an outstanding young man Jamail was. How tragic that someone who was making a difference in other young peoples' lives is taken by violence. May his family and loved ones find peace.

Unionforever, if you're just trying to enrage people, you're doing a great job. How about keeping your idiotic opinions to yourself?

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9George412(161 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, unionforever, that's the real problem. Thank you, once again, for both your wisdom and sensitivity. We were all so focused on the tragedy that we forgot to blame the victims. Silly us.

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10alumni(10 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

@ Unionforever
There is a time and place for your ignorance and this is not it. You hide behind a computer screen with your comments. This is not a joke here. If it was your family how would you like it if someone did this to you. Keep your hatred to yourself or take it to somebody who wants to hear it.

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11najjjj(106 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Union, I can think of nothing you have written in the past the makes me as ill as what you wrote here today.....and that's saying a lot. If you ever had or do have a valid point to make it will only get cover up by your obvious hatred of others, simply because they are not a carbon copy of you.

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12Lou123(5 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

@ Unionforever do you really think they were asking for id's at this party??
What an idiot!!!!

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13Stormieangel(136 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Unionforever....man, you know how to bring out the rage, don't you? We know there was at least, according to the Vindy, an underage kid at the party. She was 17. But was she there at the request of one over 18...as a date? If there was no drinking, nothing immoral, then her being there was not an issue. Actually, it isn't THE issue at all. The issue here is that a young man died for absolutely no good reason because two others went looking for trouble.
Now folks, I am a white country person and I can honestly say it sounds like Mr. Johnson was a young man that I could really like; he wanted to make the world a better place for kids, encouraging them to stay in school and get that education, stay away from the gangs and make a decent life for themselves. Every kid needs to do this but it seems the black kids in the cities really need a Mr. Johnson, someone whom they can look at and want to emulate and be a good part of America. I am praying that all these kids that loved Mr. Johnson will work hard to prove that black, poor kids can do well and move forward in a positive way. I want to add my thanks to Mr. Johnson for caring about these kids and giving of his time. It sounds like others in that fraternity do that also. This is wonderful, to be a part of something good. We all need to look at ourselves and ask what we are doing to help, in any small or big way, to make this a better world.
My sympathies go out to Mr. Johnson's family and friends. And as this young man said, "We will see him at the crossroads." His good deeds will not go unnoticed by our God in Heaven.

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14Cassie(88 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Unionforever, what in the world can you possibly be thinking? I cannot believe than anyone would absolutely look for something negative to say in a time like this. I join others in telling you to keep your stupid opinion to yourself. What kind of responsibility would Jamail Johnson have for the presence of an under age girl at that party? From all accounts, he was a splendid young man and went out of his way to be a role model for youngsters. I am white and am both grieving for him and praying for his loved ones. You might take note that he was trying to keep others safe when he was gunned down by really worthless thugs. RIP, Jamail

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15uncle(12 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Jamail was an outstanding man. I had the pleasure of knowing him for more than 10 years and he was always a respectful and hard working young man. If you didn't know him, u should not have much to say about his character. God judged him and that is why he is in Heaven. Rest In Peace

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16Morrigan(83 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, Unionforever, there's 16 posts directed at you for your ignorance. What do you have to say?

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17UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago


This was just my personal opinion, and it appears my opinion stands alone. The 16 posts against me did not change it.

I am sorry he died - no one deserves to die by the bullet of a hoodrat. RIP Jamail.

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18Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Unionforever is also know as pro American , USA 1 and others that have been kick off this site . He or her is just hate . It is useless to argue with them

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19cav0822(16 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

I always read the Vindy and read comments that people write. After reading what UnionForever wrote earlier, I had to sign up for an account just to write what an idiot you are. You obviously have not read all the articles or watched the news to get your facts straght before writing all your nonsense. I know this family and each and every one of them are true role models and they have been their entire life. If you have nothing nice and positive to say, then you should probably keep your comments to yourself!

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20Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Jamail Johnson's death was needless . Those who gunned him down should not recieve any leniency from our justice system .

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21concerned(328 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

What a loss of a quality human being. A young man who truly was making a difference. Blessed are those who's lives were touched by Jamail.

My condolences to Jamail's family and friends.

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22someonesmom(2 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

I have read every article concerning this senseless act since the day it happened and everyday I read something more positive about this young man than the day before. I feel so bad for Jamail's mother (and family) that I've shed tears too. I couldn't imagine what it feels like to lose a child, especially one that had a positive attitude, a good heart, and a very bright future ahead of him. I have one son, my only child, away at college and everyday I pray that God will keep him safe and covered with the Blood of Jesus. I don't know anyone in the Johnson family, but there was so much written about Jamail and what kind of person he was that I feel like I knew him. This news has had an effect on a "whole lot" of people in a "whole lot" of communities. I know that we're not supposed to question God, but this is one of those instances when you want to ask, "Why?" Why do the "good" always have to die young?" This is a very tragic and sad story. Erie, Pa. is praying for the family of Jamail Johnson. May he rest in peace. @ unionforever....please find something else "todamndo!!" 947 comments??....really? you have entirely "too much" time on your hands!!!!! AND....@ stormieangel....I was okay with your comments until I read the part about, black, "poor kids". Where did you read that the children Mr. Johnson was tutoring were "poor?" I was a little offended and feeling "some type of way."

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23med_01(4 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

@ union forever I am Jamail's cousin and I have not come to argue with you about your opinion, nor to put you down for it, however I just want to share something with you to think on [please?] Now at YSU they have a program called early college where young students through the board of education are enrolled into college earning their credits and going to college at this time, and they are given college id's [these ids are not marked for underaged] maybe YSU and the Board Of Education need to come up with a plan to have these id's marked. None of us are perfect WE ALL have fallen short at the cross. Please everyone remember that Jamail was about peace [he was a peacemaker that is why he died.] We all need to try to follow Jesus's character at our best as we can and when we mess up to get up and grow from it and continuue to learn from our mistakes. Let us all pray for one another and for the world today. God Bless You All.

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