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2020 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellow 


Stephen Johnson (B.S. ’05, FEMBA ’21)

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Stephen Johnson (B.S. ’05, FEMBA ’21)

Founder, Bright Minds Tutoring Inc. and Ymeon Capital

As an educator, author, entrepreneur and investor, Stephen Johnson could add “juggler” to his resume. He has four young children at home, an education services business to run and a new venture equity startup focused on the intersection of real estate, entrepreneurship and social impact. And he’s making a movie about his life.

The former genetics researcher founded Bright Minds Tutoring after college to help students of all backgrounds achieve their academic goals. Johnson, whose family experienced periods of homelessness during his childhood, understood early that education could provide a path to a better, stabler life. His mother Crissina had been a straight-A student in high school, but she forfeited her own higher education shortly after having him at age 16.

As a basketball fan, Crissina exposed Johnson to the sport as a toddler. So at a young age he became aware of UCLA and Coach John Wooden, and he developed the dream of one day becoming a Bruin himself. It required overcoming some unimaginable circumstances to advance his education. When he did, he embraced the academic challenge as well as the personal experience, marrying his college sweetheart Noemy. All four of their children were born at UCLA.

In 2020, Johnson self-published his first book, Small Beginnings Require Bigger Dreams, a reflection on the lessons he’s learned in his life so far. He challenges the idea that birthplace, race, gender, religion or any other categorical limitations have power outside of what we decide to give them. He writes, “Your starting point in life is like the starting block of a race.” Paraphrasing Wooden, he says, “You don’t get to choose where you start but you get to choose where you finish.”

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