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DOWNEY – Downey High School will induct four alumni into its Hall of Fame during ceremonies Friday morning.
Four people received the Hall of Fame call this year: Christian businessman Michael Burks; decorated Army veteran Alfonso Cabrera; Downey Patriot publisher Jennifer DeKay; and football coach Steve Mooshagian.
Short biographies for each of the honorees appear below, as provided by the school:
Michael Burks (class of 1977)
After graduating from Downey High in 1987, Michael attended California State University Fullerton. He opened his own business in Compton, but suffered several personal setbacks, including the destruction of his store in Compton during the LA riots and the death of his grandmother.
Michael moved to Spokane, WA and got a job with a trucking company to help support his family. Eighteen months later, Michael became the sales manager for the company and was immediately sought out by a trucking company in Missoula, MT that wanted his services. During his first year with the company, he brought in six million dollars in freight sales much of which was brokered to independent trucking companies and owner operators. Michael saw this as an opportunity to create his own venture and established Big Sky Specialized Carriers, Inc.
The decision to start his own trucking company changed his life. He became an independent businessman and Big Sky gave Michael endless opportunities to create his other business ventures, including Garden of Read’n, a Christian Book Store, Missoula Maulers, a Junior Hockey Team, Missoula Phoenix, a Semi Pro Football Team, and Fuel Fitness & Nutrition, three world class fitness centers located in Butte, Helena and Bozeman, MT
Michael’s greatest passion is to promote Christian events throughout Western Montana. Michael has had the honor of meeting and working with individuals and bands such as Tim Tebow, Sarah Palin, Jeremy Camp, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mercy Me, Newsboys, Third Day, Casting Crowns, Kutless and many other contemporary Christian artists. Michael was recognized by Entrepreneur’s Hot 500 in 2007 for Big Sky’s 2006 $14.8 million in sales, and then consequently by two local newspapers, the Missoulian and the Missoula Independent.
Alfonso Cabrera (special honoree)
Alfonso Cabrera was born March 27, 1924 and was the first of five other siblings in the Cabrera household that lived on Dolan Street. Respect for parents and family and strong values was instilled in him while growing up.
At an early age, Al wanted to help his family financially and looked for ways to do so. A gentleman by the name of Mr. Kroeger allowed young Al to do odd jobs for him at his shoe store. He took an interest in Al, and helped him start his shoe shine business on the side of the shoe store. This was on the corner of 2nd and Downey Ave.
He also was a golf caddie at the country club and repaired bicycles at the hardware store. While in school, Al loved sports and played baseball, basketball, football and ran track. He broke the Downey High School record for the 100 yard dash.
In 1942, Al left Downey High to get a job to support his family.
He joined the Army in May 1943 and served for 27 months as cannoneer and mine-sapper with the 182nd Infantry in New Guinea and the Philippines. As a mine-sapper, Al went ahead of the main forces to detect and deactivate enemy mine fields on beaches and inland areas. Al received the Bronze Star for heroic action in difficult circumstances. His official citation lists many heroic acts and he was recognized for his, “aggressive attitude, disregard for his safety and devotion to duty.”
He married Angie Alvarez after his honorable discharge from the Army and settled in Compton, CA. The couple had five children and Al became very involved in his community. He received awards and commendations over many years and is especially proud to have been presented with the Legend of Lifetime Humanitarian Award. He also served on the Board of the Veterans Post in Compton. In 2010, he was honored as a Community Leader of Yesterday for the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Al has slowed down in the past ten years and recently celebrated his 89th birthday in March of this year. He has seven grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. He enjoys watching his favorite sports teams such as the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers and all football games.He still resides in Compton and always enjoys hearing the latest news regarding Compton politics. He still drives himself to his doctor appointments and to the market for groceries.
Jennifer DeKay (class of 1990)
Jennifer has been a lifelong resident of Downey. She attended Good Shepherd Lutheran School, East Middle School and graduated from Downey High School in 1990.
She then attended Cerritos College where she received her AA degree and her Paralegal certificate before transferring to California State University Fullerton, where she received a Bachelors of Communications, with an emphasis in Public Relations.
Community involvement came easily for Jennifer. She was a Miss Downey Princess in 1990 and 1991. When she passed on her crown, Jennifer’s involvement with the City of Downey grew as she became an ambassador and celebrity chair for the Downey Holiday Lane Parade, and an on-camera field reporter for Continental Cablevision.
Upon graduation from Cal State Fullerton, Jennifer worked in the publicity department for the hit television show “Baywatch,” as a junior account executive for Spelling Communications, and as a sales promotions manager for DirecTV.
In 2006, Jennifer bought the Downey Patriot newspaper and chronicled Downey’s transformation from an aerospace hub to a city on the cutting edge of medicine and the arts. After more than a decade of continuous publication, residents have grown to trust and depend on The Downey Patriot for fair and unbiased coverage of local news, both good and bad.
Warren Buffett said, “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” and Jennifer could not agree more.
Steve Mooshagian (class of 1977)
During his years at Downey High, Steve Mooshagian excelled in sports. He played on the varsity teams for football and baseball, and was in the Letterman’s Club and was All San Gabriel Valley League for football and baseball in 1976 and 1977.
After graduation, he attended Cerritos College and played football for two seasons. He transferred to Fresno State and played football in 1980-81 as a wide receiver.
Following college, he signed as a free agent wide receiver with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL (1983). He also coached at Washington Union HS (1983-84), where he spent one year as head coach and one as offensive coordinator, winning the CIF Central Section Championship.
He also had coaching stops at Fresno City College (head coach, 1995), and Fresno State (1985-1994), where he coached 10 NFL wide receivers, coached in six bowl games, and won six conference titles.
Mooshagian was the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh for two years (1997-98) and he served as the wide receivers coach with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1999-2002. He was head coach at Sacramento State (2003-2006) and served as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at the University of San Diego.
In 2009 he served as the head coach at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif. and was hired as the head coach of the Ventura College Pirates in 2010. In three short years, he has turned Ventura into one of the most respected programs throughout the state and the country.
He produced a 22-9 record in his three seasons, and a 7-4 season a year ago including a Beach Bowl championship in the season finale, followed with an undefeated regular season as the Pirates finished 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state, one of only two undefeated teams. Mooshagian was also selected as the SCFA National Northern Coach of the year.
In his three years directing VC, Mooshagian has helped 60 players transfer to four-year schools.
The 2012 campaign produced the first undefeated team in schools 87 year football playing history and they earned a trip to the Southern California playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Steve Mooshagian has had an illustrious career in football, both as a player and coach. He has guided many players to success in the NFL and continues to make a positive difference in the lives of his player/athletes at Ventura College.
Published: May 30, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 07