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MAYOR’S LETTER: CERRITOS EMBRACES HOMETOWN HEROES

By Cerritos Mayor Mark E. Pulido

I am, and always have been, extremely proud to call Cerritos home. Cerritos is known for its beautiful neighborhoods, outstanding facilities, forward thinking developments and remarkable residents. What some may not know is that Cerritos has also produced some true hometown heroes. 

First Lady Pat Nixon is perhaps the City’s very first famous resident. Her childhood home and her family’s truck farm were once located at the site that is now the Cerritos Senior Center at Pat Nixon Park. The home Nixon lived in from 1914 to 1931 was situated on the corner of South Street and Ely Avenue. Nixon spent her childhood in Dairy Valley, walking the dirt roads to school, carrying out neighborhood babysitting duties and making friends. 

Professional Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is another famous hometown hero. Aikman grew up in Cerritos, participating in the City’s youth sports programs and receiving valuable coaching from local volunteers. After two seasons at the University of Oklahoma, Aikman transferred to my alma mater, UCLA, where he passed for 5,298 yards and 41 touchdowns in two years. Aikman led the Bruins to a 20-4 record. In 1999, he was inducted into the UCLA Sports Hall of Fame.  

Aikman went on to have a stellar career as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. During his 12 years with the Cowboys, he set 45 passing records, including the club’s career record of 2,898 completions, 32,942 passing yards, 165 touchdowns and a 61.3 completion percentage. With Aikman as quarterback, the Cowboys won six NFC East titles and advanced to four NFC championship games. He led the team to three Super Bowl victories and was MVP of Super Bowl XXVII. In February 2006, Aikman was voted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He also established The Troy Aikman Foundation, which enhances the lives of youths through sports and academics.

Many people in our community may know Dr. and Grandmaster Jimmy Young Kim, a family friend of mine since my high school days, who won the Gold Medal in Taekwondo for the United States in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. Dr. Kim was raised in Cerritos and attended Cerritos schools. His many athletic and career achievements and his legacy of inspiring young people to strive to be their best and achieve their dreams are remarkable. Dr. Kim is the son of Cerritos luminary Chan-Yong Kim, a black-belt grandmaster and founder of the Oriental Moo-do School in Cerritos. Grandmaster Chan-Yong Kim is also Chairperson of the City’s Property Preservation Commission.

In 1990, what is now the annual Jimmy Kim Invitational Taekwondo Championship began as a small local tournament at Cerritos High School with approximately 300 participants. Today, the event has grown to feature more than 1,000 competitors each year and is held at the Walter Pyramid Gymnasium at California State University, Long Beach.

Traci Dahl-Skinner is one of the most successful volleyball athletes that the City of Cerritos has produced in its 63-year history. Dahl-Skinner grew up in the City of Cerritos and participated in a variety of recreation and youth sports programs.  As a freshman at Gahr High School, she discovered her passion for the game of volleyball. After graduating from Gahr High School, Dahl-Skinner enrolled at Cerritos College and starred on the women’s volleyball team, where she helped the college become a national powerhouse.  

At Long Beach State University, Dahl-Skinner was a prominent member of the 49ers 1993 NCAA National Championship squad. After graduation, she returned to Cerritos College to help guide the Falcons women’s volleyball team as an assistant coach, and also took on the girls volleyball head coach position at Downey High School. Dahl-Skinner also had coaching stints at Hofstra University in New York and California State University, Fullerton, before becoming the women’s volleyball head coach at Indiana State University. Under her guidance, the team won 101 games in nine seasons.  She also guided the Sycamores to two Missouri Valley Conference tournaments.

Professional football players Joshua Perkins of the Atlanta Falcons and Dwayne Washington of the Detroit Lions have also been recognized in the past by the City of Cerritos as hometown heroes. 

Perkins was a member of the Gahr High School football team. During his senior year, he caught 70 passes for a total of 1,072 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He played tight end for the University of Washington, where he caught 36 passes (totaling 539 yards) and scored three touchdowns in his last year with the Huskies. He was drafted as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. 

Washington also played on the Gahr High School football team. As a senior, he scored 15 touchdowns and caught 66 passes (for a total of 1,338 yards, bringing his receiving total to more than 2,200 yards). He attended the University of Washington and was a tailback for the Huskies football team. Washington was then drafted by the Detroit Lions.

Jessica van der Linden is another Cerritos native deserving of hometown hero recognition. Van der Linden represented the City of Cerritos for many years in the game of softball, and continues to do so in the United States and abroad. Van der Linden played softball on the Puerto Rican national team and currently serves as the program’s pitching coach. She used to be the head coach of the Cardinal Newman softball team.

Thanks to van der Linden’s outstanding pitching skills, Cerritos High School won back-to-back Division II championships in 1999 and 2000. In college, she was winner of the NCAA Division I Player of the Year for 2004, and winner of the Honda Broderick Cup, NCAA Region for most outstanding player. She was nominated for the 2004 ESPY Best Female College Athlete award. In 2014 she was inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame and her jersey was retired in 2017. Currently, van der Linden is considered the most decorated female athlete in the history of Florida State University.

Other notable individuals with roots in Cerritos include:

• Marcelo Balboa, retired American soccer player who was part of the U.S. national soccer team and is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame

• Bret Barberie, professional baseball player for the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs

• Tom Bergeron, UCLA baseball player who went on to coach nine Major League Baseball players during his career at Gahr High School

• Ben Howland, UCLA head men’s basketball coach from 2003 to 2013

• Roger Lodge, American television game show and sports radio host, actor, radio personality, writer and producer

• Jim Zorn, former NFL coach and football player for the Seattle Seahawks

Cerritos is proud of all of its hometown heroes and of their many career and life achievements. In closing, I would be remiss if I did not recognize those who are perhaps the true hometown heroes of our community: those people whose paths we cross every day who make Cerritos the best that it can be. Thank you for making Cerritos a place of which we can all be proud!

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jas

Maybe a few tad forgotten too…. Great story!!!

With irregular boundaries around Cerritos, 8-9 border cities, 2 county lines, and the nickname of the Greater Dairy Valley area, some names may be forgotten or misplaced, especially with the halo of many tongues spoken around here.