High school graduates who go on to star in college or professional sports have traditionally returned to their alma maters to speak to current students, often lending advice, inspiration and support.
Lompoc High graduates Toa Taua and Julian Araujo did that Monday, though they weren't able to physically return to their former high school.
Taua, a Lompoc High football great and 2018 graduate who now plays at Nevada, and Araujo, a former Brave who currently plays for the LA Galaxy and made his U.S. men's national team debut last week, took to Zoom to hold a virtual assembly for current Braves.
Former Lompoc High students @julian__araujo and Toa Taua are doing a virtual presentation with LHS students. Araujo, a star for the @LAGalaxy, has some advice for students who have gone through months of distance learning. #santamariatimes pic.twitter.com/35naxyf32s— Joe Bailey (@JBaileySMSports) December 14, 2020
A couple hundred students joined the call from their homes and were able to ask questions which Araujo and Taua took about 45 minutes answering Monday. Nearly all area high school students have been distance learning since March, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Taua and Araujo both offered advice on how to manage all the difficulties that come with high school, like high expectations, failure and success.
"One of my biggest challenges in high school was distractions," Araujo said. "I'm someone that gets distracted very easily and I'm someone who likes to talk a lot. One thing that kept me focused was playing soccer and knowing what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to pursue. That helped me keep my head on straight."
Araujo also noted how important it was to associate with people who were also driven to succeed.
"I hung around people who were on the same path," Araujo said, noting he and Taua were close friends in high school. "That can keep you focused. I always wanted to be a class clown, but now that I look back I don't see any point to it."
Taua, who is Nevada's leading rusher and was the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2018, said he learned to better manage his priorities, something even more important after he welcomed his first child, a son, into the world last month.
"One of the bigger challenges for me was staying on task," Taua said. "I always had my priorities mixed up. They weren't perfect and they're still not perfect. Even being a dad now I have to manage my time a lot better. I go to sleep, wake up early, go to treatment. Having my priorities lined up has helped me succeed in life. Staying on task was a challenge in high school, I was always in your guys' office, Ms. (Lana) Huyck, Ms. (Claudia) Terrones. I was in your guys' office every day, stressing."
Araujo and Taua both urged students listening to build a rapport with the staff at the high school, noting how important it was to have a support structure in high school.
"Build a connection with all the staff here, they truly want what's best for you guys," Araujo said. "Find something you love, stay focused and it'll all be worth it at the end."
Though Taua starred at Lompoc High, to the tune of over 4,600 rushing yards and 70 career touchdowns, he noted that it was not always as easy as it looked on the field.
"I have a hard time saying this, but I feel like this sport has made me hit rock bottom," Taua said. "Countless times, even this past week we had a rough game and took a hard 'L.' There's hard lessons in this game and that's what helps us become better versions of ourselves."
Nevada lost to San Jose State 30-20 on Saturday night.
On that same topic, Araujo told the young students one of his mottos: "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable," the 19-year-old said.
Taua and the Wolf Pack, who are 6-2 on the season, will now prepare to face Tulane in the Idaho Potato Bowl game scheduled for Dec. 22. Araujo's MLS season is complete and he's done playing competitive soccer for the year. He could continue to play for the U.S. national team as it begins World Cup qualifying next year.