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Saving Lives and Sharing Knowledge (Marco Johnson)

  • Episode #145

An NFL player turned first responder turned university co-founder, Marco Johnson has lived an eclectic life. In this Part 1 episode, with Part 2 featuring his wife, Marco describes how he came to realize making it is actually continuing to make it.

Welcome to Making It! This weekly show explores the lives and stories of entrepreneurs as they share their unique perspectives on their success and the path to making it.

Marco Johnson is a former NFL player, former Los Angeles firefighter and paramedic, co-founder of The University of Antelope Valley, and co-founder of Accreditation Advisors Group.

“After my wife and I were grinding away, we kind of took a step back and said, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity for us to establish our community’s own traditional, regionally accredited university.’”

— Marco Johnson

Marco Johnson is the owner and co-founder (with his wife, Sandra) of Accreditation Advisors Group, an education advisory firm.

Johnson’s road to entrepreneurship was a winding one. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and marketing at the University of Hawaii, where he was a star wide receiver for the university team. After graduation, the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) drafted Johnson in the 10th round of the 1988 NFL draft. He played two seasons on special teams for the Oilers and the Los Angeles Rams before trading his football for a fire hose.

Johnson witnessed hundreds of unnecessary civilian casualties throughout his career due to a lack of civilian cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid training. The most disturbing event for him occurred on Christmas Eve, 1996. Johnson and his colleagues were battling a raging blaze in Los Angeles; a single mother and her three children were trapped inside a burning apartment building. While firefighters successfully rescued the family from the inferno, two children suffered respiratory failure and died before firefighters or emergency personnel could save them. The third child died in the rescue unit.

Johnson believes that if onlookers and passers-by had been trained in the most basic CPR and emergency assistance methods, one or perhaps all of the children would have survived. This tragic event prompted him and his wife to start a CPR school, initially as a side business.

That school grew to become the nationally accredited University of Antelope Valley. The university graduates more than 1,000 students a year, with programs ranging from master’s-level degrees to career-specific certificates. The university employs more than 100 people and has two campuses, an athletics program, and more than 30 academic programs and certifications. Marco and his wife decided to retire from the university and sold it in July 2022. They felt that the best move for the community was to bring investors with higher volumes of funds.

Marco is a recognized business leader in the Antelope Valley, earning the 2009 City of Lancaster’s Citizen of the Year Award. He and Sandra continually give back to the Antelope Valley community, supporting local charity and family shelter organizations, hosting community outreach events, and assisting local entrepreneurs with guidance and support.

Marco is the father of two wonderful children, Devion and Tiffany. He obtained a Master’s in Education from the University of Hawaii.

Resources or websites mentioned in this episode:
Marco’s website:

Co-Producers: Cassandra Topperwien and Geoff Govertsen
Supervising Producer: Cynthia Lamb
Assembled by: Andrew Chapman
Audio Editor: Marvin del Rosario
Executive Producer: Danny Iny
Music Soundscape: Chad Michael Snavely
Making our hosts sound great: Home Brew Audio

Music credits:
Track Title: The Sunniest Kids
Artist Name: Rhythm Scott
Writer Name: Scott Roush

Track Title: Love and Circumstance
Artist Name: Shimmer
Writer Name: Matthew Wigton

Track Title: Tales from the Past
Artist Name: Adam Saban
Writer Name: Medhat Hanbali

Special effects credits:
24990513_birds-chirping_by_promission used with permission of the author and under license by AudioJungle/Envato Market.

To catch the great episodes coming up on Making It, please follow us on Mirasee FM’s YouTube channelor your favorite podcast player. And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a comment or a starred review. It’s the best way to help us get these ideas to more people.

Episode transcript: Saving Lives and Sharing Knowledge (Marco Johnson).


Making It

If you’re an online entrepreneur, Making It was made for you. In each episode, real-world entrepreneurs tell their stories in their own words. They define what “making it” means in the busy space of online business. And they reveal what they’ve learned in their journey toward making it… lessons you can use in your own business.