FAIRFIELD — Fairfield native John Griffith normally spends his days inspiring and teaching youth through the job training program at the California Conservation Corps.
These days, however, Griffith, 42, is better known for inspiring millions with his unexpectedly amazing break-dance moves.
The self-described nature nerd and mountain man boss is the star of one of the latest trending YouTube videos. Griffith posted a video in August of himself and two young Corps members, Antwon McCoy and Leonard Patton, break dancing after work.
“They were dancing so I jumped in,” he said. “(Afterward), people told me to post it to YouTube. I thought, ‘No one needs to see a fat cowboy dancing.’ ”
Initially, the video got a few views here and there, but in March the video took off, gaining hundreds of thousands of views within days. More than 2.7 million people have watched the video and it’s been featured in numerous media outlets including “The Today Show,” Huffington Post and National Public Radio.
Griffith said he’s enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame, but he said he’s more excited about the positive press the California Conservation Corps is getting.
The Corps has meant a lot to Griffith. He joined the Corps’ youth program after briefly struggling with drugs and dropping out of Armijo High School at 16. Places such as the Suisun Wildlife Center shaped his love of nature and inspired him to join the Corps.
The experience taught him responsibility and focus, he said. After working as a firefighter, Griffith came back to the California Conservation Corps to supervise youth programs.
Simply put, he said his job entails reconnecting youth to nature. He provides job training and education through service to the community and environment. Griffith said he helps lead these youth not by acting superior to them but by putting himself in their shoes.
“I’m dancing if I have to,” he said.
McCoy said in the two years working with Griffith, he became close with his boss. They didn’t just bond over a love of dance; Griffith, McCoy said, became like an uncle or a dad to him.
“He was my first boss. I really look up to him,” McCoy said. “He inspires me.”
McCoy is now a crew leader with the Corps and hopes to attend college after he finishes the program in the fall.
Griffith hopes that his YouTube video achieves more than viral status – he hopes it encourages more young people like McCoy to become aware of and join the California Conservation Corps. He said he’s going to keep making videos, though he has no aspirations to be a YouTube star.
“This has been a wonderful experience, but I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said.
To learn more about Griffith, visit his website www.TotemMagic.com. To learn more about the California Conservation Corps, visit www.corpsnetwork.org.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.