To say Justin Erickson is a busy person might be the understatement of the century.
He is a managing partner in the restaurant group that owns the Thirsty Beaver, Newport Lemonade and Huck’s Filling Station, and a founding executive board member of the nonprofit Cranston Cares, an organization that works to improve the future of Cranston.
Erickson was recently appointed to the Cranston Hall of Fame’s Executive Board. He also serves on the boards of the Cranston Athletics Hall of Fame and CLCF, and he is the current house committee chair for St. Mary’s Feast.
He does all of this while working his day job as the assistant athletic director for Cranston Public Schools. He also has an almost 2-year-old son, Colt, and a very understanding wife of eight years, Gina.
While a student at Cranston High School West, Erickson was always very involved in something.
“I played high school football all four years, wrestled freshman year, ran indoor track junior year, and I played lacrosse junior and senior year. My sophomore year I was student government second vice president, and my senior year I was Student Council treasurer and a peer mentor,” he said.
Erickson is very proud to have been the very first recipient of the Michael Palmer award in 2002. “It is given to a person who puts team before self, selfless play,” he said.
Erickson graduated from Cranston West in 2002 and went to Western New England College for a year and a half.
“After a football injury, it set my mind back, and mom said ‘Come home.’ I did a couple classes at CCRI and decided it was time to get to work,” he said.
Erickson is a true believer in the motto, “Once a Falcon, always a Falcon.” He is a founding member of the new Cranston West Alumni Association that was started in 2013.
“Our first meeting started with 90 people, we were really excited for that turnout. Then it dropped to six people, and we realized we were going to do a lot of work on our own,” he said.
The group’s first project was the auditorium remodeling, for which there was full school support. A complete renovation was needed; money was raised, seats were sold (and are still for sale), and on Sept. 28, 2017, a new auditorium was revealed.
Any funding left over was carried over to the new field at West and the press box, which led to great partnerships with many organizations.
After the two big projects, Alumni Association president Dave DiMaio realized that after seven years, it was time to turn the reins over.
And since Erickson was his right hand guy the whole time, it was inevitable that he would be the next to take over.
“Justin and I have worked together on the Alumni Association for the past five-plus years. He has the ability and the desire to continue the mission of the Cranston West Alumni Association. I believe he and the new board will bring it to the next level. As we all know, ‘Once a falcon, always a falcon.’ And Justin is just that, a true falcon,” DiMaio said.
West Principal Thomas Barbieri had nothing but praise and admiration for both men.
“David took the reins over as first president of [the Alumni Association], and what he has accomplished – bringing the whole alumni, local businesses, elected officials and central administration together – is nothing short of amazing,” he said.
Barbieri spoke of the accomplishments of the refurbishment of the auditorium and field and press box.
“David was able to bring a feeling both physically and nostalgically for Cranston West’s future and past,” he said.
Barbieri said he is humbled by all the work, effort and dedication DiMaio put into the role.
“It was an amazing job. We are so thankful for that,” he said. “How many high schools have such a strong alumni association? It says so much of what David was able to do, and what people think of him as a person. I want to say thank you to him.”
Erickson encourages everyone to get involved.
“CHSWAA means a great way to give back to the school that gave us so much. Some of the teachers and educators are now mentors and friends. Coach Steve Stoehr is an example,” he said.
The group’s newest project is building a new quad for studying and ramps, as well as walking paths.
“This is an alumni class able to see into the future – healthy bodies and healthy state of minds while learning,” Barbieri said.
Erickson was the natural heir to the presidential office, as far as Barbieri is concerned.
“Everywhere you look, you see Justin. He is everywhere in this community – at a game, community event, fundraiser, Justin pops up,” he said.
Erickson not only attended Cranston West, but is still an integral part of the school community.
“He is deeply passionate about CHSW. He’s been here even after graduating. He’s always done something for West. Justin’s continuing to do David’s great work,” Barbieri said.
At Cranston West, the Alumni Association is actually a part of the school improvement team.
“They help guide us on the parent board,” Barbieri said. “It is not just fundraising and physical pieces involved to be part of decision making for the school. Justin is having alumni mentor students, to make connections in the community and business world.”
The Alumni Association is planning to soon host a “red-tie affair” – as Erickson describes it, “an appeal to build funds for the band and programs at career tech to show appreciation for all their help.” He is hoping for a weekend in September at the alumni pavilion at the football field.
Working with Barbieri, the association is trying to get an alumni space in the building to honor all past students and moments in Cranston West history.
“We are always open for new ideas and members to join us,” Erickson said. “There is no fee to become part of the Falcon family. It is great to see different generations come together for a common goal, great way to give back like people did for us.”
To learn more about becoming involved with the Alumni Association, visit chsw.cpsed.net, go to “Resources” under the main menu and look for “Alumni.”