While attending Fontana High School, Daniel Walker showed much leadership promise by serving as the Steelers' senior class president in 1985.
In the three decades since then, Walker's potential for success has certainly been fulfilled.
He has gone on to become a professor of history at El Camino College, a producer/director of documentary films, and the founder of the Long Beach Indie International Film, Media, and Music Festival, which is taking place this weekend (Aug. 31 to Sept. 4).
So now he is enjoying the company of show business elites, but he hasn't forgotten his humble beginnings.
"Even though I do this Hollywood stuff, I still use the 909 area code for my phone number," Walker said with a laugh. "I remember where I came from."
Walker underwent many challenges as a child. At times his family lived in poverty, and his home was on a dirt road. An African-American, he lived in North Fontana at a time when racism was plaguing the city, as evidenced by the existence of the Ku Klux Klan.
Yet, he said he appreciated his Fontana upbringing: "I wouldn't trade it for the world."
In school, he focused on his education and studied hard, and he also drew inspiration from playing football for legendary coach Dick Bruich at Fohi.
"Fontana had all those racial issues, but we all came together on the football field," Walker said.
That same sense of unity and togetherness motivated him in 2014 to create the film festival, which is now in its third year. Long Beach Indie is screening more than 180 films, TV pilots, web series and music videos from across the globe and is showcasing more than 100 international scholars and entertainment industry leaders as presenters.
Perhaps even more importantly, the festival exposes more than 1,000 diverse youth and young adults to higher education and careers in arts and entertainment.
Walker said that according to the Otis Report, nearly "one in six jobs in our (L.A. County) region is in the creative industry," and that's why he wants youth to consider the opportunities available in various fields, including animation.
Over the past three years at the festival, innovators such as three-time Emmy Award winner Charles Ragins ("The Simpsons"), Oscar nominee Margaret Avery ("The Color Purple") and two-time DGA winner Jesus Salvador Trevino ("Resurrection Blvd," "Chicano: A History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement") have shared their experiences as presenters. In addition, films such as Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi's "The Dam Keeper" have parlayed their awards at Long Beach Indie into Academy Award nominations.
Walker himself is the producer/director of the documentary films "When Roosters Crow," "Sol Brothers," and "The Ten" (which is in post-production) and a forthcoming 10-part documentary on gospel music in partnership with KCETLink and the University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
Walker is also the head of the Gospel Music History Archive at USC and the board chair of both the BLU Educational Foundation and the Believe Foundation.
With his festival and his many other projects, Walker is aiming to help bring about change in Hollywood, where the Academy Awards have been criticized for a lack of diversity.
"I believe we can use music and art and theater to further the social good," he said.