From 6,750 nominees, these 10 ‘school heroes’ each will get $10,000 from NC Lottery

Shonny Williams has given all she could to the students at the Governor Morehead School For The Blind for 13 years. So on Thursday, the school social worker got something back by being named a school hero and winning $10,000.

Williams is among the 10 winners in the N.C. Education Lottery’s “North Carolina School Heroes” program, which allowed people to nominate school employees who are helping students achieve their dreams. The winners represent a wide range of people from across the state, but all are credited with making a difference in the lives of their students.

Shonny Willams, a school social worker at the Governor Morehead School For The Blind, holds up the $10,000 check she received on May 23,2019 in Raleigh after being named one of the 10 winners of the N.C. Education Lottery’s N.C. School Heroes program. T. Keung Hui khui@newsobserver.com

“Many social workers go unnoticed, because people feel it’s their job to offer care and support,” said Laura Wooten, the student life director at Governor Morehead, who nominated Williams. “However, GMS students benefit daily from her tireless advocacy and genuine support that exceeds any and all expectations for her profession. She truly nurtures students info confident adults, which makes her a real hero.”

More than 6,750 nominations were received in February and March. A committee reviewed the top 200 vote-getters to pick 10 winners. Both the winners and their schools are getting $10,000. One nominee for each winner will get $1,000.

The other nine winners announced on Thursday are:

Michael Allen, principal at Joe Toler-Oak Hill Elementary School in Oxford.

Elise Barrett, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Leland.

Dixie Black, a teacher assistant and substitute bus driver at Pilot Elementary School in Thomasville.

Vic Bridges, a school custodian at Swain County Middle School in Bryson City.

Peggy Curnette, a school cafeteria manager at Eastfield Global Magnet School in Marion.

Brian McMath, a music teacher at Northwest Guilford High School in Greensboro.

Ronald Nixon, a high school basketball coach at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City.

Jerome Sutton, a school crossing guard at Sun Valley Middle School in Indian Trail.

Jeff Walker, a chemistry teacher at Pine Lake Preparatory School in Mooresville.

People can read about the nominees at https://www.ncschoolheroes.com.

Williams admitted that she wasn’t sure that she’d have a chance of winning since Governor Morehead only has 57 students. But she received 4,484 votes from people who were motivated by her story.

Governor Morehead is a residential school in Raleigh serving students from across the state. Her duties as a social worker involve making sure that the different needs of her students are met both at the school during the week and when they return home for the weekends.

“Anything that my students need, I go out of of my way to do it,” Williams said in an interview Thursday.

Williams is also the school’s cheerleading coach, leads the prom committee and is the community service coordinator.

Both Williams and the Morehead School have plans for their $10,000 prize.

Wooten said the school will use the money to upgrade the recreation room and create a giving box where the community can get items such as clothing and perishable food.

Williams, 41, will use part of the $10,000 to make upgrades to her home in Clayton and to take her parents on a trip. She also plans to hold a community day in her hometown of Rocky Mount with free food and free giveaways.

“I just really instill in my students that it’s good to be thankful for what you have,” Williams said. “We try not to complain, and I’m looking forward to being able to do something for my hometown.”

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.