She is not a teacher by trade, but for more than 16 years, more than 1800 students in Fairfield County schools have been impacted by the life of one volunteer.
Gloria Thomas has taught countless lessons to young students through Junior Achievement of Greater South Carolina.
“We inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy, and we simply do that by bringing in business men and women into the classroom to teach lessons,” said Casey Pash, president of Junior Achievement of Greater SC, as she described the mission of the organization.
Thomas, who has been volunteering with JA for years, works full-time as an administrative coordinator at the South Carolina Department of Transportation and uses her vacation days to volunteer. When we met her, she was teaching a lesson to an elementary school class at Geiger Elementary and the students were simulating an assembly line.
“One of the biggest things is learning to work as a team,” said Thomas. “Then to see how production is done, that we don’t just go out and buy things-- that someone has to make them.”
Thomas, like other Junior Achievement volunteers, gives up her free time five times a year to visit a class to teach the importance of financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. Over the past 16 years, Thomas has taught 86 classes, which adds up to 430 visits.
“She’ll say, 'I might be in the local grocery store, and I'll see kids that I taught 10 years ago and you know you make impact when the student comes and sees you, and says what they done or what job that they might have.' She introduces them to careers that they might never have the opportunity to see,” said Pash.
Because of the countless hours she’s given and lives she’s impacted, Junior Achievement nominated Thomas as a Community Builder. Thomas had no idea until Matt Mungo with Mungo Homes showed up with a hard hat to surprise her in her latest classroom.
“I am here because of your 16-17 years of volunteering here in Fairfield County with Junior Achievement,” said Mungo. “You have been awarded our Community Builder award, and you’ll get a $1,000 check to the charity of your choice.”
Thomas became overwhelmed with emotion and hugged Mungo. It was a special moment for a humble woman who believes she’s just been right where she is supposed to be.
“I really think and believe it's a calling on my life to help others, and so when I can come into the school, and the principals here at Geiger have been so good here, because I can come in anytime. It's just a calling because it just seems like I can't stop doing it.”
Gloria is one of seven sisters who has been married for 32 years and has two sons and three grandchildren.
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