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Educator receives National Unsung Hero award and grant

September 13, 2018

SUGAR CITY — Sterling Willford, an educator at Sugar-Salem Jr. High School, received a $2,000 grant as part of the 2018 Voya Unsung Heroes awards competition.

“Through the Voya Unsung Heroes program, Voya Financial awards grants to K-12 educators nationwide to honor their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and ability to positively influence their students,” according to a press release from Voya Financial, Inc. “For more than 20 years, the program has awarded over $5 million in grants to more than 2,000 educators across the United States.”

According to the press release, the competition had 1,200 participants this year and Willford was one of one hundred who won.

“He will now compete with other finalists for one of the top three prizes — an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from Voya Financial,” the release said.

His project entry was called “Engineering for Rural Students,” according to the release. This project is dedicated to expanding the school district’s current robotics program.

“Students involved in the project will develop a technical writing component in which student teams will submit designs and proposals with a request for materials they need,” according to the release. “This will improve team collaboration, planning, and productivity which are all a key components of engineering careers. Willford hopes to expand the availability of the program and provide up to twice as many students the opportunity to take these classes.”

Willford will be able to purchase more materials with his new grant for students to protect their projects and keep materials in one place, according to the release.

“Our Unsung Heroes program continues to recognize teachers who go above and beyond to inspire today’s students in the classroom,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets at Voya Financial. “We are proud to honor teachers like Sterling Willford whose inspiring program is making a difference in the lives of young people. This commitment and passion for teaching closely aligns with our focus at Voya on helping all Americans prepare for their unique financial futures.”

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