Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
Former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt speaks to students from New Hanover, Laney and Hoggard high schools about the state of education prior to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington’s Great Friend to Kids Awards luncheon Wednesday, March 5.
The Children’s Museum of Wilmington honored five individuals and families on Wednesday, March 5, in Union Station at Cape Fear Community College as part of its third annual Great Friend to Kids Awards luncheon.
One of those being honored, former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, spent time with students from New Hanover, Laney and Hoggard high schools prior to the event to address questions about the state of education.
The topics in the Q-and-A session with Hunt ranged from charter schools and testing to school funding and teacher salaries.
“I think [teachers] ought to be rewarded for improving their education and improving their skills as teachers,” Hunt said in response to a student’s question about teachers with higher degrees now receiving less pay. “This major increase in teacher pay, that can’t come from the local level, it has to come from the legislature and the taxpayers of North Carolina. And they are willing to pay it.”
Hunt, North Carolina’s longest-serving governor, was awarded the Innate Love of Learning award at the luncheon for his longtime role in shaping the education system of the state and starting programs like the early education initiative, Smart Start.
In addition to being the last recipient of an award during the luncheon, Hunt was also the only recipient who knew he was being recognized.
The others like Ann Stohl, Stevenson-Stohl Suzuki violin instructor, who won the award for curiosity, were unknowingly introduced by their friends and peers.
“I had my napkin in my lap until about a minute ago and then I realized she was talking about me,” Stohl said of her introduction by Darlene Powell.
The first award recipients of the day were the Wright family for their efforts in fostering inclusion and acceptance for those with intellectual disabilities. Holding the award for inspiration, Amy Wright thanked the museum for giving their two children, born with Down syndrome, a place to be themselves.
“I think most importantly it is a place where our children, who are a little different than other children, can play alongside them,” Wright said. “There aren’t a whole lot of places like that.”
Jack Barto, New Hanover Regional Medical Center president and CEO, introduced Fernando R. Moya, the hospital’s director of neonatology, as the recipient of the unsung hero award. Barto said Moya transformed NHRMC’s neonatology department into a world-class facility.
A standing ovation was given to the fourth winner of the day, D.C. Virgo Prep Academy principal Eric Irizarry, who is the first principal for the newly reconfigured middle school.
“D.C. Virgo has been an incredible project, but we are still working to create a program that is unique for the children and is innovative,” Irizarry said. “The Northside has gone through some tough times this past year but we have some wonderfully devoted families, students and probably the hardest working staff in the county.”