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Creating Successful Learners Program Student Spotlight: Neal Joyner

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Surry County native Neal Joyner is quite accomplished. He is a member of the Surry County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017 and a tireless volunteer through Surry Community College’s chapter of the Kiwanis Aktion Club, a division of Kiwanis International. He is also continuing his education through online classes at Surry Community College. He is a very busy man.

Joyner, 52, of Copeland, has a distinguished career as an athlete, earning 101 medals at local and state levels, making him one of the most recognized athletes in the county. He began participating in the Special Olympics in 1978, the year the program began in Surry County, when he was 8 years old.

“I have medals from track and field, bowling, basketball, softball, swimming, and other things. I’ve done a little bit of everything,” Joyner says.

image of 3 people at Christmas party
Neal Joyner (center) stands between his teacher and friend, Kris Jonczak (left) and his mom, Dorothy Joyner (right) at the Surry Community College Chapter of the Aktion Club Christmas Party.

In addition to being an athlete, Joyner also worked in the mailroom at Inmar Enterprises in Winston-Salem for almost 20 years. Then COVID struck, sending many employees to work from home, eliminating his transportation and position at Inmar.

“It took my ride,” Joyner describes. “I’m so thankful I got to do all that for all those years, though.”

Once his job ended in 2020, Joyner began taking classes through the Creating Successful Learners (CSL) program at Surry Community College. This program was created to provide Adult Basic Education to adults with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injuries, with the focus being to improve the individual’s independence by acquiring necessary basic life skills from math and reading to job development.

For a time, Joyner took classes in person at the CSL program facility of SCC in Mount Airy; however, daily transportation became difficult for his parents. When the CSL classes became available online in May 2023, Joyner signed up. “I love it,” he says. “It’s wonderful.”

Joyner’s teacher is Kris Jonczak, SCC Adult Basic Education Instructor, who gets high marks from Joyner.

“She’s great! She cracks me up every day. She’s more like my friend. We get to do lots of things. I’ve been bowling, and we went to Tweetsie last summer,” he said.

Joyner’s online classes meet twice during the day with a morning session and an afternoon session. He says he doesn’t really have a favorite subject, but he does like history.

Joyner also participates in the SCC chapter of the Kiwanis Aktion Club, created to provide adults with disabilities an opportunity to develop initiative, leadership skills and to serve their communities. The club recently held their 2023 Christmas party, and Joyner attended, along with other classmates, teachers, and Kiwanis representatives. The event was held at the L.H. Jones Family Resource Center in Mount Airy.

Gary Hauser and Dick Vann were at the Christmas party to represent Twin City Kiwanis of Winston-Salem, the sponsoring Kiwanis organization for SCC’s chapter. This chapter is a “real asset to the Mount Airy community,” Hauser said. “We are very pleased with all these people have done. They helped serve over 3,000 meals at the annual Kiwanis Pancake Supper last February, from which all the proceeds go right back into the community. They help package food for food drives from Lowe’s Foods, sell T-shirts at the Mud Run, and they have helped to build the snack closets at two local Hospice organizations. This is an impressive organization.”

image of 3 people standing close
Diane Barnett, Kiwanis Aktion Club advisor and Business Relations Representation for the N.C. Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (left), Gary Hauser, representative from Twin City Kiwanis in Winston-Salem (center), and Neal Joyner (right) enjoy the holiday festivities at the annual Christmas party of the Surry Community College Chapter of the Aktion Club.

Diane Barnett, Kiwanis Aktion Club Advisor and Business Relations Representation for the N.C. Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, reports the same thing. She says that Joyner and his friends have “helped raise thousands of dollars for local charities, stuffed, sealed and stamped over 7,000 envelopes for United Fund of Surry, and bagged close to 20,000 bags of food from Lowe’s Foods that go to Yokefellow Ministries through the years. This club is made of the greatest group of folks ever.”

Joyner readily agrees that the group and his teachers are the best folks ever. At a time of year when many people think about giving back, we can look to people like Neal Joyner who give back all year. His kindness knows no seasons.

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