Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner changes students’ lives

From Region 8 News at Six
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 10:28 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - You have to get up pretty early in the morning to surprise this month’s Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner!

He spreads joy long before the sun comes up and makes every single minute count all day long.

Tommy Morgan is the first person to arrive every morning at University Heights School of Medical Arts, part of the Nettleton Public Schools.

Students there (called scholars) and faculty have come to call Morgan, “Mr. Tommy.”

Every single day, you can find Mr. Tommy working the car rider line.

“Good Morning! Good Morning!” Mr. Tommy said as he opened the truck door for a young scholar.

He closed the door and said, “Have a fabulous day!”

This morning, while he’s at one end of the building—there’s a group gathering at the other.

“No one deserves this more than him,” Danielle Smallman said. She is a parent volunteer and nominated Mr. Tommy for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness.

All because of the impact he has made on their lives.

“I just want him to know how much he’s loved and how many people love him,” Smallman said.

Because Mr. Tommy goes way beyond his duties and hours as a paraprofessional here at the school—he’s in charge of students who get into trouble or in-school suspension.

“And so he also reaches out like if there’s someone who has been in in-school suspension and they haven’t been in in a while...he reaches out to them to go, “Hey, I’m so proud of you. You’re making good choices now,” Lisa Hogan, principal at UHSMA said.

Mr. Tommy, whom we are about to surprise, has a gift for knowing who to help and when.

“Right now, we’re having a book fair and he donates money for the scholars who can’t buy books,” Hogan said.

One student couldn’t afford a trip to a leadership building program in Atlanta, GA. Destiny’s mother was sick with cancer when classmates were leaving to go to the Ron Clark Academy.

“Our money was a little tight at the moment and so he helped us get the money for the trip,” Destiny Mize said.

It was the loss of his much-beloved wife.

“Aww....she,” Mr. Tommy looked down as he talked about his late wife.

Her loss led Mr. Tommy back to school after working for years and years in the pizza business—eventually owning his own stores.

His mother, wife, and now daughter-in-law all worked for Nettleton Schools.

“The thing that keeps me going more than anything in the world is knowing that when I get here in the morning the people that I see every day I’ve got to put a smile on their face when they walk from the parking lot to where I’m located,” Mr. Tommy said.

On rainy days, he walks every teacher covered by an umbrella.

“And their hair is number one,” Mr. Tommy said with a broad smile.

Then one day, Mr. Tommy realized his being placed here was no accident.

“And they [the students] were going, “Mr. Tommy! Mr. Tommy! There was this boy choking,” Mr. Tommy explained.

Mr. Tommy performed the Heimlich maneuver after being trained by the school district.

“I hit it again and out came that star, " Mr. Tommy said. “I mean it just flew out, too.”

“You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness!” I announce to the crowd now gathered outside near where Mr. Tommy had been working the car rider line.

“Five, six, seven, eight. Four hundred and eight dollars,” I count into his hand for winning the Gr8 Acts of Kindness.

“Thank you so much,” Mr. Tommy said as he was presented with a large commemorative check from Allen Williams, Community President of First Community Bank. The check is meant to be a keepsake as Williams explained. Mr. Tommy explained that he plans to give 10% of it to his church and the rest will likely go back into student activities at UHSMA.