Swain Middle janitor wins NC Lotto School Hero award
Some heroes wear capes, others wear a shirt with their name on the pocket. Vic Bridges, janitor at Swain County Middle School for 6 years, was recognized Wednesday, May 29, as one of just 10 NC Education Lottery NC School Heroes.
Van Denton, with NC Education Lottery, spoke to a crowd of students in the school gym Wednesday afternoon about how impactful the Bridges’ nomination was.
In its first year, the program to recognize people in NC schools making a positive impact got a huge reception from the public. There were 6,750 nominations submitted. To help select 10 heroes, NC Lottery asked the public to weigh in with more than 2 million people voted, narrowing the field to 200.
Bridges’ story stood out to the judges, Denton said.
“In his work every day, he goes above and beyond in keeping the school safe,” Denton said, before handing Bridges a big check for $10,000. With his win, Swain Middle School was also awarded a check for $10,000.
Swain Middle Band Teacher Tim Sale nominated Bridges.
“Vic Bridges goes above and beyond at Swain Middle School and is a true hero,” he said, reading from his nomination story. “Vic found a loaded firearm in a bathroom at the school and took action. He is a hero and we’re eternally grateful for his thorough work.”
Bridges, accepting the award, was humble.
“I want to thank everyone. I want you to know no matter how small, you can always make a difference,” he said, adding he doesn’t feel like a hero, just like someone doing his job. He added he loves and cares for everyone at the school.
Swain Middle Principal Brandon Sutton then addressed the students, reminding them that they talked about the value of selfless service and that Bridges is an example of that in the school each and every day.
Sale said he was surprised when he learned his nomination stood out. “We’re a small town, and we really wanted it to but didn’t know how it would turn out. There was more than one from Swain County nominated,” he said.
He happened to see a commercial about the NC Lottery School Heroes Award on TV the same day the lockdown at the school occurred. The gun was located in the bathroom, administration notified by Bridges and soon law enforcement responded. Everyone remained safe.
“It made the school shootings and violence happening at other schools real. The fact it wasn’t worse is due to Bridges’ quick response. I had a room of 20 kids who were terrified. It’s nice to hear someone is watching out for them. He really deserved it.”
The $10,000 at Swain Middle will go to the custodian department and to fund activities for clubs and action teams, said Principal Sutton.
The custodians play a vital role, he said. “They take of all of the cleaning and maintenance and do a great job so the students can learn in and teachers can teach in a great environment. They do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work.”
Bridges said he will likely use the $10,000 to help pay off his wife’s student loans.
“I feel honored being nominated,” he said. “I had no idea I’d win.” He’d give the money back, he said, if it could prevent something like finding a gun at the school from ever happening again.
“I do not feel like a hero. I feel like I was just doing my job,” Bridges said.
To learn more about the NC Education Lottery School Heroes program, visit nclottery.com.