Local principal honored with Jonathan D. Simpkins Humanitarian Leader Award

Local principal honored with Jonathan D. Simpkins Humanitarian Leader Award

Courtney shared that she was honored and humbled by the award. She recognized the children and families with whom she has worked throughout the past 40 years, her family, and employees at J-E-T Middle and and throughout ECSD for their support and partnership.
“To everyone with The Jo-Nathan Foundation, thank you, thank you, thank you!. Each day, I am grateful to live and contribute to our community, and I am tremendously honored to receive this prestigious award, ” she shared. “I appreciate the vital work and contributions of The Foundation, and I cannot thank you enough for the impact you continue to have in the lives of children.”
Dr. Kevin O’Gorman, ECSD superintendent of schools, shared that Courtney has left a long legacy in the district and in the lives of children.
“Mrs. Courtney is a great asset to our district. She has positively affected the lives of thousands of youth, and we are proud of her for receiving this award,” he stated, “We are grateful to The Jo-Nathan Foundation for recognizing leaders and for all the organization does to provide opportunities to youth in our community. ”
About the Jo-Nathan Foundation:
The Jo-Nathan Foundation works to invest in the lives of youth through experiences, exposure, and education. It was created to honor the memory of Jonathan “Jo-Nathan” Simpkins, an electrical engineering student at South Carolina State University who lived a life devoted to excellence and whose life ended tragically in 1998.
“We know that attending a camp or educational experience can play an impactful and positive role toward a productive future,” Cheatham shared. “As a result, The Foundation provides youth with two kinds of opportunities for summer camp.”
“A family with a child under the age of 17 can apply for a scholarship to cover expenses related to a camp of the child’s choice. Whether it is a camp focused on science, SAT prep, cheerleading, art, or whatever interests your child, The Jo-Nathan Foundation is committed to making opportunities possible through scholarship funds.”
This year, the agency has provided 75 students with scholarships to attend a camp of their choice. Cheatham shared that The Foundation is currently accepting applications for this summer, and he encourages interested parents to visit The Jo-Nathan Foundation website for a print or online application.
Parents of children ages 12 to 17 can also visit the website to apply for their child to attend the Be the Change Leadership Camp. This interactive four-day camp for 50 to 75 youth will be held June 24-26, 2022 at Camp Long in Aiken. The camp provides young people with the opportunity to engage in various activities to build leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Each camper develops his/her own plan which includes personal goals, academic goals, and/or a goal on how they can implement change in the community. Consideration will be given only to candidates submitting complete application packages. Applications must be postmarked by or submitted online by June 1, 2022.
The Jo-Nathan Foundation has accommodated 755 youth with scholarship dollars totaling more than $81,000 and the need continues to grow. The “Music in the Vineyard” was part of a 2022 fundraising weekend effort. Cheatham shared that it is not too late to contribute to the work of The Foundation.
“The need for our programs continues to grow. We love and need our supporters and partners. We encourage anyone interested in learning how they can be part of our efforts to please visit our website at www.TheJo-NathanFoundation.org or reach out to us .”
For more information, contact the ECSD Public Information Office at ecsdpio@edgefieldcountyschools.org.


Johnston, SC – On Saturday, April 30, 2022, The Jo-Nathan Foundation awarded Edgefield County School District (ECSD) principal Debbie Courtney with the 2022 Jonathan D. Simpkins Humanitarian Leader Award.
The award presentation occurred as part of the non-profit agency’s annual “Music in the Vineyard” event. Courtney, principal of Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton (J-E-T) Middle School, was recognized for her 32 years of service as an educator in Edgefield County and for providing swimming lessons to thousands of families over the past four decades.
“The Humanitarian Leader award is bestowed to community members who exhibit an extraordinary commitment to improving the lives of youth in our community,” shared Terrence Cheatham, co-founder and chief financial officer of The Jo-Nathan Foundation. “Mrs. Courtney embodies the spirit of this award. The compassion and leadership she continues to exhibit as an educator, swimming advocate, and community member are unmatched.”
About Debbie Courtney:
Courtney has worked in ECSD for over 32 years, Her professional roles have included special education teacher, math teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, and principal.
During the award presentation, Jo-Nathan Foundation leaders described Courtney as a devoted cheerleader of J-E-T Middle, with a caring heart leading her to go the extra mile for students and staff.
“When school buildings were closed due to COVID-19, Mrs. Courtney delivered supplies to students who were unable to pick them up at the school,” Cheatham revealed. “During the holidays each year, she works with the community to bring Christmas to more than 140 children.”
Courtney was also lauded for her efforts throughout the past 40 years to bring swimming and water safety lessons to children and adults in Edgefield County. Each year, she offers instruction on swimming techniques and how to safely navigate around pools and other aquatic environments.
“In addition to preventing needless and preventable deaths, her swim lessons have fostered a lifelong love of aquatic sports for many youth,” Cheatham described. “Because there was so much interest in a swim team at the high school level, she started one at Strom Thurmond High School. In fact, she was named as the South Carolina Region V AAA Coach of the Year this year.”
Cheatham shared that Courtney’s impact is personal for The Foundation’s leaders. “It was an honor for The Jo-Nathan Foundation to present this award to Mrs. Courtney. Almost all of our team grew up in Edgefield County, and she has positively impacted our childhoods and our children,” Cheatham shared. “Her love, her personality, her compassion have enriched our lives.”

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