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$184,000 raised to help North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby's outreach

Principal Henry Darby

North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby (left) thanks real estate agents Jesse Rone (center) and Mason Wright, with Matt O’Neill Real Estate, who launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised $183,615 for Darby to help families of students who live in areas zoned for the school. The original goal was $20,000. Brad Nettles/Staff

A GoFundMe campaign has generated nearly $184,000 for North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby's efforts to help families in need. It's the latest example of generosity after the community learned that Darby, intent on supporting his students, had taken a job at Walmart to earn extra income.

The campaign, launched by real estate agents Jesse Rone and Mason Wright, set a goal of $20,000 — which was surpassed within 24 hours.

A check for $183,615 was presented to Darby on March 2. The money, placed in an account with Darby's name on it, will be used to assist students and their families who live in areas zoned for North Charleston High School.

darby students.jpg (copy) (copy)

North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby took on a third job at Walmart in August, where he works from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. three nights a week stocking shelves. His earnings go toward helping low-income students and their families pay the bills. Pictured here in 2017, Darby addresses students in the hallway during a class change. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

The Post and Courier first reported in January that Darby, who is also a member of Charleston County Council, had taken a night job stocking shelves at a North Charleston Walmart so he could provide financial assistance to school families struggling with bills and debt.

The story prompted Walmart to make a $50,000 contribution to the high school, and it motivated Rone and Wright to launch the GoFundMe effort.

Initially, all they wanted to do was come up with about $5,000 for Darby so he could avoid the night shift at Walmart, Rone said. That would have been perhaps a semester’s worth of extra income.

To play it safe, they decided to set a higher goal. Five grand was helpful but limited; $20,000 would last a lot longer.

The Realtors soon learned of Darby’s dedication to community, and the respect he engenders among colleagues.

"It’s really surreal to be around somebody that selfless,” Rone said.

Darby became principal of North Charleston High School in 2017. He grew up in the nearby Liberty Hill neighborhood and has committed himself to serving the area as a member of County Council and as an educator.

He has earned a reputation for tough love combined with compassion and commitment, and has set the tone at a school whose student population mostly comes from low-income families. Nearly 90 percent of its students lived in poverty during the past school year, according to S.C. Department of Education data.

He said the North Charleston High School community is grateful for the money raised by Rone and Wright.

“The funds will be used according to needs of our students and their families,” he said.

Darby received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian award, on Feb. 8. He also received special recognition from the Charleston County School Board. His largesse caught the attention of the "Today" show, which featured a segment on Darby on Jan. 29.

Rone and Wright (copy)

Jesse Rone and Mason Wright of Matt O'Neill Real Estate, started a GoFundMe campaign for North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby. Jesse Rone/Provided 

His leadership has inspired colleagues to up their game, according to Assistant Principal Tony Boyer.

On Jan. 30, about 20 North Charleston High School staffers, including Darby, volunteered to provide encouragement to more than 100 students struggling academically. The volunteers divided into small teams that went door to door with a simple message: You are part of the North Charleston High School family and we are here to help.

Contact Adam Parker at aparker@postandcourier.com.

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