High School principal takes night job at a local Walmart to support his low-income students

By | January 29, 2023

North Charleston High School Principal Henry Darby will do anything to help his students, even when it meant taking on three different jobs simultaneously.

Despite his loaded schedule, Darby—also a longtime county councilman—recently took on a third job. He now works at a Walmart three nights a week, stocking shelves from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. He finishes his shift with just enough time to make it to the campus before the morning bell.

When he first got the job, he was working five nights a week. But then he realized he wasn’t as young as he used to be, so he opted to work just three nights a week since September.

Darby took on the role not to increase his income but to help his struggling, low-income students and their families.

Many students in the school live below the poverty line, and Darby wanted to give them the support they need to buy food and pay for their bills.

A part of his earnings from working at the grocery store had gone into helping students pay their college tuition and purchase things to raise teacher morale.

Cynthia Solomon, the store manager at the Walmart where Darby works, said that in her 16 years working for the company, he was the first principal she knew of who took on a Walmart associate role.

It was also the first time she had heard of someone donating their entire earnings to help others.

Turns out, Darby is used to this kind of work ethic. He has been juggling three or four jobs ever since his teenage years. During his time as an educator, he worked on various odd jobs at an airport and a glass factory, among several others.

As a child, he visited elderly living communities with his mother. At the tender age of 6, he learned how to comb and braid residents’ hair. Working hard is just a part of his lifestyle.

In 2004, he was elected to County Council and was reelected in November. He then became North Charleston High School’s principal in 2017.

So far, he has donated more than $2,500—or half of his earnings—to families in need. He will donate the rest after taxes are due.

Elizabeth Bowens, the school’s parent advocate administrator, said they try to exhaust all of the resources available to students and families before letting Darby chip in his Walmart earnings.

“His heart is so big. This is his community. He’s grown up here, he still lives here. These kids are like his kids,” she said of the generous principal.

Darby said he tried to keep his new job a secret, but a student recognized him during his first night at the store. Still, he said it’s okay if people know about it now.

He’s not ashamed of it; in fact, he hopes it will inspire other students who feel like working at a grocery store isn’t something to be proud of.

“Some of them felt this type of job was beneath me, but I tried to teach my students that all work that is honest is honorable,” he said.

The principal also hopes it will teach his students to practice compassion whenever they could.

“It’s quite simple, simplistic: Just learn to help others. That is one of the greatest things that we could do in terms of human beings,” he said.

To help the local hero in his endeavors, Walmart gave him a $50,000 check to use for his school.

“Thank you so very much. This is going to go a very, very long way with our students, sir,” Darby said about the generous grant.

Several GoFundMe pages have also been launched to help Darby and his community. One of them has already collected over $120,000.

“I am an optimist,” Darby said. “But I’m also a determinist. I know that it’s going to get better. I know that these times will not always be with us. I know that my students will not always be in poverty. I know that because that’s what we are. America makes it better for everybody.”

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