Spotlight - Sonya Stephens


There are those whose gift or gifts of the spirit, as defined in the New Testament, are completely obvious. Ms. Sonya Stephens exhibits more than one gift, but the one that she exudes most is service. Throughout her personal life and her career in the Colleton County School District, she has served others; particularly the children who are fortunate enough to come across her path.

Ms. Sonya came up through school in the Ruffin area; elementary, middle, and high school and is a graduate of Limestone College with a B.A. in Social Work. As the oldest daughter of 11 children, she spent a great deal of her childhood helping with her younger siblings. There wasn’t a lot of time or opportunity to just be a kid. However, one year she played basketball as a center. She was a good player too. She was playing street ball and the coach saw her play and asked Stephens’ mom if she could play for a season and she played for that year.

Ms. Sonya’s start in the school district was what she says was “a Lord thing.” She was working at Aston Hill and the Lord laid it upon her heart to go to the school district. Stephens had never been to the school district offices before and had to ask for directions. Once there she met a gentleman by the name of Mr. Hamm who asked her what she came to the offices for. Ms. Sonya told him that the Lord sent her there. He said the only position he had available was substitute teaching. So, substitute teaching it was. From there on she “served” in the school district. From substitute teaching she became a hall monitor. The position was created for her, the first in the district, and she earned the name “The Policewoman”. She grins when she tells how the kids knew that every time they went to the bathroom she was outside waiting for them to come back out and go to wherever they were supposed to be. Then she moved on to the front secretary until they found someone else to fill that role, and next it was onto being a secretary to the assistant principal. Ms. Sonya continued her journey in the school district by then being appointed to assist the students that were preparing for college. She had computers put in the classroom all around the perimeter of the classroom for her students. She comments they called it study hall at the time, but it was Ms. Stephens helping the kids make decisions about what direction they decided to take. ISS (In School Suspension) was next on her path, and then in another move, Ms. Stephens was then asked to operate the special needs class, because the teacher specialist left. She was wanted there because she had such a good rapport with the kids. Ms. Sonya operated the special needs class for a year. After that year in special education she went back to being the assistant principal’s secretary. Then came the Ruffin/Walterboro merger of schools. The merger did not spell the end of Ms. Stephen’s CCSD career by any means. Once again, her gift of service and rapport with students placed her managing ISS at Colleton County Middle School. “She has been working for CCSD since 1992 assisting students with redirecting their lives, helping them to make sound choices concerning their education, career paths and community services.”

Her time at Colleton County Middle School has not just been in ISS. Ms. Stephens is the director of a group called “Sisters in Action” at the middle school and their sister group “Ladies of Excellence” at the high school. Ms. Stephens explains, “our program results in the increase of confidence, courage, educational and personal development. This group of young ladies is made up from several grade levels ranging from 6th-8th Middle School and 9th-12th grade Colleton County High School. In the process these students have decided to change their lives holistically. We are a prevention and empowerment program that helps to expose them to different cultural events.” Ms. Sonya believes by “empowering and supporting young girls” positive change in our community will be “inevitable.”

When she is not serving the community by helping students in the hallways of the school, Ms. Sonya enjoys simple things like family. Ms. Stephens has 2 children, a son and a daughter in their mid-40’s and a 14 year old girl who was “gifted” to her at two days old. She loves to spend time with her daughter and hang out with her granddaughters; all 7 of them. They live in different areas of the country, but Ms. Sonya visits when she can. She very recently visited some of her granddaughters in Augusta, and they taught her the finer points of Monopoly. She also took them to a jump park and then out to eat. She also reads to her granddaughters who live in San Antonio through FaceTime. Sounds like a cool grandmother to me.

As expected, church is a very large part of her life, and she loves attending. True to her nature she does not just sit in the pew. She serves in an administrative capacity to a grouping of 16 churches as board president and has done so for 25 years.

Once she retires from CCSD for good (she actually retired 2022, but was asked to come back) Ms. Sonya’s plan is to spend time with her mom. Her mother is 87 years old and she wants to have that time with her. True to her nature she talks about being available to her mother to take her to doctor’s appointments and helping her when needed.

It all started with taking care of her siblings, the neighborhood kids, and her love of children. What is “it?” Many people talk about what would be better for the community and what can be done for our children. Ms. Stephens does it. Her middle school group is called Sisters in Action, and she takes action. Being involved in the school district since 1992, directing a club for young girls for their betterment in and out of school, directing children in her capacity for the school in helping them make good, sound choices for their lives now and beyond. She is quite literally as the saying goes “in the trenches.” It is a lot to do, but she does it with a smile, her gift of the spirit of service, and says “it’s a Lord thing.”