5 minutes with Willie Joyner ’94 ‘08

Position: Assistant principal at North Pitt High School, founder of K-12 step dancing program HYPE (Helping Yourself with Pride through Education)

Degree: Bachelor’s in business education, master’s in school administration

Hometown: Farmville

“I taught business for 12 years before going into administration. I went into the profession very tough, but I think I softened a lot once I realized the struggles that kids go through. A lot of my passion went toward young men with troubled lives whose issues stemmed from not having a father figure around. HYPE grew out of that passion to work with young men and offer them guidance, mentorship and leadership opportunities.

(HYPE was on Season 9 of “America’s Got Talent.”)

“That was a crazy, exciting opportunity. The judges loved the boys’ performance, but we didn’t make it to the regular competition.

“I was a member of the ECU gospel choir and Alpha Pi Alpha fraternity. There was one teacher I was very fond of: my business marketing professor, Betty Wilson. One time in class I started having chest pains, and she had to call the ambulance for me – that was a memorable moment. We became good friends and remained friends even after she left the university.

“The accountability I learned from my professors. You don’t appreciate it at the time, but that no-nonsense mentality of ‘you do it, you do it on time and you do it right’ has definitely stuck with me. I became the first person from my family to graduate from a four-year university, so to me, college is about perseverance. We have a 100% high school graduation rate in our program, and a great majority of them go to college.”

We want to hear stories from alumni about how their experiences at ECU shaped them today and how they pass those lessons to others. Send us an email at easteditor@ecu.edu.