Representative Rosa Gill to receive 2024 Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award, 6 new inductees in WCPSS Hall of Fame

Representative Rosa Gill to receive WakeEd Partnership’s 2024 Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award

Six New Inductees Will Join Wake County Public Schools Hall of Fame at WakeEd’s Annual Stars of Education Gala on October 30

RALEIGH, N.C. — WakeEd Partnership (WakeEd), a business-backed nonprofit organization committed to supporting teachers and students in Wake County Public Schools, today announced this year’s honorees for its 11th annual Stars of Education Gala, presented this year by Martin Marietta. The event will be held on Wednesday, October 30, 2024, at the Raleigh Convention Center.


WakeEd Partnership is honoring Representative Rosa Gill with this year’s Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award. Gill, who is not seeking reelection this year after 15 years in the North Carolina House, is being honored for decades of leadership and public service for the children of Wake County. Since 1990, this award has been presented to an individual who has made significant contributions to public education and shares the qualities of the late Senator Vernon Malone, who advocated tirelessly for every child to have equitable opportunities.


“Rosa Gill has been a positive force for our public schools for decades, first as a classroom teacher, then serving in leadership on the Wake County Board of Education, and the last 15 years fighting for public education and children’s issues at the North Carolina General Assembly,” said Keith Poston, President, WakeEd Partnership. “Rosa Gill has literally seen it all and given her all for the children of Wake County and we’ve been so blessed as a state to have visionary leaders like Rosa Gill who understand the transformative and foundational power of public schools.”


Representative Rosa Gill has had a distinguished career dedicated to education and public service in Wake County, North Carolina. Gill, a native of Wake County, graduated from Shaw University with a major in Mathematics and pursued further studies at NCSU, NCCU, and Duke University. Her journey began as a classroom teacher, where she also served as a student council advisor and coached girls’ varsity tennis and track.


Gill’s commitment to education led her to the Wake County Public School Board of Education, where she served for ten years, including terms as Chair and Vice Chair. During her tenure, she worked on policies to enhance academic success, integrate schools, address busing and student assignment issues, and secure a $1 million school bond for facility expansion.


In 2009, Gill was appointed to the North Carolina House of Representatives, filling a vacant seat. She was then elected to the North Carolina General Assembly for seven consecutive two-year terms, where she became known for her advocacy in education, women’s and children’s issues, healthcare access, and social justice. After a long and impactful career, 24 years as an educator and 24 years in politics, she decided not to seek reelection in 2024.


Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame

At the Stars of Education Gala, six remarkable honorees will join the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) Hall of Fame. Since 2013, the WCPSS Hall of Fame has recognized those who have made an impact locally in the categories of Arts, Athletics, Business, Community Service, Education, and Entrepreneurship. The Class of 2024 inductees are:


Arts | Sara Maria Blanton, Founder & Executive Director, Raleigh Music Collective

In the summer of 2019, Sara Maria Blanton, founder, and Executive Director of the Raleigh Music Collective, embarked on a mission driven by passion and community spirit. She personally funded the purchase of 12 violins and reached out to the local non-profit Refugee Hope Partners with a vision: to establish a free violin class for elementary students eager to learn. Drawing on her experience with El Sistema-inspired music programs since 2016, Blanton aimed to merge her private lessons studio with her work at Refugee Hope Partners into a unified El Sistema-inspired nonprofit.


The Raleigh Music Collective has seen significant growth since its inception, expanding from an initial 12 students to over 100 participants. The organization now offers a range of activities including private lessons, group classes, ensemble rehearsals, and camps. With a mission to foster integration and community through music education, the program is inclusive, providing lessons and group classes to both paying students and those requiring financial assistance. This approach not only enhances musical skills but also strengthens the diverse fabric of Raleigh’s communities.


Athletics | Mark Indermaur, Founder, Indermaur Chess Foundation

Mark Indermaur, a volunteer chess coach, and organizer has taught chess and life skills to over a thousand Wake County Public School students since 2011. He opened his clubs to all students regardless of age or ability and quickly grew the Hunter Elementary School club to be the largest in the state with more than 150 students.


His club goals are simple – to have fun, learn, and play lots of chess – and yet, he has led teams from Hunter, Ligon Middle, and Enloe High Schools to twenty-three Triangle and four state championships and has been named North Carolina Chess Coach of the Year in 2016, 2020, and 2023. In 2019, Indermaur and his wife Meredith, parents of 6 WCPSS alumni, founded the nonprofit Indermaur Chess Foundation to help more North Carolina schools, libraries, and community organizations start chess programs. Since then, they have supported over 110 chess clubs in 44 North Carolina counties, including 17 in Wake County Public Schools.


Business | Former President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC

Brad Wilson has a distinguished 40-year career in law, government service, and health care. Prior to becoming general counsel to Governor James B. Hunt Jr. in 1992, he practiced law in Lenoir for 14 years. During his 22-year career at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Wilson held a variety of senior executive roles, including president and CEO from 2010 until his retirement in 2017. Wilson served as Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education created by Governor Roy Cooper in 2017 to develop recommendations for the state to follow in meeting the Leandro Supreme Court rulings. This year Wilson joined the North Carolina Museum of History and Division of State History Museums as interim director.


Throughout his career, Wilson has served on numerous public, private, and charitable boards and commissions, including the UNC Board of Governors, the North Carolina Museum of History Foundation, and the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation. Wilson’s experience on the North Carolina Museum of History Foundation board provides him with a deep knowledge of current initiatives related to the Division of State History Museums, and he will ensure that those initiatives continue to move forward during the search for a permanent director. Wilson earned a BA in history from Appalachian State University, a JD from Wake Forest University School of Law, and an MA from Duke University.


Community Service | Barb Walsh, Founder & Executive Director, Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina

Barb Walsh is the dedicated Executive Director of the Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina, a grassroots action-oriented nonprofit she founded on the first anniversary of her daughter’s tragic death from fentanyl exposure through a water bottle. Since this heartbreaking event, Barb has been unwavering in her pursuit of safety, education, justice, advocacy, and support for fentanyl fatality victims in North Carolina. She actively travels across the state, hosting regional Family Summits, Fentvic Meetups, Annual Rallies, and providing courthouse moral support to families affected by fentanyl tragedies. Additionally, Barb is a strong advocate for the installation of life-saving naloxone in all North Carolina public schools.


Barb holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, bringing valuable expertise to her role. Her previous experience includes working with a nonprofit lobbying group in Washington, D.C. and holding positions in Government Relations and Corporate Communications at a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Besides her professional achievements, Barb has demonstrated remarkable resilience in her personal life. She has successfully raised four daughters while managing her own business and passionately fundraising for various charitable causes.


Education | Dr. Valencia Hicks-Harris, Founder & Executive Director, Empower All, Inc.

Dr. Valencia Hicks-Harris, executive director and founder of Empower All, Inc., boasts over 13 years of expertise in elementary and STEM education. As one of the first two graduates in the Educational Equity Doctoral Program from North Carolina State University, she is a trailblazer, dedicated to diversifying the teacher pipeline, increasing representation in STEM, addressing the mental-health crisis facing our youth, and ensuring equitable education for all students.


She is an educator that has taught both elementary and STEM education for over 12 years in Wake County Public Schools. Her doctoral dissertation focused on Educational Equity. Her educational and career experiences have fueled her drive to diversify the teacher pipeline, push culturally relevant pedagogy as standard, increase the presence of students of color in STEM, and create an equitable education for all students.


Entrepreneurship | Community Workforce Solutions

Community Workforce Solutions (CWS), originally established in 1964 as the Wake County Sheltered Workshop and Vocational Center, has a long history of providing vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Over the years, it has evolved and expanded its services, first rebranding as the Raleigh Vocational Center and later adopting its current name to reflect a broader mission. Today CWS is a dynamic non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities across Wake County and throughout North Carolina.


CWS maintains strong collaborative relationships with various businesses and organizations within the community, including public schools statewide. It also works closely with state agencies through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services division of Employment and Independence for People with Disabilities to maximize the support and opportunities available to the individuals they serve. Through its comprehensive services and community partnerships, Community Workforce Solutions continues to play a crucial role in empowering individuals with disabilities, fostering their independence, and enhancing their overall quality of life.


“These six honorees represent the very best of Wake County and we’re proud to induct them into the Wake County Public Schools Hall of Fame for all they have contributed to our community,” said Poston.


WakeEd’s Star Among Us Educator Award and Emerging Star Student Award will be announced later this summer.


Individual tickets for the event are $150 and can be purchased here. Sponsorship opportunities are also available now. Visit WakeEd’s website for more information: or download PDF here.


About WakeEd Partnership 
WakeEd Partnership (WakeEd) is a leading independent nonprofit backed by business and community leaders to support the teachers, students, and families of Wake County Public Schools. Since 1983, WakeEd has been committed to improving public education and advocating for excellent educational opportunities for all students. For more information, please visit

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