Pursuing Success Through Education: Erica Shoulders-Royster ‘12MSA Named Franklin County Schools Principal of the Year

Franklin County Early College High School principal Erica Shoulders-Royster ‘12MSA has already achieved a number of firsts. She is a first-generation college graduate, and she was part of the first Northeast Leadership Academy cohort. Her school has consistently been recognized for excellence, earning an “A” grade in school performance measures for three straight years.

Shoulders-Royster’s successes were celebrated when she was named Franklin County Schools’ 2019-2020 Principal of the Year. Along with family and district officials, her entire school came together to honor her with a surprise celebration.

“It was amazing to see their reactions,” said Shoulders Royster. “The pictures say so much.”

She was nominated for the award, which includes a $1,500 check, by her peers and Franklin County Schools’ district leaders. She said she works hard to support her school community and earn its support as well.

“I model that hard work pays off,” said Shoulders-Royster. “I do not ask anything of my students or staff that I would not be willing to do first. I proudly let them know that I am a wife, mother of five, [doctoral] student and principal.”

The importance of building strong relationships was her biggest takeaway from the NC State College of Education’s Northeast Leadership Academy, where she also learned the importance of sharing her story.

“I was challenged in my thinking and gained additional tools to use as I make an impact in northeastern North Carolina,” Shoulders-Royster said.

So far, her story at Franklin County Early College High School has been one of service.

“I enjoy serving,” she said. “Being a principal allows me to serve on a broader scale. I enjoyed teaching and was able to devote my time and attention to my set of students, and now I am able to serve an entire building of people.”

When it comes to her students, she has a number of goals she wants them to attain. Those goals include ensuring they excel academically, but she also wants her students to be recognized for their service work, be conscious of global issues and attain financial stability for college. As for Franklin Early College teachers, she wants them to grow professionally and take on challenges.

“Erica’s leadership style helps raise the bar in classrooms in ways that inspire students to achieve,” said Rhonda Schuhler, superintendent of Franklin County Schools, in a news release. “She is a prime example of a caring educator who builds and maintains positive relationships with teachers, staff and students.”

For Shoulders-Royster, the impact of a caring educator cannot be overstated.

“Education means freedom to me,” said Shoulders-Royster. “It is one of the equalizers for people of color. It is the foundation to much success in life.”

Pursuing success through education has led Shoulders-Royster to aim toward another first — the next time she graduates from the NC State College of Education, she will be the first person in her family to earn a doctoral degree.

Photograph credit: Franklin County Schools