Hugs, tears and a standing ovation followed the announcement this past Friday evening at the Marion County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet that Paige Payne Hill had been named Citizen of the Year, her work in the community chronicled as she was presented the prestigious honor.
“She is an advocate and encourager of all students, especially the underdog,” said Chamber President Travis Hickman as he presented the award before a packed house at The Hooch in downtown South Pittsburg, noting that since taking the role as principal she has helped elevate the school staff.
“During COVID she partnered with local agencies to make sure the children were cared for during a time of need,” Hickman continued. “They implemented summer enrichment programs to assist with educational needs but also provided fun activities for students.”
Hickman noted that Hill encouraged her students to become volunteers in their community in improvement projects. “She was right there beside them, helping get work done,” he said. “Her students describe her as fair, determined and innovative.”
Under her leadership, the school was able to secure a grant to begin a hydroponics program.
“She makes sure to create an environment of inclusiveness for students,” he said. “She is respectful yet tough when necessary.”
Hickman revealed the identity of the Citizen of the Year after the glowing description.
“Despite personal obstacles, she has been able to climb to new heights,” he said. “For this reason, Paige Payne Hill, you are the 2023 Citizen of the Year.”