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Principal Asia Cunningham honors family legacy with Milken Educator Award win

Principal Asia Cunningham, 2023 recipient of a Milken Educator Award, stopped by WUNC's studios for a chat with Due South.
Erin Keever/WUNC
Principal Asia Cunningham, 2023 recipient of a Milken Educator Award, stopped by WUNC's studios for a chat with Due South.

When Pearsontown Elementary School principal Asia Cunningham stepped into a school assembly in November 2023, she had no idea it was being held in her honor. As it turned out, the school-wide gathering was slated to announce that she'd won the Milken Educator Award, also known as the "Oscars of Teaching." Principal Cunningham was the only educator in Durham County to receive the award this year.

She shared her recollection of that day, as well as the compelling story of her career progression from criminal justice to school administration and how her decision to work in education honors her late parents and the siblings she helped to raise after their passing.


Asia Cunningham, principal of Pearsontown Elementary School

Correction: On air, Due South incorrectly stated that Principal Cunningham is the "first ever" Milken Educator Award recipient from Durham Public Schools. She is the first Black woman from Durham Public Schools to receive the distinction. The first ever recipient from DPS was Stuart Albright of Jordan High School in 2008.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
Stacia L. Brown is a writer and audio storyteller who has worked in public media since 2016, when she partnered with the Association of Independents in Radio and Baltimore's WEAA 88.9 to create The Rise of Charm City, a narrative podcast that centered community oral histories. She has worked for WAMU’s daily news radio program, 1A, as well as WUNC’s The State of Things. Stacia was a producer for WUNC's award-winning series, Great Grief with Nnenna Freelon and a co-creator of the station's first children's literacy podcast, The Story Stables. She served as a senior producer for two Ten Percent Happier podcasts, Childproof and More Than a Feeling. In early 2023, she was interim executive producer for WNYC’s The Takeaway.