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Voya Honors Somerset, Kentucky, Father-Daughter Teaching Duo with $27,000 for Creative Teaching Idea

Grant to be used to support student learning about animal science and agriculture

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), a leading provider of retirement plans for educators, announced today that Mallory McDonald and Chris McDonald, teachers at Southwestern High School (SWHS) in Somerset, Kentucky, have won the first-place, $25,000 grant award in the company’s annual Voya Unsung Heroes program. They also happen to be related as father and daughter.

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Voya’s 2023 Unsung Heroes first-place winners: Mallory McDonald and Chris McDonald, teachers, Southwestern High School, Somerset, Kentucky, who will use the grant to bring to life the “Southwestern Agriculture Center and Farm”; and Terry Harrell, regional vice president, Tax-Exempt Markets, Voya Financial, Inc. (Photo: Business Wire)

Voya’s 2023 Unsung Heroes first-place winners: Mallory McDonald and Chris McDonald, teachers, Southwestern High School, Somerset, Kentucky, who will use the grant to bring to life the “Southwestern Agriculture Center and Farm”; and Terry Harrell, regional vice president, Tax-Exempt Markets, Voya Financial, Inc. (Photo: Business Wire)

Through its Unsung Heroes program, Voya awards monetary grants to educators across the country to support their innovative and creative teaching ideas. Now in its 27th year, the Voya program has awarded more than $6 million in awards to educators across the United States.

As the first-place winners, Mallory McDonald and Chris McDonald received the $25,000 award in a surprise check presentation in addition to $2,000 they received as one of the 50 national finalists — bringing their total financial award to $27,000. This money will be used to help bring "Southwestern Agriculture Center and Farm" to life at Southwestern High School.

In addition to the 50 $2,000 grants to K-12 educators, Voya provides additional awards to the best three ideas. All the applications received from teachers are evaluated by Scholarship America, Voya’s partner in the Unsung Heroes program.

“Administrators, staff and teachers like Mallory McDonald and Chris McDonald are truly our unsung heroes,” said Angela Harrell, Voya’s senior vice president, chief diversity and corporate impact officer, and president, Voya Foundation. “Their actions and enthusiasm inspire today’s students and spark their curiosity to learn. Voya’s Unsung Heroes program and our other education-oriented initiatives recognize and celebrate creative teaching methods and ideas that help students become tomorrow’s leaders. We are proud to support our nation’s outstanding teachers.”

The teaching duo's innovative educational project, "Southwestern Agriculture Center and Farm," is a school farm created to enhance learning in animal science and agriculture mechanics. Students will be able to grow, produce and raise small animals and livestock. They will be responsible for the planning, care, and marketing of commodities from the farm as well. Produce and animals will be sold in the community to sustain the project annually, while produce from the farm will be used in a farm-to-table project to provide other students with access to fresh, nutritious food. The Voya Unsung Heroes grant will be used to purchase equipment and building materials for the farm.

“We want to congratulate Mallory and Chris for winning Voya’s Unsung Heroes grant,” said Mark Flynn, principal, Southwestern High School. “Mallory, Chris and the SWHS Agriculture Department will use the $25,000 grant for the exciting Agriculture Center and Farm project that’s planned.”

The second-place winner of Voya’s Unsung Heroes program is a team of Career Technical Education (CTE) instructors from The Learning Choice Academy in Chula Vista, California, who will use their grant to help students learn about home design, construction, engineering, and business by building a tiny house. The winner of the third-place grant is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher from Kansas State School for the Blind in Kansas City, Kansas, who will use her grant to make technology accessible to visually impaired students throughout the state of Kansas in a van.

To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit Voya’s Unsung Heroes site. Applications for the 2024 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 19, 2024.

Unsung Heroes is part of Voya Foundation’s signature program, Voya Teacher Voices. Voya Teacher Voices focuses on empowering teachers to become leaders by promoting the teaching career, recognizing high-achieving accomplishments, providing training opportunities and offering financial support to achieve their goals.

About the Voya Foundation

Voya Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in communities where Voya Financial operates and its employees and customers live. Voya Foundation provides grants and establishes signature partnerships in the areas of financial literacy and children's education and fosters employee engagement to deepen our positive impact on the community. For more information, visit

About Voya Financial®

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), is a leading health, wealth and investment company with 7,200 employees who are focused on achieving Voya’s aspirational vision: Clearing your path to financial confidence and a more fulfilling life. Through products, solutions and technologies, Voya helps its 14.7 million individual, workplace and institutional clients become well planned, well invested and well protected. Benefitfocus, a Voya company, extends the reach of Voya’s workplace benefits and savings offerings by providing benefits administration capabilities to 16.5 million individual subscription employees across employer and health plan clients. Certified as a “Great Place to Work” by the Great Place to Work® Institute, Voya is purpose-driven and committed to conducting business in a way that is economically, ethically, socially and environmentally responsible. Voya has earned recognition as: one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies® by Ethisphere; a member of the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index; and a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” on the Disability Equality Index. For more information, visit Follow Voya Financial on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.



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