STANLEY––They’re a terrific trio with a lot to celebrate.
They’re the Winkler sisters: Jael, Anna and Sara, and they’re the daughters of Donna Ward and stepdaughters of Bill Ward of Stanley. As Mrs. Ward told The Herald on Friday, her girls are among the graduates of the class of 2020. Sara has earned her diploma at Mountain Island Charter School. And Jael and Anna are both graduates of Gaston College, having respectively earned associate in arts and associate in science degrees.
Mr. Ward cited the recent State-mandated virus-related restrictions that have put the kybosh on most graduation ceremonies across the country, and he lamented that such things appear not to be in the works locally. But regardless of these ceremonies, their delay or absence altogether, Ward said his stepdaughters deserve such recognition and more.
“About now,” he said, “we would be planning for grand celebrations. And they would deserve it. For 10-plus years, these three have made me laugh, helped me grow as a dad and a man and yes, made me cry––mostly for good reasons! We’ve been camping, fishing––sort of!––been to baseball games in five different states and nine different towns; been to historical sites; and been to holes-in-the-wall all over seven states and the District of Columbia. I’ve had the joy of watching them play soccer and softball, run cross-country, play in the (school) band and dance. We’ve shared burnt marshmallows––OK, not Anna’s!––over the fire pit.”
Ward also cited the girls’ annual help with their mother’s garden. Mrs. Ward is well known as a local green-thumb gardener.
“We’ve spent days preparing and harvesting,” he said. “Well, they do most of the harvesting! And there have been lots of trips to wherever to do whatever, whenever. I have watched them grow as students, as individuals and, most importantly, as Christians. They work hard, they play hard, and they rest hard. We have been in the same house together more since the middle of March, and I can say that there has not been a day that I have ever considered it to be a hardship or something I need to get away from. They’ve been so great throughout this COVID-19 (corona virus disease, 2019) thing that I almost can’t believe others who can’t say the same. We have been a team, and God has moved in so many ways for this team in the past two months, as well as in the past 10 years.
“I would never be so silly as to try and tell anyone that it’s always been cupcakes and root beers,” he continued. “But I will say this: they have changed my life for the better in more ways than they will ever know or than I could even ever express. I will always cherish the years that have passed, and I am so looking forward to the great years ahead as they follow the new course that God has prepared for them in their lives and our lives. Thank you, Jael, Anna and Sara for being great daughters. I am proud of all that you have already accomplished and of the young women you have become. And I can only thank God for blessing me with this awesome family. That really makes me look good!”
More about the sisters
Mrs. Ward offered more explication about her daughters.
Jael Winkler is a member of the Mountain Island Charter School (or MICS) class of 2016.
She began taking classes at Gaston College that August, as Mrs. Ward informed. Jael started with thoughts of becoming a nurse, so she took classes that she needed to pursue that career. During the summer of 2017, Jael took the CNA (or certified nursing assistant) course and began working for a local company, taking care of a patient.
Then in the autumn of 2018, Jael was accepted into the nursing program. But after a short while, she decided that was not where her interest was. She continued taking classes at Gaston College and switched her major to finish her associate in arts degree. Jael is now pursing another avenue in the medical field, and she is on a current waiting list to hopefully begin in August. She continues to work at her first job as a cashier at the Food Lion in Stanley, whilst also taking care of her patient each week, as Mrs. Ward noted.
“Jael is a hard worker,” she said, “dedicated and a happy person that loves to meet people.”
Anna Winkler is a graduate of the MICS class of 2018.
She began taking Gaston College classes in autumn of 2018. When Anna went to sign up for classes, the counselor looked at her grades, noting that she had been an honor society member, and asked her if she was interested in being in the SPARC program (a spin-off of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math).
“She showed no interest,” as Mrs. Ward recalled. “But before we arrived home from signing up for classes, she had already received an e-mail from the director of the program, asking her to come in for an interview. Anna went to the interview the next day and quickly made a decision to be a part of the SPARC program. The program pays for all of her education while at Gaston College. She has had many opportunities to travel and represent the college and present projects that her program studies.
“Anna loves all of the crime shows,” she added, “and she has known for a while that she wants to be in a laboratory. This August, she will be transferring to Western Carolina to finish and hopefully graduate with a degree in forensic anthropology. She pays her bills by babysitting and loves her time with the little family that she takes care of. She is dedicated, loving and very quiet and very pleasant to be around.”
Sara Winkler is the youngest.
She is, as her proud mom said, “my senior that will be graduating from Mountain Island Charter’s class of 2020. Sara runs cross country in the autumn season, and in the spring, she loves to play softball. She is a part of the concert band and pep band, where she plays her flute. She is an A/B student and does very well in school.
“Sara is also waiting to perform her senior solo at her last dance recital that we hope will be planned in the next few months,” she added. “Sara will be attending Gaston College in August. She wants to get a degree as a dietician and help people be healthy and eat healthy. Sara is loving and kind. She is a great helper, and during COVID-19, she has been doing a lot of the chores around the house and most of the cooking.”