Beyond The Surface: A Profile of Tonya Lee

Beyond The Surface: A Profile of Tonya Lee

Hannah Kenyon, Writer

The Parts Played

Tonya Lee, Youngker’s 36-year-old athletic director, is in charge of operations, facilities, and clubs. She describes her position in operations and facilities as to when there is something broken or in need of landscaping, she is the one to go to. Along with her position in clubs and student council, she is the organizer and makes things possible for the students and organizations. Ms. Lee also holds the title as the first female athletic director in the Buckeye district, which she feels is an honor. With being a female A.D., she states to have “never once felt any discrimination or has ever been treated differently by coworkers or students.” Ms. Lee claims that she even “likes to refer to her coworkers as teammates,” and explains that she feels this way because they “work together, build together, and create bonds with each other as a team would.” Ms. Lee explains that she loves her job dearly; she loves watching her students grow, develop, and excel in life beyond just sports. Ms. Lee is not just there for the thrill of athletics, but to guide students throughout their lives.

The Influencer

Since I have gotten to know Ms. Lee, I have come to the realization that she is so much more than an athletic director or organizer. She has layers to her character. She is a mother of two, a leader, a voice, an influence, and she is much more beyond the surface of her armor. Since Ms. Lee is seen as an influence or looked up to by her students and athletes, I asked her who her personal influencer was as a child. She states, “My grandfather. He was an amazing man that shared a common love for sports and always was encouraging me, and though he is no longer here, I know he would be proud.” Her grandfather had loved basketball, and he even was offered a scholarship for it, but had no other option other than to politely decline as he had to go to work in order to provide for his family. So, in a way, Ms. Lee got to do what he did not a chance to do, making her grandfather proud of her accomplishments and pursuits.

The Last Straw

Though her grandfather played a large part as to why she wanted to become an A.D., an incident in the 3rd graded shaped Ms. Lee’s future.  In the third grade in her P.E class, Ms. Lee was “ecstatic to play the game that day so the teacher made me sit in time out just because I was so excited to play.” During her time out is when Ms. Lee stated she realized “I wanted to be an A.D and let those who were excited play, play, and allow them to have the ability to play.” Ms. Lee described that her goal is to improve students in not only athletics, but on a more personal level. She further explains that she does this by “getting to know each and every one of my students – learning their stories, creating a friendship type of bond with each student-athlete, teach them valuable life lessons, and help guide them into their future.” Ms. Lee talked about her former students who over the years reach out to her and inform her of their life accomplishments…and their life struggles.


The Stone Wall

I asked Ms. Lee what she has struggled with most on a personal level. She broke into tears as she went on describing how the pandemic had affected her. As we all know the pandemic shut down everything, including school and all curricular activities, and this attacked her mentally, not for her own self but more because she “could no longer witness all those students being able to have that happiness from sports or for some it gave them escape from their home life.” The pandemic became a type of stone wall that she had to build strength to climb over. It had upset her “when right down the road there where kids playing sports that she couldn’t be a part of” and this led Ms. Lee to have negative emotions and overall feel down during this time.

The Helper

I can see that she is an emotional person as she simply has a huge heart and cares deeply for those she connects with. Personally, when talking to Ms. Lee about how emotional she is towards others, I felt a connection to her, as I myself understand what it is like having a big heart, especially when it comes to helping people. I can confirm that those with big hearts will take any chance they get in order to help someone, whether it is a physical or mental situation. The overall feeling of being able to help someone overcome something, recover, and improve is just the best feeling, especially when you can put a smile on some one’s face. For Ms. Lee, it brings her happiness when she makes an impact on the lives of the young, bringing them success in the present time, and in their future.

Overcoming of The Struggle

Ms. Lee went on to claim that she is “thankful and blessed to be recovering, transforming, improving, and returning to the normal lifestyle, the lifestyle before the pandemic, and honestly even better than before the pandemic as the school has gained students.” Even as a student, it was so difficult not having the ability to socialize and help people or give them a hug when that’s what they needed, and I truly feel a connection to Ms. Lee from the mental effects of the pandemic. Though from time to time, Ms. Lee still worries about rising Covid cases closing sports and school again, she reminds herself that “nothing is promised. Not today, nor tomorrow, so make the best out of every second, every day, and live it to the fullest.” After hearing this from Ms. Lee, it made me realize that she is right. Live life to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised. Ms. Lee gained the strength to climb over the stone wall – to embrace the struggle in order to overcome it.

Cherry on Top

I can proudly say that she is not just the first female athletic director in the Buckeye School District, but Tonya Lee, overall, is an outgoing, positive, hardworking, loving, strong, caring woman with open arms to all, especially when it comes to her family. She is not type of person that is going to bring you down when you are in need of a hand; rather, she is the type of person to help you up when you have fallen, lift you up, be your strength when you feel as if you are weak, build strength within you, and remind you that you are more capable than what you know.