BY KARISSA MILLER
A friendship forged at the Special Olympics took a magical turn on Wednesday as Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Brady Johnson welcomed the district’s first ever honorary superintendent in a heartwarming ceremony.
Carson Lester, 19, took his seat in the superintendent’s chair on Wednesday afternoon after receiving a plaque that commemorated the occasion.
“It’s not just for a day — it’s for a lifetime,” Johnson told the South Iredell High School senior.
The moment was a dream come true for Carson, who also attends school at the Career Academy and Technical School – and one that Johnson was excited to fulfill.
“You have no idea the influence you’ve had on his life,” Carson’s mom, Debra Lester, told the superintendent. “You are very special to us.”
The idea came about after Johnson received word that Carson had asked for an autographed photo of Johnson as his adopt-a-senior gift.
After learning of the request, the superintendent took it a step further.
Carson was invited to the Central Office in Statesville for a special meeting where he received the autographed photo of Johnson with a message that read: “To my friend Carson who taught me more than I taught him.”
Carson, who loves anything with the I-SS logo, was also showered with a table full of gifts, including a book bag, notepad, coffee mug and other items.
During their meeting, Johnson and Carson changed into their graduation regalia and took a picture together. Johnson also gave the young man his entire collection of I-SS school baseball caps.
“I didn’t know about the baseball caps. I knew there was going to be something special,” Carson said, smiling.
Carson was over-the-moon excited about visiting with the superintendent, who is leaving his position at the end of June after 40 years of working in public education in Iredell County.
“He didn’t sleep the night before,” Debra said. “He was so anxious to come and meet Mr. Johnson because he was afraid he wasn’t going to see him again,” she added.
Carson also had a special gift for the superintendent, a gift bag — in I-SS colors — that contained his famous homemade pickles and a framed photo of the first time the two met.
Debra recalled that day, when Carson spotted the superintendent in the crowd at the Special Olympics.
“You reached your hand out and you said, ‘Hi, I’m Brady Johnson.’ ”
“In true autism nature, he said, ‘I know who you are. You are Brady Johnson. You graduated from South Iredell High School’…. stating your whole bio,” she added, stating he was a big fan before they met.
Another picture showed Carson with his birthday cake.
“He insisted on having the I-SS logo on his cake,” Debra said.
The last picture in the frame was of Carson dressed in his cap and gown.
“I’ll keep this forever. This is my last graduation, too,” Johnson said. “I want you to know that you made my day today.”