CYRIL, Okla. - Drive into Cyril, Oklahoma, and you sense it right away. The folks there are hardworking, likable and loyal.
"That's been important to me my whole life," said Gray.
Gray was hired to teach art there. Five days a week, she bounces between elementary and high school to help students find their passion.
But, like many school districts, there really isn't any money for extras.
Mandy and her students paint store fronts during the holidays. She even started an aluminum can drive to raise money for art supplies.
"I go to bars on the weekends, well, not on the weekends, Sunday mornings. I pick up cans and smash them, tons of cans," Gray told News 4.
Her devotion to the community hasn't gone unnoticed.
Mayor Brad Alexander knows the value of art. His granddaughter, Kenzie, is among Mandy's many students. Alexander nominated her for Pay it 4Ward.
"It makes me want to help in any way possible. It's a breath of fresh air that this is happening in our community," he said.
First Fidelity representative, Eduardo Aleman, helped us with the surprise.
“Art helps individuals express themselves. It provides a niche for people to fit in. So, on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, here's $400 to pay it forward to Mandy," Aleman said.
News 4 crashed Mandy’s art class earlier this week to present her with the money.
"Mandy, thank you so much for what you do for our community, especially my granddaughter. You know, she's had a tough couple years. Her daddy died, but seeing her express herself in that way, it means a lot. Thank you for that. You're changing lives," Alexander told Mandy.
There are so many needs in the Cyril School District, including a new projector and art supplies.
You can bet, Mandy will pour all of the money and more,into the kids she adores.
Pay it 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.