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Watch Al Roker's epic surprise for a deserving school principal and her students

Maryland Principal of the Year Taiisha Swinton-Buck and the students of Digital Harbor High School received a special surprise from Al Roker and TODAY as part of the “Once in a Lifetime” series.
/ Source: TODAY

When it comes to leading her students to success, this principal is passing with flying colors.

It’s only been three years since Taiisha Swinton-Buck took the helm at Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High School, but in that time, she’s devoted herself to bonding with students via TikTok routines, leading by example on campus and making record-setting impacts in attendance, grade averages and graduation rates.

It’s those results that led to her being named Maryland’s Principal of the Year for 2021 — and it's also the reason TODAY’s Al Roker met with her and 100 students from Digital Harbor Monday morning for a big surprise.

Monday marked week two of the “Once in a Lifetime” series, where TODAY collaborates with NBC Sports to visit the hometowns that host football games on NBC in order to shine a spotlight on people making a difference in those communities.

TODAY's Al Roker had a big surprise in store for the principal of Baltimore's Digital Harbor High, Taiisha Swinton-Buck.TODAY

So, following the Ravens victory over the Chiefs in Baltimore Sunday, M&T Bank Stadium made the perfect backdrop to honor Swinton-Buck. And Al had the perfect way to honor her, too!

Swinton-Buck calls her students “a beacon of light” in her life, so he presented the student body with the sort of surprise they could really use. Every student at Digital Harbor is receiving a brand-new Dell laptop — theirs for keeps! They’re even getting a free year of internet access to make the most of those computers.

"It means everything to us," Swinton-Buck after hearing the news. "At Digital Harbor High School, we’re focused on technology. Computers kept us connected during the COVID closures, and so we’re so happy that we can continue on trend. ... We’re going to stay focused!"

The students at the school received Dell laptops donated from NBCUniversal’s parent company, Comcast, and its Internet Essentials program.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The laptops and internet service donated come from NBCUniversal’s parent company, Comcast, and its Internet Essentials program. It provides broadband internet service to eligible families and is part of the companies billion-dollar commitment to digital equity.

Digital Harbor is getting 1,400 laptops and Comcast is giving 1,600 more to other school programs around Baltimore, for a total of 3,000 computers — TODAY’s largest ever laptop giveaway.

While Swinton-Buck is clearly thankful to see her students get such a huge helping hand with their education, it’s just as clear that her students are thankful for her.

“She always greets her students with a lot of love,” student Willian Aguirre told us.

Jaelyn Lyles said, “I feel like she has taken care of me like I'm actually her own daughter.”

And according to Dajuan Honeyblue, “Principal Swinton Buck is the best principal in the world. If you don't like her, I don't know what's wrong with you!”