Jonesboro resident Shondra Echols will appear as a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” tonight. Echols, a parent liaison at Charles Drew High School, said she has been a fan of show for years. (Photo courtesy of “Wheel of Fortune”/Carol Kaelson)
JONESBORO — Charles Drew High School Principal Gary Townsend had one request for the school’s parent liaison, Shondra Echols, before she went to Los Angeles in October to tape an appearance on “Wheel of Fortune.”
“When I told him I needed to take a couple of days off, he just said, ‘Please don’t embarrass us,’ ” Echols said Wednesday.
Echols, a resident of Jonesboro, has been a fan of the vocabulary game show for years and is set to appear on television sets across the nation tonight as a contestant. In addition to working for the county’s school system, she’s a life-long Clayton County resident.
And although she’s not allowed to divulge how she did before the show airs, she teased that her fellow county residents won’t be disappointed — and Townsend won’t be embarrassed.
“I did Clayton County proud, I think,” she said.
The game show will air at 7 p.m. on the local network, MyATL. Depending on whether a person uses over the air channels or has cable, it is available on either Channel 36 via antenna, Channel 13 on Comcast and Channel 3 on Charter.
Echols appearance on the show has literally been years in the making. She said she submitted her name as a potential contestant several years ago when she signed up online to be a member of the game’s “Wheel Watchers Club.” Last summer, she got an email informing her that auditions were about to take place at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta.
She said she had to submit a videotape about herself beforehand, to be able to participate in the auditions. Once she got to the hotel for the auditions, that’s when she started to feel the pressure.
“The audition was the most intimidating part of the whole experience because there were so many people there trying out to be on the show and we had to go through all of these rounds of playing the game,” said Echols.
After she was selected, Echols was originally given a July date to appear on a show that was taped in Las Vegas, but she said she had to decline that date because it would have been too costly between airfare and a hotel.
She then got her second chance Oct. 18, but she said she made it a quick trip to keep the cost down. She flew out to Los Angeles Oct. 17 and came back Oct. 19. She got to do a little sightseeing her first night in town with an old friend.
The highlight, however, came the next day when she got on the “Wheel of Fortune” set.
“It was so exciting because I got to be on the set and meet Pat Sajack and Vanna White,” said Echols. “I’ve seen them on TV for years but to be able to see them in person and meet them was surreal. It was like a dream.”
Now, the only nerve-wracking part of her experience will be waiting to see how the teachers she works with at Charles Drew High School — particularly the English teachers — react to her performance on the show.
It is a show that tests contestants on vocabulary and spelling skills after all.
“I didn’t tell too many people I was going out there to tape the show, but now they all know I’m going to be on TV and I’m sure the English teachers will be paying close attention to everything that comes out of my mouth,” said Echols with a laugh.