Gates County High School Students Chosen for Salk Institute Summer Science Program

“Every cure has a starting point. Dare to make dreams into reality.” - Salk

Gates County High School students Kaylin Wilson and Derek Eason were recently selected to participate in the “Salk Introduction to Research Science” program this summer. They are two of only three students from North Carolina chosen for this extraordinary month-long enrichment opportunity.

“We would like to thank the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Salk Institute of Biological Studies for supporting the students of Gates County Schools,” stated Brian Rountree, Director of Gates County Community Partnership. “This is an incredible program that will nourish the minds of our scholars and maybe lead them towards careers in medicine! Education is the antidote for disease.”

The Salk Introduction to Research Science Program is a STEM educational experience geared towards providing students a first look at science outside of a traditional classroom setting through hands-on and virtual experiences. Salk Education Outreach has translated the time-tested curriculum to a hybrid modality in order to expand its reach to high-potential students outside of San Diego County, California.

Program elements include scientific inquiry and communication skills, interactions with diverse mentor scientists, as well as hands-on and virtual lab simulations. The program will use Salk Education Outreach expertise in science communication to equip students with necessary skill sets that will make them better qualified candidates for future STEM internship opportunities. The overall goal of the program is to enable and encourage students that may have limited opportunities in science with the opportunity to explore their interests and prepare for future STEM internships.

“The Burroughs Wellcome Fund breathes its mission to improve human health through education and we are grateful for the opportunity they presented at Salk,” emphasized Dr. Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. “Kailyn and Derek will excel and forge a path for other county students to follow.”


Youth Baseball / Softball Signup Underway at Community Center

Gates County Index

GATESVILLE – Youth baseball and softball are officially back at the Gates County Community Center.

With the assistance of Gates County local government, Gates County Schools, Gates County Community Partnership as well as an outpouring of support from private donors within the community and neighboring areas, the idea of restarting a youth baseball and softball program has become a reality.

The Community Center is currently taking registrations for boys and girls ages 7 through 12 until April 1. The fee is $40 per player.

The league, which begins in May, will be chartered as part of Tarheel Leagues, Inc. All home games will be housed at the Community Center, with the possibility of a few additional games against neighboring counties. There will also be an All-Star opportunity that will take place around the 4th of July at a site to be determined later.

If you have a baseball or softball player and would like to sign them up, contact the Community Center at 252-357-0677 for more information on how to register.

The Community Center is also playing host to Albemarle Senior Games on March 29.


Saunders Legacy Remains

By Cal Bryant

Editor, Gates County Index

GATESVILLE – As he did while still walking among us, Benjamin Saunders, Sr. is still making headlines.

Saunders, who spent 40 years in Gates County Public Schools – first as a science and math teacher, then as principal of T.S. Cooper Elementary School – has posthumously received the highest honor in North Carolina and is now an inductee of The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society.

The honor was granted by Governor Roy Cooper in acknowledgement of Saunders’ contributions to the state and his community through exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.

It was officially awarded on June 12 at an event held in his memory – Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr. Community Day – at Gates County High School. It’s in the field of education where his legacy remains alive and well.

In 2018, Saunders endorsed, and lent his name, to a collaborative partnership between Gates County Schools and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in support of a new STEM enrichment program.

The Saunders Science Scholars program provides resources and events to the Gates County Schools community, in particular middle school students and their families, to explore science in a meaningful way. Each month, students and an adult from their household meet with a Morehead educator to do science activities, discuss ways to connect through science, participate in special events (like speaker engagements and field trips) and more.

His passion for education also lives on at his alma matter, Elizabeth City State University, where he and his wife endowed the “Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr. and Aileene M. Saunders Scholarship of Excellence.”

At the June 12 event, Dr. Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead, noted it was a “great way to honor a great man.”

“He loved his community,” she added. “We mourned his death in November (2020) but in June, we celebrate him.”

The Community Day event featured competitive games set within a learning environment. Prizes were awarded to the winners. Food trucks were on hand as were booths staffed by community partners.

Harden praised the Gates County community for coming together to sponsor the event. She thanked Gates County Schools, the exhibitors, and the Saunders Science Scholars volunteers.

She signaled out the core group of Saunders Science Scholars who started on the ground floor of the program upon entering the sixth grade at Central Middle School.

“Ya’ll are now rising ninth graders,” Harden noted. “We are so proud of what you have accomplished in three short years. We have high expectations of each of you as your journey continues.”

Dr. Todd Boyette, Director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill, said he and his staff remain appreciative of the efforts of the Saunders family for their continued love and support of the Science Scholars program.

“In November when we lost Benjamin Saunders, Sr. we were separated by the miles between Chapel Hill and Gates County as well as a medical pandemic,” he observed. “We were living a socially distanced life, so we looked at what was in our control to honor the life and legacy of this great man. We approved a proclamation at that time which established June 20, 2021 – Father’s Day – as Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr. Day at the planetarium.”

As it turned out, that proclamation was just part of what the staff at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center wanted to do to honor their late colleague.

Harden explained the original plan included the Community Day – as held on Saturday.

“Todd had a different idea; he said if we’re going to do something, lets do something big,” Harden said.

The “big plan” turned out to be contacting Governor Cooper’s office to see if they would consider Saunders, Sr. as a candidate for inclusion into The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society.

“However, under most circumstances, this award is not given posthumously,” Harden remarked. “We went for it anyway and were blessed to have three glowing letters of recommendation written in support of our efforts.”

One week later, the Governor’s office responded, saying Cooper had approved the request.

“This is the highest honor a North Carolina citizen can receive for state service,” Harden explained. “(Saunders) always talked about having stars in your crown. I now believe he has one of the biggest stars in his crown as a recipient of this award. He’s on a very select list of recipients.”

Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr. – President of Gates County Community Partnership that supports the Science Scholars program named for his late father as well as other educational projects – spoke on behalf of the family.

“My family and myself are beyond grateful,” he said, thanking Gates County Schools, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the citizens of Gates County, and the Office of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for bestowing such an esteem honor on his late father.

“If you knew my father, you knew his infatuation with plaques,” Saunders, Jr. said with a laugh. “It did not matter what they were for, but this one is different. This one is the crown jewel. Dad deserves this honor. It recognizes his work for Gates County and the measure of the love he had for his home.”

His son pointed out how his father looked at life, how he carried himself, and what he represented during his time on earth.

“He would say, do better, be better, empathize, serve, learn from one another, and love each other,” Saunders, Jr. said. “In summary, just live your life to be a blessing, that is the pathway to peace.”

To learn more about the Saunders Science Scholars program, visit moreheadplanetarium.org/saunders.

 


Late Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr. Receives The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society Award

The prestigious award is reserved for NC governors’ highest honor!

By Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

June 12, 2021 | GATES COUNTY, NC

The late Benjamin Saunders, Sr., a pillar of the Gates County community, has posthumously received the highest honor in North Carolina and is now an inductee of The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society. The honor is granted by Governor Roy Cooper in acknowledgement of Saunders’ contributions to the state and his community through exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.

A dedicated educator, Saunders spent 40 years in Gates County Public Schools—first as a science and math teacher, then as principal of T. S. Cooper Elementary School. He was a leader and beacon of light in his community especially for his students and staff. His passion for education lives on at his alma mater, Elizabeth City State University, where he and his wife endowed the “Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr, and Aileene M. Saunders Scholarship of Excellence."

“Mr. Saunders’ impact is what we all should aspire to,” says Todd Boyette, Director of Morehead. “He was a true advocate for education and demonstrated an unwavering commitment to children in Gates County and across our state.”

In 2018, Saunders endorsed—and lent his name—to a collaborative partnership between Gates County Public Schools and Morehead in support of a new STEM enrichment program.

The Saunders Science Scholars program provides resources and events to the Gates County Schools community, in particular middle school students and their families, to explore science in a meaningful way. Each month, students and a caring adult from their household meet with a Morehead educator to do science activities, discuss ways to connect through science, participate in special events (like speaker engagements and field trips) and more.

“Mr. Saunders’ support meant that we could immediately connect with the greater community,” says Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead. “Beyond his invaluable support, he helped bridge the gap between our organization in Chapel Hill and his community of Gates County which he loved dearly his whole life.”

Boyette presented the award at the Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr. Community Day on June 12 in Gates County. In addition to the Long Leaf Pine award, Mr. Saunders’ contributions will also be recognized on June 20th as Morehead Planetarium and Science Center designates the day as “Benjamin Cornell Saunders, Sr. Day."

ABOUT MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM AND SCIENCE CENTER

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is a unit of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Morehead works to serve North Carolina and beyond by bringing together the unique resources of UNC to engage the public for an improved public understanding of science, technology, and health.

To learn more about the Saunders Science Scholars program, visit moreheadplanetarium.org/saunders.


Opportunity to Fund Youth Outreach in Gates County

The Gates County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) announced the availability of $74,375 for 2021 - 2023. Use of funds requires a 20% local match.

The mission of JCPC is to address the gaps in youth services by promoting prevention, intervention, treatment, aftercare strategies and programs which strengthen families and support community safety.

JCPC will consider proposals for mentoring services, parent/family skill building, vocational skills, interpersonal skill building, tutoring/academic enhancement, restitution/community service, teen court, psychological assessments and counseling programs.

The deadline for applications is at the end of February 2021. Additional information can be obtained from Lulu Eure at 252-357-0677.


District Spotlight Overview - Gates County Schools Partnerships

From Dr. Barry Williams

Superintendent, Gates County Schools

"Gates County Schools understands the education of students is a collaborative effort with the involvement of educational stakeholders. Our vision pronounces an 'ideal' future for our students considering the changes in science, technology, the environment and the uniqueness of our rural community and school district. To provide our students with experiences easily accessible for larger school districts in highly populated areas, we need to utilize partnerships to provide educational opportunities for students to explore STEM in a positive way."

"The Saunders Science Scholars program, with the collaboration of the Gates County Community Partnership, provides resources and events to the Gates County Schools community, in particular middle school students and their families, to explore science in a meaningful way. Each month, students and a caring adult from their household meet with a Morehead educator to do science activities, discuss ways to connect through science, participate in special events (like speaker engagements and field trips) and more. In addition to working with cohorts of students, the Saunders Science Scholars program supports Gates County Schools by providing outreach through Morehead Planetarium & Science Center’s mobile programs."

"The Saunders Science Scholars program and the Gates County Community Partnership is a wonderful opportunity for the students and families of Gates County Schools. The investment in our students is a gift that is immeasurable.  Please contact Dr. Barry Williams at [email protected] for more information."


Educational Gifts - CMS Students Surprised with Laptop Computers and Home Internet Hotspots

By Cal Bryant

Editor, Gates County Index

Gatesville – The motto of Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) is “to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.”

Those words were on full display here Saturday morning in the parking lot of Gates County High School. There, 15 rising eight graders at Central Middle School were the surprised recipients of hi-tech gifts that will enrich their lives educationally.

Those students, representing the core group of the Saunders Science Scholars who are now rising eight graders, each received Chromebooks (laptop computers), Jetpacks (that provide internet hotspots at their homes) and goody bags containing other items.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at UNC-Chapel Hill introduced the Saunders Science Scholars program in Gates County Schools in the summer of 2018, thanks to funding by their advisory board member, Steve Butts of the Butts Charitable Trust, and through a collaborative effort of GCCP.

The program – named after Benjamin Saunders, Sr., the beloved former science teacher and later principal at T.S. Cooper Elementary School in Sunbury – provides resources and events to the Gates County Schools community, in particularly middle school students and their families, to explore science. The program was designed after Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s family science enrichment program.

A second grant through the Butts Charitable Trust will add 15 more students at the middle school (rising 7th graders) to the program. They will receive their Chromebooks and jetpacks at a later date.

“The Saunders Science Scholars program will mentor these students all the way through their senior year at the high school,” said GCCP President Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr. “The program also offers other educational outreach venues for these students and their parents.”

“This is all for the educational uplift of these students,” Saunders stressed. “This gives them the tools they need to be the best they can be, whether they choose to move forward with their education at a college, a trade school, or the military. It’s all about giving them an opportunity to broaden their horizons.”

GCCP was formed in October of 2018 by Benjamin Saunders, Jr., Brian Rountree, Sherley Jones, Jr., and Michael Gatling – all Gates County natives and GCHS grads. They have hosted several events, to include youth basketball camps and alumni basketball games. They have donated supplies and equipment to the local school system as well as implemented a scholarship fund.

“Giving back allows the community to thrive economically, socially and in the realm of education,” said Jones. “Anytime we can make our community a better place, it’s a good day for each individual citizen. Yes, it’s great for the kids, but something like this is a blessing for everyone.”

“The Science Scholars will be engaged throughout the year with science activities based on our curriculum and activities for the community here,” stated Crystal Harden, Director of Programs and Inclusion Initiatives at UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

“They will also take tours of college campuses and engage with real scientists about their research projects, both in person and via Zoom (real-time meetings online),” she added. “And the parents are engaged as well.”

Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams had high praise for the Community Partnership and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. “Gates County Community Partnership, led by Mr. Benjamin Saunders, Jr., Mr. Brian Rountree, and Mr. Sherley Jones, and the Saunders Science Scholars program supported by Ms. Crystal Harden, Director of Programs and Inclusion Initiatives at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are a godsend,” Dr. Williams said. “Their generous spirit of giving back to the community by providing educational opportunities for the students and families in Gates County Schools is immeasurable.”

“The investments they have made in our school community by donating educational resources, their time, talent and passion is extremely appreciated. Together, we have made tremendous progress for our children and families. Because of organizations, universities and Gates County alumni working together, we are leveraging opportunities and capitalizing on assets to increase student engagement and promote student success now and in the future,” he added.

https://www.roanoke-chowannewsherald.com/2020/07/28/educational-gifts/


Only a Spark

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - The Campaign for Carolina

The second Stephen Butts ’92 ’98 (M.B.A.) stepped foot on Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s mobile science laboratory traveling bus and witnessed the wide-eyed wonder of grade schoolers putting on a lab coat and goggles for the first time he was sold.

“I could see the impact,” he said. “I had to be part of Morehead Planetarium’s work.”

He joined its Board of Advisors, which he now chairs, and is helping to provide North Carolina school children — particularly ones residing in rural communities — with the same access and opportunities to experience and fall in love with STEM fields.

Butts, who co-founded Arrivo BioVentures, LLC, a drug development company and has spent the last 25 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and his fiancee, Addie Miller, are a driving force behind the Saunders Science Scholars Program, a family science enrichment program in Gates County, NC named in honor of Gates County resident and former science educator and principal, Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr.. The program will provide monthly enrichment science activities and a weeklong summer camp for 15 sixth graders and their parents. Activities will include field trips to the Dismal Swamp State Park, Elizabeth City State University’s aerospace science department, Jockey’s Ridge State Park and Merchant’s Millpond State Park, among others.

Gates County, which has more than 11,000 residents and a poverty rate of 12 percent, serves more than 1,600 students. The program will also bring Morehead’s mobile planetarium, mobile science vehicle, classroom science visits, assembly-styled science demonstrations, and teacher trainings to Gates County.

“Being a Gates County native, my father and I understand the importance and impact of this opportunity for Gates County and the school system,” said Benjamin Saunders Jr., son of the program’s namesake. “The entire community is excited to be a part of the program.”

The program’s first activity for the 15 sixth graders and their parents was building and launching rockets. According to all involved it was an immediate hit.

“The support for the initiative is overwhelming. The school board, school system, teachers, and the parents are all engaged and committed.” Butts said. “And it just took a little spark.”

https://campaign.unc.edu/story/only-a-spark/