Central Middle School Presents the 2024 Coastal Athletic Conference Cheer Competition

On a vibrant Saturday, February 3, 2024, Central Middle School in Gatesville, North Carolina, transformed into a dynamic arena for the Coastal Athletic Conference Middle School Cheer Competition. The event saw young cheerleaders from various schools displaying a stylish fusion of athleticism and spirit.

Demonstrating their precision and teamwork, the participants captivated the audience with their high-energy routines. Each team performed a meticulously choreographed sequence lasting two minutes and thirty seconds, featuring awe-inspiring stunts, flawless tumbling, high jumps, and spirited chants. Their polished execution and synchronization underscored their impressive dedication and skill.

The cheerful revelry was further amplified by the exhibition performances put on by the Chowan University Sapphire Cheer Squad and the spirited Gates County High School Red Barons. Setting the tempo for the entire event was Alvin “DJ Smooth” Hobbs, whose musical selections kept the crowd's energy up. Makayla Gregory brilliantly captured the day's highlights through her photography and videography.

This year's cheer competition was made possible through the generosity and support of Gates County Community Partnership, S&T Storage, River Road Enterprise, Lee Insurance, Thomas Langston Plumbing, The Petaler, Dalton and Chaney’s, along with community supporters Lola Rountree and Dr. Althea Riddick.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is extended to all the sponsors, volunteers, parents, and avid cheer fans whose commitment and support played a pivotal role in the success of this exuberant celebration of community spirit and young talent.

Conference results were as follows:

Central Middle School, Reba Green-Holley, Head Coach, Regan Robinson, Asst. Coach

Gold – 1st Place
Build Team Routine
Individual Routine
Spirit – Most Energetic and Spirited Cheerleader

2nd Place

Chowan County Middle School, Tina Downing, Head Coach, Robin Mount, Asst. Coach

Gold – 1st Place
Non-Build Team Routine
Tumble -Off

2nd Place
Jump- Off

3rd Place
Spirit – Most Energetic and Spirited Cheerleader

Martin County Middle School, Mechelle Brown, Head Coach, Carolyn Brown, Asst. Coach

Gold – 1st Place

2nd Place
Non-Build Team Routine
Individual Routine
Spirit – Most Energetic and Spirited Cheerleader

3rd Place


Science for All Summit: Completion of the Vision


CHAPEL HILL, NC (Jan. 17, 2024) — After many years of voicing the purpose of my IDEA work, I decided to put those words down in writing. Once an avid blogger, I decided to share my thoughts again about the why, how, when, and where we think about creating safe spaces where all of us can belong and feel comfortable in a welcoming environment. My new blog series will share these thoughts and the importance of these spaces for those of us working in the IDEA field as well as those seeking a better understanding of equity in STEM.

What sparked the vision? After a visit to Washington, DC, to a convening meeting in May 2022 where I watched colleagues and peers gather to discuss equity in STEM, I thought North Carolina needed a similar gathering and conversation. The central region of North Carolina is a hub for scientific innovation, discovery, and learning; therefore, I felt it needed to have this type of focus on equity in STEM. We were not seeing it as a focus in other spaces here in North Carolina. I brought my vision back home to North Carolina and sought understanding and support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has been a staunch advocate for this work and these conversations for years. The next step was to put it all together. Fortunately, a great team of people was there to help and support this vision and the work.

Morehead created the tagline “Science for All” and has used it as a guiding principle for the organization. Establishing the Science for All Summit was a “no-brainer” for me through my visionary lens. In my mind, I envisioned this convening of colleagues in education and science, thought leaders, and change agents working to create safe spaces of belonging and well-being for those historically excluded and marginalized in STEM education and STEM fields.

After months of hard work and planning, April 2023 brought my vision into existence. More than I could have imagined was the reality of what came to pass in April 2023. Educators, scientists, university/college staff, students, and more gathered to hear about advocating for equity in STEM through the tenets of IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access). Through their feedback and data, we know that the keynote speakers were inspirational and the best aspect of the conference for our attendees.

What do I hope for 2024? I hope that the energy and vibe in Chapel Hill will be even more engaging for our attendees. I hope that our attendees will be excited to see this year’s dynamic keynote speakers and presenters, as well as participate in an amazing cultural evening experience at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

What else do I envision for the Science for All Summit? I have a vision for this gathering to grow into a full statewide—then national—convening space for those doing and wanting to do IDEA work for STEM. The journey to the Science for All Summit has not inflicted any “pains” except my own personal anxiety to birth this vision. A vision that was born to bridge people of all backgrounds and their cultural identities into STEM was, at times, weighed down by my own personal anxiety around the acceptance of this work from the field and community. Ultimately, as a reconciliation within myself, I had to remember that the fight for equity is never a dream deferred.

We hope that you will join us on February 28-29, 2024. It is a gathering for a vision complete.

Crystal Harden, EdD, is the director of program and inclusion initiatives at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Education.



2023 Recipients of The Student STEM Enrichment Program Announced


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (13 November 2023)— The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is proud to introduce the recipients of the 2023 Student STEM Enrichment Program. This program was created nearly 30 years ago to empower and inspire North Carolina students to pursue excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through activities taking place outside of the traditional classroom schedule.

“The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is committed to nurturing the next generation of STEM leaders and innovators,” said Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Program Officer, Alfred Mays. “The diversity of these programs and the students they will interact with represent the future of scientific discovery and technological advancement, and we are excited to support them in their educational journeys.”

The 2023 recipients are:

  • Digi-Bridge | Advancing STEM Education through Digi-Bridge Programming and Robotics Squads
  • Global Health Connections International | Preparing For My Future “FULL STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) AHEAD”
  • Hickory Day School | Lego Education Robotics Club & FIRST Lego League Team
  • High Point University | STEMtastic Adventures
  • North Carolina Aquarium | A Year of STEM at the North Carolina Aquariums
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences | North Carolina Young Scientist Society
  • Partners In Ministry | Career and Exploration STEM Academy (CESA)
  • Patterson School Foundation | Appalachian Appropriate Technology Camp
  • Surry County Schools | Emerging Medical Leaders Program
  • Triangle Land Conservancy | The Pathways into Natural Environments and Science (PINES) Fellowship
  • University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill | Geo-Health Interns: Geoscience and Environmental Health Career Connections for Robeson County High School Students
  • University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill | Morehead Planetarium and Science Center Saunders Science Scholars Program Support
  • Wayne County Public Schools | STEM Adventures

The 2023 recipients have been chosen from a competitive pool of applicants from all over the state. SSEP supports diverse programs with a common goal: to enable primary and secondary students to participate in creative, hands-on STEM activities for K-12 students and pursue inquiry-based exploration in BWF’s home state of North Carolina. These awards provide up to $60,000 per year for three years. Since the program’s inception in 1996, BWF has awarded 275 grants totaling $41.4 million to 130 organizations.

SSEP awards support career-oriented and practical programs intended to provide creative STEM enrichment activities for students in K-12 education who have shown exceptional skills and interest in STEM, as well as those perceived to have high potential.  After-school programs are demonstrating value in helping to close opportunity gaps for underserved and underrepresented students.

For more information about the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and its programs, please visit bwfund.org.

Gates County Community Partnership's “The Access Initiative” Helps Bridge the Digital Divide

In an initiative to help bridge the significant digital divide prevalent in rural America, Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) has relaunched “The Access Initiative.” This program aims to provide laptops to eligible students at Central Middle School and Gates County High School, fostering improved educational outcomes and empowering the next generation.

The digital divide refers to the inequality in access to technology and online resources, creating barriers for students in rural areas. Recognizing the urgency of addressing this disparity, Gates County Community Partnership has taken proactive steps to equip local students with the essential tools they need to succeed academically and beyond.

To qualify for “The Access Initiative,” students must be currently enrolled at Central Middle School or Gates County High School and eligible for free or reduced lunch. By targeting those who demonstrate financial need, the program ensures laptops are distributed to those who will benefit the most.

“The importance of technology in homes cannot be overstated. It has become an integral part of our education system, enabling students to access information, engage in online learning platforms, and develop critical digital literacy skills,” emphasized Gates County Community Partnership Director, Chante Jordan. "The Access Initiative aims to level the playing field for our students, ensuring they have the necessary technology to succeed academically. By providing laptops, we are striving to close the digital gap and empower our students to meet their full potential."

Through this initiative, students will have the ability to conduct research, complete assignments, and collaborate on projects using online resources, creating a more interactive and engaging learning environment. By breaking down the barriers caused by the digital divide, Gates County Community Partnership is fostering equity in education and promoting exceptional academic outcomes for all students.

Applications can be found at https://gatescountycp.org/event/access-initiative-2/ and can be submitted to [email protected]. The deadline is Friday, November 3, 2023.

For more information on “The Access Initiative,” please contact Gates County Community Partnership at 252-220-5051 or email [email protected].


Gates County Community Partnership Supports Navy National Defense Cadet Corps

Gates County Community Partnership has stepped up to offer unwavering support to Gates County High School’s Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) with a donation of $1,000. This contribution will play a crucial role in assisting the cadets by covering expenses for various activities that enhance their overall experience.

Unlike many similar programs across the nation, the NNDCC receives no financial assistance from the US Navy. As a result, it must actively engage in fundraising efforts and rely on the support of the local community to provide the resources necessary for the success and development of the program.

When asked about the donation, Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of the Gates County Community Partnership, emphasized the organization's commitment to supporting local educational initiatives, stating, "We firmly believe in investing in our youth and providing them with opportunities to explore the Armed Forces. The Navy National Defense Cadet Corps is an exceptional program, and we are proud to assist them in achieving their goals."

The NNDCC program aims to cultivate leadership skills while fostering a sense of discipline among its cadets, all within the context of national defense. Students who participate in the program learn teamwork, responsibility, and citizenship skills. By exposing cadets to diverse aspects of the military, the program provides them with valuable experiences that will significantly impact their future.

The Navy National Defense Cadet Corps expresses its deep gratitude to Gates County Community Partnership for their dedication to the program's mission. The NNDCC encourages more organizations and community members to follow the example, ensuring the long-term success and stability of the program for years to come. Together, Gates County can empower and inspire future leaders.

For those interested in supporting the Navy National Defense Cadet Corps, donations can be made by contacting Gates County High School directly at 252-357-0720. Every contribution, regardless of its size, will be of great value to the growth and success of this essential educational initiative.

Gates County Community Partnership Receives Burroughs Wellcome Fund Grant

Gates County Community Partnership recently received a $5,000 grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to support youth enrichment initiatives in Gates County.

"We would like to thank the Burroughs Wellcome Fund for Investing in youth development in Gates County, as it is not only an investment in the future but it creates a brighter present," stated Sandra Jordan Branch, Director, Gates County Community Partnership. "Empowering young minds and providing them with opportunities and mentorship enables them to reach their full potential and become the change-makers our world needs."

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund serves and strengthens society by nurturing a diverse group of leaders in biomedical sciences to improve human health through education and powering discovery in frontiers of greatest need.

More information on the Burroughs Wellcome Fund can be found at:





Athletic Training Facility Opens

September 27, 2022  by Cal Bryant, Roanoke Chowan News Herald

GATESVILLE – What’s old is new at Gates County High School.

Thanks to grant funding from several sources plus the vision of local education officials and community organizations, the school’s old gym has been transformed into a state-of-the-art fitness facility.

After years of planning and several rounds of applying for the needed grant funding, school system officials and invited guests took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 16 to formally open the Gates County Schools Athletic Training Facility.

In addition to the new weight-lifting devices and exercise equipment is an “indoor field”, a smaller version of the outdoor stadium, complete with synthetic turf, that can be used by athletic teams to practice in case of inclement weather.

“What a great day it is for fitness,” stated Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams to kick off the ribbon cutting ceremony who then recognized the county’s board of education members present. Ray Felton, chair of that board, also gave remarks.

“The fitness facility was truly a collaborative effort of many individuals and groups providing the vision, design, construction and funding to make our fitness facility come to fruition.” Dr. Williams stated, “I want to thank so many people, because it takes a team to make things happen and your efforts are appreciated.”

Williams noted that the funding for the fitness facility came from grants earmarked specifically for athletic facilities. The sources of the grants were the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI)-Athletics and grants through private organizations specifically written and approved for health and wellness.

He added that because the decision was made to transform the old gym into the fitness facility, savings were realized due to the fact that a new building was not needed.

“A lot of time and effort was put into writing grants to fund this much needed facility,” Dr. Williams remarked. “We are very appreciative for the funding and know that many will benefit from this project.”

Noted contributors to the project include the Gates County Board of Education, Benjamin Saunders – President of Gates County Community Partnership – the Obici Healthcare Foundation, The Blocker Foundation, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Jeremy Wright – District Athletic Director / Director of Student Services – GCHS Principal Jonathan Hayes, GCHS Athletic Director Jacob Harrell, GCHS head football coach Matt Biggy, Johnny Greene – Director of Maintenance, and the Maintenance Crew – Bracey Perry, Ken Cowper, Randy Lowe, Jesse Matthews, Rowdy Harrell, Carlton White and Lynne Rountree.

He credited Wright, Harrell and Coach Biggy for assisting in the designing/planning stage of the facility. The Gates County Maintenance Department was given high praise for their work in making all the plans into a reality.

“It’s been about two years in the making,” said Dr. Williams. “At first we talked about doing a metal building. It kept blossoming and blossoming into what you see right here. We converted the old high school gym into an amazing fitness facility that is one of the best high school facilities in the state.”

Williams continued, “Most importantly, this is a true example of a variety of groups working together to achieve something great. We are going to continue to be champions, not only for our students but for our staff and community as well to provide a space for a healthier lifestyle.”

The new space, with its increased square footage over the old weight room, will allow more students to participate in fitness routines.

“This facility will allow us to double maybe even triple the number of students we are able to safely put in our weightlifting classes,” said Hayes. “Several of our staff members have already asked for a tutorial on how to use the equipment. The facility will help our students and staff create a healthy lifestyle.”

“I am extremely grateful for the amount of support on this project that will benefit our students, athletic programs, and Gates County community. We set out to build one of the nicest facilities in North Carolina and I believe we have achieved that,” noted Harrell.

As mentioned earlier, the facility would not have been possible without the assistance of community organizations such as the Gates County Community Partnership. Along with Saunders, other members of the group attending last week’s ribbon cutting were Brian Rountree, Sherley Jones, Jr., Sandra Jordan Branch, and Chante Jordan.

Saunders said he reached out to Dr. Williams to share information about the Obici Healthcare Foundation in an effort to see if that organization would financially support the new fitness center.

Saunders said he toured the old weight room at the high school.

“The equipment looked like what we had 30 years ago when I was here and is not conducive to athletic performance. Our students deserve better. We will never be great if we don’t figure something out,” Saunders said.

Despite the first grant proposal being rejected by the Obici Healthcare Foundation, a second effort was made.

“We had in-depth conversations with Obici and Coach Biggy, Mr. Hayes, working with Mr. Harrell and Mr. Greene, and others in Gates County Schools,” Saunders said. “Dr. Williams worked his magic and in January 2022 dreams became reality. Obici Healthcare Foundation agreed to provide the seed funding for the Gates County Schools Athletic Training Facility This space will be a catalyst for improved health outcomes for our citizens and students. It will also advance the level of performance of our athletes with equipment specifically designed for that purpose.”

Saunders stressed that the Gates County Community Partnership is all about unity and prioritizes courtesy and respect.

“We don’t focus on changing viewpoints; we focus on bonding on a human level,” he said. “A community that works together, in love and with good intentions, can do big things. A community that is objective, gives each other the benefit of the doubt, understands that each of us is inherently good; a community that is civil and strives to understand and befriend those deemed different. Nothing is more honorable. Let’s be eager to find opportunities to serve, without condition or expectation.”

My Student Experience: Reading Program Started By Lisa Wilkins ’22MED Connects Gates County Students With Mentors

September 22, 2022  

On a Friday afternoon at T.S. Cooper Elementary School in Sunbury, North Carolina, almost 40 fourth- and fifth-grade boys sat down with male mentors from across the Gates County community and cracked open the first page of Dwayne Reed’s Simon B. Rhymin’.

For the rest of March and April, the Mentors Empowering Our Wildcats (MEOW) Groups continued to meet. Each Friday, they read another chapter. Since T.S. Cooper Elementary had only one male teacher, members of the Gates County Community Partnership, as well Gates County principals, high school teachers and even the county superintendent, Barry Williams, stepped in to serve as the students’ mentors.

“It was all about how it is really cool for men to read, to build those relationships, and every male mentor shared their story,” said Lisa Wilkins ’22MED, a teacher and instructional support coach at T.S. Cooper who earned her Master of Education in New Literacies and Global Learning – Reading Education last semester.

Wilkins started the mentorship program after inspiration struck while taking ECI 508: Teachers As Leaders with Associate Professor Jill Grifenhagen.

Wilkins had spent more than two decades teaching classics like Charlotte’s Web, but despite her love for those books, Grifenhagen’s class made her want to try something different. When she noticed Simon B. Rhymin available on Scholastic’s website for $1 a copy, she bought 42 of them. Then, she reached out to the Gates County Community Partnership, as well as other male mentors in the school district, to get the mentorship program underway.

The goal of the program was to help the students build positive relationships with male mentors through reading, and to provide a welcoming environment where that could occur.

“It was all about building relationships,” Wilkin said. “It was never to put a student on the spot because we all know that we have students that are not as well developed readers as others, so if they felt like that, they didn’t have to read.”

At the final session, each student was given a kite, which they assembled and flew with the mentors.

“Some of them had never flown a kite before,” Wilkins said. “It was really, truly amazing.”

For the students, the mentorship program became a way for them to break up their normal routine with something new and exciting. It’s an impulse that Wilkins understands well, the same impulse that inspired her to pursue a graduate degree.

“Once you teach for a while, you’re like, ‘I need something to refresh that spirit,’” Wilkins said. “To refresh that spirit, I applied to NC State for the master’s degree program.”

In the program, Wilkins was exposed to new ideas that broadened her view of education.

“Sometimes you think that everybody teaches like you do and is in the same environment that you are,” Wilkins said. “Then when you get into a class where one of my colleagues that worked in the class said that her school had 60 different languages, I was sitting here thinking that I didn’t even know there were 60 languages.”

She also learned techniques that allowed her to increase the impact she can make on students.

“Everything just aligned and just meshed together, making you really understand how to help kids learn how to read,” Wilkins said.

Those techniques were useful when Wilkins, inspired again by her Teachers as Leaders course, decided to work with 12 students on a poetry activity. Those 12 students then submitted their poems to the Young Writers program, and each one of them is now a published author.

“We have one stoplight in our entire town, our entire county, so we’re very out there,” Wilkins said. “We’re like tractors and farmers and that kind of thing, and just for the kids to feel that they’re important, that was just super.”

The poetry activity, as well as the MEOW Groups mentorship program, were a way for Wilkins to use what she learned at the NC State College of Education to further inspire a love of literacy.

“I definitely think that spark is there now,” Wilkins said. “The [MEOW Groups students] begged the entire time, “Can I please take this book home?’”

Upon completion of the mentorship program, each student did receive their own copy of Simon B. Rhymin’, to read whenever they liked.

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.