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.


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.”