Gates County Community Partnership Director Wins Seat on County’s Board of Commissioners

Gates County Community Partnership’s Brian Keith Rountree, Board Member and Vice President, recently won the general election to serve on the Gates County Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Rountree has been part of Gates County Community Partnership since its inception. He has proven himself as a man of integrity who courageously fights for the enrichment of those he serves. The elected office of county commissioner will broaden his impact.

Commissioner Elect Rountree will be sworn into office on Monday, December 5, 2022 at 5:30 pm in the old Gates County Courthouse.

DISCLAIMER: As an organization that serves all of Gates County, Gates County Community Partnership does not involve itself in partisan politics.


"Saturdays of Science - Gateway to Exploration" Begins for 2022 - 2023 School Year

The Saunders Science Scholars are pleased to invite county residents to "Saturdays of Science!" This year's theme is "Outer Space & More." The program is free and open to the public, with a target audience of elementary school students and their families. Events are fun-filled, with experiments, crafts, virtual reality, giveaways, and more!

"This is our second year delivering this program to Gates County. We are about 'expanding possibilities' and want to engage local students in STEM at an early age to encourage a love of science," said Dr. Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. "'Saturdays of Science' also gives our Saunders Science Scholars the opportunity to sow back into their community. This is something that we advocate and require for our Scholars."

The Saunders Science Scholars program began in 2018 with a cohort 6th graders. There are now two cohorts of 9th and 10th graders. The model of the program was recently adapted to allow Scholars to lead science enrichment activities for their community. An objective is to continue the cycle of educational uplift.

This year's first "Saturday of Science" took place on October 15, 2022 at Buckland Elementary School. The remaining events are November 12, 2022 at Gatesville Elementary School, December 10, 2022 at T. S. Cooper Elementary School, February 11, 2023 at Buckland Elementary School, March 11, 2023 at Gatesville Elementary School, and April 8, 2023 at T. S. Cooper Elementary School. On November 12th, PBS North Carolina will be on location.

"Exposure and mentorship matters! With this, the Saunders Science Scholars are reaching new heights," stated Brian Rountree, Vice President of Gates County Community Partnership. "We will continue to support this program because we value what it brings to our schools and citizens. It has been a catalyst for things that make Gates County better."

The Saunders Science Scholars program was named in honor of Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr., who was an esteemed educator with Gates County Schools. The program was made possible by a gift from Morehead Advisory Council member, Stephen Butts, and his wife Addie Butts. The goal is to increase students’ science self-efficacy and confidence with STEM disciplines in school and to provide mentoring that encourages students to explore careers in STEM.


Gates County High School Students Participate in NASA Student Ambassador Program

The 10th grade cohort of the Saunders Science Scholars was recently selected to participate in the pilot of the NASA Student Ambassador Program at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Hampton City Schools, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, and Newport News Public Schools were also chosen to take part in this new initiative.

"We are excited about the NASA Student Ambassador Program and are grateful that we were chosen to engage. Expectations are high for our Saunders Science Scholars and we are extremely proud of their accomplishments thus far," stated Dr. Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

The goals of the NASA Student Ambassador Program are to spark, inspire and sustain student interest in STEM by sharing NASA's mission in exploration and discovery; connect students with NASA scientists, engineers, educators, and resources that expose students to STEM content and experiences; encourage growth, learning, collaboration, and communication with peers; and immerse students in the current research and technology at NASA. The program also aims to broaden students desire to choose a STEM career field and boost the future STEM workforce at NASA and other organizations.

Sessions are monthly from October 2022 through April 2023. Requirements for program completion include the mentorship of a 5th grade student, completion of a digital badge, and participation in a culmination project/engineering design challenge.

"We are proud of the scholars for stepping up to the challenge and participating in this remarkable program. NASA is truly committed to broadening exposure to STEM activities and further developing students’ knowledge in these competences,” stated Sherley Jones, Jr., Retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, NASA Employee, and Gates County Community Partnership Director. "We believe in developing leaders and the Student Ambassador Program emboldens, encourages, and stimulates achievement."

The Saunders Science Scholars program was named in honor of Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr., who was an esteemed educator with Gates County Schools. The program was made possible by a gift from Morehead Advisory Council member, Stephen Butts, and his wife Addie Butts. The goal is to increase students’ science self-efficacy and confidence with STEM disciplines in school and to provide mentoring that encourages students to explore careers in STEM.


Partnership Supports Gates County High School's Navy Cadets

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) recently made another donation to the Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) of Gates County High School. In 2021, the organization sponsored a trip for the cadets to Nauticus/USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia.

A goal is for the cadets to experience career fields that are available to them within the Armed Services and the civilian sector of the federal government. Upcoming plans include a visit to a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship, Nauticus/USS Wisconsin, Joint Expeditionary Base–Little Creek, Fort Bragg, and our nation's capital, Washington, DC.

"The military offers technical training in a variety of career fields and also supports development activities," stated Sherley Jones, Jr., Director, Gates County Community Partnership. "I am pro-military, as it provided me with unimaginable opportunities for growth and service. I was able to retire from the US Air Force at the rank of Chief Master Sergeant with two college degrees."

Other planned events for the cadets include a Veterans Day Dinner, the NNDCC Military Ball, and the presentation of colors at three Norfolk Admirals Hockey games.

"The Navy National Defense Cadet Corps program at Gates County High School has been phenomenal for our students and our community. It teaches courage, self-control, character, fidelity, and perseverance. Participants are also encouraged to develop their passions, as these are important for life-long success and the ability to give back," emphasized Brian Rountree, Vice President, Gates County Community Partnership.

The Navy National Defense Cadet Corps is funded by Gates County, with no financial support from the US Navy. The NNDCC is actively fundraising to help cover the cost of uniforms, field trips, and other expenses that will enrich the cadet experience. To donate to the program, contact Gates County High School at 252-357-0720.

“It is my sincere desire that our cadets learn leadership, teamwork, empathy for others, self-discipline, and become informed citizens,” stated Chief John Howard, Naval Science Instructor, Gates County High School. “I also hope that through a total partnership with the families, school, and the community we can enrich each young person’s life and aid in their future successes.”

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.


Gates County Community Partnership Director Attends Engagement Scholarship Consortium International Conference

Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership, recently represented the organization at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) International Conference at the University of Georgia in Athens (September 21 – 22, 2022).

The Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization composed of higher education member institutions. Its goal is to work collaboratively to build strong university-community partnerships anchored in the rigor of scholarship and designed to help build community capacity. The international conference targets college faculty and staff members who are involved in engaged scholarship; higher education administrators who are interested in increasing the support their institutions provide to engage with communities; students who participate in community-engaged research, service-learning, or university outreach; and community partners who are working with colleges and universities to foster and strengthen collaborations.

Mr. Saunders was invited to attend the conference by the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center of UNC-Chapel Hill, with the purpose of engaging with other participants and presenting on the collaborative work between Morehead, Gates County Schools, and Gates County Community Partnership. Dr. Crystal Harden of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center facilitated the workshop, “Rural Community Engagement through a Science Enrichment Collaborative.”

The seminar was rooted in “The Model,” which was defined as "a passionate entity with knowledge, infrastructure, and financial resources immerses itself into a community and develops trusting relationships with its government, schools, and citizens. The entity then spearheads a collaboration for its betterment." Using Gates County’s science enrichment program, the Saunders Science Scholars, as the basis of discussion, the group summarized the work and outcomes of the initiative and emphasized the importance of partnerships in achieving goals and objectives.

“It is always good to get out and meet people with a similar passion of advancing rural America. The knowledge share and networking opportunities were invaluable, and we are now able to better assist our community,” stated Benjamin Saunders, Jr. of Gates County Community Partnership. “When UNC calls, I do everything possible to accommodate. Thanks for another opportunity to serve and grow!”

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)3 public charity whose mission is to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.


Gates County Community Partnership Funds College Tours for GCHS Students

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) recently donated $2,000 to Gates County High School to fund college tours for the junior and senior classes. This gift is part of a larger effort by the organization to expose all local students to the value of a college education.

"This donation supports Gates County High School and their efforts to broaden the horizons of our students. We want them all to 'Soar to New Heights' in life," stated Brian Rountree, Vice President of Gates County Community Partnership. "We know that everyone will not go to college, but we want to ensure that all of our students understand the importance of a college education and that it is achievable and affordable. Now, this is even more the case with the North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan."

The Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities recognizes that we often emphasize the benefits of a college degree to graduates themselves. The benefits to society are just as significant. Through volunteer work, leadership, and philanthropic contributions, university graduates improve the civic and economic life of their communities.

"We want all of our students to be confident and understand that a postsecondary education is generally now a requirement for a place in the middle class of America," emphasized Sherley Jones, Jr., Director, Gates County Community Partnership. "We also expect them to achieve at the highest level so they can offer their best to others, thus initiating an endless cycle of service and uplift."

In 2020, Gates County Community Partnership assisted Gates County Schools with their successful grant application for GEAR UP NC. This national program is a college access initiative that directly engages students in partner schools with academic readiness and college admission support. GEAR UP NC funds college tours. Gates County Community Partnership’s donation expands access.

“We are again thankful that Gates County Schools allows us to participate in programming that supports the edification of our youth,” said Sandra Jordan Branch, Director, Gates County Community Partnership. “Thank you, Gates County, for your continued support. Without you, none of this is possible.”

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)3 public charity whose mission is to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.


Jordan Joins Gates County Community Partnership

Chante Lassiter Jordan, of Gates, North Carolina, recently joined Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP). Chante is a native of Gates County.

"I have been watching Ms. Jordan for years. She amazes me," stated Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership. “Chante gets it! She understands the purpose. She lives to serve.”

Chante Jordan is an accomplished administrator with over 18 years of experience in public school education. She currently acts as Human Resources Director and Exceptional Children's Program Director for Gates County Schools. Ms. Jordan has a Bachelor of Science (Special Education), Master of Special Education, Master of School Administration, and an EdS degree (Educational Administration and Supervision), all from East Carolina University. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the school.

Chante gains inspiration from Michelle Obama's quote, "Success is not about how much money you make, but about the difference you make in people's lives."

The mission of Gates County Community Partnership is to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.


"Opening GATES" Touches Students from Gates County and Beyond

During the week of July 11th, Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) presented their college readiness initiative, "Opening GATES," to high school students of Gates County Schools and neighboring school districts. This year was the first of what plans to be an annual offering to the region.

"The program this year was special; more than we imagined it would be. Just to witness the personal growth of our students during the camp was uplifting," stated Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership. "We would like to thank the students for the experience! We are grateful that they allowed us to work and are looking forward to their college careers!"

The goal of "Opening GATES" is to increase the number of students from northeastern North Carolina who obtain a four-year college degree. The camp was fully funded by Gates County Community Partnership through a grant from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation's "Ribbon of Hope" program.

"One of our tenets is to do what we can to offer no cost programming to our community. This is important for inclusiveness and equitable access," emphasized Brian Rountree, Vice President of Gates County Community Partnership. "As of now, we have not charged for any youth enrichment opportunities that we have delivered to Gates County. Thank you to our donors for making this possible."

"Opening GATES" provided participants a one-week summer enrichment program that combined an overnight college tour of UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University, ACT Preparatory training, and youth development activities.

The trip to UNC-Chapel Hill started at the basketball museum; then there was a campus tour and lunch in Lenoir Dining Hall. Afterwards, the group visited Franklin Street and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center where they viewed "Solar System Odyssey" in the planetarium. Mr. Chris Harried, of UNC Chapel Hill, provided the capstone with an interactive conversation.

On the following day, campers toured North Carolina Central University. They started at the BRITE (Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology) Building with Dr. Gordon Ibeanu, Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Next, they visited the J.E. Shepherd Research Library, where Danielle Colbert-Lewis, Head of Research and Instructional Services, and her staff guided them through the facility. Campers then went to the Mary Townes Science Building to meet Kossi Agbeve, Research Scientist in Mathematics and Physics and Dr. Alade Tokuta, Professor of Mathematics and Physics, for the DREAM STEM RDI Student Panel. They ended the day with lunch in Pearson Hall and an official college tour led by a student at the university. A highlight was visiting McDougald-McLendon Arena for a courtside view of men's basketball practice.

Days 3 - 5 of "Opening GATES" took place at Central Middle School in Gatesville, NC. The morning sessions were reserved for ACT tutoring by APlus Test Prep out of Durham, NC. "Their wide range of professional tutoring services and exam prep programs assist high school students, undergraduate students, prospective teachers, and parents alike. They are the best of the best in helping clients succeed in their particular area."

Afternoon sessions were all about youth development! Topics of note were financial literacy, college life, following your passion, perseverance, and being intentional about broadening horizons, gaining knowledge, and developing intelligence. Dr. Crystal Harden of UNC-Chapel Hill, Ms. Jordan Mitchell of Harvard University, and General Richard Harrison of the United States Army were the keynote presenters.

"Live your life with Pride, Hustle, and Desire (PHD). Take Pride in everything you do, Hustle to achieve your life goals, and maintain a strong Desire to be the very best person you can be," stated General Richard Harrison of the United States Army to those in attendance.

Day 6 was ACT testing at Bertie High School in Windsor, NC. It was time to perform for the students. They beamed with confidence and did not disappoint!

“Gates County Community Partnership truly lives up to its name by providing quality, innovative programs for the students of Gates County Schools. "Opening GATES" is an investment in the students and their future goals and aspirations,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Schools.

In 2020, Gates County Schools was awarded the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) state grant. GEAR UP is a national college access initiative that directly engages students in partner schools with academic readiness and college admission support over the course of their middle school and high school careers. The program has proven to significantly increase the number of students in disadvantaged communities who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

"Receiving the GEAR UP grant was big for Gates County Schools. We have already seen its impact," stated Sandra Jordan Branch, Director of Gates County Community Partnership. "Opening GATES was conceived to act as a supplement to this grant program and we are committed to its success."

"Gates County Community Partnership would like to thank Tempting Treats & Gifts for providing breakfast and lunch to our campers throughout the week. The food was excellent," said Sherley Jones, Director of Gates County Community Partnership. "And thank you UNC-Chapel Hill / Morehead Planetarium and Science Center for your continued unwavering support. You are the reason this is all possible in our community."

Gates County Community Partnership is eagerly anticipating "Opening GATES 2023." Their goal next year is to serve 40 local students with this free summer enrichment experience.

The mission of Gates County Community Partnership (www.gatescountycp.org) is to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.


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.”