The Gift that Keeps Giving

By Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr.

President, Gates County Community Partnership

“The Model – Spearheaded by a passionate entity with knowledge, infrastructure and financial resources. This entity immerses itself into a community and collaborates, developing trusting relationships with its government, schools, and citizens. The programs and services offered by the entity improve circumstance and outlook, broadening horizons and boosting morale, while training and inspiring others within the community to organize and work together for its betterment.”

UNC-Chapel Hill is the flagship of the University of North Carolina System. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. It also strives to enhance the quality of life for all people of the state.

The university's Morehead Planetarium and Science Center adds the goal of serving North Carolina by bringing together the unique resources of the university to engage the public for an improved public understanding of science, technology, and health.

Morehead serves the entire state of North Carolina, but no other school district receives the level of support as Gates County Schools. Morehead has entrenched itself in Gates County, providing educational programming to its students and the community. But why Gates County??

In 2017, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center received funding to expand services in eastern and northeastern North Carolina. They reached out to multiple school districts in the area with minimal response. During the process, Morehead contacted me. I encouraged them to talk to Mr. Jeremy Wright, then the principal of T. S. Cooper Elementary School. The first mobile planetarium visit was scheduled, and things grew from there.

In 2018, Dr. Crystal Harden, the Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead, told me about a program they wanted to start in a rural community in North Carolina, loosely modeled after the science enrichment programs they direct in Chatham and Durham counties. They had a funder who was “all in” on the initiative. I volunteered my assistance and advocated for Gates County. Dr. Harden already recognized that Gates County was the perfect location for this unique opportunity, as a good working relationship existed and the need was substantial.

Later that year, Saunders Science Scholars launched (named for my father, Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr., a lifelong educator in Gates County). The program is a science enrichment initiative that provides resources and events that encourage the exploration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to the community of Gates County Schools.

The base program consists of 15-8th graders, 15-9th graders, and at least one supporting adult. They are immersed in STEM. Mentorship will continue through high school graduation and the duration of their college journey, with an expectation of a debt-free post-secondary experience. Activities include monthly science enrichment meetings, science engagement events, college tours, summer camps, and “Science Saturdays”, where Scholars complete community service.

Participating families also gain from the program. They develop a better understanding of science, experience unique family bonding through academia, and realize enhanced social interactions augmented by new experiences.

As part of the Saunders Science Scholars initiative, additional offerings were provided to Gates County and its schools. They include “Science on Your Street” and “Morehead in Motion: Lab to Life”, which encourage students to learn anywhere; “Science Stage”, a program that captivates students and engages audiences in exciting science demonstrations; STEMville Science Symposiums, which expose students to careers in STEM; classroom and educator visits; Duke Energy Family Science Nights; UNC Science Football Tailgates; educator professional development; science equipment donations; and a recent community day acknowledging our citizens for their support.

This summer, Morehead offered several weeks of GSK “Science in the Summer” and Sloan Foundation “Science RISING!” camps at county schools. “Science in the Summer” is an inquiry-based science education program that helps elementary school children grow to love science. “Science RISING!” is an aerospace science program.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s presence enables Gates County Schools to leverage them for additional opportunities. They drive various projects not related to what they provide as a science center. Morehead directed the preparation and submission of the GEAR UP NC grant proposal for Gates County Schools, which was awarded in 2020. The seven-year grant is a national college access initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Its goal is to significantly increase the number of students in disadvantaged communities who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education / college. The grant provides academic readiness and college access support to middle and high school students and engages high school students through a designated full-time college advisor.

Morehead encourages community action for the benefit of Gates County. They stressed the importance of having a partner in Gates County to work with them on local initiatives and serve in the interests of its citizens. From this, Gates County Community Partnership formed “to inspire and increase community engagement by the citizens of Gates County for the educational and social development of its youth.” Speaking as a director of the organization, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is our guiding light. They actively participate in most of our major projects, often behind the scenes.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is indeed “The Gift that Keeps Giving.” And the kicker is, everything that I mentioned, and more, is provided to Gates County and its citizens for free!


GCCP Provides Sponsorship to the Gates County High School Athletic Booster Club

Sports benefit the physical fitness and mental health of participants. They also offer the opportunity to work in a team environment, amplify leadership skills, and develop perseverance.

Recognizing this, Gates County Community Partnership recently decided to sponsor the athletic program at Gates County High School by providing an annual contribution to the Gates County High School Athletic Booster Club.

“It is important to give back and athletics matter to the educational and social development of our youth, which is our mantra. We want the best for our program and that requires financial support,” stated Brian Rountree of Gates County Community Partnership. “Also, local sports offer needed entertainment and boost the morale of our populace. Events present a chance for us to be together, which exposes and emphasizes our commonalities.”

Gates County Community Partnership is excited about the future of Gates County! They advocate working collaboratively for the uplift and advancement of all its citizens.


Gates County Community Partnership Provides Scholarships to North Carolina Promise Plan Recipients

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) presented full tuition one-year scholarships to North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan recipients Makayla Hathaway and Emma Taylor, both 2021 graduates of Gates County High School. Makayla will be attending Elizabeth City State University and Emma will be attending Western Carolina University.

"As an organization founded to support the educational aspirations of the students of Gates County, we are again pleased to support our scholars during their postsecondary journey. Congratulations Makayla and Emma!” stated Gates County Community Partnership director Sherley Jones, Jr.

The North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan is an initiative of the State of North Carolina established to increase access to a quality university education through the University of North Carolina system. Students who qualify receive reduced rate tuition with the remainder supplemented by the state.

"Initially we were offering only one scholarship this year, but we had two candidates who were most deserving. It would have been unconscionable to leave one out,” emphasized Gates County Community Partnership director Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr.

This is the third year of the GCCP North Carolina Promise Tuition Scholarship. Gates County Community Partnership chooses to support the beneficiaries of the program; Elizabeth City State University, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Western Carolina University, as they offer high value educational experiences.

“I am so blessed to receive the GCCP North Carolina Promise Tuition Scholarship. It will give me the opportunity to pursue my dreams of becoming a forensic anthropologist at Western Carolina University,” said Emma Taylor, one of the recipients. “I am so grateful that Gates County Community Partnership believes in me and is investing in my future. Thank you so much. I plan to make you proud.”

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt 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. They believe that organized collaboration is paramount to improving circumstance. Some goals are to broaden horizons and provide hope.

“Makayla and Emma, keep rising to the top in your endeavors. You are off to a great start,” stressed Gates County Community Partnership director Brian Rountree. “Continue to develop your gifts while following your passions. Remember, the true measure of who you become is how you serve humanity.”


GSK Science in the Summer” is Coming to Students of Gates County

This summer, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is presenting “GSK Science in the Summer” to the students of Gates County. Funded by GlaxoSmithKline, this program is a free science education initiative for rising grades 2 - 8 that helps school children “grow in science.” Goals are to increase engagement in science, math and reading, enhance K-12 science education and community engagement, create a well-trained pool of teachers and assistants and extend support during the school year.

The theme for 2021 is “Be an Engineer!” As stated by the program, “Bridges and spaceships don’t build themselves. They are created by problem solvers and creative thinkers – or in other words: engineers! From roller coasters we ride to the airplanes we fly in, campers will use their hands and minds to discover the world of engineering through investigations and design challenges. Who knows? Maybe this will inspire you to be an engineer!”

"We are so grateful in Gates County to have a strong and amazing collaborative partnership with Morehead that touches the lives of our students and offers them educational and cultural experiences that will support their growth and development," stated Tammy Boone, Assistant Superintendent of Gates County Schools.

The camp will take place at Gatesville Elementary School and Central Middle School on July 12 – July 14 and July 19 – July 21. Registration will be at the Gates County Community Center on Friday, May 14 from 3 pm – 6 pm and Saturday, May 15 from 10 am to 4 pm. For questions, contact Glenda Hairston at 919-445-6280 or [email protected]edu.

“This is another opportunity that we applaud. We fully support this program, as it will develop our youth for their future,” said Brian Rountree, Vice President of Gates County Community Partnership.

GlaxoSmithKline is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer.

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt 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.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center serves 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.  The Morehead Building houses the GSK Fulldome Theater, as well as the Science Stage, exhibits and Morehead classrooms.


UNC’s Morehead is Offering “Science Rising!” to County Youth

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is bringing “Science RISING!” to Gates County this summer. Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this is a free aerospace science program for rising grades 6 – 8. Participants will investigate the exciting field through a variety of topics such as robotics, drones and rocketry.

“Science RISING! will create an informal science education relationship demonstrating equity in access to science resources. Morehead’s objective for this collaboration is to address the STEM gap in resources and opportunities for elementary and middle school students in rural communities,” communicated Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead. “This program will create high-quality science education opportunities tailored to the community’s needs. The goal is to make science education and STEM careers more relevant and reachable for children in Gates County.”

The camp will take place at Central Middle School on June 28 – July 2 and July 26 – July 30. Registration will be at the Gates County Community Center on Friday, May 14 from 3 pm – 6 pm and Saturday, May 15 from 10 am to 4 pm. Questions should be directed to Glenda Hairston at 919-445-6280 or [email protected]. An additional “Science RISING!” summer opportunity is available at Elizabeth City State University for rising grades 3 – 5 on July 12 – July 16 and July 19 – July 23. The contact for that camp is Antonio Rook at 252-335-3409 or [email protected]

“This is great for our community and we are delighted to be involved in this initiative! As an organization, we support anything that advances the fortunes of our youth,” emphasized Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr, President of Gates County Community Partnership.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants primarily to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. It believes that these fields, and the scholars and practitioners who work in them, are chief drivers of the nation's health and prosperity. The Foundation also accepts that a reasoned, systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society, when applied inventively and wisely, can lead to a better world for all.

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt 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.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center serves 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.  The Morehead Building houses the GSK Fulldome Theater, as well as the Science Stage, exhibits and Morehead classrooms.


Gates County Community Partnership Gifts Computers to Middle and High School Students

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) recently donated Chromebooks to students at Central Middle School and Gates County High School as part of Phase 1 of “The Access Initiative.” The intent of the initiative is to boost access to modern technology that fosters educational advancement. Phase 1 of the program helps address the digital divide by presenting eligible families with video conference capable computers loaded with applications used by Gates County Schools to educate its students.

“This need is not a new one. Realization was amplified by the current state the world is in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything is virtual and most feel that the new normal will stress remote access to learning,” stated Sherley Jones, Director, Gates County Community Partnership. “We are obligated to do what we can to make sure that our students have the tools needed to succeed in this environment. It was a blessing to be able to provide a brand-new computer to every family that applied.”

Per the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the gap between those who have the latest technology and those who do not is referred to as the “digital divide.” It is distinguished by the lack of broadband internet access and reliable devices that supplement. Because of fewer resources, communities in Northeastern North Carolina are less likely to have dependable internet and computers than urban areas. Modern infrastructure and adequate devices are now required to improve the economic standing of a constituency.

GCCP recognizes how important technology is for equitable access in rural communities. Previously, the organization donated Chromebooks to the 30 core participants of the Saunders Science Scholars program and other children of Gates County Schools. “It’s all about receiving knowledge and providing opportunity. These level the playing field and inspire our students to achieve their potential,” emphasized Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President, Gates County Community Partnership.

“We sincerely appreciate Gates County Schools and the local community for helping us with this project. Without their assistance, none of this would have been possible,” stated Brian Rountree, Vice President, Gates County Community Partnership. “We would also like to thank our generous donors, who empower us to engage in these types of projects. Your faith in us to act responsibly for the betterment of Gates County matters more than words can express.”

“Saunders Science Scholars” is a unique partnership between Gates County Schools, Gates County Community Partnership and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center that helps students discover science in new and exciting ways through hands-on exploration.

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt 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. For more information, see www.gatescountycp.org.

 


Gates County Community Partnership Donates Bikes to Local Youth

"Nothing provides like a bicycle to a young person. Our directors all have vivid memories of exciting rides throughout the county," exclaimed Sherley Jones, Jr. of Gates County Community Partnership!

With this in mind, the organization recently gave bicycles to two students at Central Middle School.

"We were fortunate to have the bikes donated specifically to gift our local youth. The least we could do was deliver them as soon as possible," stated Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President, Gates County Community Partnership. "We sincerely appreciate the support of our community in this endeavor, specifically Principal Kelly Eure and her staff at Central Middle School."

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.


Saunders Science Scholars Donates Science Supplies

Saunders Science Scholars (Morehead Planetarium and Science Center) in collaboration with Gates County Community Partnership recently donated science supplies to Gates County Schools. This collection is valued at approximately $14,000. The materials were initially intended for 2020 summer programming that was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are always excited to work with Gates County Schools to assist in STEM education,” emphasized Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. “We did something similar last year but this donation is at a different scale. As always, we appreciate the efforts of Gates County Community Partnership and Gates County Schools for facilitating this endeavor.”

All five county schools will receive materials from the donation. The gift includes instructional resources, curricula and professional development from Morehead, which guarantee the effective use of the items. A goal is to have teachers create science kits that can be used at home or in school. “It is fulfilling to be able to assist efforts to give back to our community in a mission related purpose. We genuinely appreciate the opportunity to work with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center on this project. Our alliance is strong,” said Brian Rountree, Vice President of Gates County Community Partnership.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is entrenched in Gates County and committed to the educational uplift of its students. They also deliver extended outreach through mobile programs that include Science Tailgate, Mobile Planetarium, Morehead in Motion and NC Science Festival.

"Gates County Schools truly appreciates the generous contribution of science supplies donated to our schools by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at UNC-Chapel Hill in conjunction with Gates County Community Partnership. As a public school system, we are grateful for the generosity of donors who provide supplemental materials for our students to enhance and enrich our instructional delivery. As educators, parents and community members we are well aware of the positive impact hands-on learning makes with our students. They are able to see and feel science come to life and the supplies provided by MPSC and GCCP create the opportunity for this experience to occur more frequently in the classroom,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Schools, Gates County. “With the generosity of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and Gates County Community Partnership, we have the ability to provide students with an optimal science learning experience. We look forward to utilizing the supplies to make science come to life.”

Gates County Community Partnership is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt 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.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is a unit of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Morehead Building houses the GSK Fulldome Theater, Science Stage, exhibits and Morehead classrooms. Nearly 160,000 people visit the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center annually, including 85,000 schoolchildren.


Gates County Community Partnership Awarded $25,000 Ribbon of Hope Grant

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP), a 501(c)(3) public charity based in Gates County, was recently awarded $25,000 by the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to fund “Opening GATES“, a college readiness initiative for Gates County students. “We are ecstatic for the support promoting higher education in Gates County,” bellowed Brian Rountree, Vice President of Gates County Community Partnership!

The goal of the college readiness initiative is to increase the number of students who obtain a postsecondary certification. Through the programming related to this grant, GCCP will coach college readiness with a focus on influencing and directing the students of Gates County towards a degree from an accredited university. “Opening GATES” will involve rising 11th and 12th graders from Gates County High School and will fully fund students for a one-week summer enrichment program combining ACT Preparatory Training, youth development and college tours. “Gates County Community Partnership truly lives up to its name by providing quality, innovative programs for the students of Gates County Schools. The Ribbon of Hope grant is an investment in the students and their future goals and aspirations,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Schools.

Gates County Community Partnership looks forward to “Opening GATES” and they will engage the community to deliver the highest level of content. “This project directly aligns with our current work and fulfils a local need. There is not a structured program pertaining to college readiness in Gates County; no ACT Prep or college tours,” stated Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership. “Our students deserve the same advantages as others. We are dedicated to increasing the number of college graduates from Gates County.”

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.

About the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation

The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation is an independent self-funding 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supporting activities that help meet the educational and health needs of today's society and future generations. Since its creation in 1986, the foundation has granted $75.18 million to support North Carolina projects and programs that emphasize the understanding and application of science, health and education at all academic and professional levels. Visit us at NCGSKFoundation.org.