Gates County Community Partnership Celebrates Awarding North Carolina Promise Plan Scholarships to Local Seniors

For the sixth consecutive year, Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) has proudly awarded the GCCP North Carolina Promise Plan Scholarship to graduating seniors from Gates County High School. This significant scholarship covers one year of tuition at one of four distinguished institutions: Elizabeth City State University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Fayetteville State University, or Western Carolina University. This year’s honorees, Aniaya Hathaway and Landon Buck, will be attending Elizabeth City State University and Western Carolina University, respectively.

Sherley Jones Jr., a director of Gates County Community Partnership, shared his enthusiasm for the ongoing commitment to local students, "In line with our mission to elevate the educational goals of Gates County scholars, it fills us with immense pride to deliver these scholarships to our students."

The North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan, a venture by the State of North Carolina, aims to enhance access to high-quality university education within the University of North Carolina system by offering reduced tuition rates that are supplemented by state funds. Gates County Community Partnership supports students who benefit from this valuable program, recognizing it as a strategic investment in education.

Chante Jordan, one of the directors at Gates County Community Partnership, reflected on the impact of their mission since its inception, "Established in 2018, our organization has always operated on the principle that education is essential and serves as the foundation for a thriving society. This scholarship matters deeply to us, to the recipients, and to the broader community. Truly, education is the key to the future!”

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.

Gates County Community Partnership Offers Two Free Summer Camps to Local Students

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) is presenting “ACTivate Futures – Gates,” a free college readiness initiative, and “Digital Brilliance Hour,” a free game development and music production camp, to local students this summer.

“ACTivate Futures – Gates” is for rising 11th and 12th graders. The initiative is a one-week summer enrichment camp combining ACT Prep, youth development, and an overnight college tour in Virginia. “ACTivate Futures – Gates” will take place June 24 – June 28, 2024, at a yet to be determined location in Gates County.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to engage in a college prep program for a third consecutive year. As an organization, we desire the best for our students and we feel this initiative is invaluable,” stated Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership. “We encourage local students to consider this program. It will be well worth it!”

The goal of “ACTivate Futures – Gates” is to influence and direct students towards a four-year degree from an accredited university. The objective of the program is to increase the number of students who obtain a postsecondary certification.

“Digital Brilliance Hour” is for rising 7th through 9th graders. The camp is a three-day immersion in game development and music production. The curriculum is carefully crafted to be engaging and hands-on. Participants will dive into a world of creativity through a series of activities that include training, practical work, product packaging, and presentations. The camp will also focus on nurturing essential life skills like collaboration, communication, and decision-making. “Digital Brilliance Hour” will take place June 25 – June 27, 2024, at Central Middle School in Gatesville.

“Summers are supposed to be about fun, and we are excited to offer this new opportunity to local students,” said Sandra Jordan Branch, Director of Gates County Community Partnership. “We would like to thank the Burroughs Wellcome Fund for funding this camp. I do not think there are many better ways to engage our local students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) than using gaming and music.”

The goal of “Digital Brilliance Hour” is to rectify societal imbalances by strategically addressing economic, job market, and systemic disparities. It aims to provide the tools needed to elevate, fostering a more balanced and equitable society.

Space is limited for both camps, but Gates County Community Partnership will do everything possible to engage all youth who are interested.

“Gates County Community Partnership continues to honor its mission by delivering high-quality, innovative programs tailored for students. ‘ACTivate Futures – Gates’ and ‘Digital Brilliance Hour’ stand as testament to their commitment towards investing in students' future ambitions and dreams, guiding them towards achieving their full potential,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Schools.

Registration forms for both camps are located at Please return to [email protected]. The deadline to apply is Saturday, June 1, 2024. For questions, call 252-220-5051.

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. More information about the organization can be found at


Winter Coat Drive Collects 170 Coats for Gates County’s Youth

Winter can be a magical time for many, with snowflakes gently falling and the scent of hot chocolate in the air. But for some families, the bitter cold can be a source of worry and stress. These families are often forced to choose between providing warm clothing for their children or meeting other essential needs.

To help address this situation, Gates County Schools, Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP), and Dominion Energy recently collaborated on a Winter Coat Drive for students of need in Gates County Schools. This initiative was able to collect 170 winter coats to donate to local youth.

"It has truly been an honor to collaborate with Gates County Community Partnership and Dominion Energy in this year's Coat Drive. I am so proud of everyone who participated in some part to provide for those in need this winter. The gift of giving and caring for others that our students, staff, GCCP, and Dominion Energy have exhibited is the essence of the holiday season," said Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent, Gates County Schools.

The importance of this initiative cannot be underestimated. It ensures children have proper protection against the harsh weather conditions. Winter coats act as a shield, providing warmth and insulation, and reducing the risk of illness caused by exposure to the cold. Having a quality winter coat allows children to go outdoors confidently, participate in physical activities, and stay active during the winter months.

Beyond the practical benefits, a winter coat can do wonders for a child's self-esteem. It's easy to overlook the social and emotional impact a warm coat brings. Feeling included and having the same opportunities as peers boosts children's self-confidence and fosters a sense of belonging. No child should feel left out or embarrassed due to not having proper winter attire.

"We hope this coat drive also serves as a catalyst for community involvement. Neighbors, schools, local businesses, and charitable organizations came together, united by a common cause: ensuring children in our community stay warm and protected," emphasized Katherine Wade, External Affairs, Dominion Energy North Carolina. "This coat drive not only provides tangible assistance but also nurtures the bonds that strengthen our society. It brings out the best in us, reminding us we are all capable of making a positive impact in someone else's life."

In a show of deep appreciation to the local community, Chante Jordan, Director, Gates County Community Partnership stated, "To all the generous donors of our coat drive, your kindness and compassion are truly commendable. Your support demonstrates the power of community and the beauty of human kindness. Thank you for your generosity and for making a meaningful difference in the lives of others."

Coats were distributed at a few Gates County schools. There will be more available at the Gates County Community Center starting on Monday, December 18. If interested, please contact Connie Wolfrey at 252-357-0677 or just stop by.

Coats will be available in all sizes to fit students from kindergarten through 12th grade.



Sponsors Come to Gates County to Teach High School Students Financial Literacy

On November 18, 2023, the Saunders Science Scholars welcomed program funders, Steve and Addie Butts, to Gates County! This was not a normal visit, as Mr. Butts had an important message to deliver to program participants through “Personal Finance with Steve.” The workshop focused on financial literacy and provided information relevant to the masses.

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and skills that enable individuals to make informed and effective financial decisions. It encompasses understanding various financial concepts, such as budgeting, saving, investing, debt management, and financial planning. In today's complex and interconnected world, financial literacy has become increasingly important in empowering individuals to take control of their finances and secure a stable financial future.

One demographic that greatly benefits from financial literacy education is high school students. High school is a critical time in a person's life where they are transitioning into adulthood and beginning to assume greater responsibility for their financial choices. By equipping students with the necessary knowledge and skills, they can develop healthy financial habits early on and make informed decisions that will positively impact their lives.

Mr. Butts started his session with an icebreaker, where students shared their name, favorite subject, what they wanted to be when they grew up in elementary school, and what would they do if they had $5,000 to spend in seven days. As expected, the answers were interesting, to say the least.

The focus then shifted to the agenda of the workshop: Defining Financial Success, Net Worth, Saving, Spending Plan, and Debt and Credit Score. The following are some key points from the presentation:

  • True Financial Success is more than outward prosperity and has less to do with dollar signs than it does with how money affects your life and your relationships.
  • Having your financial life in order can give you control of your money, increase the likelihood of achieving financial goals, decrease stress, increase harmony at home, and be a source of confidence and satisfaction.
  • Assets minus Liabilities equals “Your TRUE Financial Situation”
  • Sacrifice some spending when young so you can spend in the future.
  • Create a spending plan.
  • The “cost” of poor credit is steep.

Truist Wealth’s Center for Family Legacy provided content for the presentation. The information presented was general in nature and did not specifically address individual investment objectives, financial situations, or the needs of any specific person.

“First, we would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Butts. They are amazing individuals who are the conceivers and benefactors of the Saunders Science Scholars program,” stated Benjamin Saunders, Jr., Director, Gates County Community Partnership. “Steve could have used anyone to do this presentation but chose to do it himself, as he is committed to an intimate relationship with our kids and their families.”

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s Saunders Science Scholars Program is a unique partnership with Gates County Schools and Gates County Community Partnership, where students discover science in new and exciting ways through hands-on exploration and new enrichment opportunities. The program provides resources and events to the Gates County Schools community, in particular high school students and their families.

Computer Donation Impacts Local Scholars

Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP), a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the educational and social development of the youth in Gates County, recently made a surprise donation of 25 computers to the student participants of the Saunders Science Scholars STEM enrichment initiative at Gates County High School. This generous act took place after the annual Gates County Lions Club Christmas Parade in Gatesville, where the Saunders Science Scholars showcased the program.

GCCP Director Sandra Jordan Branch emphasized the importance of providing the necessary tools of success to participants in the Saunders Science Scholars program. She stated, "We believe that every student should have access to the resources they need to excel academically and socially. By donating these computers, we are helping empower these young scholars to reach their full potential."

The Saunders Science Scholars (SSS) provides invaluable resources and events to the Gates County Schools community, with an intimate focus on 25 high school students and their families. This program aims to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of science through various activities. Morehead Planetarium and Science Center engages Gates County Schools and Gates County Community Partnership to ensure a comprehensive outreach effort.

Three years ago, Gates County Community Partnership donated laptops to SSS, ensuring participants had access to the latest technology. Today's donation demonstrates their ongoing dedication to the success of the program.

"In all honesty, three years is an eternity, and we recently found out some of our scholars’ computers were no longer operational," said GCCP Director Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr. "With the high usage we expect from participants, we knew it was time. We are grateful for the opportunity and ability to serve our scholars."

This donation reflects Gates County Community Partnership’s enduring commitment to the educational uplift of local students. The organization is thankful for the support of their community and friends. They emphasized, “We all worked together to make this happen.”

GCCP Welcomes the Holiday Season with Computer Donation

A ray of digital hope glows brightly for students of Gates County Schools as Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP), a local 501(c)(3) public charity, wrapped up its 2023 Access Initiative by donating 20 laptops to local families. The Sunbury based organization works to empower citizens by emphasizing the role of community service and its potential in reshaping the lives of residents.

The digital divide, a form of inequality where people do not have equal access to or knowledge about technology, is particularly distressing in rural areas confronting connectivity challenges. To help bridge this gap and unlock opportunities, GCCP has donated close to 100 computers to local students and their families over the past couple of years.

A crucial aspect of this donation is the heartwarming display of community spirit. It provides a beautiful testament to the tremendous effect of giving back. A fundamental objective of GCCP is motivate and galvanize other individuals and organizations to contribute to their communities in meaningful ways, illuminating that each one of us holds the power to make a difference.

Reflecting on this commitment, Ms. Sandra Jordan Branch, a member of Gates County Community Partnership, shared, "We're extremely grateful for the chance to provide this vital service to our community. The opportunity to back our students and help them thrive in a highly digitalized world is a blessing. We hope our efforts will pave the way for others to contribute to their respective communities, forging a path towards a united and inclusive future."

This generous effort is not just a donation, but rather a symbol of a more technologically proficient future for Gates County, where each family has access to the necessary tools for academic and professional success.

Branch further adds, "Not only are we equipping the students with resources necessary for their education, but we're also fostering a sense of unity and communal strength. We believe in the power of collective efforts and envision a society where every child, irrespective of their socio-economic background, capitalizes on the opportunities that digital technology provides."


Night of Celebration - Saunders Science Scholars Dinner Highlights the Importance of Academic Enrichment in Rural America

The atmosphere at the Gates County Community Center was filled with excitement as it hosted the Saunders Science Scholars (SSS) Dinner. This event, featuring delicious food, lively music, and even some dancing, highlighted the importance of academic enrichment opportunities in rural America.

Participants, school administrators, members of the Board of Education, and elected officials were in attendance. Many took the opportunity to share their meaningful experiences with the Saunders Science Scholars Program, a unique initiative that promotes STEM education in Gates County.

J’Yanah Powell, an SSS Core Participant, expressed her excitement about the program, saying, "I am eager to see the program's growth. It helped me find my passion, and now I aspire to become a neurologist and attend Winston Salem State University."

Semiyah Saunders, another SSS Core Participant, shared her enjoyment of connecting with fellow participants in the program, stating, "I loved meeting new kids and forming bonds with people I never thought I would talk to. This program has allowed me to know their personalities and create lasting connections."

Logan Kronbauer, an SSS Core Participant, talked about the importance of choosing the right college. "The college I choose will play a significant role in shaping my future. Duke University is where I see myself, particularly in the Chemical Engineering Department. As we toured the campus, I could imagine myself fitting right in."

Parents also had inspiring stories to share. Krystal Brooks, Assistant Principal of Gates County High School, revealed the transformation of Trey, an SSS Core Participant. "When Trey joined our family, he used to say, 'I am not going to college.' However, during a recent Zoom call with UNC staff, he was asked about his future plans, and for the first time, he said, 'I think I am going to college.' He now has individuals supporting him and showing him the endless possibilities."

Educator Cindy Barber emphasized the positive impact of the program on students. "After witnessing the achievements of the first cohort, we made sure our daughter London became part of the program. Our students have access to experiences and connections that go beyond what they would typically have. I hope funding continues beyond 2025-2026 because the Saunders Science Scholars Program allows our students to explore opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise."

The Saunders Science Scholars Program is a unique collaboration between Gates County Schools, Gates County Community Partnership, and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Its primary goal is to help students explore science through hands-on activities, providing them with new enrichment opportunities and igniting their passion for STEM disciplines.

Beyond impacting students, the program benefits the wider community through its mobile programs and public events like the Saturdays of Science, which make science enjoyable for all.

Brian Rountree, Gates County Commissioner, praised the program, saying, "As a director of Gates County Community Partnership, I witness firsthand the positive outcomes of the Saunders Science Scholars Program for the program participants, Gates County Schools, and our local area. UNC Chapel Hill and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center have become guiding lights for our community. They have not only provided educational opportunities but also formed relationships and shown genuine care for us. The initial spark has grown into a flame, and we now have a clear vision for our future."

The Saunders Science Scholars Dinner highlighted the importance of academic enrichment and the necessity of high-quality STEM education. This event underscored the undeniable need for accessible, comprehensive, and engaging educational experiences in rural America.

The outstanding success of the Saunders Science Scholars Program reaffirms the belief that academic excellence should be accessible to all, not just a select few. Through its dedicated efforts, the program illuminates the path of rural education and promotes a brighter future for everyone.

The main benefactors of the Saunders Science Scholars Program are Stephen Butts, a former member of the Morehead Advisory Council, and his wife, Addie. Their vision was to boost students' self-efficacy in science, enhance their confidence in STEM subjects, and provide mentoring support that encourages them to pursue rewarding careers in STEM fields. The program truly lives up to their equitable vision each day.

The program is named in honor of the late Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr., a respected educator with 40 years of experience in Gates County Schools. In 2021, Governor Roy Cooper posthumously honored Saunders with the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society Award, recognizing his exceptional service and remarkable contributions to the state and his community.


Gates County High School Class of 1988 Donates $1,500 to Central Middle School for New Photography Class

Central Middle School will soon be offering a brand new course, "Science of Photography." Thanks to a $1,500 donation by the Gates County High School Class of 1988, the photography class will be able to purchase 15 new cameras. These will allow students to explore the art and science of capturing moments through the lens of their imagination.

As an elective course, the Science of Photography class aims to cultivate students' interest in visual arts while equipping them with valuable skills in digital imaging and storytelling. By engaging in this class, students will not only learn the technical aspects of photography but also develop their artistic abilities and visual literacy. Such skills will enable them to express themselves creatively, think critically, and communicate effectively through the powerful medium of photography.

Arts education plays a vital role in the holistic development of students. It cultivates imagination and enhances self-expression. Exposure to the arts in schools has been proven to improve students' cognitive skills, emotional well-being, and academic performance. At a time when education is increasingly focused on standardized testing and core subjects, it is crucial to maintain a well-rounded curriculum that includes the arts. The addition of the Science of Photography Class at Central Middle School will contribute to a comprehensive education that nurtures the creative potential of students.

"Capturing moments through the lens of imagination, Central Middle School believes in fostering creativity and expression. With the generous provision of cameras, we will empower students to frame their unique perspectives while unlocking the infinite possibilities that lie within their artistic vision," stated Ms. Kelly Eure, Principal of Central Middle School.

She also mentioned embracing the power of photography opens doors to a world of visual storytelling, where every click captures a story waiting to be shared.

Members of the Gates County High School Class of 1988 spoke about their motivation behind making the donation:

Ms. Tanya Majeski, a class member, expressed her support for arts education, saying, "We believe that providing opportunities for students to engage in the arts is essential for their overall development. The Science of Photography class will give students a creative outlet for self-expression and a chance to explore the world through a unique lens."

Ms. Crystal Saunders, another class member, added, "We firmly believe that arts education is a fundamental component of a well-rounded education. Providing students with the opportunity to engage in artistic expression encourages critical thinking, fosters empathy, and cultivates a sense of identity. By donating to the Science of Photography class, we hope to inspire and empower students to pursue their passion for visual arts, ultimately enriching their lives and broadening their horizons."

"No Child Left in the Cold" - Winter Coat Drive for Local Students

Dominion Energy and Gates County Community Partnership are collaborating to ensure that every local student from kindergarten through 12th grade has a warm coat.

A Winter Coat Drive, commencing on November 20 and concluding on December 8, seeks donations of new or gently used coats to protect the county's youth from the winter chill. There are several drop-off locations for easy access and convenience. These locations include all Gates County Schools, the Gates County Schools Central Office, and the Gates County Community Center.

The significance of this initiative lies in the critical necessity for children to stay warm during the winter months. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, among all children under 18 years old in the United States, 38 percent live in low-income families. This statistic reveals the harsh reality that there are children in Gates who lack appropriate winter attire to keep them safe and comfortable.

Katherine Wade, a representative of Dominion Energy, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to collaborate with Gates County Community Partnership, stating, "Dominion Energy is glad to be working with Gates County Community Partnership to collect new coats for Gates County students to keep them warm this winter."

The need for warm coats transcends the realm of mere protection from the cold – it directly impacts a child's ability to learn and thrive. Without adequate protection against winter weather, students may fall prey to illnesses or suffer from discomfort, making it challenging to concentrate in class. By providing students with a nice warm coat, the Winter Coat Drive aims to foster an environment where students can focus on their education and enjoy outdoor activities without worrying about their well-being.

Chante Jordan, of Gates County Community Partnership, emphasized the organization's dedication to this cause, stating, "We are immensely grateful for the collective efforts of Dominion Energy, Gates County Schools, and the entire community. Together, we can make sure every child in Gates County has a nice warm coat this winter. Let's join hands and ensure no local child faces the winter cold without a warm coat to call their own."

Parents, community members, and local businesses are encouraged to participate by generously donating new or gently used coats. Together, a lasting impact can be made on the lives of Gates County students.

For more details on the Winter Coat Drive, contact Gates County Community Partnership at [email protected].