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.