During the week of June 26th, Gates County Community Partnership (GCCP) presented the second edition of their free college readiness initiative, Opening GATES, to local high school students.

“This year we used lessons learned and ‘glows and grows’ to attempt to deliver an even better offering to our students. With the help of our extended community, I think we were successful,” said Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership. “Just like last year, we would like to thank our participants for allowing us to collaborate with them. Purpose filled lives are being built.”

Saunders mentioned the 2023 camp engaged even more counties than before, as it served students from Gates, Hertford, Camden, Bertie, and Edgecombe.

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.

“Higher education is key to developing our youth to sustain vibrant and prosperous communities where minds are enlightened, horizons are broadened, and opportunities are created,” stressed Sherley Jones, Jr., Director of Gates County Community Partnership.

Opening GATES 2023 provided participants a one-week summer enrichment program that combined ACT Prep, youth development activities, and an overnight college tour of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Fayetteville State University.

The first three days of the camp took place at Gates County High School. Day 1 started with ACT tutoring by A Plus Test Prep. Students learned about test taking strategies and life. “What you get is in direct correlation with how hard and how smart you work!”

The day ended with an inspirational workshop by Gates County High School alum Kenneth Rountree. The veteran and award-winning actor currently works in the IT field and is co-founder of the Diversity Community of Interest group, Shades.

Mr. Rountree discussed the importance of a college education. He focused on the significance of networking, perseverance, and exposing yourself to different environments through travel and living in various places. “There is much more to the world than the area you live. Always be open to learn!”

During the last part of the workshop, the class learned how to create opportunities with elevator speeches. The session ended with presentations.

Day 2 began with Sheba Brown of A Plus Test Prep. She used her expert insight to actively engage the students and keep them focused.

Dr. Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead Planetarium & Science Center, led the afternoon youth development workshop, where she discussed financial literacy, interviewing etiquette, and essay writing. At the end of the session, Dr. Harden emotionally stated, “Providing young people who have been underserved and excluded access to educational opportunities is my purpose. I will passionately fight in this realm until my last breath!”

Day 3 started with Vincent Brown of A Plus Test Prep. He enthusiastically provided nuggets of wisdom during his enlightening lecture.

Gates County High School alum Brian Riddick, Principal at Butler College Prep (Chicago), led the afternoon youth development workshop.

“Butler College Prep ensures all students have equitable and positive school experiences that equip them to complete college and lead choice-filled lives. They know that the stakes are high, which is why the expectations for students and staff are even higher. Success is the only option!”

Mr. Riddick broke the ice with a game of “Taboo.” This energized the students and prepared them for the life altering experience that followed.

Brian’s main topics of discussion were: Success, Reflection, Sense of Possibility, Goal Setting, Why College?, and Gratitude. He emphasized we should not live in regrets. We should expect trust, exercise forgiveness, and be aspirational.

Tempting Treats & Gifts (Sunbury, NC), provided breakfast and lunch for the first three days of the camp.

Day 4 was the start of the college tour. Participants arrived at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (Robeson County, NC) and were welcomed by Ms. Jordan Majette, Campus Experience Coordinator and Dr. Katina Blue, Associate Vice Chancellor / Chief Information Officer.

“Founded in 1887 as a school for the education of American Indians, UNC-Pembroke now serves a distinctly diverse student body and encourages inclusion and appreciation for the values of all people.”

Lydia Mansfield (Native student) led an outstanding tour and history lesson. Dr. Jeff Bolles, Assistant MBA Director, provided an informative presentation on the various programs offered at the university. The tour ended with a visit to the “Museum of the Southeast American Indian.”

The day closed with a private roller-skating event at Round-A-Bout Skating Center (Fayetteville, NC) and pizza at the hotel.

Day 5 started at Fayetteville State University’s Broadwell College of Business and Economics with a presentation by Assistant Director of Admissions, Patrick Stevenson.

Mr. Stevenson also led the campers on a comprehensive tour of the campus, which included the football stadium and sports complex. Participants had the opportunity to experience “Fish Friday” during lunch at the school cafeteria.

The Fayetteville State University tour ended early, so the trip back to Gates included an impromptu stop at Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, NC.

GCCP is working to offer an even wider range of activities for the 2024 camp. Their goal is to serve 50 local students.

“Gates County Community Partnership has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the students of Gates County and the local area. Through their dedicated efforts, they have made significant strides in addressing the educational gaps that exist in our community. The collective dedication, expertise, and passion exhibited by the team at Gates County Community Partnership has resulted in remarkable outcomes and the betterment of countless lives,” said Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Schools.

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.