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.