The Saunders Science Scholars program will add 15 additional scholars in a new cohort of 6th grade students from Central Middle School. In addition, supplementary services will be expanded throughout Gates County Schools through 2026. Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the producing institution, will hire full-time staff to manage the program as they have been tasked to ensure that all 30 Scholars attend college.

Funding for the expansion comes from The Butts Charitable Trust. The goal of the program is to provide equal access and opportunities in education to students in rural North Carolina.

The expansion will have a beneficial impact on Gates County, providing more students the chance to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Benjamin C. Saunders Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership, believes the program is inspiring a positive change locally. “This is an amazing time for the Gates County community. The expansion allows the Saunders Science Scholars to intimately touch 15 more students and their families. We cannot wait to see our future leaders in action once they graduate from college,” said Saunders.

The Saunders Science Scholars was modeled after Morehead’s family science enrichment program, which encourages young people and their families to get more involved with science. The program is part of outreach initiatives that address gaps in STEM education across North Carolina, specifically in rural communities such as Gates County.

“The expansion of the Saunders Science Scholars program is a wonderful opportunity for the community of Gates County Schools. Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s continued investment in our students is a gift that is immeasurable. We truly appreciate the expansion of the program as it will positively impact so many students,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Schools.