On March 23, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives, Dr. Crystal Harden, led the discussion “From Gates to Greats: Rural Science Education Engagement with the Saunders Science Scholars Program.” Dr. Harden was joined by Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Schools and Mr. Benjamin C. Saunders, Jr., President of Gates County Community Partnership. The presentation examined the Saunders Science Scholars program and the collaborative effort that makes the program successful.

The Saunders Science Scholars is a science enrichment initiative that provides resources and events that encourage the exploration of STEM to the community of Gates County Schools. The model used by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Gates County is defined as “a passionate entity (e.g., Morehead) 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 collaboration for its betterment.”

“The establishment of community partnerships comes from an innovator’s mindset to find ways to give students all the wonderful things they desire as they grow and learn in the public-school setting,” stated Dr. Barry Williams. “The purpose of education is to develop learners and leaders who improve today and tomorrow for all. To develop our students, we must be forward-thinking and utilize all resources to empower them and inspire innovation.”

The alliance provides a clear positive community impact. There is a better understanding of science for students and parents, more family bonding, enhanced social interactions, improved access to resources, and heightened community engagement.

“We are in full support of initiatives that improve Gates County,” said Sherley Jones, Jr., Director of Gates County Community Partnership. “Morehead has facilitated miracles in our community. We appreciate their passion, as it is contagious!”

“The model created in Gates County is one that Morehead looks forward to expanding into other surrounding counties. The benefits of the model to the school community and larger community are significant and invaluable,” stated Dr. Crystal Harden.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s programming galvanizes populations and produces positive outcomes. Inequities are addressed and schools are strengthened. A verified blueprint for expansion and replication now exists. Those involved in the presentation hope that others use “the model” to enrich those in rural locations throughout the country.