NOTE :: "Celebrate N.C. Schools" feature stories contained on this site are for historical purposes only. While each story was accurate on the date it was published, it may be outdated when viewed.

Below are some innovative programs in North Carolina school and districts that have made local, state and national headlines. To see your program featured here, contact Vanessa Jeter.


‘THEY WOULD HELP US:’ FOURTH GRADERS COLLECT DONATIONS FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS (Salisbury Post) It started out as a lesson in current events. Kristina Sheets, a teacher at North Rowan Elementary School, had her fourth graders read up on the effects of Hurricane Matthew. She couldn’t have guessed the impact it would have on them.

   As students looked up pictures of flooded streets and houses, of kids their own age or younger wading through high water, and read about the damage, something began to happen. “I felt bad for them, and I hope that they will be OK,” student Jackelyn Esquivel said.

   Sheets said the class often talks about giving and being kind to others. She tells her students that people have two hands — one for helping themselves and one for helping others. And when the class discussed how the wet weather and winds of the hurricane had affected them versus how it affected places like Florida, the students wanted to do something.

   Moved by compassion, the class decided to donate supplies. “They’re the ones that really wanted to go forward with this,” Sheets said.

   Last week, Sheets sent her students home and had them ask their parents for gallon jugs of water, packs of water bottles or canned food. At first, it was just Sheets’ small class of fourth-graders, but she was encouraged to expand the project by another teacher. “We’ve got to go big,” the teacher told her.

   So the class extended an invitation to the rest of the school, and reached out to the community. The students had already built a large pile of water jugs and bottles and cans of food in the corner of the classroom, but Monday morning they got their first outside donation — several shrink-wrapped packs of water bottles.

   For the students, it’s been a lesson in compassion and thankfulness — Sheets has asked them to think about how they would feel if they came home one day and everything, even their house, was gone.

   “I feel like we don’t appreciate what we have now,” student Dasia Elder said, “Because some people don’t have what we have.” Because of that, she said, it’s important to give to others.

PERSONAL LOSS INSPIRES STUDENT ON SENIOR PROJECT (Stanly News & Press) Stanly Early College junior Jacob Whealan lost two of his grandparents to cancer, a grandmother in 2008 and a grandfather before Jake was born. These losses influenced his choice for his senior project.

   Last year during his sophomore year he wrote a research paper looking at how technological advances through the years have helped cancer patients. He scored a 95 on the paper. “Some of the information I found while doing my paper was the overall cost for treatment,” Whealan said. This led to the continuation of his senior project. “I figured I could help raise some funds for St. Jude,” he said.

   The former West Stanly Middle School track and cross country athlete chose to promote the Cancer Awareness Fun Run, a 1-mile run/walk, at Oakboro Park. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, with a rain date planned for Oct. 15.

STUDENTS GET LOOK AT MANUFACTURING (Carteret News-Times) From aircraft assembly lines to developing business plans, county high school students discovered Thursday the important role manufacturing plays in the economy of the county and nation.

   It was all part of the annual celebration of National Manufacturing Day, observed at Carteret Community College. The actual day is Oct. 7, but CCC opted to celebrate a day early with its “NexGen Manufacturing: Making it REAL!” event. Betsy DeCampo, business and industry coordinator at CCC, said, “We want to introduce manufacturing as a career option to high school students.”

   About 30 students from the county’s three high schools participated in several manufacturing-related activities. There was a hands-on assembly line simulation where students built LEGO airplanes to learn about “lean” manufacturing. Lean manufacturing is a business model that emphasizes eliminating wasteful activities while delivering quality products within cost.

   Students then worked in teams to create feasible manufacturing businesses for the county. They had to create their plans based on random household items, such as flour sifters, that were placed on a table for them to choose from. Ideas ranged from fish bait tools to sand sifters for collecting seashells.   They concluded their day by touring Veneer Technologies in Newport. They also learned about the new Veneer Technologies apprenticeship program that began this year in partnership with CCC.

River Dell Elementary holds first Family STEM Night (Johnston County Schools’ Communications) Hundreds of students with their parents got a special after school lesson on science, technology, engineering, and math at River Dell Elementary’s first ever Family STEM Night. River Dell Elementary partnered with North Carolina State Engineering Place to provide fun learning activities for students on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

   More than 500 students and their parents came to the STEM Night to enjoy activities such as building catapults, packaging s’mores, testing diapers absorbency, designing roller coasters, and engineering straw rockets.

   “All of the nearly 1,500 people who participated in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Night left with more knowledge about the benefits of STEM education,” said Cindy Raynor, STEM teacher at River Dell Elementary. “NC State University said it was the biggest turnout from a school in the history of their outreach program.”

   River Dell Elementary Principal Janet Lebo said the program was a huge success, and that she looks forward to holding another Family STEM Night in the future. “It was great to see all the families come out and support our STEM program,” Principal Lebo said. “STEM has a bright future here at River Dell Elementary.”

   STEM is a project based way of teaching and learning which allows students to appreciate the relevancy of their work to their own lives. Students in Raynor’s STEM class are getting an opportunity to challenge their brains to solve problems and develop hands-on projects to make new discoveries, just as professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians do.

   “STEM at River Dell is a rock star program thanks to the continued support of families, PTA, and community,” Raynor said.

   Raynor plans to write more grants, and form partnerships with local businesses and organizations to better the STEM program at River Del