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 While each story was accurate on the date it was published, it may be outdated when viewed.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.


WEST EDGECOMBE MIDDLE COMES TOGETHER FOR THANKSGIVING (Education NC) On Monday, students from West Edgecombe Middle School met in the cafeteria to pack boxes with a combination of sweet potato pies, corn muffin mixes, boxes of stuffing and, of course, turkeys. These packages are going to Edgecombe County families in need, including some from the students’ own school, as well as families from Princeville Elementary School, which was closed due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

“We have a lot of families who were already economically disadvantaged before the flood, and then you put any kind of natural disaster on top of that and it just devastates an area,” said Kelsey Ballard, the assistant principal of West Edgecombe Middle School.

The students packing the boxes Monday were mostly representatives of the West Edgecombe Middle School’s student government, but the collection effort has been a school-wide task. Students donated canned goods throughout the year. Families donated money. Even the community got involved. As I stood there, Jim Vickers and John Edmondson from the National Wild Turkey Federation, walked in with turkeys in hand to turn over to the kids.

“Everyone should have something to eat on Thanksgiving,” said eighth-grade class representative Tazion Bains.

FROM COOK-OFFS TO DODGEBALL, 16 CHARLOTTE-AREA SCHOOLS GET CREATIVE TO FIGHT HUNGER (Charlotte Observer) Things have been kind of crazy at 16 Charlotte-area high schools this fall. There were glow runs, dodge ball games and a principal getting pie in the face.

East Mecklenburg High School took the prize for creativity with a rice-and-beans cook-off, but the real winner was Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and the hungry families it helps feed. The activities were part of the sixth annual Carolinas Student Hunger Drive, which brought North and South Carolina teens together to collect 288,633 pounds of food.

Schools in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and York (S.C.) counties held fund-raisers and food drives. There was literally a prize – $500 – for most creative event. East Meck, which has an award-winning culinary arts program, won by inviting all clubs to create original rice-and-beans dishes and submit them for taste-testing, with entry fees going to the food drive.

KIDS RAISE $21K FOR NC FLOOD RELIEF (Gaston Gazette) Help is on the way. Students in Gaston’s public schools are sending money to assist kids and families in some of the state’s communities most devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

The school system’s 54 schools and the central office collected donations earlier this month for its second Nickels 4 Neighbors campaign. Kids brought in change and sorted the donations at school. Superintendent of schools Jeff Booker announced Monday that students raised a grand total of $21,801.15 – the equivalent of 436,023 nickels.

"This shows the true spirit of caring and giving in Gaston County Schools, and we appreciate the efforts of our schools to support this important fundraising project,” said Booker.

School leaders have contacted the State Department of Public Instruction to help determine school systems in the most need of assistance.

“I am so proud of our schools for stepping up to the challenge to help our neighbors in need," said Booker. "We know the money collected by our students in Gaston County will be put to good use to help students and their families in the eastern part of our state.”

WATAUGA STUDENTS HONOR LOCAL VETERANS (Watauga County Schools) Students at Cove Creek, Green Valley and Parkway Elementary Schools joined together to host events to honor local veterans this week. Former service men and women visiting the schools were treated to parades, ceremonies showcasing performing arts, speeches and music, as well as a meal.

"It's important to teach our children to be proud of our country -- to be patriots," said Parkway Elementary School Principal Stephanie Weeks. "We want them to recognize the service and sacrifice that others have given so that we can have the freedoms that we enjoy today."

More than 80 veterans, representing every branch of the U.S. military, attended this year's ceremonies at Parkway Elementary. Cove Creek and Green Valley also saw record numbers of veteran participation.

Watauga County School Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said hosting Veterans Day ceremonies provided more than just an opportunity for students honor the sacrifices of our veterans, he said, it also is a way for Watauga County Schools to give back and to recognize service men and women for their immeasurable contribution to the nation.

SOUTH LENOIR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS BUILDING A TINY HOUSE (New Bern Sun Journal) Students at South Lenoir High School recently got to take a peek inside a tiny house. The high school is building a “Tiny Blue Devil House,” which will be a 20-foot long tiny house on wheels.

Andrew Odom, founder and host of the 2017 TinyHouseNC Street festival, partnered with Stephanie Arne and Tim Davison, founders of Creative Animal Foundation, to bring the Creative Animal Tour to Lenoir County.  

  “I thought it would be cool to bring their tiny house to the high school ... so that the students working on the tiny house could see what a finished one looks like and Tim and Stephanie could talk to them about how this kind of plays into sustainability,” said Odom.

Students are scheduled to begin building, the “Tiny Blue Devil House” on Tuesday. Local business HH Farm Supply, Triple C Trailers team custom built a trailer on wheels specifically for the school’s project. The project is expected to take 15 weeks.

Once completed, the house once will be available for public viewing at the 2017 TinyHouseNC Street Festival in Pink Hill, which is scheduled for April 21-23, 2017.

The tiny house will be built during school and after school, and students involved in the CTE (career and technical education) program will help build both the tiny house and the school’s annual home building project. The project will incorporate lessons in core and sustainable construction, as well as other aspects of carpentry.

MUDDY SNEAKERS OFFERS HANDS-ON SCIENCE LESSONS (Asheville Citizen-Times) Predator vs. prey was a scenario fifth-graders from Claxton Elementary got to figure out for themselves, role-playing as noiseless snakes trying to steal a pouch of “eggs” from a classmate (mother heron), who stood blindfolded in a circle near the bubbly Bent Creek, listening for the slightest sound to pounce on the sneaky snakes.

The students were on an expeditionary outing in Pisgah National Forest, learning “Classroom in the Woods” with the Western North Carolina nonprofit, Muddy Sneakers. The environmental education program has become so widely recognized that North Carolina awarded it $500,000 earlier this year to expand its work statewide.

“We’re confident we can take this program to other regions of the state, to serve as many public schools as possible,” said Ryan Olson, Muddy Sneakers executive director. “For many students served, Muddy Sneakers provides their first substantial experience in nature and the only opportunity they may have to spend extended hours outside alongside gifted naturalists.”

The Brevard-based Muddy Sneakers works with fifth-graders to teach the state-mandated science curriculum experientially. In support of STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning, Muddy Sneakers seeks to cultivate in students a lifelong connection to nature, improved academic achievement, a love of inquiry and an understanding of how people and places interconnect.