The second Stephen Butts ’92 ’98 (M.B.A.) stepped foot on Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s mobile science laboratory traveling bus and witnessed the wide-eyed wonder of grade schoolers putting on a lab coat and goggles for the first time he was sold.
“I could see the impact,” he said. “I had to be part of Morehead Planetarium’s work.”
He joined its Board of Advisors, which he now chairs, and is helping to provide North Carolina school children — particularly ones residing in rural communities — with the same access and opportunities to experience and fall in love with STEM fields.
Butts, who co-founded Arrivo BioVentures, LLC, a drug development company and has spent the last 25 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and his fiancee, Addie Miller, are a driving force behind the Saunders Science Scholars Program, a family science enrichment program in Gates County, NC named in honor of Gates County resident and former science educator and principal, Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr.. The program will provide monthly enrichment science activities and a weeklong summer camp for 15 sixth graders and their parents. Activities will include field trips to the Dismal Swamp State Park, Elizabeth City State University’s aerospace science department, Jockey’s Ridge State Park and Merchant’s Millpond State Park, among others.
Gates County, which has more than 11,000 residents and a poverty rate of 12 percent, serves more than 1,600 students. The program will also bring Morehead’s mobile planetarium, mobile science vehicle, classroom science visits, assembly-styled science demonstrations, and teacher trainings to Gates County.
“Being a Gates County native, my father and I understand the importance and impact of this opportunity for Gates County and the school system,” said Benjamin Saunders Jr., son of the program’s namesake. “The entire community is excited to be a part of the program.”
The program’s first activity for the 15 sixth graders and their parents was building and launching rockets. According to all involved it was an immediate hit.
“The support for the initiative is overwhelming. The school board, school system, teachers, and the parents are all engaged and committed.” Butts said. “And it just took a little spark.”