• High school students enjoy time at Commissioners’ School

    A group of Gaston County’s most promising high school students spent two weeks participating in seminars, field trips, talks with guest speakers, special performances, and hands-on experiences at the annual Commissioners’ School of Excellence.

    The prestigious summer enrichment program gave 60 rising sophomores an opportunity to better understand life in Gaston County and their roles as future leaders. Lessons and activities involved problem-solving, teamwork, critical thinking, communication, and community service.

    The students were separated into five groups (All Things Medical, ECO Village, Full STEAM Ahead, Law and Order, and Movers and Shakers) and visited locations throughout Gaston County based on their interests.  Merritt McCotter of South Point High School chose to join the “Movers and Shakers” group, a decision that was inspired by her father’s past involvement in the same group at Commissioners’ School.

    “One of my favorite experiences was meeting Mr. Coletta, the owner of Tony’s Ice Cream,” said McCotter.  “I had a blast listening to him talk about the history of Tony’s Ice Cream, why they kept the building the same for so many years, and of course, enjoying one of their delicious milkshakes.”

    Forestview High School’s Zain Alali, a participant in the “Full STEAM Ahead” group, enjoyed visiting Carr Elementary School in Dallas.  There, he collaborated with members of Keep Gastonia Beautiful to enhance the campus and learn about gardening.

    For Shaleigh Carpenter of Ashbrook High School, she chose to be a part of the “Law and Order” group because she aspires to become a first responder.  “I had an incredible experience at Commissioners’ School from engaging with a district court judge and participating in teen court to discovering the diverse roles within our county police department.”

    “In the afternoon, students broke into ‘survivor’ groups where they competed for points in team-building exercises,” said Lori Collins, one of the program coordinators for Commissioners’ School. “But really, what we were doing was teaching them about the importance of working together, communicating, and being good examples and leaders for each other.”

    Students are chosen for Commissioners’ School based on academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership potential, self-motivation, and written expression.  Commissioners’ School requires students to concentrate on developing their leadership skills, which prepares them to assume immediate roles as high school leaders and future roles as Gaston County leaders. The various activities are thought-provoking and challenging, but also fun and exciting with a focus on building camaraderie among participants.

    Bridget Sleeper-Matzke, one of the program coordinators, expressed her gratitude for the support the students received from leaders and business representatives in Gaston County.

    “We could not run this program without the support of the Gaston County Commissioners and Gaston County Schools. It means a lot that our community is invested in developing young leaders,” she said.  

    Here is a list of the students from Gaston County Schools who participated in this year’s program. Applications for the 2025 edition of Commissioners’ School will be available in February.  Ninth graders should check with their school counselor for more information.

    Ashbrook High School
    Shaleigh Carpenter
    Brayden Cragnolin
    Abigail Helms
    Sara Mygatt
    Valeria Rosas
    Yaraldyn Santiago-Garcia
    Christopher Workman

    Bessemer City High School
    Jaelyn Wilson

    Cherryville High School
    Mallie Emerson
    Katherine Mulvey
    Landry Pruitt
    Laney Spangler
    Sophia Williams

    Stuart W. Cramer High School
    Abigail Barker
    Ingrid Iraheta Pineda
    Kae’Asia Jackson
    Emerson Phadke
    Andrew Popa
    Holly Sherbert

    East Gaston High School
    Olivia Huffstetler
    Bethany McSwain
    Katelyn Smith
    Wyatt Smith
    Alyssa Walker
    Ella Wise

    Forestview High School
    Zain Aldeen Alali
    William Arnold
    David Magennis
    Hailey Major
    Eva Suber

    Gaston Early College High School
    Lila St. Romain

    Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences
    Lilly Om

    Gaston Virtual Academy
    Stella Grenier

    Highland School of Technology
    Abigail Anderson
    Henry Davis
    Emma Helms
    Sophia Meadows
    Swara Patel
    Shanzay Rahim
    Carsyn Redmond
    Lyla Williams

    Hunter Huss High School
    Jacari Dye
    Ciara Flowers
    Alaysia Rivers
    Sheronna Spencer
    Madison Verne
    Cintia Villafuerte

    North Gaston High School
    Kadence Hampton
    Rainen Jimenez
    Hannah Martin
    Addison Norwood
    Andrew Salas
    Alexis Tutterow

    South Point High School
    Gregory Blair
    Allison Cherry
    Ella Gibson
    Emma Lineberger
    Merritt McCotter
    Joshua Norris
    Landon Parrish