Return to Headlines

Gaston County Schools earns statewide recognition

Gaston County Schools received Spirit of NC award.

Spirit of North Carolina Award presented to Gaston County Schools

Gaston County Schools is the recipient of the Spirit of North Carolina Award, which is presented by the United Way of North Carolina.  The recognition honors businesses, organizations, and individuals that “exemplify the spirit of their community.”

The United Way of Gaston County nominated Gaston County Schools for the statewide recognition.

The Spirit of North Carolina Award was presented to Gaston County Schools on March 1 during a ceremony at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.  Todd Hagans, chief communications officer, and Valerie Yatko, director of business and community partnerships, accepted the award on behalf of Gaston County Schools.  Yatko has served as the school district’s United Way fundraising coordinator since 2020, and she previously served as a member of the local United Way Board of Directors for seven years.  

Given in the “Building Momentum and Sustainability Through Engaged Leadership or Employees” category, the award recognizes Gaston County Schools for its on-going significant support of the United Way of Gaston County’s annual fundraising campaign.  Over the past three years alone, Gaston County Schools has contributed more than $287,000 to the United Way in Gaston County to support programs in three areas: education, health, and financial stability. 

“We are very pleased to nominate Gaston County Schools for the Spirit of North Carolina Award as a way to express our sincere appreciation to the employees, students, and parents, who make it a priority to support the annual fundraising campaign,” said Andrea Stephens, president and executive director of the United Way of Gaston County.  “We are grateful for every individual, organization, and business that chooses to contribute to the United Way.  Every dollar adds up, which makes it possible for us to help people in our community.”

Gaston County Schools conducts its fundraising campaign for the United Way over a two-week span in November.  In addition to receiving contributions from employees, schools sponsor various activities to get students and parents involved.  

For example, at Grier Middle School, students who gave $5 were able to attend a “Sneaker Ball” dance with a DJ, and at Springfield Elementary, the school held a “Feed the Pig” event with students decorating milk jugs like piggy banks and “feeding” change into jugs.  At Cramerton Middle, the school held Hat Day, Penny War, thankful gram activities as well as a student-staff volleyball game, and H.H. Beam Elementary sponsored a “Paws R Us” fundraiser with students buying paper pawprints and decorating the hallways with them.

Central-level departments get in on the fundraising fun, too.  Departments often offer incentives and prize give-a-ways as a way to encourage employees to contribute. 

Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker stated, “We are honored to be chosen for the Spirit of North Carolina Award – it is a special recognition that says ‘thank you’ to our employees, students, and parents for their willingness to support our fundraising efforts each year.  We have contributed more than $287,000 in just the past three years and that is outstanding, especially when you consider the fundraising took place while we were facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr. Booker continued, “I have always been impressed with the spirit of caring and giving in Gaston County Schools.  It is customary for our students, parents, and employees to jump in and help whenever there is a need, and their continued investment in the United Way of Gaston County is just one example of how we are involved in service, support, and outreach for the betterment of our community.”

The United Way of North Carolina is recognizing 74 Spirit of North Carolina Award winners for the calendar year 2022.  The businesses, organizations, and individuals not only demonstrate excellence in their United Way fundraising campaign, but they are promoting a philanthropic culture.  Winners must meet specific standards of achievement and receive a nomination from their local United Way to be considered for the award.

Gaston County Schools is one of only seven school districts to win the Spirit of North Carolina Award for 2022.  The other districts include Davidson County, Guilford County, Iredell-Statesville, Nash County, Thomasville City, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.