Sarah Bartlett looks to make positive changes as Ellis Planetarium director
The woman of a million costumes is looking to change more than her attire at events.
Ellis Planetarium director Sarah Bartlett has helped with numerous events in the city, most recently Winterfest. Aside from bringing innovative concepts to programs, she hasn’t minded being a part of the entertainment, dressing up as several characters including The Cat and the Hat.
"I love being a part of the magic of the event," Bartlett said. "It's something extra the kids can enjoy instead of me wandering around aimlessly making sure the event is running smoothly. If I can do that, it makes it even better and brings more attention to the event — I won't shy away from putting on a costume."
Bartlett, who was born in Bayville, N.Y., moved to Bradenton, Fla. When she was 11 and graduated from Manatee High School. She received her psychology degree from the University of South Florida in 2013 before going to Manatee Community College to acquire her teaching certification two years later.
Bartlett moved to Kinston in 2016 and fell in love with the city’s pulse.
"What really meant the most to me with Kinston is that I saw (the city) wanting to improve and take care of the community," Bartlett said. "Community was always something strong with me growing up, and I wanted to serve in some aspect because of my dad."
Bartlett said she wanted to work with Parks and Rec shortly after moving to Kinston, getting a job with the Planetarium in June 2017 before taking over as director in August.
"I had spoken to some kids at Emma Webb while I was rollerblading," Bartlett said. "When I talked to them, they expressed how upset they were about things in the area and wanted to feel more cared for. I wanted to be a part of that and started seeking any way I could get into parks and rec."
"With my teaching and psychology background, this job fit everything I'm interested in. It allows me to be creative, get back to graphic design with the flyers and it allows me to be artistic in designing every portion. I enjoy all of the work behind the scenes."
Bartlett’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said Bartlett has been a tremendous benefit for the area.
“The best thing you can say about an employee is their enthusiasm on the job, which is a key of being a good team player,” Sears said. “Her creativity over the past year has been unbelievable, with the new programs and her outreach — this is what we’ve been looking for.”
Pride of Kinston director Leon Steele said Bartlett has also been an asset to the organization.
“We have some great volunteers and she’s one of the leaders,” Steele said. “She’s very involved because she wants the best for the community and actively engaged where she can help. Pride’s partnership with the Neuseway Nature Park has been very good and I’m happy to have her on board.”
Kevin Chirico has worked at the Ellis Planetarium for three months and had nothing but positive words for Bartlett.
"She's a hard worker, diligent, looks out for everyone and does her best," Chirico said. "She's a good person."
Currently, Bartlett is looking to put together a science fair for March 16. Lenoir County students from fourth through 12th grade can send entries, with 30 being accepted. Forms were sent to the schools at the beginning of the curriculum and must be turned in by Sunday. The winning project will be on display in the Health and Science Museum and a $200 prize will be given to the participant.
All accepted participants will be announced and contacted by Jan. 30. There is also a $10 registration fee which must be turned in by Feb. 15.
Bartlett said she hopes to have corporate entities at the event to provide even more opportunity for the students.
“I’m looking toward tech companies to come and not only see Kinston, but the work the kids put toward their projects,” Bartlett said. “The kids having an outlet and making connections is great, and could help them expand on their dreams. I think science is a good way to do that and you never know how it can affect children positively.”
Overall, Bartlett said she’s more than happy to help the youth where she can in her department.
"Parks and Recreation makes a world of difference for these kids," Bartlett said. "It puts them in the major leagues, helps create jobs and provides them with leadership skills which they can use toward something that isn't sports-related. It's an outlet for them and helps them psychologically.
"Our kids are our foundation. Without them, we don't have a future and we have to invest in them. I want to help inspire that belief, which can go a long way."