Panther Pals’ bonds leave impact

Natalie Saydyk, Staff Writer

Every kid wants to have the “normal” high school experience:  go to school, join clubs, participate in sports and theater arts, make friends, go to homecoming and prom, and eventually walk the stage for graduation. Unfortunately for some people, high school isn’t that easy. The Panther Pals program tries to change that, but the task is a big one.

   The goal of Panther Pals is to help with the integration of special-needs students into the greater student body.

   Five years ago, Talya Bean, the social studies academic lead teacher, took over as sponsor of Panther Pals. Bean has had her fair share of victories, but she’s also encountered barriers which have stunted the growth of the club.

“The biggest hurdle is getting people to attend events,” Bean said. “Kids are involved in too many things. They are spreading their efforts too thin.”

  Not too long ago, Panther Pals was a large club recognized by the whole school. Then roughly three years ago, attendance started dwindling to the 15 members it has today.

      Both president Jacqui Daspit, 12, and officer Carter Korb, 12, said attendance is something they worry about as well.

  “[Freshmen and sophomores] are the future of this,” Korb said. “Without y’all there won’t be anything left.”

    The officers are looking for younger students interested in taking over the lead of the program since a number of leaders will graduate at the end of the year. The biggest requirement is to show up to scheduled events.

  “[I want] to find underclassmen who are passionate so they can carry on,” Daspit said.

  A number of events that Panther Pals participate in throughout the year are Trunk Or Treat and the talent show. In March, the Pals are going to take on Kingwood High School’s integrated basketball team.

   “Empathy and the ability to put other’s needs above your own is a huge life skill,” Bean said.  “That is what Panther Pals does. It helps you mingle with a diversity of people and it helps you appreciate that diversity.”