In the fall of this school year, members of the Miami Trace Superintendent’s Advisory Council made a list of items they would like to accomplish before the year ended. One of those items was the implementation of a “Big Panther-Little Panther” program.
“We need to increase the interactions that we have with our elementary and middle school students since we are all on one, centralized campus,” was a common stance shared by the council members.
The goal of the Big Panther-Little Panther program is just that.
“We want to create and sustain mentoring relationships. These are extremely important to social and emotional development. The time that our high school students spend in our elementary classrooms is one way to promote the positive, supportive environment we strive to obtain at MT,” explained MT Superintendent Kim Pittser via email.
The first step in organizing this project involved Big Panthers submitting times during the day that they could volunteer. These include during study hall, lunch, before and after school. Along with the time, they submit their grade level and content area interests. At that point, the elementary administration matched them with classrooms/teachers.
Eric Tattersall, Miami Trace Elementary School (MTES) assistant principal, explained, “The Big Panther – Little Panther program has gotten off to a great start! At MTES we are thankful for the group of high school students who have committed to volunteering their time for the remainder of the school year. We are excited to see how the efforts of our Big Panthers impact our Little Panthers and connect our buildings in a unique way.”
Sunny Cummings, MTES assistant principal, said, “We are so excited to have our Big Panthers in the elementary building. This is going to be an amazing way to support students in a fun, new way and build student relationships across the district.
Some Big-Panthers mentor on a daily basis while others on a weekly basis. Overall, a total of 17 Big Panthers are linked to all six grade levels (K-5):
Freshmen: Hannah Houck, Emily Reeves, Eric Taylor, Lily Waddle and Bryson Yeoman.
Houck explained, “Big Panther Little Panther is an amazing program that gives younger students the opportunity to be able to have a role model. Older kids get the opportunity to go over to the elementary school and have fun with the younger kids. I think that this will be an amazing program, and I hope that it continues to grow and last for many years to come.”
Sophomores: Chris Kidder, Ben Mathews, Brooklyn Riggs, Blake Steele and Emily Turner.
Steele explained, “With the Big Panther – Little Panther program, it gives high school students a chance to help elementary students. I enjoy helping first graders learn their lightning words, and finding roots in challenging words. It feels nice to give back to the elementary, and to see students grow from your help.”
Juniors: Mackenzie Long and Kelsey Pettit.
Seniors: Courtney Arnold, Pedro Arreguin, Drew Black, Logan Johnson and Kandice Mathews
Johnson explained, “I think the program is important because of the district-wide connections that are made. For the elementary students, they are shown everyday what it means to be a leader. They have someone to look up to and to connect with. For the high school students the program is just as beneficial. It allows us to give back to a school and a community that has greatly impacted each and every one of our lives. By investing our time and care into the younger generation, we are building a strong foundation for grades to come.”
“We are extremely proud of our high school students for their dedication to our district mission. Relationships and opportunities for a positive educational experience, once again, come to the forefront at Miami Trace Local Schools,” wrote Pittser.