What’s Working: “Panther Pals” Club Provides Mentors for Special Needs Students

Two Murphy High School seniors have started a club, as a way to connect with special needs students at the school. It’s called Panther Pals. Emma Bearden and Wendy Mateo started Panther Pals to provide mentors for special needs students. The girls say the club has been the most satisfying thing they have accomplished at Murphy. Bearden says, “My favorite memories at Murphy have come from Panther Pals. We started out with pep rallies, the homecoming parade.

We did something special for each holiday. Halloween we did trick-or-treating.  We had cookies with Santa during Christmas.”

The students even held a special needs prom. Mateo says, “It impacted me. It really made my senior year working with everyone, getting to know different people, different students. I have really enjoyed getting to know them this year.”

The girls decided to start Panther Pals because they felt special needs students were too isolated from the rest of the school. Bearden says, “We wanted to do something to positively influence Murphy. We noticed there is a lot of separation in Murphy. We wanted to bring people together that wouldn’t be together.”  Mateo says, “It really made my senior year working with everyone. I really enjoyed getting to know them this year.” Teacher, Sophia Mitchell, describes Bearden and Mateo as “outstanding.” She says, “They have helped the special needs children in every aspect of their academic and social life. They have helped them develop social skills and academic skills.”

This year, thirty students volunteered to be mentors in Panther Pals. They are hoping to nearly double that number next year.

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