It is hard to believe Panther Place has been providing academic assistance and enrichment opportunities to students enrolled in the Elizabethtown Independent School District for 20 years. The program that originally was started with a four-year Federal 21st Century Grant now is sustained by EIS and a generous United Way of Central Kentucky Grant.

The Panther Place mission is to enhance students’ abilities to succeed in school and beyond by developing and sustaining a partnership program that promotes high academic achievement, healthy living, graduation and transition into adult life, strong character qualities, integrity and autonomy for students and their families.

Homework and academic assistance continues to be a key focus at Panther Place. Communication with teachers in the school and students’ parents or guardians helps improve efforts. Emails are exchanged daily between school staff and Panther Place discussing missing work, homework assignments and behavior issues. Students receive positive incentives for improving grades, such as quarterly improved grades parties as well as parties earned for good behavior.

Panther Place recognizes academic achievement alone will not bring success in a child’s life. They work on developing positive character qualities and practices in students through lessons, team building activities and guest speakers. The fifth-grade class focuses on encouraging students to live by ‘Winning Practices’ such as being responsible for one’s self, setting goals, working hard, being thankful, encouraging others, being a team player and dreaming big. They are encouraged to give to their community through volunteering at Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland and visiting seniors at Willow Creek Senior Living.

Each year brings different opportunities depending on talented volunteers who come their way. Over the years, there have been volunteers teaching art, music, dance, Tae Kwon Do, claymation, sign language, pottery, book making and more. Many area agencies are involved in the program bringing a variety of lessons and activities for students at no charge. Some of those include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Hardin County Extension Service, P.U.R.E. Girls’ Club, Wesley Hilltop Boys Club and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Conservation program. Wonderful volunteers from the community give of their time and talents to provide some teaching moments. These partnerships have been a wonderful support for the program and the students love the variety.

Through the years, Panther Place can conclude they can make a difference in a child’s life by reinforcing education is a great thing to possess and success is possible. The most important thing in bringing this to students is relationship. People in children’s lives whether it be caring family members, school staff or dedicated volunteers is what it takes to make a difference.