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Panagos’ students give Pack-A-Care kits to homeless

Junior Trevor Stewart, from left, senior Masi Barnes and sophomore Gracie Poehlman and classmates in multimedia design made Pack-A-Care kits. These Bob Jones High School students also write for "Patriot Pages." CONTRIBUTED
Junior Trevor Stewart, from left, senior Masi Barnes and sophomore Gracie Poehlman and classmates in multimedia design made Pack-A-Care kits. These Bob Jones High School students also write for “Patriot Pages.” CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – Instead of just complaining about problems, Brandy Panagos’ students in an ‘advisory session’ took the initiative to help homeless individuals who frequent the library in downtown Huntsville.

Bob Jones High School schedules ‘advisory sessions’ during first-block classes. Students talk to teachers about topics in or beyond lesson plans, Panagos said. Sessions have a specific focus, and teachers are ‘intentional’ in discussions.

Teachers mentor in character development and discuss time management, studying tips and ‘soft skills’ for future careers.

During one ‘advisory’ with multimedia design students, Panagos suggested using “this time to help others,” not talk about it. After brainstorming, students decided on Pack-A-Care kits for the homeless.

Panagos remembered former students Ben Ewing and Sarah Buckelew’s mini-documentary on being homeless in Huntsville. “We watched it so students could better understand the problem,” she said.

Many students “were so entrenched in the comfort of Madison suburbia that they just didn’t understand the reality of (homelessness) or its proximity. Viewing the mini-documentary really helped them put local faces to the problem,” Panagos said.

For two weeks, Panagos’ class made Pack-A-Care kits by filling plastic bags with nutritious snacks, gloves, socks, toboggans, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, hand sanitizer, combs and baby wipes.

They coordinated the project with archival librarian Susanna Leberman, an interviewee in the mini-documentary. Leberman gave Pack-A-Care kits to the library’s North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless representative, who has an office there. The coalition especially helps homeless veterans.

“I’m not sure a bunch of zip-lock bags is going to make a big difference but, for a few minutes for two weeks, my students thought of someone other than themselves and empathized with a segment of population that’s easy to ignore,” Panagos said.

Senior Emily McDowell said the mini-documentary showed her “the actual amount of people who are homeless. Even the smallest things we take for granted could really help someone else.”

Senior Paige Fisher said a “solution comes through taking the initiative to put words into action, in an ‘actions-speak-louder-than-words’ way.”

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