Pflugerville High School, TX

"Have a great Panther Day!"
Nominated By Dixie Ross

Named a Finalist Because: In an era when kids get trolled for being different, the student body at Pflugerville High goes out of its way to be accepting to all.

From the Editors: Pflugerville High School’s entry convinced us that it’s an unusually friendly and welcoming place to spend one’s formative years, without nearly all the usual teenage meanness of a school of 2,300. One explanation for the kindness is that the school’s public service programs are downright Texas-sized. There’s the Pink Panther Pep Rally to raise money for breast cancer and the band-sponsored Pay It Forward day, when students get special stickers to acknowledge an everyday act of kindness. The regular Generation Respect forums allow students and teachers to openly discuss hot-button topics—racism, gender stereotypes, dress codes—in “To Be Honest” panels. And for the past six years, the students have collected more donations for the annual Coats for Kids drive than any school in the region. Last year’s haul: 1,400 coats.

But perhaps the best place to get a sense of Pflugerville High’s commitment to kindness and inclusiveness is right in the cafeteria, where the diverse student body—41 percent Hispanic, 24 percent white, 23 percent black, and 7 percent Asian—are all just Panthers. “When you walk into the cafeteria, you don’t see pockets of different ethnic groups sitting together—you see all students eating together,” says a member of the school community we spoke with. “It’s something when people come in and visit, they take notice.”

Sahaj Shah, a student who enrolled at Pflugerville after immigrating from Bahrain two years ago, told us that he was sitting alone at lunch on his first day only for a short time before a stranger came up to him and asked him to join his friends. That stranger and those friends quickly became Shah’s friends, “even though my accent was very heavy back then,” he says. They understood and accepted him. That kind of compassion is rare in teenagers and deserves recognition.

Read Dixie Ross’s nomination below to learn more about why Pflugerville High School might just be the Nicest Place in America.

—The Editors

 

Students at Pflugerville High School cheer for their friends and classmates at a Friday night football game. (Credit: Dixie Ross)

I think people have the wrong perception of public schools in America.  I love the high school where I teach because we have diversity and everyone gets along well.  Overall, the students are hardworking and respectful and the faculty works incredibly hard to help each student develop to their full potential.  As much as I have taught many students mathematics at this school, they school me daily in the importance of mutual respect, understanding, and kindness.

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