Starr’s Mill is a building, but a Panther is a legacy

Faculty, staff, and students reflect on what it means to be a member of the Panther family


Aelise Gagliano

The Mill’s Maniacs, the nickname given to the Starr’s Mill basketball student section, cheer on the team against McIntosh during a regular season region match-up. During rivalry games the students follow the tradition of incorporating a theme to heighten the competitive atmosphere.

Daniella Vivas, Features co-Editor

Whether it be in athletics or fine arts, Starr’s Mill  “demands excellence” from its student body and staff but that goes beyond filling a trophy case. “Being a Panther is all about the days and nights the parents, students, and teachers put in for the payoff of what they get when they actually get to the main performance,” Principal Allen Leonard said. He also emphasized that “everything is earned and never expected at Starr’s Mill.”

This Panther legacy dates back to the spring of 1997, and since then the Starr’s Mill complex turned into a Panther-producing factory. The furthest the mascot can be traced back to is Peeples Elementary and their Youth Panther programs.

I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here, being a Panther is something special because it influences people beyond the building itself.

— coach Chad Walker

The Starr’s Mill football team conducts a “big brother” program where any high school football player is eligible to become a mentor for an elementary schooler. Taking advantage of this opportunity was especially important for senior football player, Kennon Golden. “I’ve been a ‘big brother’ two years in a row because I feel it is important for the kids to have someone to look up to or see as a role model,” Golden said. “It is also a great way to bond and positively influence the youth in my community, and for me that’s what being a Panther is all about.”

Prior to coming to the Mill 11 years ago, head track coach Chad Walker saw Starr’s Mill as a unique place where he could have an “opportunity to have an impact the community,” Walker said. To this day he has nothing but Panther pride running through his veins. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here, being a Panther is something special because it influences people beyond the building itself,” Walker said.

Even though athletics and fine arts may seen to be on two opposite ends of the spectrum, these Panther departments are more alike than they are different. “The commitment from all the students is high throughout the entire school,” drama director Andrew Snider said.

From the very beginning, charter member Dan Gant has seen the transformation of what it means to be a Panther. “From the start our school standards were set high with quick successes, especially in athletics, and I have seen that motivate the kids,” Gant said. “As panthers striving for excellence not only is our motto but our goal.”

It’s been the commitment and community of the Mill that has drawn former alumni here to return and continue their professional careers. Psychology teacher Sean Hickey and math teachers Emily Woodward and Derek Abrams are a few staff members who have returned to their roots. “I am a Panther first and foremost. Starr’s Mill gave me a foundation for success through skills I learned here,” Hickey said.

When beginning his job search, Starr’s Mill was always in the back of Hickey’s mind. He was open-minded at the beginning when the former department chair from the Mill contacted him and suggested he apply. The possibility of returning to the Mill allowed him to “dare to dream,” Hickey said. After Hickey’s interview with his former principal, Sam Sweat, he landed the job. “It has been amazing seeing the traditions my class created take root and flourish as the years go by,” Hickey said.

Hickey’s graduating class can be thanked for starting almost all of the homecoming week dress-up themes and also the mayhem that is the “senior red carpet.” These traditions have been recurring since the day they were first started. “Courteous, honorable, respectful- in short, prosocial,” Hickey said, are all words that come to mind when he thinks about what being a Panther is all about.  

It has been all about carrying on tradition and good character that will stay with us long after we leave the Mill.

— senior Mick Pattison

Woodward coaches both tennis and basketball and tries to emphasize to all her athletes that “all coaches expect is good sportsmanship,” Woodward said. “At the end of the day all we want is for them to have fun and create unforgettable memories from their time as a Panther,” Woodward said.

Although it was her family roots that originally instigated the idea of coming back to work at her old high school her time here left a lasting impact. “Since my freshman year I saw how special Starr’s Mill was, we maintain a strong support system that acts like one huge family,” Woodward said.

The meaning of what it truly means to be a Panther can fully set in near the end of second semester of senior year. At least that was the case for senior Mick Pattison. He has grown up in Fayette County his entire life and with graduation around the corner reality has set in. “High school doesn’t last forever but I know the experiences I’ve had will,” Pattison said.

Whether it be on the soccer field or cheering on his peers in the student section, Pattison finds a way to represent his school with plenty of pride. “Spending these fours years as a Panther have transformed my high school career,” Pattison said. “It has been all about carrying on tradition and good character that will stay with us long after we leave the Mill.¨

To know the meaning of being a Panther one does not have to be a senior. Freshman year is a year of new experiences and it gives students the chance to make “memories that will last a lifetime,” freshman Erin Chasey said. “Since arriving at the Mill, the meaning of being a Panther has been about supportiveness and togetherness with my peers.”