PORT ALLEN, La. (WAFB) - Chase Neyland-Square is only 13-years-old and an 8th grader at Port Allen Middle School, but that’s not stopping him from having a big impact on his fellow classmates.
In a small closet behind the stage in the school’s gym is PAM’s Pantry, Neyland-Square’s brainchild.
"They had a family, a Port Allen family who suffered from a fire, so they came in and got a whole new closet full of clothes,” Neyland-Square said.
The pantry is filled with clothes hanging on two racks, with even more in bags along the walls. The clothes are all donated and waiting to be worn by students who need them.
“I know that everybody doesn’t have things and I’m fortunate to have things that other people don’t have, and I look at it as sometimes, how would I feel in that situation?” he said.
The closet has more than just clothes though. Across from the racks of shirts, suit jackets, and dresses are shelves stretching up to the ceiling full of school supplies.
PAM’s Pantry is the result of the Student Program for Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge (SPARK). It was started by Principal Jessica Major in 2016 with the goal of creating young leaders.
"We ask them what they want to do to make the school better and through that, we have changed drastically some of the things that we do here at Port Allen Middle School,” Major said.
The program takes place over the summer and allows students to bounce ideas off each other, then figure out how to implement them.
“My favorite part about SPARK is you can share your ideas with people and they can help you with your ideas and they can give you more ideas to make the school better,” said 7th grader, Jacie Pattan.
Some of the ideas that materialized and are lunch with Principal Major, extended recess, brightening up the hallways, and reworking the library.
“Our kids wanted more books in the library that they enjoy,” Major said. “We took a survey so all the books in the library are based on what the kids like to read.”
She says it has created tremendous results.
“Our increase in library checkouts is by like 100%,” she said. “Kids love to check out books in the library.”
More than just increasing students’ interest in reading, the students say SPARK helps create a stronger bond between them and the administrators.
“I think it’s important to have trust with your teachers, 'cause your teachers are someone that you think that you can go to anytime knowing no matter the situation,” Pattan said.
Major says she hopes this program instills a sense of leadership in the students that lasts well beyond the days they are in Port Allen Middle. Neyland-Square is already well on that path.
“I’m going to come back and continue working on PAM’s country,” Neyland-Square said. “I’m hoping one day I can turn it into a non-profit organization.”
Until then, he’s helping his fellow classmates one article of clothing at a time.
Anyone who would like to help fill PAM’s Pantry can contact the school or drop items off at the school’s office. Click here for more information.