What should have been a day of pride for five fourth-grade students in Indiana turned into an embarrassing one for all of Indiana. Students from Pleasant Run Elementary won a robotics competition for Indianapolis area schools, and the makeup of their team had their competitors whispering. The Pleasant Run PantherBots are comprised of two African American kids and three Latino kids.
After the group collected their prizes and headed out to the parking lot, they heard some of their competitors shout:
“Go back to Mexico!”
According to onlookers and parents, the verbal insults had spilled over from the gymnasium. One Pleasant Run parent heard whispers in the stands:
“They were pointing at us and saying that ‘Oh my God, they are champions of the city all because they are Mexican. They are Mexican, and they are ruining our country…’ ”
Lisa Hopper, the kids’ robotics coach and a second-grade teacher, echoed those sentiments:
“For the most part, the robotics world is kind of a white world… They’re just not used to seeing a team like our kids. And they see us and they think we’re not going to be competition. Then we’re in first place the whole day, and they can’t take it.”
The kids themselves showed incredible poise and maturity throughout the whole ordeal. Team leader Elijah Goodwin said that they weren’t going to let the haters bother them:
“They yelled out rude comments, and I think that they can talk all they want because at the end we’re still going to Worlds. It’s not going to affect us at all. I’m not surprised because I’m used to this kind of behavior. When you have a really good team, people will treat you this way. And we do have a pretty good team.”
Something positive has come out of this, at least. The publicity sparked a GoFundMe page to raise funds for their trip to Worlds. The kids come from a minority majority Title I school and needed financial help to get to the next level. They quickly met and exceeded their goal, with all extra funds going towards future robotics teams.
Way to go, PantherBots! Don’t let the haters get in the way of your success. And good luck at Worlds!
Featured image courtesy of Pleasant Run Elementary School via USA Today.