By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Panda Cares, the philanthropic foundation of Panda Express partnered with the Navarro County Boys and Girls Club to open the Panda Cares Center of Hope in Corsicana this past Wednesday.

The Boys and Girls Club of Corsicana. – Photo by Guy Chapman

The event opened with remarks from the Boys and Girls Club local leadership, advisory board member Les Leskoven, who expressed his appreciation for the new renovations.

Cherri Rowe, the Chief Program Officer for the Boys and Girls Club, listens to board member Les Leskoven speak. – Photo by Guy Chapman

“We plan to use it to continue and expand the Project Learn curriculum that Shayla (Beck) and Audrey (Robinson) have implemented here at our club,” Leskoven said. “We depend very much on community partners to operate the club, to enhance our programming, and we’re so very grateful to Panda Express for that.”

The room is a newly renovated space within the club designed to deliver more joy, education, and critical social-emotional development to local communities. The new room, a result of a grant from the organization, emphasizes learning where fun guides many high-yield learning activities for the children, including leadership skills as they get older.

There are a planned 350 Panda Cares Centers to be opened across the nation by 2032. Corsicana’s grand opening is the twelfth for the organization.

Cherri Rowe, the Chief Program Officer for the Club, discussed the educational benefits the center would have for the children in light of two years of enduring the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having this type of space, this type of opportunity, is going to be life-changing,” Rowe said. “Every child needs someone to invest in them.”

Rowe was visibly enthusiastic about the opportunities the new room would offer its young club members.

“We’ve tried to take our enrichment and make it fun, and make it engaging, and make it inviting for kids, and now we have a dedicated space where they can do that,” Rowe said. “It’s cool, it’s energetic, it’s live, it’s fresh, it’s new, and it’s going to encourage them to want to go into that space, and want to do homework and participate in tutoring. You’re doing so much more than renovating this room. You’re actually changing lives.”

Audrey Robinson, Navarro County Boys and Girls Club Director. – Photo by Guy Chapman
Shayla Beck, Director of the Navarro County Boys and Girls Club. – Photo by Guy Chapman
Ayanna Doolittle, Navarro Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year. – Photo by Guy Chapman

During the remarks, the Panda Cares Foundation included a “special surprise” of an additional $10 thousand dollars for Corsicana’s Panda Cares Center to “bring hope to many of the members here in the club, and aspire to achieve brighter futures to higher education.”

Ruby Williams (Pct. 2 councilperson) was also on hand for the Panda Cares Center of Hope ribbon cutting.

The new learning center is set up with bold, vivid colors, a new monitor, and for the event, inspirational quotes on the desks. The Panda Cares and Express staff were on-hand to lead the young students in the center’s first activity.

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