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Black Panther: South Bend Community Schools participate in the #BlackPantherChallenge

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — the newest Marvel movie is opening doors for South Bend’s youth.

“Now those doors are open for kids,” said Nathan Boyd, the director of South Bend Community Schools’ African American Student Parent Services Department. “We’re just trying to get them to walk through it.”

Leaders across the community celebrated the release of the historic Black Panther film by giving teens a chance opportunity to be one of the first people in the world to see the new blockbuster before its premiere.

“I can’t wait man, I’m excited, I’m shaking in my boots right now,” said freshman Dion Payne-Miller of John Adams High School. “That’s how amazing this is and how happy I am. I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Two dozen high school students were told days before an early screening they would be the guests of honor to the showing.

“It’s still mind boggling to me because I’m not sure what exactly I’m getting myself into,” said Payne-Miller. “I just know it’s a huge event and I’m ready to be a part of this huge event.”

When opportunity arrived at South Bend Community Schools, there was no doubt it would end up in the halls of the district’s schools.

“It is evidence to show that great things can still be shown through energy and effort,” said Boyd.

That energy was shared through several viral videos online.

For months, communities all over joined in on the #BlackPantherChallenge by sending thousands of kids to see the movie for free.

Thanks to community partners here at home, 50 South Bend high school students are now part of that movement.

“Having a group or something as important as this or as big as this represents real change not only for someone who is in a student organization or African Americans, but the whole community,” said junior Shannon Clark of John Adams High School.

They say representation matters and what they see in the media goes a long way.

“So many people in the past have knocked down doors and the only thing we want is to gain from that,” said junior Juan Galindo of Clay High School.

So when the time came to represent the district, those students traded in their jeans and sneakers for dress shoes and suits.

“When you get suited up, you know how you feel, you feel like you can do anything,” said Galindo.

That night they dressed the part and made their community proud, especially the night’s sponsor, the folks over at Lexus Mishawaka.

“Understand you come from a proud people and our future is resting on what they do,” said Perry Watson III, the president of Lexus Mishawaka.

And while the V.I.P. theater experience only lasted until the end of the night, these kids say what got them there will stay with them forever.

“Just knowing that there were African American leaders in our community that we can count on, it’s indescribable,” said Payne-Miller.

Just seeing the movie wasn’t enough, the department of African American Student Teacher Services will meet with those students again to have an in depth discussion on its impact to the culture and communities like theirs.

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