LHHS marqee sign, purchased by donations to Wild for Cats

Since its inception in 2006, Wild for Cats has raised more than a million dollars – an impressive feat considering that the academic booster club for Lake Highlands High School was conceived as a fund to fulfill “wish lists” of teachers attempting to purchase enrichments (and even basics) the district had difficulty providing during the days of “recapture,” better known to taxpayers in property wealthy districts such as Richardson ISD as Robin Hood.

The top items requested by teachers in those early days? Copy paper and white boards. Jay Higgins, then baseball coach for the Wildcats, installed the whiteboards at night.

Today, the goals for Wild for Cats are more exciting, and recent purchases have included LHHS’ high tech, LED, double-face marquee, college-style collaborative learning centers, the Six Pillars of Good Character display in the Student Center from which came the LH Exchange Club’s monthly Character Counts Award, and the Evening of Champions recognition of outstanding students at which Dallas Cowboys Radio Network personality and LHHS grad Kristi Scales recently delivered the keynote address. Disbursements are still driven by teacher and staff wish lists and suggestions by involved parents. Recently, LHHS purchased Chromebook computers for students, resulting in strong parental and student feedback. Taking a cue from that success, Chromebooks were included in the RISD bond for students district-wide. Orignially, Wild for Cats paid most of cost of the College and Career Center – now RISD pays and all four high schools have one.

Much of Wild for Cats funding come from neighborhood parents, but not all donors have students at LHHS. Some have young kids and others are empty nesters. Some have children in private school and others have no kids at all.  Donors though, understand this: property values in LH are tied to the success of LHHS. As goes Lake Highlands High School, so goes the LH community.

Erin Chesal, department chair for social studies, says her students are grateful.

“Its nice to know that the community is concerned about our education and willing to put in time to raise money,” said Jennifer Estrada. “Of course all parents worry about their individual child’s learning experience, but for them to add that same support towards the rest of the students definitely a great thing to know.”

“This makes me feel like my community really cares and supports its youth to create a better future,” agreed Jason Girards.

Chesal encouraged the students to take ownership in their education and brainstorm to create their own wish lists for LHHS.

“A mock trial room would be good,” said Hannah Neill.

“More supplies like pencils, pens, highlighters and papers and better internet connection (wifi),” said Ladi Par.

“I wish students were not assigned as much homework,” said Chloe Bidne, “but if that is too extreme then I ask that all homework relate to real world events. On the other hand, I ask that students be required to read more books. Books of all kind and relating to all subjects. More technology should also be incorporated into studies.”

Not a purchase perhaps, but an interesting request all the same.

Student field trips and professional development for teachers were requested by Whitney Tobey and Claire Sowards, items also ranked high on teacher wish lists. Other students asked for a hands-on (bring your laptop) seminar to walk students through the college application process (applications, essays, scholarships and the like) and wished more AP teachers would teach regular classes (they perceived that “good” teachers teach more challenging coursework). They asked that textbooks be provided online and seminars be offered for productivity tools such as Excel and Word. They wished for larger or more lunch spaces and/or picnic tables in both courtyards, and said they wish administrators would bring recess to high schools so kids could “let off steam.”

“By helping us provide these things,” said Nixsy Morales, “it helps students and families all around the LH community, now and in the long run.”

If you’d like to learn more about Wild for Cats, you can visit the website here. The committee is just kicking off the 2017 campaign, and they’ve created Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to help you track their progress. They are planning “Fireside Chats” in homes around LH to encourage donors to learn more (and give), and all donors earn a yard sign to mark them as supporters. Donors over $500 will be invited to attend a “Party on the Patio” under the press box at a fall football game with other contributors.

“Anything helps, and while that is a simple statement, it is true,” said Kaitlin Ates. “Lake Highlands is made up of many races, economic levels and ways of learning. Whatever is contributed to the students of LH will be put to full use and will be appreciated by all.”