Purple and gold across Iowa: 2024 Panther Caravan

Purple and gold across Iowa: 2024 Panther Caravan

Jacy Werning /
TK in front of elementary school students

Panthers of all ages gathered together across the state of Iowa for the 2024 Panther Caravan. This trip takes the University of Northern Iowa to four cities for visits with alumni and their families, prospective students, current students, fans of Panther athletics and some of our favorite visits – elementary schools. 

The caravan visited Clear Creek Elementary School in Clear Lake, Irving and Kingsley Elementary Schools in Waterloo, and Northview Elementary School in Ankeny. 

TC giving elementary school students high-fives

Several school visits had some familiar faces in the crowd, like Northview Elementary School in Ankeny, where 2005 UNI graduate Kristin Barber has been principal since 2017.

She’s joined at Northview by at least 10 other teachers with ties to UNI, including kindergarten teacher Sara Alberts, who was once a student-athlete on the UNI volleyball team.

Seeing Alberts was especially meaningful to assistant UNI volleyball coach Kim Davis, who encouraged students to think about healthy foods, the importance of a good night's sleep, and the kindness of lending a helping hand at home and in the classroom.

“There is nothing more kind than being helpful to those around you, especially your teachers,” Davis said. “Let’s yell out a huge ‘thank you’ to your teachers.”

Tanya Warren, head women's basketball coach, got students fired up by starting a “U-N-I” chant, encouraging them to be as loud as they possibly could. You could hear them from outside of the school!

The chanting was followed by Ben Jacobson, head men's basketball coach, talking about the importance of being nice. 

"Being nice has such a wonderful impact on everyone around you,” Coach Jacobson said to the students.

Tanya Warren holding microphone out to crowd of elementary students

Students were able to be inspired by many coaches throughout the visits. Stories were shared, and relationships were built.

Coach Ben Jacobson talking to elementary student

Doug Schwab, head wrestling coach, shared a story about learning to ride your bike for the first time.

“Who fell off their bike the first time they tried with no training wheels?” he asked, and students started to raise their hands. “Many of us do! But what's the most important part? The most important part is that you get back up. Don’t be afraid to fail.”

It is safe to say that students and teachers alike witnessed the devotion UNI coaches, staff and students share to the community and future Panthers of Iowa. 

Coach Doug Schwab speaking in front of elementary school students