HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Kristine Jernigan is a “Panther for life,” she says.

“I’ve always been in this community,” she said.

She joined West Ottawa Public Schools first as a student, then as a teacher, assistant principal and now a history maker.

“I’m excited,” Jernigan said.

She is the first woman to be the principal of West Ottawa High School. This marks her first full year in that role.

“I hope that I can be a role model for other young women and that we can encourage all of our young women to be in roles of responsibility just like the men,” Jernigan said.

She is not only be setting the stage for her community’s young girls and women but also, close to home, for her daughters. Her oldest will be a freshman at the high school this year.

“She and I are very similar creatures but I think she’s going to do really well and I’m very excited,” Jernigan said. “I think going to school with your kid is an experience that not everybody obviously gets and we think it’s going to be really cool.”

The legacy continues. Jernigan’s second daughter will join her next school year and walk the same halls as her grandpa.

“He was assistant principal (and athletic director) for a long time,” Jernigan said.

As time passes, Jernigan wants every student to know they are a part of her family.

“I want every single one of our kids to feel like they belong,” she said.

As she tells her own children, the principal’s door is always open.

“This is their home,” she said.