PAL programs and advisors honored for promoting innovative strategies to engage students

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Four school-based Peer Assistance Leadership programs and two advisors have been honored by the Orange County Department of Education for using creative and innovative practices to enhance youth engagement and connectedness.

Administered by OCDE, PAL programs are built on the model of students helping students. Working with advisors, youth leaders in grades four through 12 are empowered to create positive school environments through mentoring, new-student transition services, conflict management, service learning, tutoring and prevention activities.

Surprise visits were conducted in April and May to present the 2017 Outstanding PAL Program and Advisor awards. Here’s who won, along with excerpts from their applications:

Roosevelt Elementary School, Anaheim Elementary School District. Roosevelt’s PAL peer leaders strive to make all feel welcome at their school by serving as campus greeters in the front office and as “buddies” to new students. This club of 50 upper-elementary students helps plan and facilitate school-wide campaigns on tobacco prevention, kindness and community service. Roosevelt PAL peer leaders clearly enjoy being positive role models and leaders on campus as many continue with PAL in middle school.

Newhart Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District. The PAL class at Newhart Middle School includes 31 students who serve as teacher aides, assist students with special needs, provide new student tours and transition activities, mentor elementary students, and serve as conflict mediators. This year, they felt a need to increase positive dialogue on campus and focused their efforts on promoting campus pride and diversity appreciation. The students involved in Newhart’s PAL program are role models for their peers and true leaders on campus.

Talbert Middle School, Fountain Valley School District. This year, the PAL class at Talbert Middle School focused on building a positive school climate by implementing kindness campaigns, supporting Talbert families in need and facilitating new-student orientations. They also promoted positive health behaviors to students, staff and parents, including encouraging the use of bike helmets, promoting the dangers of texting while driving, and drug prevention. Teachers and staff rely on these peer leaders to engage the entire student body in school events and service activities, and the PAL students consistently meet the challenge.

Lorin Griset Academy, Santa Ana Unified School District. The 25 PAL students at Lorin Griset Academy work hard to support academics and attendance in this alternative education setting. PAL peer leaders provide birthday cards to every student and organize the student-of-the-week recognition program. In addition, Lorin Grisit PAL peer leaders meet monthly with their “little pals” at a local elementary school and facilitate activities on positive self-esteem, kindness, civility and maintaining a positive outlook on academics and learning. PAL has helped create an atmosphere that allows students to feel appreciated and accepted on campus.

Lindsey Pellow, Newhart Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District. As the PAL advisor at Newhart for the past four years, Lindsey Pellow consistently challenges her students to find new ways to positively contribute to their school and community. Under her guidance, PAL peer leaders have pursued creative strategies to support the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports program, drug and violence prevention, and feeder-school outreach.

Kassie Valenti, Serrano Intermediate School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Kassie Valenti serves as an influential role model to her students and empowers them to accomplish extraordinary things. As an advisor for the past four years, Valenti has developed strong relationships with her PAL students. Moreover, she has motivated peer leaders to build relationships and conduct activities that support a positive and caring school environment with activities such as academic tutoring, serving as “big buddies” to students with special needs, and assisting with new student transition.

For more information on the PAL program, visit the Peer Assistance Leadership website at