The Orange County Department of Education recently honored four schools and two advisors for their work to implement creative and innovative practices that enhance student engagement and connectedness through the agency’s Peer Assistance Leadership, or PAL, program.
The PAL program is built around the concept of students helping students. Working with their advisors, youth leaders are empowered to promote a positive school environment through mentoring, new-student transition services, conflict management, service learning, tutoring and prevention activities.
Each year, OCDE reveals its annual Outstanding PAL Program and Advisor award recipients by surprising them at their respective school sites. This year’s honorees are:
2018 PAL Program Honorees
Aliso Viejo Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District: The PAL class at Aliso Viejo Middle School is comprised of twenty-six students. These active peer leaders strive to create a welcoming and caring school environment by hosting activities for new students and supporting students with special needs. They also run the student store where youth can exchange positive behavior tickets for merchandise. This PAL group promotes healthy lifestyles and positive character development through tobacco and alcohol prevention activities and a week-long event encouraging kindness. They also led a collection drive for hand sanitizer and tissues to make sure classrooms were fully stocked during the flu season. The PAL peer leaders work hard throughout the school year to ensure all students feel welcomed, connected, and supported at Aliso Viejo Middle School.
South Junior High School, Anaheim Union High School District: The twenty-eight students in the PAL class at South Jr. High School work closely with the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and the Bridges programs to collectively improve school climate and student engagement. This PAL program takes on important and serious issues to advocate for safety and peace in their school and community. This included a #HateFree OC Campaign to promote respect for diversity and End It campaign to educate peers about human trafficking and modern day slavery. PAL is a positive influence at South JHS and the students are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others.
Adelaide Price Elementary School, Anaheim Elementary School District: Price Elementary School PAL students have been a positive force on their campus this year. These twenty-five PAL students are paired-up with younger students to support the development of math, reading, and behavior skills. PAL students contribute to the school’s positive climate by greeting students and parents before school, conducting kindness activities, and writing appreciation letters to school staff. They also conduct activities to promote healthy lifestyles by developing healthy food choice commercials and by hosting Red Ribbon Week and Kick-Butts Day. All Price students know who the PAL students are and that they can go to them for problems, questions, or comments. The Price PAL students truly represent the best of peer leadership.
Lomarena Elementary School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District: There are thirty members of the Lomarena Elementary School PAL club working hard to make school a happy, fun, and safe place for everyone. These motivated PAL peer leaders lead monthly “Friendtastic Friday” events, share Monday Motivation Quotes, coordinate a new student welcome program, and serve as PAL Buddies to students with special needs. At Lomarena, each PAL peer leader is assigned a classroom to support students one-on-one or in a small group setting. In addition, they provide mini-lessons to the primary classes about positive character traits. Lomarena PAL peer leaders strive to make sure that all students feel cared for and loved on their campus.
2018 PAL Advisor Honorees
Shonna Josephson, Castille Elementary School, Capistrano Unified School District: Shonna Josephson has been the PAL advisor at Castille Elementary School for the past eight years. She has earned the respect and admiration of the entire school community by developing a PAL program that enthusiastically implements local community service projects and provides leadership on campus. Under her leadership, the PAL program has been a successful and energizing experience for PAL students year after year.
Kim Nguyen, Masuda Middle School, Fountain Valley School District: In the words of her students, “Mrs. Nguyen constantly models and inspires us to make better choices, supports our ideas, puts us in front of herself, and goes out of her way to make learning fun.” As co-PAL advisor for the past four years, Mrs. Nguyen reaches out to the local high schools and elementary schools, striving to connect and engage her PAL students with feeder schools and in their community. Mrs. Nguyen is genuine in her love for teaching, and her love for her PAL students.