Outstanding PAL programs and advisors honored for innovative practices in youth engagement

Don Juan Avila MS
Don Juan Avila Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District has been named one of six Outstanding PAL Program and Advisor award recipients for 2016.

Four schools and two advisors were recently recognized for implementing creative and innovative practices that enhance youth engagement and connectedness through OCDE’s Peer Assistance Leadership program.

If you haven’t heard of the PAL program, it’s 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, announced with great fanfare in May, are:

Adelaide Price Elementary School, Anaheim Elementary School District. PAL club leaders at Adelaide Price Elementary presented PBIS expectations to the entire campus, planning and coordinating the activity themselves. During Red Ribbon Week and the Great American Smokeout, PAL students took an active role in promoting positive choices and healthy lifestyles. The students regularly perform community service, holding food and coat drives on behalf of local organizations.

Anaheim Hills Elementary School, Orange Unified School District. This year, the PAL Club at Anaheim Hills Elementary spearheaded a “Stay Calm and Be Hands On” campaign, inviting students in grades four through six to become buddies with students in kindergarten through grade three. PAL peer leaders were also integral in organizing a “What if” week that focused on daily themes, including kindness, perseverance, responsibility, respect and integrity. In addition, the club launched a “Heart to Heart” store in February to raise money for children with heart disease.

Don Juan Avila Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District. Students enrolled in the PAL class at Don Juan Avila Middle School have an intense desire to make other people’s lives better. Promoting kindness, character and healthy choices, PAL students formed mentorship programs to assist English-language learners, kindergarteners and others in need of academic, social or emotional support. They also continue to manage the campus’ Bronco Buck Store, which incentivizes acts of kindness, and they film, edit and show positive behavior videos on a monthly basis.

Pioneer Middle School, Tustin Unified School District. The PAL class at Pioneer Middle School is dedicated to promoting kindness and giving back to the community. Examples include its Letters to Soldiers project, which prompted half the school to write thank-you notes to the troops, and the launch of the Dragon Kim Foundation, which helped students in Santa Ana acquire musical instruments and lessons. PAL students from Pioneer also make weekly trips to nearby Ladera Elementary School to work with preschool students who have special needs.

Dr. Jeff Kim, South Junior High School, Anaheim Union High School District. A PAL advisor for three years, Dr. Kim has contributed mightily to the positive school culture at South, leading special events, bringing in guest speakers and pursuing important service-learning projects. His PAL students have responded. Not only have they been actively involved in designing PBIS lessons, they’ve demonstrated the use of restorative practices for both teachers and students.

Mindy Hawkins, Laguna Beach High School, Laguna Beach Unified School District. A special education teacher who has served as a PAL advisor for five years, Hawkins works tirelessly to make Laguna Beach High School an inclusive community of students who value and care for one another. Her PAL program has leveraged a number of strategies to engage students and staff, including student-made videos, kindness and gratitude campaigns, prevention activities, new-student luncheons and a cultural exchange program featuring visitors from Japan.

For more information, visit the Peer Assistance Leadership program website.