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

PAL LogoFive school-level Peer Assistance Leadership programs and a pair of advisors have been honored for implementing creative and innovative practices that enhance youth engagement and connectedness on campus and in the community.

If you’re not familiar with OCDE’s PAL program, it’s built around a philosophy of students helping students. Youth leaders are empowered to promote a positive school environment through mentoring, new-student transition services, conflict management, service learning, tutoring and prevention activities.

This month, OCDE announced the 2015 Outstanding PAL Program and Advisor award recipients by surprising each of the winners at their respective school sites. This year’s honorees are:

Canyon Vista Elementary School in the Capistrano Unified School District has the distinction of having a PAL program comprising almost 30 percent of the student population. From raising money and providing clean drinking water for people in Haiti and Uganda, to collecting books for those serving in the military, the scope of Canyon Vista’s PAL program is making an impact both locally and globally.

Castille Elementary School, also in the Capistrano Unified School District, boasts a PAL program that trains students in conflict resolution and helped to carry out the school’s bullying policy. The PAL students support a variety of causes, raising money for cancer research, disaster relief, animal shelters and other notable campaigns.

South Junior High School in the Anaheim Union High School District has a PAL program with about 1,600 student participants that was awarded the Youth Led Violence Prevention Campaign grant two years in a row. PAL students here focus on cyberbullying and e-cigarette awareness campaigns and pursue positive learning environments through student-led discussions with teachers, staff and community leaders.

Newhart Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District offers PAL students the opportunity to tutor, mentor and coordinate a variety of activities with peers as well as elementary school students. The PAL students at Newhart conduct school tours, organize donation events and start school recycling efforts. They also help students with special needs through their Social Skills Lunch program.

Bernice Ayer Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District has a PAL program that teaches leadership through acts of service. Activities are centered on supporting incoming students, school recycling and service-learning, including fundraising and providing food for the homeless. Through their Operation Organization program, PAL students at Bernice Ayer offer their peers strategies for getting organized, provide tutoring services in math and reading, teach basic computer skills to kindergarten students and share study skills at the neighboring elementary school.

Karen Minnie from Columbus Tustin Middle School in the Tustin Unified School District is known for her work spearheading many school and community activities to raise awareness while promoting youth involvement. From anti-bullying initiatives to numerous service-learning projects, no task is too great for Karen and her PAL students.

Nicole Black from Isaac L. Sowers Middle School in the Huntington Beach City School District has been a PAL advisor for two years. She’s been commended for modeling PAL leadership principles for colleagues as well as students. Beyond coordinating a variety of community service projects, Nicole helps students create a positive learning environment through coordinated projects and activities.

The Peer Assistance Leadership program website is where to go for more information.