In Amy Gallagher’s PALS class at Vandegrift High School in mid-October, the second-year PALS students presented scenarios to the first-year PALS students. Talking through these training scenarios was one of the last steps before the first year PALS students meet their PALees for the first time in the 2016-2017 school year.
PALS (Peer Assistance Leadership Service) is a program that allows high school students to become mentors for middle and elementary school students. At VHS, there are 113 PALS. In order to become a PALS mentor, students must submit an application, discipline referral, teacher recommendations, and complete an interview administered by second-year PALS students.
Once the selection process is complete, the students fill out an informational worksheet, identifying strengths and traits, which the school counselors use to place them with their PALees. The time they spend with their PALee can include group activities or more one-on-one relational or academic time. The time spent together is determined by the PALee’s needs and preferences.
In addition to visiting their PALees twice a week, PALS are required to complete five service hours every six weeks. Gallagher encourages the VHS PALS to fellowship as a community, to be leaders for their PALees, but also to be leaders in their school and community.
“We need to be the ones that are aware enough of what’s around us that we are creating a culture of kindness and that we’re accepting,” Gallagher said. “I always say, ‘We’re impacting to the ‘N’th degree.’ It’s limitless.”