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Department of Education
Four school site PAL Peer Assistance Leadership programs and one PAL advisor were honored by the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE). The PAL team, with the help of OCDE’s media department, created videos announcing the awards. Principals at the winning schools surprised their students and staff with these videos during the week of May 11, 2020. Winners were chosen based on their implementation of creative and innovative practices to enhance youth engagement and increase student connectedness at school and in the community.
The PAL program is known for the development of youth leaders who outreach on school campuses through peer mentoring, student engagement opportunities, new student transition, conflict management, and prevention activities.
Schweitzer Elementary School PAL students, supported by their wonderful advisor Susana Verne, strive to create opportunities and plan activities that positively benefit their fellow students and school community. This year, the PAL leaders hosted morning walks around the campus to help and encourage students to start the day off in a healthy way. Every morning, they played music and encouraged others to join them while they walked along the blacktop. In an effort to provide opportunities for social interaction, Schweitzer PAL students decided to set up an area with board games, joke books, and coloring activities once a week during recess as an alternative for students who do not play sports. Due to the overwhelming popularity, the PAL group decided to expand this to twice a week. These lunch time activities have helped reduce discipline issues at recess. To help spread kindness throughout their school community, PAL students built a Kindness Rock Garden in the shape of a heart. Students painted words of encouragement and kindness on rocks to add to the garden. The Schweitzer PAL group sees the garden as a reminder to always be kind.
The PAL group at Gilbert Elementary School includes thirty-five students, led by their advisors Dawn Floyd and Kari Gori. These peer leaders plan activities to promote positive behavior on their campus, engage their peers, and support their community. They are an integral part of supporting positive behavior on their campus by creating monthly character skits and leading an anti-bullying campaign. PAL leaders help engage fellow students by welcoming kindergarteners, helping new students develop friendships, facilitating weekly activities with students who have special needs, and helping the kindergarten classes with social skills. In addition, Gilbert PAL leaders wrote letters to Veterans and collected and donated over 500 blankets to the Orange County Humane Society. Students are trained in leadership skills and are involved in all aspects of the PAL work on campus—from decision-making to implementation. The PAL leaders at Gilbert are to be commended for setting a positive example for their peers by living and promoting healthy lifestyles and admirable behavior.
The two PAL classes at Marco Forster Middle School include sixty-one PAL peer leaders. Together they plan activities throughout the school year to engage their peers and support their community. Marco Forster PAL peer leaders organized a canned food drive, worked with their local Rotary Club to wrap and distribute gifts for children in their community, donated the profits from their PAL rummage sale to provide food for school families, and organized a clean up of Salt Creek State Beach that brought out 107 volunteers. PAL activities are student driven from planning, promoting, implementation and evaluation. PAL leaders engage and support their peers by providing monthly lunchtime activities, quarterly student celebrations, and creating a podcast to help give the Marco students a voice on campus. PAL students want to make sure that all students feel seen and supported in their school community. They are dedicated to working with and getting to know the special needs of the students in the Marco Forster STEP program. This past November, PAL students celebrated their peers from the STEP program as they participated in the Special Olympics. Through one program, two classes and sixty-one students, Marco Forster PAL is led by advisors Nick Corbin and Ryan Healy. They strive to be the heart of the school serving Roadrunner students as well as the rest of their school community.
The Ladera Ranch Middle School PAL group, supported by advisor Amanda Hatcher, has made a tremendous impact on the campus to help engage and support their peers. PAL leaders connect new students to their campus through school tours, hold a quarterly new student lunch, and help facilitate Pride Day during the first week of school to welcome back all students. These PAL peer leaders provide tutoring, help the school counselors with Career Day, and volunteer in the kindergarten classes of their feeder elementary school. This class of thirty-three students, has partnered with OCDE to implement the Club Live program to conduct youth-led alcohol and drug prevention on campus. PAL leaders also support their community through many service projects. This year they hosted a fundraiser to honor a former student who passed away after a courageous fight with cancer. The funds raised provided scholarships for high school students. These student leaders regularly come in early, give up lunches or agree to complete activities on the weekend because they want to become better leaders and make school a fun, safe place where all feel welcomed.
Nick Corbin guides and supports his students in making positive contributions to the school and community. Under his leadership, PAL students have created a climate and culture that provides peer to peer support, community service opportunities, cross-age tutorial and teaching assistance, new student transition support, drug and violence prevention programs, and environmental awareness. Mr. Corbin provides a safe space and platform for students to feel empowered, use their voice, and be a catalyst that drives change.
OCDE Newsroom: 2019-2020 Outstanding PAL Program and Advisor Awards