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Department of Education
De Portola Elementary School PAL students, supported by their wonderful advisors, Janis Lodge and Christina Martin, strive to create opportunities that promote a positive school climate. These PAL students share a common goal of promoting kindness, positivity, inclusion, and empathy. During PAL meetings, students learn and practice leadership skills that they can apply throughout their school, home, and community. PAL Activities are student driven, being created, organized, and carried out by the De Portola PAL students. Some of the 2021 - 2022 PAL activities included Friend-tastic Friday, where students were encouraged to participate in games and crafts during recess, World Kindness Week, where PAL students developed and facilitated digital and in-person activities to promote kindness throughout the school, cross-age mentoring with kindergarten through third grade students, and schoolwide service projects. The leadership growth that PAL students have made personally and within their PAL group have carried over into their school campus like a ripple effect.
The PAL group at Peter Marshall Elementary School includes forty students, led by their advisor Megan Gibbs. These peer leaders plan activities that engage students and help to create a positive school environment. The Peter Marshall school community is welcomed daily by PAL Morning Greeters, who have consistently shown up since the first day of school at 7:30 a.m. The Peter Marshall PAL group has had a special focus on supporting kindergarten through third grade students by providing lunch time activities, such as the board game club where primary students enjoy playing games, all while learning to play nicely with each other, follow game rules, and resolve conflicts peacefully. PAL students have helped lower grade students engage with their peers and support their schools' positive behavior expectations. These students have grown in their leadership skills and have been praised by Peter Marshall staff who know that PAL students provide an added layer of support for student engagement.
The Aliso Viejo Middle School PAL group, under the guidance of their advisor, Kalyn Rodriguez, works throughout the school year to make all students feel welcome, connected, and happy to be at Aliso Viejo Middle School. PAL students participate in ongoing leadership training, helping them to be strong leaders both in and out of the classroom. The PAL program at Aliso Viejo supports a variety of programs on campus that are designed to develop a positive school climate and increase student engagement. PAL organizes and operates the 5 Star digital store that helps to recognize positive behavior. Along with giving campus tours, PAL students engage new students by hosting a new student lunch and checking-in with new students throughout the school year. They provide opportunities for their peers to serve their community by participating in the Grateful Week food drive, a PJ drive for children in foster care, and a snack drive for their local firefighters and police officers. Aliso PALs have engaged their peers in weekly recycling, a peer-led mental health campaign, activities promoting a vape-free lifestyle, and Kindness Week. Aliso Viejo PAL students reported that being in PAL has encouraged them to do better, helped them develop their leadership capabilities, and supported them to make connections and feel at home.
The Ladera Ranch PAL peer leaders are focused, independent, and have the biggest hearts for giving back to their school and community. This year’s PAL group recognized that a lot of students on campus were left adrift after the challenges of last year. They wanted to make sure that all students could find a place to belong on campus. In order to do this, they planned and facilitated activities to help students connect with their school. They hosted a monthly lunch for new students where they led games and get-to-know-you activities. They worked with their school’s counselors to help form and promote lunch groups where students could hang out, have fun, and not be alone. They also provided opportunities for the school community to connect through a multitude of service projects, such as an Afghanistan Refugee Drive and dog food drives. The Ladera PAL group promoted positive behavior and healthy living through Student of Character assemblies, Ed-puzzles related to vaping, alcohol and drugs, a Mental Health Awareness week, and Kindness Month. The thirty five 2021- 2022 PAL students, with the help of their advisor, Amanda Hatcher, have made lasting and new contributions to their school and community.
The Pioneer PAL program is the definition of a student-led program. Under the supervision of their PAL advisor, Mark Payne, peer leaders identify school and community needs and plan activities and events to address those needs, all while engaging the Pioneer Middle School student body. PAL committees divide and conquer in planning activities that reach across the school community, such as Student of the Month assemblies, Cafe Wildcat, Rent-A-PAL (PAL students provide support for teachers), PAL Gardening Committee, and cross-age mentoring. The students also organize service learning projects, such as the Brave Beanies project for children undergoing chemotherapy, care packages for ICU nurses, and a Cleats for Kids Soccer Equipment drive. PAL students have educated their peers about the dangers of vaping, encouraged their peers to participate in the American Heart Challenge, and created a public service announcement about suicide prevention. Pioneer PAL students reflect on their leadership growth by writing essays about the activities they are involved in. This allows them the opportunity to evaluate the activity and to determine what needs to be improved upon during their next project. Pioneer’s PAL class of 2021- 2022 has been invested in supporting students, staff and their community, and they have truly made a positive impact this year.
Kim Belmont believes strongly in empowering PAL students to take on leadership roles and responsibilities on campus by promoting an environment in which the PAL students understand that they are role models for fellow students. She makes it a priority to bring out the leadership qualities in each student. Her PAL students were given the opportunity to design the ideal PAL program, truly embracing and taking ownership in the kind of model program they wanted to represent Las Flores Elementary School. Under Ms. Belmont’s supervision, PAL students are implementing that model program.
Leslie Gomez is a phenomenal teacher and an amazing PAL Advisor at South Jr. High School. Under her guidance, PAL students work with the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) committee, School Site Council, School Leadership Team and the Advisory Teachers, as well as community partner OC Human Relations, to engage and support the 1,500 students at South Jr. High. Ms. Gomez uplifts student voices and empowers her PAL students to identify issues they care about and develop the skills needed to take action.
Amanda Hatcher is an amazing role model for her PAL students. She encourages her PAL students to think outside of the box and challenges them to understand the “why” behind their activities. She teaches them to be reflective and have a growth mindset, which builds their leadership capacity. Ms. Hatcher believes in the PAL program and sees the impact the students have on campus. Her passion is what drives her efforts as she fulfills her role as a PAL advisor.
Kalyn Rodriguez works hard to build community within her “PAL family.” Under her guidance, the PAL program at Aliso Viejo Middle School is a model of positive youth development. Her emphasis on student training provides her PAL students the foundation to have an active voice in engaging peers and supporting a positive school environment. With the support of Ms. Rodriguez, PAL students approach their tasks with the understanding that they are making an impact on others.