PALing Around: High Schoolers Mentor Younger Peers in PALs Program11/14/2023
A third grader is not having a great day and isn’t in the best mindset to learn. There’s a knock on the classroom door. A high schooler asks to take the student down to the gym. It’s the perfect timing. Just what the third grader needed - a break from the classroom to expel some energy and refocus. Elementary students are benefitting from the high school Peer Assistance and Leadership program, known as PALs.
PALs is a class for selected high school students who want to be a positive influence in someone’s life. During the first term of the school year, these students are trained to work as peer facilitators. Then they are paired up with students from feeder schools to visit and mentor once a week.
The course includes training in a variety of skills that enable PALs students to assist other students in having a more positive and productive school experience.
Varsity Basketball Coach Stephen Pearce has taught the PALs class at Wylie High School for the past five years.
“My favorite part about teaching PALs is seeing my students go to the elementary schools and watching the smiles between the PALs and the PALees,” Pearce said. “The interactions are priceless.”
During their PALS class, the PALs drive to other campuses to meet with their PALees Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, they share about their week with their teacher and classmates.
This is WHS senior Liya Abebe’s second year in the PALs program.
“PALs is being a role model and being a leader,” Abebe said. “I like playing with the kids and seeing them happy,” Abebe said.
Varsity basketball player Kamsi Ikegbunam is a PAL to younger students at Davis, Draper, Tibbals and Smith.
“It's nice to inspire kids,” Ikegbunam said. “We like to play basketball in the gyms. Sometimes we’ll play board games or go out on the playground.”
Pearce has witnessed first-hand his students making positive connections with their younger peers.
WHS senior Euaiel Aklile met his PALee early this school year and developed a strong relationship with him.
“When the PALee saw Euaiel at a football game, the young one came up to [Aklile] and sparked a conversation,” Pearce said. “You would think that a high school kid would say hello and brush the elementary kid off, but Euaiel sat and talked to his PALee for much of the football game. He told me he was ‘genuinely happy to spend time with the young elementary student.’”
In his 14 years of teaching, Pearce says PALs is his favorite class to teach.
“It’s without a doubt life-changing for some of these young kids, who may be going through a tough stretch in their life, to get mentored by these PALs.”