AUSTIN PALS ON CAMPUS
PALS trains elementary, middle, and high school students to be peer mentors and role models to students at their own campuses, and—in the case of middle and high school PALS—feeder middle and/or elementary schools. The PALS Program promotes an ethos of service, skills, and community-mindedness for PALS and PALees.
PALS are students trained in mentoring and leadership in cooperation by AISD’s Counseling, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) staff, as well as District-approved outside facilitators. PALS work with students at their own campuses and at feeder schools in their vertical teams to mentor, role-model, and to do community service.
PALees are students who are served by older PALS. They typically spend 30-40 minutes per week with a trained PAL from a higher grade.
Activities for PALS and PALees can vary from structured, outcome-oriented activities that call on SEL competencies to less structured play to conversation. Sometimes PALS and PALees work in their pairs, and sometimes, they form bigger groups for games or other activities. Regardless, PALS and PALees will always stay on campus during their time together, and they are always subject to school rules and expectations for conduct. During COVID times we have introduced a variety of virtual ways to connect students to each other as well as mentor trainings.
PALS are trained as mentors and not as tutors. Their goal is to build positive relationships with younger students and to enhance self-esteem, build confidence, and model and encourage positive behaviors. Typically PALee students are those who may need more attention, self-esteem enhancement or confidence-building, an older role model, positive behavior encouragement, social skills, or peer relationship skills.
Each PALS class is funded from their campus discretionary budget, usually managed by the campus PrinciPAL. In addition to leadership team stipends, outside funding through the Austin PALS: Campaign for the Future help cover transportation costs for mentors to meet with mentees, students to attend trainings, and for materials to students to use in their mentor meetings. Last year AISD purchased children’s books with themes of resilience, board games, math games, and some consumable craft materials for secondary PALS to take to their elementary meetings their mentees.
Outside funding also fully supports the District-wide PALS Coordinator/Coach position.