Budget woes affect mentoring program
Two years ago I became involved in a greatly rewarding program, one that is now at risk of being completely cut due to our state’s financial situation. This program is called PAL (pupil assistance liaison). It was designed in 1990 to provide at-risk elementary school children with a personal relationship with a mentor who was high school student. The concept was that if these students had someone to be a good role model, the benefits would be self-evident – benefits such as increased attendance, academic performance, school/home communications and self-esteem, while decreasing the number of tardies and school conflicts.
Since its initiation, the PAL program has grown from only 25 students to 120 elementary school students and employs the volunteer efforts of over 145 Nevada Union high-schoolers. These big PALs are chosen based on a rigorous application process, including a personal interview in which they are evaluated on their academic merit, extracurricular activities, personal achievement, goals and compassion.
“We see it every time a PAL shows up. These kids are the cream of the crop; they’re very bright and responsible,” said Mike McGarr, principal of Deer Creek Elementary School.
These students go once a week to an elementary school, where they spend about one hour with the student that they have been matched with. During this time, the students receive help with academic tutoring, organizational skills, interpersonal relationships, moral guidance and self esteem issues.
Although the evidence of this program’s success cannot be measured on charts or graphs, school personnel and parents alike have noticed changes in the actions and behaviors of the little PALs.
“It’s slow change, but you can see these kids gradually be able to handle the school day; they want to be here,” said Linda Brannon, PAL program coordinator.
Now, because of California’s budget cuts, this wonderful program, along with many others, is very likely to be taken out of the district budget. The PAL program has been in existence for 12 years and has managed to operate on the relatively low budget of only $28,758 dollars per year.
Since the first threat of funding being cut, Brannon has been contacting local service organizations in hopes of raising donations so that the PAL program would be able to continue throughout the 2003-2004 school year. She has received nearly $10,000 in donations from service organizations such as the Entrekin Foundation, Gold Country Kiwanis, and Soroptimists International, but this amount is a mere one-third of the funds needed for the continued functioning of the PAL program.
The PAL program helps students grow as both academic achievers and personal role models. After my two years of involvement with this program, I feel that to let this program die would be nothing less than a tragedy.
If you want to make a contribution, contact Linda Brannon at Deer Creek Elementary School (530) 265-1870.
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