Finding a PAL: connecting middle and upper school students

Shelby Mumford May 18, 2016 Comments Off on Finding a PAL: connecting middle and upper school students
Finding a PAL: connecting middle and upper school students
Leslie Castaneda '20, Nicole Rosenberg '20, Abby Gore '17, and Ella Rose Charles '20 pose for a picture during their last PAL meeting. This year's PAL program began October 2015. Photographer: Shelby Mumford '16.

For an Archer middle schooler, the symbolism of changing from a khaki to gray skirt can be a daunting threshold to cross; however, it doesn’t have to be with the help of the Peer Advisory Leadership Program (PAL).

PAL was created 11 years ago by an eighth-grade dean, who wanted the middle and upper school to be more connected. He reached out to School Counselor Patty Lancaster for assistance.

Senior PAL Leaders Sofia Garrick and Seaf Hartley. The two joined the PAL program to help younger girls feel more comfortable going into high school. Photographer: Shelby Mumford '16.

Senior PAL Leaders Sofia Garrick and Seaf Hartley. The two joined the PAL program to help younger girls feel more comfortable going into high school. Photographer: Shelby Mumford ’16.

“We know that students learn more from students their own age than they would from adults about what it’s going to be like in high school,” Lancaster said. “The adults can talk to them, but they would much rather ask their peers.”

Lancaster and eighth grade dean Susan Smith contribute as faculty advisers to the program.

Once a month, one or two juniors attend an eighth-grade advisory to talk about what they have to look forward to in high school. Conversations include academics, college and social life.

“It’s a comfortable environment here, so it’s just a time to talk all you want,” Hannah Kim ’20 said.

The 11th grade PALs are led by two 12th grade PALs from the previous year. The 2015-2016 team was mentored by seniors Sofia Garrick and Seaf Hartley.

“Eighth grade is often a very tough year socially — sometimes academically — and it’s kind of stressful. It’s important to have someone who’s older and been through it that can guide them along the way,” Hartley said.

Hartley still keeps in touch with the PALs she had when she was in the eighth grade.

After an online application and in-person interview, the prospective PALs are assigned to advisories and given game ideas along with a calendar for upcoming meetings.

Anika Bhavnani ’17 was a member of Peer Support during her sophomore and junior year, which helped shape her love for mentorship.

“I like that the eighth graders can go to an upper classwoman and ask questions about the transition from middle school to high school,” Bhavnani said. “Being a junior, I’ve seen that transition not only for myself, but also from girls below me.”

Sara Rabinowitz ’17 recalled her time in eighth grade, learning from juniors about what she had to look forward to in high school.

“It broke this boundary of my fear of the intimidation of upper schoolers,” Rabinowitz said. “It was a really good way to connect with someone on a different level and also to connect my advisory and learn new things.”

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