Photo by Kylie Schwartz
October 21, 2019
PALs– lots of people on campus utilize their services, want to be one, or have heard of them, and yet many know nothing about what they do. The Peer Assistant Listeners of SDA are High school students who act as SDA’s mini therapists and probably have the kindest souls in the school.
Anne Nebolon, SDA Counselor and founder/homeroom teacher of this school’s PALs program leads the five-hour training session for juniors and seniors in the summer, teaching the students how to help other people at SDA.
They are trained to listen or respond to whatever someone wants to talk about, whether it is to write the pros and cons of a problem, help in coming out, talk about dating problems, a death in the family, to rant about life, to take a nap, to color, to cry; anything. Anything discussed with a PAL is one-hundred percent confidential unless a student’s personal safety is in question.
To refer someone to PALs, students or teachers can use an anonymous referral in the PALs box in the counselor’s office or in the Mustang Commons, or tell any trusted adult or staff member. Then that student will be asked to leave a class period and come to the office behind counseling secretary Chelsea Levron’s desk. Walk-ins are always welcome there.
“I think it is a really good support force on campus,” senior Jackie Sedlock said. “Many more people than you think come to PALs on this campus.” Sedlock, a two-year PAL, explained that to become a PAL, students need to be referred by a teacher or apply during January. Then they have a teacher write them a letter of recommendation and are then interviewed by a current PAL.
Jeffrey Furgerson, a senior and PAL, said that a common occurrence is “people think[ing] of [PALs] negatively– like you need to go because you’re not thinking straight, but I think when you come in you see that it is a much more positive place”
Sedlock said she thinks that PALs is a great way to stay connected as a school and remind people that it is ok to not be ok. “We’re in high school too, we get that, and we’re here to help.”