Four Tivy High students have been presented with high levels of President’s Volunteer Service Awards at the program’s gold and silver levels.
The 2018-19 award winners – applauded at a recent pep rally at the school – are Adin Viera and Makayla Waiser, Gold awards; and Bryanna Rodriguez and Bella King, Silver awards.
Peer Assistance and Leadership (“PAL”) is a state-accredited course with only a select group of exceptional students chosen for their outstanding character and leadership potential.
While the number of spots in the PAL program is limited, all 10th and 11th grade students can apply, according to Tivy teacher April McComack-Haas. She said 2018-19 hours of service as a program totaled 6,329.
“Students chosen for the program demonstrate trustworthiness, leadership potential, compassion, initiative, integrity, honesty, cooperation, emotional maturity, dependability, self-discipline, self-confidence, and time available outside of class,” she said.
“The mission of the PAL program is to enable young people to serve as positive role models while making a difference in their schools and communities,” she said.
Not only do PAL students help others, but it’s fun and transformational.
PAL trains and nurtures student-leaders to adapt the power of positive peer pressure to improve the overall school climate and address issues such as bullying, low achievement, at-risk youth, substance abuse, suicide, absenteeism, and behavior problems.
To do so, PAL students go off campus during their scheduled PAL class to volunteer at KISD campuses as tutors and mentors.
Each PAL student also completes a 15-hour service project outside of class time; and may work with community groups to do so. Through the course, each PAL student completes about 125 hours of community service.
The Tivy PAL program is also a certifying agency of the “President’s Volunteer Service Award.”
Viera earned the gold level PVS Award, with 550 hours of service in 2018-19.
His PAL Service Projects include the Tivy Scholarship Wall, coach for U8 boys and U6 girls in AYSO Soccer; and “Alzheimer's Race for the Cure.”
“Throughout my junior year, I challenged myself to become more integrated and influential within my community. At first, I struggled to discover where I wanted to dedicate my services. The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) held an important role, through my years of playing, in molding my leadership and teamwork abilities that I am able to apply to every aspect of my life.
“After my mom decided to coach my little sisters' team, it clicked: in order to make the same kind of impact on my community members, I needed to nurture the foundational characteristics within younger generations through coaching. Over a period of several soccer seasons, I have learned two important lessons: kids respond highly to whistles, and the influence I can enact upon my community’s youth extends far beyond what I originally perceived.
“This volunteer service made me realize that producing change within my environment is not only limited to my community but also can be applied directly to my education. Through my junior year, the inevitable stress of college applications and scholarship essays circling my senior year made me extra motivated to start applying early. The only obstacle - my high school didn’t promote scholarships for underclassmen students. This frustrated me because, after an hour of research, I found thousands of scholarships for literally every grade level.
“This inspired me to expose students to the vast world of opportunities for college money and grants. Coordinating with Tivy's college advisors, I was able to create a scholarship wall that applied to specific grade levels and career paths. I posted URL codes around Tivy to provide easy access to the application websites and held meetings with interested students to help them with their essays. These services taught me the importance of selflessness and showed me the impact my actions have on my surroundings.”
Waiser earned the gold level of the PVS Award with 319 hours of service in 2018-19.
Her service projects included the “Empower Me” mentoring group with HPMS girls to design and paint inspiring messages for HPMS girls’ restrooms; DreamKamp counselor job sponsored by Camp La Junta; San Antonio Stock Show volunteer; Ag Extension Office volunteer; Kerr County 4-H volunteer; Kerr County Livestock Show volunteer; and Calvary Temple Church Children’s Program volunteer.
“Throughout my high school career, I have been highly involved in community service. Whether I was leading others, cleaning gravestones, picking up trash, or leading team-building games, I was always doing something to support my community.
“I have always loved helping younger children, so in sixth grade I began being a teen leader at my church. This means that I was able to be a leader at our vacation bible school, watching babies in the nursery, and at our kid’s camp and slumber parties.
“Along with helping at church, I also have been a counselor at DreamKamp, a camp for sixth- and seventh-graders who have shown leadership skills. We get to see them try new things and overcome fears along with meeting many new friends while developing their leadership skills.
“4-H has also been a huge part of my life. This organization has allowed me to help others develop skills they will need in the future such as public speaking, animal husbandry and responsibility. 4-H has also allowed for me to get my hands dirty and help elementary students learn how to fish, as well as increase knowledge about agriculture.
“Finally, this past year I had the opportunity to be a part of the PAL class. Through this class, I worked with students to develop better reading skills, play team-building games with seventh-graders to teach life skills and develop a positive self-image project. This was particularly important to me because I did not have an easy time becoming the student I am now, and I enjoy helping students become successful academically.”
Rodriguez earned the silver level of the PVS Award with 225 hours of service in 2018-19.
Her projects were 15 handmade textile pillows for dementia patients at Brookdale Nursing Home; coaching YMCA first and second grade girls' basketball; Kerrville Little League Majors Softball volunteer; and Kerrville ALL-STARS Major League Softball volunteer.
“Throughout my junior year, I completed the requirements to obtain the silver level rank. I created pillows for patients at Brookdale Nursing Home, that consist of buttons, beads, velcro, and bells to stimulate the hands and other functions of people who suffer from dementia. I sewed 15 textile pillows and delivered them to nursing home patients.
“Seeing the smiles on their faces inspired me to continue my service through impacting younger generations. Coaching YMCA first and second grade girls’ basketball nurtured my leadership and communication abilities, that led to my involvement in the Kerrville All-Stars Softball League.
“Through these experiences, I have come to realize the level of influence my service has in my community.”
King earned the silver level President’s Volunteer Service Award with 208 hours of service.
Her PAL Service Projects were as YoungLife group leader for WyldLife; Texas Lions Camp Mother/Daughter Camp volunteer; and counselor for “Camp to Success Camp” for inner-city youth sponsored by Camp Honey Creek.
More about Tivy PALs
McComack said, “Peer Assistance and Leadership is a state-accredited course with only a select group of exceptional students chosen for their outstanding character and leadership potential. We begin the year with a six-weeks training course in leadership and mentoring. Then each PAL student completes at least 100 hours of community service throughout the year in group and individual service projects.
Over the years, the Tivy PAL class has included weekly visits to district schools to serve students in many ways such as: tutoring in a specialized reading recovery program at Tom Daniel’s Elementary, facilitating learning games and teen leadership at Peterson Middle School, mentoring young students at the KISD Early Childhood/Head Start Center and the B.T. Wilson 6th Grade Campus, and helping with the Tivy Special Education FLU PE class. Each of these service programs are planned and led by PAL students.
In addition to the service done by the class, each PAL student must complete an individually planned and led 15-hour service project outside of class. These projects must include serving, learning, and leading. Students may create their own program with groups in the community.
The Tivy PAL Program became a certifying agency of the PVSA in 2018. The students who earn the PVSA have gone above and beyond the requirements of the program.
PAL students also work with national, and even international programs.
“Locally, we provide gifts of family Thanksgiving Dinner certificates to our students in need, and supply Christmas gifts through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. We also help with Special Olympics, quarterly Adopt-A-Highway litter collections and at district elementary school carnivals and activities like field day,” the teacher said.
“Nationally, we support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by hosting an annual fundraiser. Internationally, we have helped support the HUG Foundation, which provides education programs to help stop human trafficking in Thailand.”
History of PAL
Peer Assistance and Leadership began in 1980 as a “peer helping” program, combining assistance and leadership strategies developed in the late 1970’s.
More recently, WAP has enhanced and expanded these basic prevention strategies, evolving the PAL peer helping program from an informal, extra-curricular activity in a single school district, into a structured, curriculum-based program, adopted by the Texas Education Agency as an accredited elective course.
Additionally, after years of review processes, recently PAL became an NREPP (National Registry of Evidence-based Programs & Practices) recognized program.
More than 750 school districts across Texas have requested services from PAL Services WAP, Inc., and WAP has documented substantiated PAL peer helping programs in 1,000-plus elementary, middle and high schools in Texas and 14 other states.
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity.