By CUSD Insider Staff
Capistrano Unified campuses and advisers were recently recognized by the Orange County Department of Education for their successful fostering of positive school climates and student engagement.
The schools and educators received Peer Assistance Leadership (PAL) awards, which school officials say are especially relevant this past school year, as the district worked to keep children, staff and parents connected amid distance learning and a stressful pandemic.
PAL programs, which are administered by the Orange County Department of Education, focus on the concept of students helping other students. Built within grades 4 through 12, they foster school- and student-empowerment acts like mentoring, new student transition, managing conflict, volunteering, tutoring and other activities.
The PAL awards were created in partnership with SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union.
This year, the following CUSD campuses were recognized with 2021 PAL Program Perseverance Awards: Aliso Viejo Middle School, Bernice Ayer Middle School, Ladera Ranch Middle School and Vista del Mar Middle School.
Receiving 2021 PAL Advisor Perseverance Awards were Amanda Hatcher of Ladera Ranch Middle School, Kalyn Rodriguez of Aliso Viejo Middle School and Leesa Shults-Amon of Vista del Mar Middle School.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Nick Corbin, a PAL adviser and English teacher at Marco Forster Middle School who won the award in 2019-20, called their accomplishments a “huge honor” and a chance to share PAL’s philosophy with the larger community.
“This year especially, people are wrapped up in their own lives trying to get by,” Corbin said. “Helping others, being self-aware, communicating and problem-solving: These are essential skills that are needed now more than ever in our world.”
Corbin added that “PAL students also learn how to be better leaders and people. Congratulations to this year’s winners! They should be very proud that they are a beacon of hope that can spread out into our community so that we can thrive even in the toughest of times.”