Pals Student Mentors began during the 1992-1993 school year, wherein Pals was started as a university proposal to inspire interest in service learning initiatives (connecting the classroom to real world situations through community service). During this school year, PALS was an acronym standing for "People Assisting Little Sibs". Under an umbrella organization, called “Volunteer GVSU”, students elected to work with children in need in the Grand Rapids area by spending time with them at least once a month, along with hosting fun events for the whole group to attend.
After about three years and with the leadership of Dr. Jay Cooper, College of Student Affairs Leadership Coordinator and Associate Professor of Education, Pals broke off from Volunteer GVSU. In the beginning years as a free-standing student organization, Pals had only 10 mentors. Partnering with the College of Community and Public Service, we received a Project Safe Neighborhoods grant from the federal government to support our mentoring activities. The grant allowed the organization to work with community partners within Grand Rapids, allowing the program to reach more children. As the program grew each year, the name changed to GVSU Pals Student Mentors; withdrawing from its acronym deviation. With continued growth in the community and on campus, during the start of the 2009 academic year, Pals Student Mentors established the mission of "seeking to positively influence children by providing a solid foundation of meaningful relationships in our community through committed student mentors.”
In the years past, majority of our volunteers have been from the college of education or college of public and community services. However, the numbers have been more diverse in recent years. The program strives to reach out to anyone who wants to volunteer to make a difference in a child’s life.
Pals Student Mentors continues to serve children, ages 4 to 15, throughout the greater Grand Rapids. The percentage of children from each age category is roughly half and half. In the 2010-2011 school year, 45% of the children were ages 4-9 and 55% ages 10-15. During this school year, volunteers served 3120 hours altogether to make the year a success. Today, the program has 63 mentors who lovingly devote their time to spend an hour per week with the children they work with. The program continues the tradition of hosting monthly group events, which are widely attended. Pals Student Mentors promotes healthy lifestyles to the children by offering fitness carnivals, park trips, sledding, ice-skating, and healthy eating and relationships at home. As Pals Student Mentors continues to grow, we strive to reach more children in order to serve our community in a positive manner.
7/31/2012 12:45:48 AM