PALS and TeamMates join forces

When we were young, we all had that one "pal" we really looked up to in our lives. This could have been an older sibling, parent or friend. These people made an impact on our lives. The University of Northern Iowa will start a new student organization, "Panthers Allied with Local Schools" (PALS), in the fall 2012 semester, which will allow UNI students, faculty and staff to mentor elementary, middle school and high school students.

PALS and TeamMates join forces

Students interested in joining PALS attend a training session to learn about

the value of mentoring and what they'll be doing as part of the group.

The program began as an idea in the Presidential Scholars Seminar: Sophomore Think Tank class and is being carried out in the Presidential Scholars Seminar: Sophomore Service Learning class. "The Think Tank course provides the opportunity for Presidential Scholars to identify and analytically approach a problem or issue affecting the campus or community," said Jessica Moon, director of the UNI Honors Program. "This group of Presidential Scholars has gone above and beyond the requirements of the course by establishing a long-term commitment to the greater well-being of the Cedar Valley beyond the current school year."

PALS will partner with the organization TeamMates, located in Waterloo. TeamMates matches mentors with students in grades 3 through 12 in the Waterloo schools. "I hope PALS will continue to foster the notion that we are all responsible for the education and development of the youth in our community," said Ellen Vanderloo, volunteer coordinator at Waterloo Schools. "By working together we can help young people develop to their full potential, which will in turn benefit the Cedar Valley."

TeamMates has the need for more college students. The goal of PALS is to match not only UNI students, but also faculty and staff to mentor a Waterloo student.

When asked how someone can get involved, Hannah Wilson, president of PALS, responded, "The first step is to attend a training session for being a mentor. We just completed our first two sessions, but have the ability to hold more sessions as needed."

Mentors will learn about many different aspects of mentoring a student. "Future mentors will learn about the history of the TeamMates program, how to build a relationship with their mentee and to embrace diversity," said Vanderloo. "They will also be given skills to set up appropriate boundaries such as meeting in a safe environment, time, money, self disclosure and involvement with families of their mentees."

Mentoring will begin in the upcoming fall and will require mentors to meet with their student for one hour per week for the entire school year. However, if this commitment is not possible, there are other opportunities to be involved in PALS.

"PALS members may also participate in after-school tutoring sessions, as well as planning, promoting and executing various service events pertaining to the academic achievement of students," said Wilson.

PALS is a great opportunity for UNI community members to be a "pal" and role model to a student, as there is always a need for mentors. "Our superintendent has set a goal of 500 mentors and we are currently at 190," said Vanderloo. "Students love having mentors come in, especially those that are college age."

"The main goal of PALS is to make an impact on the lives of students. Mentoring in a one-on-one situation is a great way to do this," said Wilson.

For more information about PALS or a training session, contact Wilson at