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Pals Program finds friends for kids

Pals Program Adviser Ms. Barmeyer instructs English students. The Pals Program helps elementary students lead better lives. Photo by Bella Ferrari

Everyone needs a friend in tough times, no matter what age, which is exactly what the Pals Program strives to provide.

Bear River’s yearlong Pals Program, advised by English Teacher Toby Barmeyer, aims to help elementary students succeed and impact their lives in a positive way by having high school students become their “Bigs.” The program is an extension of Big Brothers, Big Sisters and eight Bruins are currently participating.

Ms. Barmeyer gave a short description of what the program is.

“The Pals Program is a one-on-one mentoring program that matches high school students with elementary school students,” she said. “The elementary school student has either difficulty with academics, or with social skills, or have challenges in their home life. Bear River High students would be role models and friends to these students.”

Nicholas Tan, a senior and President of the Pals Program, described what being a “Big” truly means.

“First of all, I run [the Pals Program], so I’m the director,” he said. “I make sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to, but as a ‘Big,’ your job is to hang out with your “little.” … You just sit there and let them talk to you. It’s like talking to one of your best friends and helping them get through a tough time. You can help them be a better person.”

Senior Sophie Vigil described what her job is.

“You go to the school and your job is just to listen to them,” said Vigil. “I think they choose kids that need like a friend or someone. … You [just] listen and bond with them.”

Ms. Barmeyer explained the Pals Program’s goals.

“The goals of the program are for the high school ‘Bigs’ to connect with, bond with, and be a role model for their ‘Littles,’” she said. “… They challenge each other to board games, sports, and arts and crafts. They may garden with them as well. The goal is to brighten other younger students’ days and to help them realize they have someone they can count on. Another goal is for students to have fun while participating in the program.”

She proceeded to describe how Bruins can participate in the Pals Program.

“To enroll, students would need to be either juniors or seniors, have good grades, and be role models,” Ms. Barmeyer explained. “Students would need to come to Pals Program meetings, which … currently are held at least once a month in my room. Students need to fill out a 10-page packet that is in my class. They need to get three letters of recommendation, one personal letter, one from a teacher, and one from a parent.”

Junior Hailey Hughes talked about the requirements and what it’s like to balance the Pals Program and school.

“Requirements are to have a fourth period that you are able to get out of, and there are some rules that they have which are easy to follow,” she said. “… It’s not too hard to balance Pals Program and school, because it’s only once a week for a short period of time, but sometimes I miss out on things in my class.”

Tan shared his favorite part about being in the Pals Program.

“I like the after effect of helping them,” he said. “So you go there initially, you see what you have to deal with. It’s usually a piece of work. … Over time, [though], as you get to know the person, you see why they are acting out in these sort of ways. It’s kind of like a psychology class. It’s pretty cool seeing how the human brain works from a kid who has these family issues and why they act out. From that, you can help them by seeing why they are doing this and you can say, ‘well, I can help you in this way.’ And the end result is usually good.”

Ms. Barmeyer explained that other schools also have a Pals Program.

“Numerous schools around the area are participating,” she said. “I know Nevada Union is paired up with the local elementary school and Placer High is paired up with their local elementary school. They’ve been doing the program for a number of years.”

Several participants stated their reasons for joining the Pals Program.

“I chose to be a part of this program, because I love little kids and, in this program, we help kids going through something,” Hughes said.

“I chose to be a part of the Pals Program because I love to serve kids and have a passion for it,” said Tan. “At first, when I did it, I didn’t think I would have a passion, because your first thought is, ‘Why would you want to work with snotty third graders?’ … [But] once you realize how amazing and how much you can change that person’s life, it makes a huge difference.”

“I chose to be a part of the program because I’ve always really loved kids and I volunteer at my church with them a lot and I just enjoy working with them,” said Vigil. “It makes me happy.”

Ms. Barmeyer explained how being a participant of this program could be beneficial.

“The Pals Program is a great way to be a role model in the community and it’s a way for high school students to be role models to younger students as well,” she said. “Students will have a different perspective about others and see how they can positively impact another life.”

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Pals Program finds friends for kids