Yale Daily News

As a high school senior recently accepted to Yale, Solana Craig ’22 found herself intrigued by PALS’ information session during Bulldog Days. Following her matriculation, she joined the organization, which she now co-leads alongside Alexandra Galls ’22. 

PALS, a tutoring and mentorship organization that operates through the Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice, focuses on building one-on-one relationships between Yalies and New Haven students. Every Saturday, Yale undergraduate mentors hold individual tutoring sessions, including 30-minute lessons in reading, math and writing, along with game time. While the organization serves to promote learning, PALS mentors also strive to form close relationships with the students they teach. 

“The thing is, the longevity of the tutoring with the child, since it is one-on-one, that’s what really creates those mentorship bonds,” Craig said. 

Craig, like other PALS mentors, joined the organization because she was interested in tutoring individuals in the local community. 

Throughout high school, she was involved with tutoring programs and helped teach elementary and middle school-aged students. At PALS, Craig feels that she not only has the ability to serve as a tutor, but also to get to know the students she teaches; she sees PALS as an opportunity to bond with her students and form connections with them that go “outside of the typical scope of larger group tutoring.”

Program coordinator Andres Saez ’23 felt similarly, saying that he finds value in the continuity of the relationships he forms with the students he mentors.

These types of one-on-one relationships are what distinguish PALS as a tutoring organization, Yale participants said.

“The most valuable aspect of PALS is the strength and continuity of the tutor-student partnerships,” Saez wrote. “From elementary to high school age, we walk alongside and guide students such that their success is our success.”

Immanuel Chass Bissell ’24, another one of the PALS program coordinators, sees a similar purpose in PALS. 

Bissell views his role as a mentor as a meaningful way to engage with the New Haven community.

“I love that PALS gives me a glimpse into the world of a 9- to 17-year-old and reminds me how much there is to learn and forget,” Bissell wrote to the News. “Tutoring with PALS is a way for me to be useful and feel helpful, and to play a role in Yale’s interaction with New Haven.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the group, PALS has continued to serve the New Haven community through an online format. The group uses Zoom as its meeting platform every Saturday. Tutors and students meet in the main room and then break off into separate virtual rooms when their respective students join. 

When the group first transitioned to this online format, PALS saw a gradual shift in the age range of students they taught. Now, most of the students are slightly older than before, a change which Craig sees as a positive. For example, PALS has been able to introduce SAT tutoring and a stronger focus on high school subjects, both of which have historically been outside of the scope of the group. 

Beyond this, Craig believes that virtual meetings have strengthened mentor-student bonds, noting that the virtual format encourages more one-on-one time.

Moving forward, PALS hopes to recruit more students from New Haven. For the first time in recent years, PALS has more mentors than students and is eager to spread the word about their tutoring and mentorship programs.

“We know it’s hard to learn with COVID-19,” Craig said. “And this free tutoring option is something we want to get the word out about to different local, New Haven schools.”

PALS currently has approximately nine tutors and seven students.