Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Youth Mentorship Program growing in size and scope

Al’s Pals, a UA mentorship program for at-risk youths, has seen great growth since its launch over two years ago.

Rachel Guiles, the student director for Al’s Pals, said the group offers a rewarding experience for both the children and the mentors.

“The children absolutely love us coming to their school and mentoring them,” Guiles said. “Many of the students we mentor don’t always have adult figures that they can count on being there for them, so we become that role model that they can look up to and strive to be like.”

Al’s Pals mentors are paired one-on-one with students in grades K-5 at either Tuscaloosa’s McKenzie Court Community Center or Oakdale Elementary on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Al’s Pals is an opportunity offered to all UA students with a GPA of 2.5 or higher who are willing to commit to mentoring weekly for at least one semester. Mentors help the children with their homework, reinforce reading and math skills and offer a variety of enrichment and recreational activities.

“We are so excited Al’s Pals is returning to McKenzie Court,” Betsy Ervin, the McKenzie Court site manager, said. “This program has been so well received by our families and gives the children the confidence they need to realize that they, too, can go to college and be successful in the future.”

In addition, Dr. Lucille Prewitt, Oakdale Elementary principal, said she and her staff can’t wait for the mentors to return.

“The mentees’ excitement for a fun-filled afternoon transforms into hope for a better spelling grade or accomplishment of their multiplication tables as the semester progresses,” Anne Claire Spradling, the president of Al’s Pals, said. “Mentors, including myself, cannot wait for another day of boosting these children to become the best they can be.”

Over 60 majors on campus are represented by Al’s Pals. Billy Bowes, a junior majoring in psychology, said he’s learned that there is no certain stereotype of a mentor – in order to change a child’s life, they just have to be there for the child and truly reach out to them.

“One of the best things that I saw Al’s Pals do was to host little events that the kids could get involved in, like a mini Mardi Gras parade and a live band performance,” Bowes said. “To have that special environment there for them makes a huge difference as far as how they feel about doing schoolwork and interacting with each other.”

Meg Steel, a junior majoring in anthropology, said volunteering for Al’s Pals is a fantastic way to give to the local community because you really feel that your efforts will have a long-term effect.

“The greatest part of Al’s Pals is seeing the reflection of your commitment in the kids – not only in their grades, but in their attitudes and actions,” Steel said.


In applying for Al’s Pals, the group’s coordinator, Star Bloom, said she looks for commitment, compassion and enthusiasm for the program, as well as a belief that every child has untapped potential and deserves an adult role model who wants to help them succeed.

“If you feel like you aren’t contributing enough here at UA, Al’s Pals is where you need to be,” Tanya St. Clair, a sophomore majoring in healthcare management, said. “It is a wonderful program that allows students from UA to become mentors and ensure enrichment in the lives of elementary school children in need.”

If you would like more information about the group, including how to apply, visit the Ferguson Center website or pick up a form in Ferguson Center room 355G.

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