PALS and Explore reach children of different ages to develop their Asian/Pacific Islander identities.
Story by Vani Narayana
Looking for a supportive learning community for your children to grow in their identities?
Colorado State University’s Asian Pacific American Cultural Center offers the PALS and Explore Programs, student-led nonprofit community outreach efforts. By connecting with the Fort Collins community, both programs create that “home away from home” experience. While PALS serves kindergarten through third grade Asian/Pacific Islander children, Explore is an educational space for fourth through sixth graders.
Both programs provide CSU students with quality leadership opportunities, allowing their understanding of the Asian/Pacific Islander identity to grow alongside that of their school-age mentees. Each of these volunteers is background checked through the Poudre School District before being paired with one or two Fort Collins students.
PALS builds friendships
PALS is one of APACC’s very first programs. It is a program where friendship is built between CSU students, who are known as Big Pals, and the school children, Little Pals. Every session, they engage in fun educational activities about Asian/Pacific Islander culture. Big Pals have the chance to develop their public speaking skills, and Little Pals gain awareness. Both gain a sense of pride and confidence in their heritage.
In the past, the program has focused on different countries and learned about children’s games. From this participants learned that children’s games around the world are very similar, despite the differences in culture. In addition, the children has a lot of craft sessions to explore their creativity.
Explore empowers kids
Explore is more identity-based than PALS. The primary objective is to empower the older API children.
Unpacking discrimination and racism is never easy, and the program acknowledges those obstacles. Explore takes on difficult subject matter through a sensitive and humanistic approach, which allows the “Explorers” to develop a greater sense of self and confidence in who they are.
In the past participants have discussed a variety of topics such as microaggressions (forms of everyday discrimination), common stereotypes, and representations of API people in the media. Of course, these subjects extend far beyond discussions and activities, and therefore opportunities for growth will not end once the program is over. Explore gets the conversation started.
Each session runs from 10 a.m. until noon on Sundays. Sessions are spread out during both fall and spring semesters, approximately every other weekend on campus; see the application on the website for the complete schedule.. These programs have a real impact on our University and Fort Collins community, and could be the perfect opportunity for your child.