Games, culture and connections: The PALS and Explore programs

Seeking a supportive learning community for your child to grow in their Asian, Pacific Islander or Desi American (APIDA) identities?

Check out the PALS (K-3rd grade) and Explore (4-6th grade) programs this fall. Both are valuable opportunities to learn about APIDA cultures while building transformative relationships.

The programs are part of CSU’s Asian Pacific American Cultural Center’s student-led, non-profit community outreach efforts and is free for children to participate. Each program pairs local students with a Colorado State University student volunteer, providing them the opportunity to develop their understanding of their APIDA cultures and identities together. Each volunteer has passed a background check conducted through the school APACC Explore Program children pose for photodistrict.

About the programs

Participants love PALS (Participation, Awareness, Learning, and Sharing), which supports K-3rd-grade students’ understanding of their own cultural experiences and helps build personal pride. The Big Pals and Little Pals learn about APIDA culture through social activities and games that nurture a sense of community and friendship. The PALS community has been described by participants as “awesome,” “heartwarming,” and “excellent,” due to the connections formed between Big and Little Pals. One CSU volunteer said she felt that “every experience in PALS is valuable to me. I become someone others can depend on.” Parents have said they are very happy to send their children to participate in PALS, and that they look forward to more fun this upcoming year.

Participants also enjoy Explore, which enrichens 4th-6th-grade students’ sense of cultural and personal identity. By taking on difficult subject matter through a sensitive and humanistic approach, the program allows “Explorers” to develop greater confidence in who they are. Past topics have included microaggressions (forms of everyday discrimination), common stereotypes, and representations of APIDA people in the media. The goal is to get the conversation started and foster ongoing curiosity. One explorer summarized his experience last year: “This was fun!” Another appreciated her guide’s help in explaining session content.

‘Powerful purpose’

The guides also testify that the program improved their ability to work with youth and talk about identity. One shared, “I feel personally that I have served a powerful purpose in [my] explorer’s life.” As is the case with PALS, parents have enrolled their children multiple times in appreciation of Explore. One said, “I would love [my child] to have this opportunity again.”

Each session runs from 10 a.m. until noon on Sundays throughout the 2018-19 school year, occurring approximately every other weekend on campus. The schedule is included on the last page of the online application. Both programs build significant relationships within the Fort Collins community, and could be a significant learning experience for your child.

If you are a parent or guardian who would like your child(ren) to participate as a Little Pal (K-3rd grade) or as an Explorer (4th-6th grade), please email or, and don’t forget to check out the website where the application is linked: The deadline for applying is Sept. 21.