Long before the state’s rubber stamp of approval last week, students, youths and faculty at the PAL Charter Academy High School have sung the praises of the program, and its unique approach to change young lives.
Still, somehow, the recent accreditation by the Western Association of Colleges
and Schools makes everything legit.
The official accreditation lends merit and the necessary sheepskin that shows how they measure up.
“I’ve had to babble on many occasions that it’s not all about performance, it’s not all about a piece of paper,” said Dr. Mildred Henry, founder and executive director of the PAL Center. “But that’s how it’s measured.”
Dr. Henry, who grew the program from one student and one teacher in 1986, said that their new status simply means the school will continue to give quality service, but students can now more easily transition their units forward to four year-universities. Up until now, students had to get through additional programs to compensate for attending the formerly non-accredited high school.
“In order to enter most any college, they want to see that you’re coming out of an accredited high school, to get credit for your grades,” Dr. Henry said.
All in all, it’s been a busy past few weeks for Dr. Henry, who is excited about the school soon be built and named in her honor, the Dr. Mildred Dalton Henry Elementary School. The official groundbreaking is August 23.
But realizing that now students will go on to a four-year college or university, the PAL Center once again is calling for low income youths 18-21 to come out and get their free construction training with a paid stipend.
The program, which transitions into a year-long training project, has been successful in placing youth on good paying permanent jobs. The PAL Charter Academy is currently accepting applications and enrolling students for the 2012-2013 academic year.
PAL construction instructor John Burks has been building homes from the ground up since 1971, and said that the youths are getting much more from their program than construction. They learn to read blueprints and they get a blueprint for life.
Part of his program includes certification within various high demand areas, like mold remediation, and other important skills that could take years to learn even at a community college.
However, it is Workforce Investment Act funded, which requires that youths live in the county – but not San Bernardino city-- as the city has a similar SBETA version of that WIA program,
To qualify, students must be low income, either out of high school or working on their GED. If they’re not working on their GED, the PAL Center program offers that too.
Many students find a trade and employment at the Center, and they find themselves. They learn to use the tools, learn important survival skills, and there is a good level of participation by Black males.
“They have to not only build, they learn to design and paint, they do arches, they make bookshelves by hand,” he said.
Burks also teaches the garden program as part of the construction class. Students built the PAL Center greenhouse which is part of their sizable Loma Linda University-sponsored garden, and where they also grow their own food.
So far, Mr. Burks said that he’s received about a half dozen inquiries from people who want to pay the students to build their greenhouses. He said that it’s more than just a garden.
“One of our students walked in and looked at our strawberry patch, and said wow, watermelons,” he said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I’ve never even seen an apple tree.’”
The project also shows there is life and hope outside of the city, he said.
“You’re shooting your dreams higher than what you hear around you,” he said. “Knowing that there’s other things in the world besides graffiti, or hanging out on the corner.”
To get into the stipend-paid training program, call the PAL Center at (909) 887-7002.