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PALS recognized for excellence in engaged scholarship by the university

The Ohio State University Office of Outreach and Engagement recently recognized the Pride And Life Skills Mentoring program (PALS), led by Associate Professor of Psychology, Nikole Patson and Professor of English, Dr. Ben McCorkle from Ohio State Marion, as 1 of 18 programs university-wide for excellence in engaged scholarship.

The goal of recognizing these programs is to support and promote high impact engaged scholarship.  The Office of Outreach and Engagement instituted a process to certify programs of excellence in engaged scholarship. The certification process seeks to identify and certify projects annually that demonstrate excellence in community-engaged scholarship and meet the criteria of high-impact engaged scholarship.  According to program organizers, PALS meets these goals by contributing to children in the Marion community in a profound way.

“Nearly 30% of children in Marion County live below the poverty rate,” said Patson, “which is higher than the average rate in the state of Ohio. The PALS program partners with Marion Mentors to provide a stable adult presence in a child’s life while providing opportunities for Ohio State Marion students to understand the community,” she said.

The group works with Marion Mentors to provide training and general support/supervision for Ohio State Marion students (and other volunteers from the Marion community).

“They make decisions about students’ placements based on the needs of the schools and students’ interests/goals,” McCorkle explained.

Ohio State Marion students make up about 10% of the active mentors in the program, he shared, providing a steady source of mentors during the academic year. This helps Marion Mentors achieve its mentoring goals and retain funding. 

“PALS has been around since 2003. We've been able to maintain it through all sorts of challenges and changes, including retirements, the switch to a semester calendar, and the pandemic. We look forward to the opportunities that this Program of Excellence designation will help provide the program in the future,” McCorkle said.


Patson and McCorkle echoed the sentiment that the program is mutually beneficial to Ohio State Marion students by giving them a connection to better understanding social support structures, area schools, and Marion leaders who make crucial impact in the community.  Additionally, students get direct experience mentoring children.

“As mentors, they get to work with their mentee to set goals and agendas and, in their reflection activities, assess how well they are meeting their goals and what challenges they faced in doing so,” said Patson.

“Participation in PALS connects Ohio State Marion students to leadership at Marion Mentors and within the schools in Marion County,” she said. “Ohio State Marion students have gone on to accept internships and jobs in community settings as a direct result of their participation in PALS.”

McCorkle added that PALS mentors have additional professional development opportunities to earn mentoring endorsements through Marion Mentors’ connection to Mentor Central Ohio. Additionally, faculty coordinators provide mentoring around how to frame their mentoring work after graduation (e.g., resumes, job interviews).

“We have created opportunities for PALS participants to share their experiences by developing scholarly posters presented at the Ohio State Marion undergraduate research forum,” McCorkle said.

Because of the overall longevity of the program and its reciprocal nature of benefiting mentors and mentees, the PALS program has been meeting the Marion community’s needs for youth mentoring for nearly 20 years.