The Act of Service

Service is a quality that Hannah Menard highly regards. For the past four years she’s been serving the Tuscaloosa community through the Al’s Pals Mentorship Program – a team of dedicated UA students who commute to different elementary schools in the Tuscaloosa area to help kids with schoolwork and enrich their after-school activities. It’s easy for students to overlook the local Tuscaloosa community during their time at the Capstone; after all, when everything you need is on campus, there’s often no reason to think about what goes on in the rest of the city. Despite this, Hannah is determined to increase awareness for Tuscaloosa natives through the magic of Al’s Pals.

Over the course of 10 weeks, Al’s Pals team leaders and volunteers work, play and bond with children at various elementary schools. It’s a great way for students to get involved in the community, and it serves as an outlet for growth for both the children and the student volunteers. Hannah gave some insight as to just why the student mentees love the program.

“For a lot of these kids in the program, we’re the only other people they see other than their teachers and their parents. So, we love on them, show them support and act as role models for them. It also helps the student volunteers realize that Tuscaloosa is more than just the place they go to school. It lets them see that it’s a community outside of the college.”

photo of a lady with an excited young child with her hands in the air

Al’s Pals is a program under The University of Alabama’s Center for Service and Leadership (CSL), which aims to enhance the student experience through active engagement opportunities in the community that build students’ leadership skills while encouraging them to become involved citizens. The CSL  and Al’s Pals have been a perfect fit for Hannah.

“Service is extremely important to me, it’s something that I’ve been involved in since high school, and I knew I wanted to continue to be of service during college. Service, to me, is as simple as brightening someone’s day and improving the lives of the people in the community.”

Service isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Al’s Pal’s mentors have to work to build trust with the children they work with. It can be a difficult task, especially considering just how young some of the kids are.

“When we first start at the beginning of the semester, the kids can be pretty shy just because they aren’t used to us; but, by the end of the semester we’ve worked, played and formed a relationship with the college student mentor they have.”

photo of a young woman sitting with children and helping them with homework while one child has her hand raised

More difficult than building rapport, though, is the good-bye at the end of the semester.

“By the end of the 10-week program, they’re really sad to see us go.”

Aside from the bitter-sweet goodbye, the children enjoy the program immensely. Hannah says they love getting to bond and play with their college mentor, and they look forward to seeing the mentors every week.

“I’ve been told by almost every child, teacher and student mentor that the kids’ favorite day is when the college kids come to their school. It’s really fun to be able to do fun things with them and grow that relationship with them.”

Hannah encourages people to join Al’s Pals.

“This is your opportunity to be who you needed in elementary school.”

three young girls smiling while having their picture taken