The goal of the Dulles High School Peer Assistance Leadership Skills (PALS) Class has been the elimination of substandard low-income housing. In the summer of 1998, these Sugar Land, Texas, high school students had a thought. They wanted to raise funds and build a Habitat for Humanity home. It was a daunting undertaking since they would have to raise $35,000 in sixth months, but with the deep commitment of their leader and a sense of optimism, they accepted the challenge. In March of 1999, they had completed a new home for the family of a school employee, which was dedicated in a ceremony that brought tears to the eyes of the volunteers.
PALS have assisted in home renovations, and realized they could make an even greater impact. The leader of the PALS discovered that one of the school workers lived in a small two-bedroom apartment with his family of seven, and they knew that was where they had to begin. Ms. Kay Slack, the leader of the PALS met with the Dulles High School Principal and the President of the Fort Bend Habitat. PALS selected to work with Habitat as a part of their annual Philanthropy project because of their burden for those in low-income housing. To tackle the immediate task of raising funds, the PALS called on the officers of all the school clubs. All of the organizations agreed to assist and soon everyone in the school was involved. PALS students solicited donations from community civic clubs, individuals, banks and other businesses. In addition to that, school-wide fundraisers were held. This student-led effort bound every facet of the community.
Habitat for Humanity agreed to go ahead with the project “on faith” if where was $20,000 in the bank by December 31st, and miraculously, it was. In January of 1999, the project began and the PALS continued to raise the remainder of the money needed to complete the project. The PALS kept journals throughout the process and the entries show the dedication, concern, sense of pride and excitement in helping someone else. The students had mishaps with hammers and worked long hours, but they could not wait to return the next week to be one step closer to completion. Many of the PALS recruited family and friends in addition to students from other high schools. The family for whom the home was being built also put in many hours of “sweat equity”. Teachers worked alongside students, and students from diverse groups in schools worked side by side.
Their deep commitment to improving low-income housing gave life to the dream of building a home. Once the decision was made, this commitment kept the students motivated, even when it looked as though the goal might not be reached. When the first wall was raised, all were in awe as they realized their dream was a reality. An entire community had become a family because of PALS. They learned that through hard work, commitment, dedication and collaboration, dreams could come true.
The PALS believed that putting other people above your need is what fulfills you as a person. The satisfaction of all those who are involved with Dulles High School PALS reinforces how precious helping others is. This initial project reminded their community that love and kindness is still ever present. Their motivation is boundless. The PALS are called “A Symphony in Service” and are currently renovating and improving other low-income housing in their area.