Bringing personal experience and a vision of equal opportunity, Nicole Shadeed, Associate Director of College Counseling, will assume the role of PALS Director in the 2019-2020 school year, succeeding Sean McCarthy, Interim Director. PALS, an Andover outreach program designed to provide seventh and eighth grade students in Lawrence with tools for future high school and college success, will enter its 32nd year under Shadeed’s leadership.
Originally founded in 1988 as a small partnership between Andover and the Leonard School in Lawrence, PALS has since expanded to send over 300 Andover and Andover High School tutors to four Lawrence middle schools. Students meet with their tutors twice weekly in Lawrence during the school year and for four weeks at Andover in the summer.
Since its founding, the program has graduated nearly 600 students, who Shadeed says are now better equipped to tackle the challenges of the high school transition.
“I think students, from my understanding, probably feel more confident in their abilities as students. They feel they’re gaining some advanced skills in English and Math and so they’re going into eighth and ninth grade feeling more prepared and more confident,” said Shadeed in an interview with The Phillipian.
The program also serves to provide information about the high school application process for those students who are interested in a private secondary school education. While the students are not urged towards any one high school, Shadeed said she hopes that giving the students access to information will allow them to make the best choices for their education.
“Certainly my philosophy in taking [PALS] over is that it’s an informational program, so the idea is to provide families and students with information that their peers in neighboring cities with different demographics might have access to, and providing that information to students and families in seventh grade so that they feel they have options and they’re not finding out about them in tenth grade and saying ‘oh, I wish I had known I could’ve applied to x, y, z school,’” said Shadeed.
Shadeed said she intends to bring her experience as a college counselor to her work in PALS, hoping that the advantages provided to students in middle school will help them down the road when they begin thinking about potential college aspirations. By providing students with an early start, Shadeed says she hopes that her work in PALS can help raise Lawrence students’ preparedness for the application process.
“I think working in [The College Counseling Office] and having an understanding of the college admissions landscape is certainly going to help in thinking about what can I be teaching students four to five years ahead of that application process that will help them no matter what. And that’s one thing I’m really excited about, to think that I can have an impact through what we do in PALS,” said Shadeed.
Growing up in Lawrence, Shadeed said she felt that a lack of information put her at a disadvantage in the college process. Now, with her experience in college counseling, she feels that Andover students tend to take some of their advantages for granted.
“I think when I was in my high school senior year applying to college, I didn’t know to go visit colleges. I’m first generation to college, [so] that wasn’t something I even thought to do. And I sort of sit in [The College Counseling Office] and think why didn’t someone tell me: ‘go visit a college.’ We’re in Lawrence, in five minutes we can be at Merrimack College, in 15 you can be at UMass Lowell, in 30 without traffic you can be at any number [of colleges] in Boston. And there are some of those pieces that we [at Andover] do definitely take for granted,” said Shadeed.
As director, Shadeed will be responsible not only for managing the current logistics of the program, but also representing Andover within the community PALS serves and building on the work of past directors. Alexa Leach ’19, a PALS tutor who recently led a fundraising project which brought over $12,000 to the program, is looking forward to continuing her work in the program under Shadeed’s leadership.
“The director [definitely] provides structure for the program, they’re obviously planning everything and trying to make PALS the best it can be, so I’m definitely excited to see what Ms. Shadeed comes up with in terms of ideas,” said Leach in an interview with The Phillipian.
Having been both a student and a teacher in Lawrence, Shadeed’s work will give her an opportunity to contribute once again to the community’s education. Shadeed says that she is most motivated by a chance to work with Lawrence students.
Shaheed said, “Any teacher you ask who’s ever taught in Lawrence will hands-down tell you the students are the best part about being in that city. Absolutely.”
Editor’s Note: William Leggat is an Associate Eighth Page Editor for The Phillipian.