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The Community

The Community and Students Served by the Program

Founded in 1988, PALS participates in a broad community effort to address critical educational challenges in Lawrence. More than 30% of those living in poverty in the city are under 18 years of age. School dropout rates remain quite high. More than 80% of the student population is Latino, and the Latino dropout rate remains the highest among all racial/ethnic groups in Massachusetts public schools. Overall MCAS scores in Lawrence are low, and the unemployment rate is close to the highest in the state.

PALS students come to the program highly recommended by their teachers for their academic potential and self-motivation. All are from ethnically diverse and low income families. In the Summer 2008 program, 42 students are enrolled: 18 in 7th grade and 24 in 8th. The ratio of boys to girls is 40:60. The ethnic breakdown is 85% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Caucasian, and 5% African and African American and 2% other.

Given the demographics of Lawrence (more than 80% of its students are Latino) and the city's very high rates of unemployment and poverty, it is vitally important for PALS to serve these middle school children. Most of them begin in the summer before they enter 7th grade and continue through to their graduation from 8th grade. They benefit, therefore, during a crucial, two-year period of education that provides growth, preparation, and transition toward high school and beyond.