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PALS forever

Mar. 27—MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake High School PALS Prom Friday night brought glamor, joy and some impressive dance moves to the school commons.

"This was probably one of the best proms yet for attendance and community support," said Jodi Truman, the PALS Club advisor.

Truman is also one of the teachers in the Project Future program, which is what used to be called Life Skills. The PALS Club — PALS stands for "Peer Assistance Leadership Service" — brings together students with and without developmental disabilities at MLHS, according to its official description. The purpose is to enable students with disabilities to find understanding and camaraderie and students without disabilities to learn more about people who are different from them. The special education teachers at MLHS started the club about 12 years ago, Truman said, and the prom has been happening for at least seven.

Attendance at the prom was anywhere from 60 to 75 PALS members, she said, as well as some parents and other students who came to see what was happening. A DJ paid for by parents John and Denise Moncada spun tunes while students busted moves inside, and local real estate agent Blake Rollins arranged for a corn dog truck to keep up hard-dancing teenagers' strength. The other costs of the prom were paid for with funds the club raises with enterprises like running the school's snack shack and vending machines, Truman said.

Outside the prom, Jennifer Milne was taking a photo of her son James Smith, who was clearly eager to get inside and dance. He's benefited a lot from his experience with the PALS club, she said.

"He has an intellectual delay and it really helps him to form connections with his peers," Milne said. "He really struggles at that. It helps him get out in the community and do things that he would normally have a harder time doing."

The door was staffed by PALS Club members Juanpablo Godinez and Lydemai Diaz, who said they enjoy the interaction they get with their classmates with disabilities.

"We're peer mentors, so we have a class with them," Godinez said. "We have a class where we help them out in their classrooms, or we help them out with their PE and stuff."

The prom isn't the only thing the PALS Club does, Truman said. There's also a trip to a pumpkin patch in the fall, a Christmas bowling party and a taco party where they bring in a food truck for lunch and play yard games.

"This year we're gonna do Cascade Park so they can roll down the grass hill. That was a big request," Truman said. "The beauty about the PALS Club is ... that they are able to connect to that fun and that pure joy that oftentimes we forget about when we get really busy in this life. And that's one of the blessings I love about PALS."

Joel Martin may be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.