Program for Academic and Leadership Skills

Fun . Feminine. A Place to Belong.

Van Ness Study Center partners with the Youth Leadership Foundation to run PALS, the Program for Academic and Leadership Skills. PALS is an academic and character-building program for girls in Northeast Washington DC that helps enrich and improve the trajectory of these students' lives. PALS hosts a five-week program during the summer and a Saturday program during the academic year. PALS is built on four pillars to help students reach their full potential:


We employ a vigorous curriculum crafted to remediate learning gaps and challenge students' problem-solving. During the school year students receive two 45-minute tutoring blocks, targeting reading, mathematics and study skills. The summer program includes math, english, science and cultural studies. 


We implement a substantive character curriculum that provokes meaningful self-reflection around the themes of human freedom and responsibility. Our four-year curriculum helps students to answer the questions, "Who Am I?", "Where Am I Going?", "What Is The Path?", and "What Is My Responsibility?". We provide a 30-minute character lesson each and every PALS program day.



Each student in the program is paired with a mentor who helps them to set specific measurable goals related to personal and academic development. Mentors help students to disentangle troubling social situations and come up with creative and self-edifying solutions.



We believe that parents are the primary educators of their students. We aim to support parents as they guide their children. Our monthly Parent Corners during the school year, and our weekly Parent Seminars in summer, provide stimulating conversation among like-minded parents all for the purpose of enriching the home.

To volunteer at PALS during the school year or to work at the PALS summer program as an academic tutor or character mentor, please contact Michele Wittig or Janaiha Bennett by email at  or by phone at (202) 387-1141.

To make a donation to PALS or to learn more about the program, please visit