Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 | 6:56 p.m.
For most teenagers who are new in town, the first day at school typically means a lack of friends and long, lonely lunch breaks.
But a pair of students at Palo Verde High School is leading an effort to ease the transition for new students, whether they are with military families stationed at Nellis Air Force Base or simply new to Las Vegas.
Senior Jaclyn Mauch, whose father is in the Air Force, could have easily become just another "new kid" on campus, but the 17-year-old decided that it was time to make a change.
Jaclyn's family lived in New York, Germany, Texas, Maryland and Virginia before arriving in Las Vegas last year, when she began her junior year at Palo Verde.
While living in Virginia, she found out about the Student2Student program — a nationwide effort founded by the Military Child Education Coalition — and decided to make a push for the program in Las Vegas.
"I've been through it and I know exactly what it feels like," Jaclyn said. "When I came here, I knew that Palo Verde would benefit from a program like this. We have a really big school and sometimes it's hard for new kids to make friends."
Palo Verde is the first school in Nevada to join the Student2Student program, and the first meeting was held on Jan. 7.
Sgt. Wayne Stewart of Palo Verde's ROTC program and Dean of Students Jessica Pinjuv helped bring the program to fruition.
One of Jaclyn's classmates, 18-year-old senior Andrew Kim, also decided to join the program.
Although he was born and raised in Las Vegas and has attended Palo Verde since his freshman year, Kim said he joined the Student2Student program because he enjoys lending a helping hand.
"I want to become a police officer after high school, and helping people is a huge part of that job," Kim said. "I thought this would give me a good jump start."
The program focuses on three areas to ease the transition for new students — academics, peer relations and community outreach — to provide teens with an easy opportunity to make friends and learn about life in Las Vegas.
Palo Verde has approximately 3,300 students — one of the largest enrollments in the Clark County School District — with between one and four new students enrolling each week, Pinjuv said.
"A student coming into a school this size might get lost, but this program will help them get acclimated," Pinjuv said. "They don't have to necessarily make friends with people in the club, but at least it gives them someone they can eat lunch with on the first day of school."
Jaclyn and her family will be moving again this summer, although they aren't sure where yet, but she hopes the Student2Student program will continue after she leaves.
"I really want it to become a big part of the school where every kid knows that it exists," Jaclyn said.
For more information about the Student2Student program at Palo Verde, call the counseling office at 799-1450 ext. 4300.
Jeff O’Brien can be reached at 990-8957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.