YMCA of Central Ohio

Juvenile Justice Programs

The YMCA of Central Ohio's Positive Alternative Learning for Students program and Truancy Program serves as a structured and supervised environment for 6th to 12th grade students who have been suspended from school.

They are not at-risk.
We believe every child is of promise.

What is PALS?

(Positive Alternative Learning for Students)

Students who are on three, five, and ten day suspensions are referred to PALS by local public school systems, juvenile courts, departments of human services, and parents. Students in the program are held accountable for their actions by participating in educational programming and behavior modification sessions, rather than treating their suspension as a vacation.

The students are placed in a classroom with a state-certified teacher, case manager, and staff assistant. Social services is also available to make referrals to a mental health expert.

The purpose of the PALS program is to provide youth with a positive change in attitude and a better outlook on the future. Program staff challenge youth to take responsibility for their actions and to help them set goals for their future.

PDF PALS Brochure

Truancy Program
A positive change

The one-on-one communication between student and staff has a remarkable effect on the students, encouraging them to talk about their problems.

In the PALS program, students are encouraged to communicate and share problems in their lives. The staff to youth ratio ranges from 1:5 to 1:10. This ratio allows more student-to-teacher interaction than in a traditional classroom where the staff-to-youth ratio is often 1:25.

PALS staff also conduct home follow-up visits on an as-needed basis. Staff and the student's family members talk about the student's progress and may recommend resources that can help the student succeed.


  • Individual & Group Counseling
  • Daily access to academic curriculum and credit recovery
  • Positive and Safe Environments using the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention System)

Community benefits

Our community benefits from the YMCA PALS program. Youth are kept off the streets during a suspension period and they are provided the opportunity to continue their academics in a supportive environment. Students interact with trained staff who help them improve their attitude and behavior.

Since 2008, city data shows that city crime (in target community neighborhoods) during the school hours has decreased in the following categories: Auto Theft decreased 53%, Home Burglary 27%, Assault with weapons 17%.

Youth who participate in this program learn how to rebuild their lives and become active citizens in the community. Through discipline, accountability, and hard work, the YMCA PALS program motivates youth to become responsible young adults.


In partnership with Columbus City Schools, Southwestern City Schools, Ohio Department of Education, Key Bank, Department of Public Safety, and Columbus Police Department


Don Heard
Executive Director
PALS Locations
Downtown YMCA
40 W. Long St.
Columbus, OH 43215

Vaughn E. Hairston YMCA
3500 First Ave.
Urbancrest, OH 43123

Jerry L. Garver YMCA
6767 Refugee Road
Canal Winchester, OH 43110

Feddersen Recreation Center
North Area Education Center (PALs)
3911 Dresden St.
Columbus, Ohio