by Chloe Kiparsky

Pallen (Pal) McArdle is one of the original members of the class of 2023, attending Ouray School since kindergarten. She said that it has been “very comforting to have this community of people I’ve known forever that I can always talk to,” but now she has set her sights on the wide world.

Her answer to the dreaded “what do you want to be when you grow up” question is a passionate spew of ideas that ranges from being a doctor to working for an international nonprofit. One thing she knows for sure, though, is that she is not tying herself to a specific idea yet. “I have a very open future,” she said. “I’m trying to keep as many doors open as possible.”

She will be attending Colgate, a small liberal arts college located in Hamilton, New York, and is very excited to be moving East. Ever since she started her college search, she knew that she “wanted to go somewhere that was more diverse than Colorado,” and although Colgate is small, she will undoubtedly find new people and experiences.

Community is something that Pal has strengthened at Ouray School and beyond through her years of living here. When one runs into her, one can always count on having a genuine interaction and receiving a radiant smile. 

Among her countless extracurriculars (including Honor Society, FBLA, and many sports), Pal has been a leader of Sources of Strength, a suicide prevention organization. The core belief of Sources really aligns with what she has brought to the community, which has been support, kindness, and love for so many people. “Everyone deserves to feel safe,” she said on her reason for involvement; “they deserve to BE safe.”

Traveling has been a way for Pal to have “a better understanding of the world,” she said: during her junior year, she went on a life-changing trip to Kenya with a nonprofit organization called Straw to Bread. She volunteered at schools and hospitals, and she interviewed locals. Her open mind caused her to recognize that the experience “was such a shock,” and yet, “I really liked it.”

Pal recalled a time when she was speaking to an elder woman about the only water tank in a two-mile radius. Even though everyone knew the water tank was insufficient for the population, “she wanted to share because it was something she could contribute to her community.” Pal observed that this was a very common and “eye-opening” attitude in Kenya, as opposed to the U.S. “When they said community, it’s not just a group of people,” she remembered, “it’s a group of people who are together through everything, really. I think that is really great.”

Her passion for travel has driven her to major in International Studies, a degree that she says may not be a pipeline to her future career, but more of a “stepping stone” and an opportunity to have “a better understanding of the world.” “All across the world, humans are struggling in some way,” she said, “and I hope that looking at all of these types of struggles and different ways to manage them, and having a worldview, will help better create a solution.”

Pal’s advice to anyone who will take it? “Try to experience and expose yourself to as many different paths of life as possible; I really believe that the individual can better themselves by taking in more diversity.” And, according to her classmates, there is no one better to take advice from than Pal, who “deeply cares about people,” said Nate Kissingford: she’s “a lovely human being and a really positive influence.”