Saturday, May 2, 2009

Good to the Core

Several years ago, when my life was topsy-turvy every which way I counseled many times with my mother, the sage, who reminded me that the most important thing in life is to maintain our integrity at all costs. Sometimes I wonder if the price was too high, but I'm sure in the end my losses will make perfect sense. In the meantime, I continue to observe and study the ideas behind integrity and core values. These are the aspects of our character that will bring us through severe hardship and everyday challenges. Through my own personal journey, I've ended up working at a high school where there are ever-present opportunities to study human nature--all 1800 of our students. Through my work to coordinate the community service and volunteering activities, I have discovered a treasure trove of records where our students volunteered their time to the cause of their choice for no tangible reward.

Perhaps there are many public schools where altruism is prevalent, but I am lucky enough to be at this one special place. For the past three years, I have attempted to ascertain the motivations for these students to do good. The only common threads I have found relate to the diversity in Silicon Valley, and the prevailing sense of community in Palo Alto. These must have prompted the creation of two prominent signs which are posted in most of the classrooms. The first lists our core value statement:

"At Paly, everyone values and benefits from our collective effort to grow and to promote human potential. Guiding this effort is our belief in the following:"
  • Promoting personal integrity and respect
  • Providing a nurturing environment characterized by teamwork and collaboration
  • Caring for and believing in every individual
  • Encouraging creativity and independent thinking
  • Understanding growth and learning are an essential part of life
  • Acknowledging great effort and great fun in work and play
Similarly, the core purpose statement is articulated to reflect the values:

"The core purpose of our school is to affirm the potential of every Paly student in an environment of support and inspiration where people work together and lift each other toward great personal growth."

As the years pass and students from all walks of life come and go, I hope to be able to share glimpses of the creative ways in which these young people make a difference in their world. From organizing a blood drive for the local Red Cross, to disaster cleanup at Hurricane Katrina, and even to relief work in Bangladesh; these students know how to roll up their sleeves. It shows in their desire to improve the local, national, and international communities; it is apparent in the successful lives they pursue beyond the immediate world of high school.

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