Thursday, February 28, 2013

Service-Learning and the Adrenaline Rush of Skiing

There is a mountain in the Wasatch Range, where I feel more alive than any place on earth. It is the 11,000 foot peak where my parents began their life together. My mother was a part-time ski instructor at Alta Ski Resort, and Dad's friends convinced him to fly his little airplane from his home in Palo Alto, California to meet this athletic and beautiful woman on the hill. Dad wasn't much a skier until he saw Mom in action, but how quickly he caught on! And he eventually surpassed her, as they married and soon had toddlers learning to ski. Dad discovered a new adrenaline high with heli-skiing in the Canadian Bugaboo Range. He and his "maverick" buddies at Fairchild would take off for ski adventures, and then take their families to Tahoe in between. As we grew up, my parents took us skiing for pretty much every winter vacation and many weekends--Squaw Valley, Snowbird/Alta, and Sun Valley were our favorites. There is nothing quite like the rush you get from sliding as fast as your body can go, arcing these days on shape skis just like an Olympic racer. As a part-time ski coach myself, I taught many people to love off-piste, powder, chutes, and bumps. Take me to the Wasatch! Except, when I think about the reality of retiring on a part-time income, and how some of my friends back at Snowbird are now facing that fact. 

Everyone needs to have a "Plan B," right? That's what former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Bono said when he visited with my students at Paly a few years ago. And now I realize I'm living my very own Plan B--right here in Palo Alto, where my Daddy started his career more than fifty years ago. This life has come full circle. And how does the daughter of an adrenaline junkie get her fix? By creating something new, that was never there before. I have discovered something really just as exciting as a ski trip to the Bugaboos: hundreds of "Paly" students each year pursuing their passions and interests to make a difference in the world. How can it be? See for yourself. Check out my Snowbird friend Dean Cummings' most incredible heli-skiing video from Valdez, Alaska. THEN, download this year's most amazing Get Involved, Paly resource for community service. Dozens of student reflections on service-learning in high school. If you are not equally impressed by this exciting, adrenaline-packed guidebook of our students' adventures in service, then I owe you a ski lesson. I'll see you at Alta!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Students Get Involved in School-wide Service Day

Palo Alto Mayor Yiawey Yeh Inspires Students Last Spring
Our Students Work in Many Capacities and are Community Assets
Paly's 2nd Annual Project-based Service-Learning Day
Paly's 3rd Annual Service Day is coming up on Tuesday, April 30th. Students who sign up for the all day field trip will fill buses and leave campus to work on projects benefiting more than twenty local organizations. Others can help with  lunchtime projects in the quad--pizza served! Thanks in advance to the dozens of parent and community volunteers  facilitating this project-based service-learning event! Below is a list of proposed sites:
  • Meals on Wheels 
  • Smile for a Lifetime
  • Beechwood School
  • La Mesa Verde
  • Sunrise Senior Living
  • Opportunity Center
  • Palo Alto Art Center
  • Palo Verde Elementary
  • American Cancer Society
  • Young Fives, Palo Alto Unified
  • Lauren's House for Positive Change
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Kids in Need Foundation
  • Book Share
  • Magnusson's Dairy Farm
  • Ecumenical Hunger Program
  • Creative Montessori
  • Lytton Gardens 
  • Peninsula Open Space Preserve 
On campus, we will host a number of drives for hygiene supplies, pajamas, and school supplies benefiting families in need. This video from Kids in Need Foundation gives an idea of where the school supplies go after being donated at Paly Service Day.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Girl Scouts Serve, Give Cookies to Food Banks and the Military

Sharing the Gift of Caring with Cookies!
 I have been quite impressed with the quality of community service projects performed by our local Girl Scouts. Two of our Seniors at Palo Alto High School, twin sisters Heather and Elizabeth Bowman, are working on their Gold Award projects to benefit their fellow students: a Women in Business Forum to be held on March 5th, and a Science Discovery Festival as part of Paly Service Day on April 30th. The Women in Business Forum showcases local entrepreneurs who will share with  students the secrets of their success. The Science Discovery fair provides a service opportunity for our high school students to teach K-8 students at Beechwood School, a local private school in East Menlo Park. 

My middle daughter really wanted to be a Girl Scout in middle school, but at the time we could not find a troop in our area. I wish we'd been able to form our own. The short time I spent in Girl Scouts in the 1960s provided me a chance to try new things, and to learn more about my community in Los Altos Hills, California. Because our dedicated troop leaders worked to get special group rates around town, I also learned to skate and to bowl thanks to Girl Scouts. I discovered a feeling of accomplishment by selling cookies, and our troop benefited from the fundraising. Cookie prices have increased dramatically over the years, and a box of treats might seem to some a luxury. These days, my family might purchase five or six boxes in a season, sharing them widely with anyone who visits our home in February and March.

Many councils have adopted the "Gift of Caring" community service project, where customers are encouraged to donate cash or a box or two of cookies for a nearby food bank, or for those serving in the military. If you've ever seen the offerings on the shelves at either a food bank or a military canteen, you can see why these were chosen as beneficiaries! So, when those smiling faces outside of the grocery store or coming door-to-door ask you to buy Girl Scout cookies, don't be shy. Purchase some cookies to benefit all of the good work that Girl Scouts do, and throw in an extra box or two for those less fortunate than yourself. Students like Heather and Elizabeth Bowman, along with countless others, will put these funds into community action projects. At just $4 a box, the world becomes a better place one cookie at a time.