Pictured: School Board members Barb Mitchell & Barb Klausner, Gunn High School students Matthew & Andrew Mendoza, and St. Mark's Parish Hall. (Photos courtesy of Bill Wang)
On Sunday, May 2, 2010, St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Palo Alto in conjunction with Peninsula Interfaith Action hosted a community meeting to discuss what those in the faith community can do to promote the emotional health of children in the wake of the youth suicides of the past year. From 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the Parish Hall, council members Barb Mitchell and Barbara Klausner from the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) listened to testimony and fielded questions from concerned students and parents. This meeting was the culmination of months of planning by St. Mark's Advocates for Youth Committee which was formed to mobilize church members who were passionate about their kids' health but lacked a forum. A follow-on meeting is planned on Sunday May 23 from 6:30-8:00 pm at St. Marks. All are welcome!
The meeting was announced in the Weekly, the Daily, and the Post, and attracted over 400 community members. It was gratifying to see so many community leaders in attendance: Leif Erickson, Executive Director, of Youth Community Service and a Media Center 2010 Local Hero, Mary and Vik Ojakian, Internet safety guru Larry Magid, San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, Palo Alto City Council members Gail Price and Nancy Shepherd and Mayor Pat Burke. Additionally we had representatives from a dozen faith communities including Temple Beth Am, the Palo Alto Unitarian Universalists, and the Society of Friends. I saw many members of Track Watch, the grassroots movement that has mobilized guards and parents at the crossings. Finally, I recognized in the audience parents who lost children this past year and have turned their grief to activism.
For an excellent description of the meeting please check out Palo Alto Weekly staff writer Chris Kenrick's article. She really caught the tenor of the meeting. As our community grapples with finding a meaningful and lasting way to change the way we care for and protect our youth, it is vitally important to keep having these meetings and to build a community of caring parents. If parents can't connect and care for one another, how we can possibly model caring and compassion for our kids? We can change our children, by first changing ourselves. Then, we must tackle our assumptions about how to build a healthy child.