On Saturday, Feb. 6, the Palo Alto Youth Collaborative organized a Youth Forum to give teenagers the chance to share their thoughts on ways to promote youth well-being in our community.
Before the start, organizers were understandably nervous as to whether any kids would actually show up, especially on a Saturday afternoon, with the skies finally clearing after so much rain. They put up balloons, they put up their colorful banner, "Youth Forum, Be Heard," and they waited to see if anyone would come.
The youth and adult organizers need not have worried. As the 2 p.m. start time neared, teenagers on their own or in small groups of two and three, rode their bikes or walked up to our Palo Alto City Hall to take part. Before long, the City Council chambers was filled with nearly 100 teenagers willing to give their time and many talents to helping themselves, their peers and our entire community.
It was an incredible start to an important process, now widening to everyone.
On Feb. 27 and again on April 3, all Palo Alto residents and business owners are invited to come hear directly from our Palo Alto teens about the many ways we can all support youth well-being.
Kudos to the many student leaders from the Palo Alto Youth Council, YMCA Youth in Government and Youth Community Service Fellows for organizing this Youth Forum series.
Credit and appreciation also go to the adults who have supported this much-needed process: Rob deGeus and Adam Howard from City of Palo Alto Recreation Department; Linda Lenoir from Palo Alto Unified School District; Scott Glissmeyer and Danny Koba from YMCA; Becky Beacom from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation; and Alicia Gregory and Leif Erickson from Youth Community Service.
As a way of thanking teens for taking the lead in supporting youth well-being, a number of fine local businesses did their part on Saturday by donating raffle prizes. Special thanks to DS/Newman Salon, Butterfly Life, Nature's Alley Florist Shop, DiPietro Todd Salon, Village Stationers, Accent Arts, The Counter Custom Built Burgers, Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt and YMCA.
There can be no doubt that the last year has been a hard one for many Palo Alto youth and families. But for me last Saturday was a welcome break from uncertainty and sadness.
As teens poured into City Hall, I whispered, with gratitude, to a few of the organizers, "If you build it, they will come."
To every young person who did come to City Hall last Saturday:Tthank you. To every adult, please come Feb. 27 and April 3, 2 to 5 p.m. to the Mitchell Park Community Center, to hear what our kids have to say.
No liquor license
One of the Palo Alto City Council's top priorities for 2010 is "youth well-being."
The youth well-being in the Barron Park neighborhood will be severely undermined if Walgreens, located on Maybell and El Camino Real, starts selling alcohol.
The youths in this neighborhood are clearly an at-risk population, manifest by a string of suicides by youth from Gunn High School and Terman Middle School.
These schools, including Briones Elementary School, are in close vicinity to Walgreens.
The youths from these schools seem to treat Walgreens like it's a community center. They congregate there, chat, eat snacks, skateboard, bike and visit on a daily basis before and after school. Walgreens is part of the Barron Park residential neighborhood.
The railroad crossing, where security stands guard, is also in near proximity to Walgreens.
Just weeks ago, Walgreens was the hub of a drug-related offense, where police were dispatched. Just last year, police descended upon Walgreens' area because of a gang related shooting originating from an apartment complex a block away.
Youths are clearly at high risk in this neighborhood. Knowing this, how can we as a community allow escalation of the risk to our youth by this Walgreens obtaining a liquor license?
Providing opportunity and access, albeit indirectly, to a stressed-out and desperate youth population, hanging out at Walgreens, clearly subverts our city's priority to elevate "youth well-being."
A crisis center at Walgreens seems more appropriate at this time than an alcoholic-beverage selection.
North vs. South
While tunneling through south Palo Alto is shown as a possibility, I understand that one alternative would be to appease north Palo Alto with tunneling and do an at-grade through the south, since the north has more economic and political clout.
This is not a conspiracy theory. It is a likelihood that the interests of south Palo Alto will be sacrificed.
Just look at history. The city is obligated to build more high-density housing, and where does it all go? In the south (Rickey's Hyatt and others).
For a small illustration, travel to the Churchill crossing and listen to the "symphony-like" crossing bell and then travel to Charleston or Meadow and listen to the clang of the bell that is more garbage-truck like.
People of south Palo Alto must speak up. We must have a unified solution that addresses all our needs, not a "political solution" that appeases 51 percent of the town so that the needs of the 49 percent are disregarded.
We must demand a united stand from our leaders that preserves the quality of the entire community. Otherwise we are participating in economic and social bigotry.