Guest Opinion: Project Safety Net is committed to student well-being
A range of strategies are in place to help the youth of our community
Our community is renowned for its dedication to helping the next generation of leaders and citizens reach their potential. This commitment to young people is demonstrated in countless, varied ways. The recent tragic deaths by suicide of Palo Alto students have been a catalyst for strengthening this commitment: our students can be stronger emotionally and physically as they journey through the challenges of childhood and young adulthood.
The most powerful manifestation of this renewed commitment has, we believe, been the creation of Project Safety Net (PSN). Co-chaired by officials from the school district and the City of Palo Alto, PSN has brought together these representatives with the health care community, non-profit organizations, faith community members, residents and many others.
The PSN 22 strategies have two essential pillars at either end of a spectrum.
On the one end are specific suicide prevention strategies, seeking out and supporting those most vulnerable. On the other end of the spectrum are strategies that focus on youth well-being, best described by the 41 Developmental Assets initiative. This framework has been embraced by many communities in Santa Clara County and throughout the country. Its strength is that it calls upon and gives definition to what so many Palo Altans strive to do best: support our youth.
What are the Developmental Assets? Developmental assets are the positive values, relationships and experiences that youth need to thrive. Youth with high asset levels are more likely to choose healthy activities, succeed in school and avoid risky behaviors. While parents are the first and most powerful force for creating these assets in their children, they do not have to do it alone. Schools play a large, vital and indispensable role in youth development. Last year, our schools surveyed most of our secondary students using the Developmental Assets as a lens, and the individual school results are available through your school or online at www.pausd.org.
Thanks to the Palo Alto Weekly, you will find an insert in this week's edition that provides you with district-wide data about how asset-rich many of our young people are. It also highlights where we fall short as a community in our children's eyes. Please take a few minutes to read through this insert and explore the data online. The insert also includes important ways that you can help build assets in all our youth — whether through your individual actions or when you join together with your neighbors. As Rob de Geus, the City of Palo Alto's Recreation Director, is fond of saying, "if you breathe, you are on the team and can make a difference as an asset builder among our young."
Our young people are not the only ones who will benefit from greater encouragement and asset-building by us adults. When you give to them, they will enrich our community tenfold with their enthusiasm and seemingly insatiable desire to grow and learn.
To quote from a Native American proverb, "you might be one person to the world, but the world to one young person." While we won't realize the extent of our influence on the next generation, the impact caring adults had on us hopefully provides inspiration. There's no better way to express our gratitude than by sharing some small piece of kindness or support with the young people in our lives. It only takes a second.
Kevin Skelly has served as superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District since 2007. Prior to his current post, he worked in San Diego County and was principal of Saratoga High. He has been a presenter, author, coach and Big Brother. He and his wife have four children; the two youngest are students in PAUSD.
Terry Godfrey is a local parent and volunteer. She sits on the board of Palo Alto Partners in Education, is the immediate past president of the PTA Council, is a member of Project Safety Net and chairs the Palo Alto Developmental Assets Initiative. She lives in Palo Alto with her husband and two kids.
Becky Beacom, as manager of health education for Palo Alto Medical Foundation, contributes to a variety of school and community-based health initiatives for youth and serves on the steering committee for Project Safety Net. She and her husband are long-time Palo Alto residents and have raised two children — both graduates of PAUSD.
For more information on Project Safety Net visit www.psnpaloalto.org and www.facebook.com/psnpaloalto
For information on Developmental Assets, visit www.search-institute.org/developmental-assets