The Palo Alto school district and community groups have organized several events over the next few weeks to provide further platforms for conversations about student wellness.
On Thursday, Feb. 19, the district will host a panel presentation on sleep and health called, "Wake Up Call: The Role of Sleep and Teen Health." The panel will feature Stanford University School of Medicine child/adolescent and adult psychiatrist Steven Adelsheim; Holly Pederson, director of community education and coordinator of family violence prevention services for Bay Area family resource center Parents Place; Rafael Pelayo, psychiatry and behavioral science professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine; Palo Alto High School guidance counselor Susan Shultz and school district Associate Superintendent Charles Young.
The panelists will discuss the science behind sleep and health, what parents can look for, strategies to ensure children are getting enough sleep, and efforts the school district is considering to better facilitate student sleep. The presentation will be followed by a discussion.
The sleep event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mitchell Park Community Center's El Palo Alto Room at 3700 Middlefield Road. It is co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, youth well-being coalition Project Safety Net, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs.
The district is also co-sponsoring "Let's Talk: A Community Conversation about Healthy Kids and Healthy Schools" on Wednesday, Feb. 25, with the City of Palo Alto and Project Safety Net. The event will be moderated by Dr. Shashank Joshi, a Stanford University adolescent psychiatrist who has led much of the suicide-prevention work in Palo Alto since the student suicides in 2009 and 2010. Panelists will include Palo Alto Medical Foundation pediatric doctor Amy Heneghan, Stanford University School of Medicine child/adolescent and adult psychiatrist Steven Adelsheim, district parent Kathleen Blanchard, Community Services Department Assistant Director Rob de Geus (one of two primary city employees who run Project Safety Net), a current Gunn High School student, Palo Alto High School alumna and McGee. Each panelist will briefly speak before the evening is opened up to questions and comments from the audience, which can be submitted via notecard or email.
"Too often we act as a collection of separate communities, but now it is time to come together as a collective community to address the mental health needs of our young people," Superintendent Max McGee wrote in a newsletter including details about the Feb. 25 event. "In other words, whether we are parents, coaches, educators, employers, siblings or friends, we each have an important role in supporting and strengthening the mental health of our young people. This is not a school problem; it is a community problem. So let's work together."
The event will start at 7 p.m. at the Cubberley Community Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, T2. McGee said overflow seating will be provided in the Cubberley gym with a live video feed. The district will also provide a link to an online survey to solicit further feedback after the meeting.
On Sunday, March 1, there will be a forum dedicated to hearing from Palo Alto students. "Listening to Youth Voices" will feature a youth panel, time for students to speak on open mic and remarks by school board member Ken Dauber and City Councilman Pat Burt.
Only 22 percent of Palo Alto teens said in a recent survey that they felt heard or valued in the community, the event description notes.
"We're asking youth to share their thoughts on the subject of youth well-being: how they perceive their lives, what they would like, what would make them feel better, more included, and more valued across the domains of school, home, and community," the event description reads. "We are asking adults to actively listen to what our children have to say."
The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Palo Alto at 1985 Louis Road, with doors opening at 4:30 p.m. From 5:10 to 6 p.m. the youth panelists will speak, facilitated by Palo Alto Medical Foundation Health Education Manager Becky Beacom, and from 6 to 6:50 p.m. there will be free open-mic time during which other youth can speak. Burt and Dauber will give opening and closing remarks, respectively. There will be Mandarin and Spanish translation available.
The youth forum is sponsored by a range of local and regional organizations: Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, Padres Hispanos de Paly, Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club, Parent Advocates for Student Access (PASS), the Student Equity Action Network (SEAN), Silicon Valley Women Alliance, St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Palo Alto, United for a Better Community (UBC) and We Can Do Better Palo Alto. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Palo Alto is also hosting a teen forum on Friday, March 27, at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Park Community Center.
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church will host a conference on adolescent mental health and related topics (including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, harmful behaviors, sexuality, learning differences, family and caregiver support and more). "Parenting Teens Through the Challenges of Life" will feature keynote speakers and afternoon workshops, led by experts in their fields, to discuss adolescent behavioral and mental health issues and how to identify and treat these issues. The keynote speakers are Philippe Rey, executive director of Adolescent Counseling Services; Amy Simpson, author of "Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission" and "Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry"; and John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church's senior pastor. The event costs $25 per person; scholarships are available. For more information or to register, go to mppc.org/events/ParentingTeens.
IF YOU'RE GOING...
WHAT: 'Wake Up Call: The Role of Sleep and Teen Health'
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 19, 7 to 9 p.m.
WHERE: Mitchell Park Community Center, El Palo Alto Room, 3800 Middlefield Road
WHAT: 'Let's Talk: A Community Conversation about Healthy Kids and Healthy Schools'
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Cubberley Community Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, T2
WHAT: 'Parenting Teens Through the Challenges of Life'
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 28, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, 950 Santa Cruz Ave.
WHAT: 'Listening to Youth Voices'
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, 5 to 7 p.m. (doors open at 4:30 p.m.)
WHERE: First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, 1985 Louis Road
WHAT: City of Palo Alto Teen Forum
WHEN: Friday, March 27, 6 p.m.
WHERE: Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road