In the latest Around Town column, news about parents organizing proms for Paly and Gunn graduates, local students who recently won a National Merit Scholarship and an award that recognizes Palo Alto as a bike friendly city.
A PROM FOR THE AGES ... When the Gunn and Palo Alto high school principals said in late April that their schools wouldn't throw a prom, it came as a disappointment for students. Determined to make prom happen for their graduates, local parents worked tirelessly to make the dance a reality.
Julie Deubrouillet was among a dozen Gunn moms who banded together to throw a prom for the Titans on June 4. About 265 seniors dressed up for the event that started with a group photo at Gunn. They then headed to Vina Enoteca, where the students sipped on signature mocktails, played roulette and enjoyed dinner from the Italian restaurant.
Student Body President Andrew Kim delivered a speech at the event, during which he acknowledged the struggles they faced as a class and encouraged his fellow graduates to live in the moment. "It was so nice to see people enjoying a dance again," he said in an interview. "I haven't seen that in over a year, so that was a really big moment."
Eleven Paly moms joined forces to make prom happen for the Vikings at the Elks Lodge on June 5, said Karen Ambrose Hickey, one of the organizers. About 400 people showed up for the prom, where students were allowed to bring a guest. Attendees were served appetizers at food stations featuring a variety of cuisines, including Latin American and Asian. There was a spot for professional photos and a "glow bar" featuring face jewels, fun sunglasses and glow sticks. "All the kids had smiles on their faces, they were so happy to be there. ... It's their only chance to dress up and still be a kid," Hickey said.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF ... Palo Alto is well-represented in this year's list of National Merit Scholarship winners sponsored by U.S. colleges and universities, which was announced on June 2.
The local recipients plan to pursue careers in a diversity of fields, including neuroscience, geophysical engineering and chemistry. Gunn's Eirene Ang, Luke Flees, Jack Herrema, Zachary Meyers and Henry Moshfeghi made the list, as well as Paly's Hallie Faust, Avery Bryn Hanna, Natalia Maahs, Simon Minami and Drew Mukherjee.
More than 3,100 students were named winners this month. The corporation behind the program plans to announce another batch of roughly 900 scholarship winners in July.
The process for the 2021 program started in 2019 when about 21,000 students were screened through the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Last fall, the field narrowed to 17,000 semifinalists who scored the highest in their state. To become eligible as a finalist, students had to have "an outstanding academic record, and be endorsed and recommended by a high school official," according to a press release. They also needed to turn in a scholarship application that included an essay and details about their extracurriculars, awards and leadership roles. The scholarships range between $500 and $2,000 per year for up to four years of their undergraduate academics.
AS GOOD AS GOLD ... Palo Alto's reputation as a bike friendly place was reaffirmed by The League of American Bicyclists, which renewed the city's Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Community award last month. It is among nearly 500 cities applauded for its efforts in prioritizing bicycling and 34 cities with the gold status.
The award process takes into account factors such as bike infrastructure, efforts in adult and youth bike education and events such as Bike to Work Day, according to a city announcement posted this week. "The Bicycle Friendly Community award recognizes the groundwork laid by local leaders and advocates to improve and innovate, ensuring the joy of biking is safe and accessible to everyone," league Executive Director Bill Nesper said in a separate press release.