In the latest Around Town column, news about Stanford University sending off the Class of 2021, new facilities coming to Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School and recognition for Gunn High's football team.
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE ... The notes of "Pomp and Circumstance" have never sounded as sweet as they did last weekend during Stanford University's commencement ceremonies, the first held in person since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the familiar caps, gowns and hoods filled Stanford Stadium, there were clear differences compared to prior ceremonies, such as social distancing and face coverings worn by guests.
The two-day event started with the ceremony for masters and doctoral students on June 12. In his commencement address, public health expert, author and alumnus Atul Gawande shared advice from Dr. Bob Wachter, the Department of Medicine chair at the University of California, San Francisco: "Say yes to everything before you're 40, and say no to everything after you're 40." Gawande said this is what he has done in his own life. He pointed out that after age 40, people should know themselves well enough to identify what matters to them and to focus on that.
The graduating underclassmen had their commencement exercise on June 13. It kicked off with the beloved Wacky Walk, a tradition where students often come dressed in costumes, and this year was no exception. Some students dressed as gnomes, sunflowers, bananas and Stanford ID cards (not to mention one oh-so-colorful Stanford Tree mascot). Actress, writer and producer Issa Rae, who hails from Stanford's Class of 2007, served as the commencement speaker. The creator of the Emmy award-winning HBO show "Insecure" attributed the community she built at Stanford to her success. and encouraged the graduates to stay connected. "The brilliant minds in this room will have a hand in shaping the culture, making this world better, leaving long-lasting legacies behind and doing a bunch of other important s---," she said.
This year, the university awarded 1,436 bachelor's degrees, 2,171 master's degrees and 1,103 doctoral degrees.
A GROWING CAMPUS ... The Ravenswood City School District officially started its expansion of Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto, which was celebrated at a groundbreaking ceremony on June 17.
The $50 million project is supported through bonds. Once completed, the Ralmar Avenue campus will have two new buildings that cover 23,000 square feet and a 10,000-square-foot courtyard.
The district has teamed up with the Forever Young Foundation and Ghilotti Construction to build a new 8 to 80 Zone Esports Center, a facility for students to develop skills in technology, esports, gaming and media, according to the foundation's website. The center will be one of a handful established by Pro Football Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice. It will be the first of its kind at a middle school, according to the district.
The campus will also add a new playground being created in collaboration with the Magical Bridge Foundation. "These exciting public-private partnerships will allow us to transform the back of Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School into a restorative, engaging, and active place that our students deserve," Ravenswood school board President Mele Latu said in a statement.
FOCUSED ON THEIR GOALS ... Gunn High School football coach Jason Miller and his team were honored by the Palo Alto City Council on June 1 for their 5-0 season and social justice work off the field by adding their voices to the "Black Lives Matter" and "Stop Asian Hate" movements.
Council member Lydia Kou read Miller's proclamation, citing his work while attending Inglewood High as a star football player and coaching Compton High to the playoffs after a winless season. He was hired by Gunn in 2018 to teach social studies and was named Civic Engagement Teacher of the Year. Miller instituted mandatory study meetings, introduced social justice programs and led the team into participating in civic causes. "We recognize and applaud Jason Miller for his excellence in leadership, coaching, ethics, commitment and character," Kou read from the proclamation.
Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois read the proclamation for the Gunn football team, which finished the season undefeated for the first time since 1971. "We recognize and send a big cheer for the 2021 Gunn football team," DuBois read. The players were named in the proclamation. Miller thanked the council and described his team as including more than just the players, but also school administrators and fellow teachers.
Watch a video of the awards presentation at the beginning of meeting: