Gunn program backs student 'social entrepreneurs' | March 9, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 9, 2012

Gunn program backs student 'social entrepreneurs'

Gunn@Your Service funds local trail repair, global philanthropy ventures

by Chris Kenrick

Gunn High School sophomore Arjun Parikh just got his start-up funded — an initiative that combines his love of soccer with an impulse to give.

Parikh is one of eight student grant recipients of Gunn@Your Service, a kind of parent booster club for community service that awards grants to "social entrepreneurs."

He plans to use the $200 to help launch a youth soccer camp at Cubberley Community Center this summer — and donate proceeds to Right to Play, an international charity that provides coaches for 700,000 low-income children in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.

"This is my first endeavor into entrepreneurship and philanthropy. We'll see how it goes," Parikh said of the project he started with six friends, Laces Soccer Camps.

The other seven student recipients of Gunn @ Your Service grants, this year, are:

• Freshman Leland Wei, who will buy a rototiller and vibration plate for his Eagle Scout project to renovate a beat-up path near the Palo Alto Duck Pond, which he hopes to complete over spring break in April

• Sophomore Divya Saini, who plans to mount an earthquake-education campaign in Palo Alto

• Junior Tatiana Grossman, who will use the funds to help Gunn's African Literacy Club ship children's books for primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa

• Junior Sungkook Peter Kim, who will provide sheet music and music stands for Gunn musicians performing for patients at the Palo Alto Veterans' Health Care Center

• Junior Praniti Sinha, who will help Gunn's Asha Club run a fundraiser for Asha for Education, an organization that provides computers, food and education to orphans in Bangalore, India

• Junior Lily Tsai, who will buy flutes to loan to music students in an afterschool music program at Costano School in East Palo Alto. In the program, Gunn Music@Costano, eight Gunn students go to Costano once a week to teach music, including flute, piano and trumpet, to more than 20 participating Costano students.

• Senior Natasha Allen, who will ship academic books to South Sudan in cooperation with Sudan-American Foundation for Education and STAND, the student arm of the Genocide Intervention Network.

Tsai said she and her sister Stephanie began teaching piano and violin at Costano three years ago, after Stephanie Tsai visited the school with the Gunn orchestra.

"Last year, we decided that since so many students in the afterschool program wanted to participate and we, as only two people, didn't have enough time to teach them all, we would try to bring in more Gunn music students to teach.

"Thus was the start of Gunn Music@Costano," Tsai said. "This year we have eight students participating."

Tsai said she'll try to buy four flutes, which would enable half the Costano flute students at a time to take the instrument home. The Palo Alto Unified School District has lent the program violins and cellos, she said.

Allen said she got interested in Sudan after taking a class at Gunn called "Facing History and Ourselves: the sociology of genocide," with teacher Ronen Habib.

"We not only learned about the causes and terrible effects of genocide but also about genocidal acts that are being committed even now," Allen said.

She started a STAND Club at Gunn, aimed at spreading the word against genocide through efforts like letterwriting to politicians. The club plans to collect books around town to send to schools in South Sudan.

"Due to the high cost of shipping, we can only send high-level books, such as college and AP textbooks," she said.

Grossman will use her grant to augment her long-standing project of helping establish libraries in primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa. That effort — which she launched at the age of 12 — has grown into the award-winning nonprofit Spread the Words. The organization has established libraries serving 99 African villages and primary schools where before there were none.

Grossman's mother, Lauren Janov, organized Gunn@Your Service two years ago, and this is the group's second round of grant-making. Funds are raised through an appeal letter that goes out to parents early in the year and through a Yahoo group email list.

"Our mission is about making it easy for kids and families to do community service, promoting it and building community," Janov said.

"Different kids want to do service in different ways."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2012 at 10:54 am

What a wonderful program! It's great to see the students using their talents to empower and enrich others locally and globally.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

Gunn kids are doing wonderful things to help others. During National Women's History Month (March 1-31), the Gunn community is being asked to DONATE used cell phones. These phones will be sent to eastern and central Africa for use by expectant mothers and their health care providers. Hope Phones and Every Mother Counts are trying to collect 10,000 used cell phones. Gunn's goal is 100 used cell phones by March 30.

Collection boxes are in the Main Office, Student Activity Center, and Bldg. L-31.