MVLA Challenge Team Breakfast Recognizes Local Key Players in Youth Support and Mental Health Awareness | Schools

MVLA Challenge Team Breakfast Recognizes Local Key Players in Youth Support and Mental Health Awareness |  Schools

Members of the Mountain View-Los Altos Challenge team celebrated 35 years of supporting local youth on May 12, while recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

Among those recognized this year were Graham Middle School student Aria Rani Sindledecker and Mountain View High senior Sydney Fung for their efforts as mental health advocates.

The Challenge Team, led by Chairman Gay Krause, is a consortium of leaders from local schools, law enforcement and the community at large. The event resumed post-pandemic as an in-person breakfast at Michaels at Shoreline in Mountain View.

Rani, already a seasoned activist and award-winning documentary filmmaker, was the keynote speaker at the event. Fung, a champion of inclusivity as chair of her school’s ambassador group, was named Youth Champion.

The event also included farewells to outgoing Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier, Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea, Alta Vista High Principal Bill Pierce, and Mountain View High Principal. , Michael Jiménez. All leave their posts at the end of June. Baier was given the special honor of Youth Adult Champion.

Rani, showing maturity beyond her 13 years, has been a strong advocate for more mental health education in schools. She has produced two documentaries, “Stigma-Free Nation: Pathway to Parity” and “Power to Save a Life”.

“It’s time,” she said emphatically. “What do I have to offer?” I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist – I haven’t even finished eighth grade and I’m only 13 years old. My expertise comes from my experience. I’ve been talking to teenagers and observing them for almost two years about mental health. I’m in the thick of it.

(For more on Rani’s activities, see here)

Rani cited a lack of resources, including counsellors, particularly at the pre-secondary level, to address mental health issues among young people. She noted that one in four Americans has mental health issues, and she’s seen young people her age not talking about their anxiety, depression, loneliness and thoughts of self-harm due to the stigma attached to it.

“I ask you, why are we waiting for teenagers to be in crisis already, why are we waiting for high school to increase counseling and peer support? … The truth is, mental health issues don’t start in high school. They start in middle school or even earlier,” she said,

Young Champion Fung is also a passionate champion for improving mental health and wellness on campus. In addition to her work with the Ambassadors, she was a member of Spartan Buddies for all four years of high school and volunteered to support English-speaking students.

“It’s really about impact and meaning and what you can do as an individual to help others,” she said of her involvement.

Adult champion Baier, who grew up in Los Altos, began his teaching career in 1990 as an English and social studies teacher at Graham Middle School. He joined the Los Altos School District in 2001 and capped off his career with 12 years as a district superintendent.

Baier has been praised for his work to improve student learning experiences and was among the first to develop blended learning environments with Khan Academy to bring innovative programs to the district.

“We never know (as educators) how we impact or who we impact – we just keep going. I think it’s important that we all keep doing that,” Baier said.

Pierce was recognized for his leadership as a longtime principal of Alta Vista High, a complementary school. He has been principal since 1996, making Alta Vista a model complementary school with high expectations for its students.

Pierce misappropriated the credit, instead praising the community leaders present at the meeting for their work helping young people.

“I can channel it, but it’s really a community effort,” he said.

Galea served the last 13 of his more than 46-year career in law enforcement in Los Altos, including six years as police chief. He was honored for prioritizing child and school safety, traffic safety, neighborhood safety and emergency preparedness.

“I have enjoyed all my time in the profession, but the past 13 (years) have been particularly rewarding,” Galea said. “I appreciated the partnership, the collaboration (with the community groups). »

Jimenez, who retired as principal of Mountain View High, has been teaching since 1999 but joined the Mountain View Los Altos School District in July 2020 amid the pandemic.

“I was grateful that I was able to bring the school community through the pandemic and back to a slightly different normalcy that didn’t exist before,” he said, pointing to mask mandates and vaccines.

The challenge team began in 1987 in response to the state attorney general’s office’s “challenge” to help young people “make positive decisions and lead healthy lives,” Krause said in a pamphlet. on breakfast.

“Now as then, our young people face challenges such as violence, diversity and substance abuse. … We believe that working together can make a difference for our youth today and for the health and productivity of our community’s future,” she said.

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