For five years a group of Hillview Middle School parents and staff have been working to emphasize across the campus a set of common themes and characteristics they believe can help make the school the best possible place for students to learn and grow.
Now, building on that work, Menlo Park Councilman Ray Mueller is urging local businesses, civic and youth organizations and other schools to join the effort to make Menlo Park what he calls "the healthiest possible place to raise a child."
With a grant from Pacific Gas & Electric, Mr. Mueller has started a Menlo Park Loves Kids campaign, building on Hillview's work. He's asking business owners and organizations to sign on to support local youth, and then display the distinctive Menlo Park Loves Kids logos so students know they are supported.
The project was inspired by the Search Institute's work in developing a list of "developmental assets," which its website calls "research-based, positive qualities that influence young people's development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults." The assets are either characteristics and activities youth should strive for, or characteristics and activities the members of a youth's community and family should strive for.
See search-institute.org for more information and a full list of the assets.
At Hillview Middle School, an Asset Development Team has picked five of the assets to emphasize throughout the school, said Danielle O'Brien, assistant principal at Hillview. They are: character, student recognition, fun, service and support.
"Our idea was that we wanted to make sure that we were creating an environment where all kids felt safe, and all kids felt welcome," said Ms. O'Brien. They want to extend that to other parts of Menlo Park where students spend time, such as the downtown business district, where she said 300 to 400 kids head each day after school.
"That's why the partnership with downtown is so important," Ms. O'Brien said.
The businesses or organizations taking part are asked to sign a contract promising to work at five of 11 steps listed on the contract.
Among the choices:
● Learn the names of youths who frequent the business and greet them by name.
● Offer internships or mentoring for youth.
● Offer flexible scheduling for employees so they can volunteer or spend time with families.
● Take time to talk with young people who live nearby or are co-workers.
Mr. Mueller says Menlo Park Loves Kids needs more volunteers to help get the word out about the program to more businesses, to organizations whose members interact with children, and to other local school districts.
Businesses that have signed on to the project include: Left Bank, Cheeky Monkey, Cafe Zoe, Keplers Books, The Pet Place, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Studio Cake, Habibi's Salon, Lutticken's, Avanti Pizza, Country Club Cleaners, Village Stationers, Plantation Cafe, West Bay Cleaners, Twigs and Petals Florist, and Mardini's Deli.
For more information, contact Ray Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Danielle O'Brien at email@example.com.