Los Altos teen organizes benefit concert, raises $40K

Jason Lin” width=
Sydney Takemoto/Special to the Town Crier
Jason Lin speaks during an Aug. 17 benefit concert he organized at the Community School of Music and Arts that raised approximately $40,000 for the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center.

Shortly before entering his sophomore year at The Harker School, Los Altos resident Jason Lin raised $31,000 at a benefit concert he organized for the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center. A year later, Lin has raised approximately $40,000 more for the cause with a concert held Aug. 17 at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View.

Author of ‘Naked Roommate’ speaks at Homestead High School

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Noa Bronicki/Town Crier
Harlan Cohen engages with the crowd during his appearance at Homestead High School last week. Cohen is the author of the book “The Naked Roommate: And the 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College.”

New York Times best-selling author Harlan Cohen outlined his five major rules for parents sending their children off to college during his presentation last week at Homestead High School.

Although he was speaking to a crowd of more than 200 parents and students at the Homestead PTSA-sponsored event, he still found ways to engage students individually, asking them to share experiences as part of his presentation. The Illinois resident, whose most popular book is “The Naked Roommate: And the 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” (Sourcebooks, 2017), also offered personal anecdotes and stories about his family.

Gardner Gives Back engages students in community service projects

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
Will Johnson, center, pours rice into a funnel, while Emily Pirozzo, left, and Matteo Pirozzo, right, hold the plastic bag underneath. They were working to assemble meals for people in need as part of a community service project last week at Gardner Bullis School.

In less than two hours last week, more than 100 students and their families at Gardner Bullis School packaged 10,000 meals for people in need around the globe.

Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization, partnered with Gardner Gives Back, a new parent-run community service program on campus, to host the meal packaging event Sept. 19.

Ali Granbery, who has a first-grader at Gardner Bullis, started Gardner Gives Back as a way to get young children involved in community service projects, which she said she has long been passionate about.

“Especially growing up in an area like we do, the idea of giving back … and teaching the kids the importance of helping other people (is important),” Granbery said, noting the affluent area Gardner Bullis draws its students from.

Last year, Granbery worked with the school to hold a fundraiser for Project Night Night, a charity that supports children in homeless shelters. The group gives each child a tote bag filled with a stuffed animal, blanket and book.

The event was held in conjunction with the school’s book fair, which is run annually in December, so families could donate books purchased at the fair. Ultimately, the school created 100 bags for kids in need.

“I knew I wanted to turn it into something more; I was just trying to get my feet wet,” Granbery said of the drive.

Giving back

In the spring, she met with the school’s principal and PTA president to discuss creating a more formal community service organization at the school. From there, Gardner Gives Back was born.

The idea is to find volunteer opportunities that young children can take part in so that the students can be involved in the process of giving back.

After speaking with a parent involved in a community service group at Almond School, Granbery decided to organize a food packaging event with Rise Against Hunger.

Gardner Bullis families worked to put together bagged meals, which each contained rice, dried vegetables, soy protein and a vitamin packet. Once the meals were assembled and weighed, the plastic bags were sealed, put in boxes and loaded onto a truck.

Sixth-grader Kennedy Hautop said the event was a chance to spend time with her friends, while also doing something that would make a positive impact. The meal packaging process wasn’t new to her, as she had also packed meals for Rise Against Hunger with her Girl Scout troop.

“I like being able to package the stuff into meals and know I’m helping people that need it,” Kennedy said.

The plan is for Gardner Gives Back to host a variety of volunteer activities throughout the school year. While plans aren’t set in stone yet, possible future events include doing a school cleanup and taking part in “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF,” where kids collect money for UNICEF on Halloween. The fundraiser for Project Night Night also will be held again, Granbery said.

For Granbery, the goal is to make volunteering something that Gardner Bullis students grow up with and will continue throughout their lives. She said her own three young children have done community service projects and now enjoy volunteering.

“The idea of donating and giving time and giving back is part of what they talk about,” Granbery said. “And so to me, that’s a win.”

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Full circle: Former Alta Vista High student joins staff

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
Alba Garza, left, talks with Alta Vista High junior Mishell Alarcon. Garza is a social worker at the school and an Alta Vista graduate herself.

Alta Vista High School Principal Bill Pierce always dreamed of hiring a former student. Last year that dream came to fruition when Pierce hired Alba Garza, who graduated from Alta Vista in 2003, to be a social worker at the school. 

Los Altos High student works on developing celiac disease treatment


Brian Siesel/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos High School student Alex Guh-Siesel, left, met Nobel laureate Frances Arnold after hearing her speak at the California Science and Engineering Fair.

Los Altos High School student Alex Guh-Siesel recently discovered that awarding medals in the California Science and Engineering Fair is not an exact science. When he walked on stage last spring to accept his first-place medal in the biochemistry category, he was handed the medal for computer science instead.

Guh-Siesel found humor in the error, which he called “a technical difficulty.” The mistake was quickly corrected and the senior stood grinning ear to ear with his gold medal around his neck.

Student wins national essay contest

Ishana Wokhlu” width=
Courtesy of Donna Santistevan
Ishana Wokhlu reads her award-winning essay to more than 3,000 people in Washington, D.C., earlier this summer.

After reading her award-winning essay in front of 3,000 people early this summer in Washington, D.C., Ishana Wokhlu said she has “grown more confident.”

“I am still in shock. I feel very honored to have received such a prestigious award from this wonderful organization,” Ishana said. “I was a little nervous to read my essay in front of such a large group of people, but everyone there was so kind and supportive.”


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