When it came to figuring out the best of 2016, it was hard to choose. There were so many great stories, from kids giving back, to new programs that inspire at Gunn, nonprofits making a difference and good old fashioned fun at Paly homecoming. And of course, our local election here in Palo Alto drew a lot of reader attention. But after reviewing our traffic, page views and Facebook ‘likes,’ we found our top eight stories.
If you missed them the first time, we hope you’ll take a look now – you’ll find new reasons to appreciate living in a community where so many great things are happening.
Here are the top stories that captured our readers’ attention in 2016
Our readers loved reading about Ember Lin-Sperry and her nonprofit that brings birthday supplies to children at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. NBC News Bay Area also picked up Ember’s story- check out the video here.
This amazing local organization supports incarcerated young women to manage their emotions and better regulate their life choices through a unique program that combines visual arts and yoga. Started by Palo Alto resident Mary Lynn Fitton, the Art of Yoga Project has become a national model for trauma-informed care for girls in the juvenile justice system.
In our high tech world, it’s often hard to find a connection to nature, especially for kids in communities far from parks and outdoor spaces. That’s why the programs offered by Palo Alto’s Environmental Volunteers (EV) that bring nature into classrooms and take children on field trips are so essential to helping bridge what many call the ‘nature gap’ for over 10,000 local students.
Gunn High School math teacher Christina Florea was tired of kids asking her, “Why do we have to learn this?” So she partnered with local business leaders to create a course that would teach students applied math principles for marketing and accounting, and allow them to use their new skills to help local companies solve their business challenges. Three years after piloting BEAM as a lunchtime club, it’s now a fully accredited class that’s been replicated in other high schools. What an awesome idea!
How do you get 32 wheelchairs to Africa? Ask Justin La, a Gunn High School junior who started a nonprofit called Rolling Wheels in Kenya. Inspired by a heartbreaking news story about paralyzed children in Africa languishing in hospital beds for lack of wheelchairs, Justin and his family decided to do something about it. They raised $5,000, bought 32 wheelchairs and flew to Kenya to give them to a hospital outside of Nairobi. We loved talking to Justin and learning how his family worked together do something ‘small’ that made a big difference.
We always love a chance to celebrate the pure creativity and spirit of Palo Alto teenagers, which were in evidence in abundance at this year’s Homecoming Parade. Held on a gorgeous fall day, the sunshine lit up the amazing floats that all connected to the theme of “Rumble in the Jungle.” Congrats to the juniors for their first place win with a float that brought the famous 1974 Ali-Frasier fight to life. The juniors’ secret? Recruiting over 200 students to help with float- wow.
While the presidential election took up a lot of air in the media world, here in Palo Alto we some big decisions to make. Eleven candidates ran for four open seats on City Council and for Palo Alto School board, five candidates vied for four slots. We also gave some resources for how to sort through 19 ballot propositions covering local roads and housing, marijuana legalization, gun control and more.
The Pederson family of Palo Alto has some remarkable athletes. Stu Pederson played for the LA Dodgers before returning to Palo Alto to raise his family, Joc Pederson plays center field for the LA Dodgers now, his brother Tyger is on the Dodgers’ development team and their sister Jayce is a standout player for the UCLA women’s soccer team.
But it’s their oldest son Champ who really shows how this family rallies together beyond the sports field. Champ was born with Down’s syndrome, but he’s never let his disability stand in the way of his goals, including working at the Palo Alto Apple store and ushering at Stanford sports events. The Pederson family helped Champ create the “Live Like a Champ” effort to raise funds for the Best Buddies program, which advocates for people with disabilities. We’re embracing “Live Like a Champ” as our theme for 2017- who else is in?
So what’s ahead for 2017?
Your guess is as good as ours, but Palo Alto Pulse will keep sharing positive stories about our community, no matter what happens.
That’s why now is a perfect time to subscribe and keep the good vibes coming your way. Thanks for being part of our journey and don’t forget to reach out anytime with a story idea or comment– we love hearing from our readers!