Community Connections Schools and Youth

Local students step up to support veterans

Veteran Ken Plough with Audrey Li, founder of Students Partner with Veterans

On Veteran’s Day each year, Americans across the country and here in Palo Alto take time to recognize the enormous sacrifice that members of our armed services have made to keep our nation safe in the past, and to show appreciation for active duty service men and women who are working now on our behalf.

Palo Alto youth and teens look for ways to help veterans

As we look beyond gratitude for our veterans, we love learning about the ways that local young people are taking initiative to provide specific help for active and retired service members. These teen-led efforts are a reminder that we can all do something to support the people who gave everything to keep our country safe.

Students Partner with Veterans

This organization was recently started by Gunn High School junior Audrey Li with the goal of to creating two-way dialogue between veterans and local teens.  Her hope is to not just provide a listening ear for the veterans, but also to help fellow high school students tackle anxiety and fear of failure by hearing powerful stories of resilience. As Audrey told the Mercury News, “We want students to get positive role models, because our veterans are the most courageous and selfless people that there are…We want them to learn from the positive qualities that our veterans have.”

Audrey Li interviews Vietnam War veteran Ken Plough. Photo courtesy of Students Partner with Veterans.

Students Partner with Veterans enlists local high school and middle school youth to interview veterans and record their stories on the organization’s website. (You can see the video interviews here). The idea has caught on with schools around the area and Students Partner with Veterans has expanded beyond Gunn to several other schools in Palo Alto and Los Altos, and now has over 200 active students.

Students with Ken Plough. Photo courtesy of Students Partner with Veterans.

The veterans and students both benefit from the conversations, and in talking are able to learn from each other. Francis McVey, a retired naval flight officer from San Jose and past president of the United Veterans Council of Santa Clara County, explained to the Mercury News his view on why the connection across the generations can be so valuable. “But I think that whether we were drafted or someone like me joined early on, it was a great experience for learning discipline and self sufficiency and being able to cope,” he continued. “And if that’s something that we can help pass on — how to cope with stress and all the things that are going on in the world — I am very happy we have that opportunity.”

Retired Officer McVey shows a photo from his naval flight days to students. Photo courtesy of Students Partner with Veterans.

To learn more about Students Partner With Veterans, visit the website or send email to:

Girl Scouts Service and Leadership Team (SALT): Veteran’s Day of Service

For this year’s Service Day Event on November 10th, the Girl Scouts Service and Leadership Team (SALT) enlisted the help of over 200 Girl Scouts ages from 6 to 15 years old from 24 different Daisy, Brownie, Junior and Cadette troops. The girls worked together on projects to benefit the Palo Alto VA Hospital and five other organizations: Grassroots Ecology, Bay Area Cancer Connections, Magical Bridge Playground, Project WeHOPE, One Warm Coat (Ecumenical Hunger Program).

Girl Scouts worked all over Palo Alto on service projects in honor of Veterans Day. Photo courtesy of SALT.

Under the guidance of SALT leaders, the girls engaged in service projects at different locations around Palo Alto, from sorting donated coats, to making motivational bookmarks for breast cancer patients, removing invasive plants at Foothills Park and Byrne Reserve, creating arts and crafts at the Magical Bridge Playground, and putting together hygiene packs and bag lunches for homeless individuals.

Sakshi Satpathy, one of the SALT leaders who organized a Girl Scout day of service on Veterans Day. Photo courtesy of SALT.

After volunteering at the sites, all the girls met back in the Lou Henry Hoover Girl Scout House to make cards for veterans and create a paper tree whose leaves held lessons girls learned from their different activities. After lunch, the girls stood in a circle and made a silent wish and thought of something they were thankful for, before giving a “friendship squeeze,” which was passed from one hand to another. As SALT co-advisor Evelyn Aguon reflected at the close of the event, “It has definitely grown over the past three years. I remember that there were only about 100 Girl Scouts our first year, so it was great to see over 200 excited Girl Scouts helping out in so many ways.”

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About the author

Sakshi Satpathy

Sakshi Satpathy

Sakshi Satpathy is a student of Henry M. Gunn High School and a Girl Scout in Palo Alto. She is very active in both her school and local community; at Gunn, she is a MUN club officer, president of Gunn Amnesty International club and GLI (Girls Learn International) club, and member of the French Honor Society. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, spontaneous road trips, reading voraciously and writing. Sakshi looks forward to giving Palo Alto residents a keen insight on local news worthy events and individuals.