This fall marks my 36th year as an educator and nearly as many years as a parent and father of three sons. In my many roles as a teacher, principal, and now superintendent, I have loved working with students, especially teenagers, and the families that entrust their students to our care as educators. At home, my wife Polly and I have raised three sons through school, college, and beyond as they establish their own careers and families. We can relate to all the challenges and joys of raising children in this hectic and amazing setting of Silicon Valley. It is my goal as superintendent to work with parents in a partnership to help them raise successful and healthy young adults.
One of my roles as superintendent is to find ways to build partnerships between our schools and parents, other organizations, and the community at large. Over my career, I’ve watched thousands of teenagers navigate adolescence and mature into young adults. As I work with teens and families, I’m always asking this question, “Why do some kids grow up with ease, while others struggle? How can we as parents offer the best possible environment for our kids to succeed in life?” These are difficult questions to answer, questions I wonder about as an educator and as a parent. Many years ago I came across some research that began to answer some of these questions. The Search Institute (www.search-institute.org) has developed a framework called the Asset Approach which consists of 40 developmental assets. You can find a copy of this framework under the Project Cornerstone section of our district website. These assets provide some language and tools to help our kids grow up in healthy ways.
We often talk about the partnership between schools and families and how we need to work together to raise kids. When you read through the list of assets, you’ll notice the majority of them happen in the context of school or family. The community at large has a role, but most of the work of developing young people happens on campus and in our homes. Given that schools play such a large role in the development of youth, the Milpitas Unified School District is launching a community-wide effort known as Project Cornerstone. The goal of Project Cornerstone is the development of positive assets in our youth which in turn leads to successful and healthy young adults. It’s an excellent framework and one that parents and educators find easy to understand and implement.
Our first step as a district in implementing Project Cornerstone was to determine the number of assets the average student perceives they have in their life. A survey was given on our school campuses in the month of May 2013 to provide a snapshot of the over 10,000 students in our district. The asset survey is geared towards older students in grades 6-12 and a summary of the results for our students is available on our website. The results show that we have lots of work ahead to create a healthy and supportive environment for the youth of Milpitas.
I must also share that the survey has revealed a high level of attempted suicide among the youth of Milpitas. Students self-reported that nearly 19% of our high school graduates have attempted suicide at some point in their young lives. That is a sobering statistic and a call to action. The results are confirmed by our bi-annual California Healthy Kids Survey and through the experiences of our school administrators and support staff.
In the fall of 2015, Milpitas Unified will serve as the lead agency for a renewed effort across our city of Milpitas in support of our youth. We will partner with the City of Milpitas, community and faith-based organizations, and our PTA groups in support of our students through Project Cornerstone. Please take the time to read through the developmental asset framework and do your part to invest in the future success of our youth. They need our support more than ever.