Editor’s note: It’s great to discover a largely unsung hero like Miki Cristerna, whose work with M-A students is reported by M-A Bear News reporter Becca Sanchez in this post. Of interest to the broader Menlo Park/Atherton community is the fact that Miki’s salary is paid by M-A’s Foundation for the Future rather than the District or the state, making it worthy of consideration for your year-end giving.
Emails Foundation for the Future Executive Director Cindy Folker: “We would appreciate a shout-out, as Miki’s salary represents a large portion of our budget, which means that the position is in jeopardy. We are actively seeking grants to help fund the cost. We have received a $40,000 grant from the ORIX Foundation to help pay Miki’s salary this year.”
Yes, great things our happening at our public schools! Donations are easily made online.
Menlo-Atherton High School has always been incredibly fortunate to have on campus groups that offer services to students allowing them to experience different opportunities, both as a hobby and as a career.
The group New Voices For Youth led by Tanuj Chopra and Ana Angel at M-A allows any student to learn about video production with lessons that lead up to an end-of-the-year project allowing them to showcase their talent through an independent group video regarding social consciousness, documentary-style.
Miki Cristerna (pictured), the on campus “conduit to services” as she modestly puts it, is in charge of connecting the students to possible interests to maximize their high school experience. Cristerna says “that’s what my job is, it’s really just to connect kids and services.”
Cristerna works with the community in two ways: sometimes agencies ask to run a program on campus, and sometimes she holds them on campus when she sees a need. She notes that occasionally “we need to talk to kids about how to empower themselves, how to learn more about their culture and civil rights. We go to an outside agency and say, ‘Look, we don’t have this and we need you here.’ So it goes both ways.”
New Voices for Youth was started when the League of Women Voters, the financial supporter, came to Cristerna and asked if she could help recruit and support them on campus. “They were part of a video production class in previous years, but they really wanted something outside of the class so it could be open to any student.”
The program ensures that every kid on campus can be involved with something they love while acquiring new skills. Cristerna explains that the class is about “definitely learning a skill, definitely giving them a venue for creative expression, and also an opportunity, a lot of our kids have a lack of connection to school, and the clubs and activities that go on around here are just not their thing.”
The program allows students to be led by experienced video directors that can help make a positive impact on students who want to try different creative projects that lasts. “They get taught really amazing skills, and [some] of them are still very interested in film so they are going to try to incorporate that into their college life.”
Students this year seem excited because it gives them an opportunity to check out different fields and find what they’re passionate about. Sophomore Stephanie Valencia notes that she wants to “learn how to make my own videos” and “see how all of it works before [she] decides.”
This promising program meets every Wednesday morning in E-16 for meetings for all students who find it appealing. Thanks to a few volunteers willing to work with creative high schoolers, students can follow their passion, learn new skills, and change their future.
Photo by Linda Hubbard Gulker