A call to local businesses: Explore what you can bring to the classrooms of Menlo-Atherton High School

by Krista Skehan on September 28, 2017

Did you know that Menlo-Atherton High School was the only school in San Mateo County to be named a California Distinguished School in 2013 (also in 1986 and 2007)? Of current grads, 96% continue their education; 60% attend a wide variety of four-year colleges including private and out-of-state schools, and 37% attend two-year colleges.

That demonstrates that an awesome education is happening at our local high school whose student population is extremely diverse. And, as I found out last spring, local businesses have a unique opportunity to elevate certain educational experiences, stepping out of their worlds to provide guidance and support to students who dream of one day playing critical roles outside the classroom.

Bringing the professional world into a classroom setting offers high school students experiences and perspectives that are generally reserved for post-collegiate existence. It gives them an invaluable head start in fermenting concepts and ideas that will become commonplace once they graduate and seek employment.

It is in this spirit of reaching out, of two worlds colliding and coexisting, of infusing a high school curriculum with the passion and knowledge of a local business, that my Menlo Park-based company, PERSONIFY, got involved, initially due to the simple desire “to give back, somehow.”

PERSONIFY is a strategic design firm, crafting logos and solutions for a variety of clients. Our services are rooted in a fundamental belief in the power of effective design’s capacity for goodness and betterment of business and society.

So, for nearly two months, the PERSONIFY team dedicated the whole of its creative spirit into the students studying multimedia design at M-A,, crafting a six-week curriculum focused mainly on the process of creating a new logo and brand identity for a local pizza place. In doing so, the students began to understand design process in both theory and professional practice, with the team returning every week to guide and inspire their work.

The power and potency of a positive approach and creative mind were continuously stressed, providing the students with a constructive means by which to navigate the ups and downs of any design process.

As an old, weathered cliché informs us: With any truly wonderful experience (be it educational or otherwise) it is the journey taken, not the final destination, where the most valuable pearls of truth and knowledge lie.

Yes, these six weeks would produce a handful of new logos, but the most resonating and empowering aspect of the curriculum was, according to M-A teacher Chris Rubin, the generation and understanding of a process by which problems were solved and solutions created. In the end, it was about ‘What are the processes to solve any problem?’ You can do anything as long as you can master this process; it’s universal and applicable to all aspects of life.

If you are intrigued at the idea of getting your local company involved at M-A, contact Principal Simone Rick-Kennel.

Author Krista Skehan, who grew up in Atherton, is the founder and Creative Director of Menlo Park-based PERSONIFY. She’s pictured far right in the photograph, along with her colleagues Katie Stewart and Matt Niehues, walking the halls of M-A.

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