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Student-run clubs champion social change

Art by Charlotte Liu

In a wave of teal, Paly students rush to cram into the football field’s student section before kickoff as senior Tate Hardy hands out teal ribbons and wristbands to commemorate Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Hardy, who is the president of the Women’s Health Awareness Club at Paly, scheduled the Teal Out theme for a football game between Paly and Sacred Heart to raise awareness for a variety of women’s health topics.

“I created the Women’s Health Awareness Club to support the women around me and educate my peers,” Hardy said. “(I wanted to) create a more comfortable community around various health topics such as mental health, consent education, ovarian cancer, breast cancer and heart health.”

Hardy said many students did not know about ovarian cancer prior to the event because information about it is underrepresented in schools. According to Hardy, her mom’s struggle with ovarian cancer motivated her to spread awareness to others.

Hardy is among several other Paly students who have also raised awareness about topics they are passionate about through school clubs. Senior Grace Gormley is the president of the Best Buddies Club, which is dedicated to making Paly a more welcoming place for students with disabilities.

“We host events to help support the kids here with disabilities and help form friendships,” Gormley said. “(The Best Buddies Club) is a place where people can relax, let their guards down, forget about school and have some fun.”

Outside of school, Gormley said the Best Buddies Club hosts several events to increase skill-development opportunities for students with disabilities.

“There’s a cafe in Palo Alto called Ada’s Cafe, and they employ people with disabilities so (employees) can learn valuable skills, get an independent job and support themselves,” Gormley said. “Last year, we did two cooking classes with them.”

Gormley also said she recommends joining clubs to find people interested in advocacy.

“Clubs are a really amazing way for kids to build that team of advocacy,” Gormley said. “They’re a way to band together like-minded students who are interested in getting to know other kids who share their passions.”

Another club at Paly aimed towards increasing inclusiveness for students with disabilities is the Accessibility and Inclusion Society of Palo Alto (AISPA).

Junior and club president Kira Loginova said she created AISPA in 2024 due to the lack of representation of individuals with disabilities in Palo Alto. Loginova has a hypermobile condition and started the club to advocate for change.

“As a disabled person in the Paly community, I’ve noticed that the accommodations for us are quite lacking,” Loginova said. “We really have no advocacy group within Palo Alto.”

Loginova said the club works toward making Paly more accessible by raising awareness about students with disabilities.

“There are terribly inaccessible areas,” Loginova said. “Our school is heralded as being one of the best school districts for disabled students, but the bar is very low. Our elevator permit is three years out of date.”

While AISPA is dedicated to giving disabled individuals a voice, Artruism at Paly is a club that advocates for students through art. According to senior and club president Katie Wu, Artruism at Paly collaborates with other organizations to raise awareness about mental health.

“We designed stickers to raise awareness about mental health,” Wu said. “We’ve also created letters to send to veterans.”

Wu said Artruism at Paly is also about supporting students and helping them throughout the school year.

“A big project that we do every year is designing postcards that are mailed to every single student at Paly to encourage and motivate them during big testing seasons like finals week,” Wu said.

While Artruism at Paly conducts advocacy outside of school, the Paly Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) focuses on change inside of school. The club president, a freshman male, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of discrimination, said the club creates a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to have discussions and find support.

“We have a supportive space for queer students to decompress and talk to each other,” the anonymous freshman male said.

In addition, the anonymous freshman male said GSA raises awareness about the experiences of LGBTQ+ students through increasing education for teachers.

“At the beginning of the year, GSA did a presentation during a staff meeting,” the anonymous freshman male said. “We gave them ways that they can make their classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.”

The anonymous freshman said GSA plans to host events to raise awareness about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the future.

“We’re planning on doing a Day of Silence event so we can bring awareness to the silence faced by LGBTQ+ individuals when they’re forced to be quiet about their identities,” the anonymous freshman male said.

Although several clubs at Paly raise awareness about social or mental health issues, the Paly ECO Club focuses on working towards environmental change.

According to senior and club president Sophia Lee, the Paly ECO Club helps students pursue personal projects.

“Our mission is to provide students who have a passion about the environment with plenty of resources to get them started on this journey of environmental advocacy,” Lee said.

Lee said the club’s biggest undertaking was petitioning for sustainable transportation in PAUSD from June 2021 to February 2022.

“We accumulated over 500 signatures,” Lee said. “Eventually, we got two new electric school buses at PAUSD.”

Lee said she learned about the importance of youth advocacy from participating in the Paly ECO Club.

“More and more people are saying how strong youth can be for all sorts of different types of advocacy,” Lee said. “My takeaway from that is to never be too worried about our generation, because the youth right now are doing a lot for the world.”

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