Read news about a Palo Altan participating in the Kasumigaura Marathon in Japan, Palo Alto Unified's recognition as the state's top school district by Niche and a grant awarded to the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.
RUNNING WITH PURPOSE … For Palo Alto resident Chris Cummings, running the Kasumigaura Marathon in Tsuchiura, Japan is about more than his finishing time.
Cummings, 54, will represent Palo Alto at the race on April 16. Neighbors Abroad facilitates a sister-city relationship between Tsuchiura and Palo Alto, and Palo Altans have competed in the race before — most recently Ed Fike, a Neighbors Abroad board member, in 2019. This is the first time the marathon will happen since the pandemic began.
When friends told Cummings about the chance to represent the city through the race, he jumped at the opportunity.
"It sounded really exciting," Cummings said. "I didn't really know much about Neighbors Abroad before."
As he's trained for the marathon, he has done research on Tsuchiura, learning about Japanese culture and what the city is like. Once he arrives in Japan, he will meet with Tsuchiura's City Council, share gifts from Palo Alto with his hosts, visit local schools and parks and take part in cultural exchange activities like traditional noodle-making.
Then there's the small matter of running 26.2 miles.
Significant training goes into completing a marathon: Cummings completed his longest training run, 20 miles, one recent Sunday, and he does some form of exercise everyday. Now, he's tapering his mileage to arrive at the starting line healthy.
He said he's also running for a purpose: raising funds for LifeMoves. He first got to know LifeMoves' work through his church, and he and his family have been active volunteers since. "It is part of the fabric of Palo Alto," he said of the organization.
Cummings said he regularly repairs bikes for clients at LifeMoves and collects bicycle donations for the organization.
"It's very motivating to be contributing to something where it's not just writing a check — you're getting in and doing something with your own two hands," he said. "That's what being part of a community is all about."
He hopes to raise $26,200 through his marathon fundraiser, and he's reached nearly 50% of his goal as of April 6.
Once he arrives in Japan, he wants to finish the race, but it's important to him to represent Palo Alto well while doing so.
"Every mile, I practice raising my arms and smiling," he said. "I don't want to be one of those dour runners — I want to keep my head up and look around at all the stuff going on around me." Donations can be made at classy.org/fundraiser/4477469.
TOPPING THE LIST … The Palo Alto Unified School District was recently selected as the top school district in California by Niche, a company that publishes various rankings, including of K-12 schools.
Niche's three best California school districts were all in the Bay Area. The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District ranked second, while the Los Gatos Saratoga Joint Union High School District came in third.
The formula that Niche uses to rank school districts includes various data sources, with the largest piece being the "academics grade" that Niche calculates using state test results and the graduation rate, among other variables, according to Niche's website. Some of the factors are self-reported by Niche users, including the colleges that students are interested in or actually attend, average SAT and ACT scores, and parent and student surveys about the school experience. Niche's full data set isn't available online, but is rather offered for purchase.
Nationally, Palo Alto Unified is ranked as the ninth best school district. When looking at the best public high schools in California, Gunn High School topped the list and Palo Alto High School ranked sixth.
The Nueva School in Hillsborough ranked as the third best private high school in California, Stanford Online High School was fourth, Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough was fifth and Castilleja School was sixth.
EQUIPPED TO LEARN … The Palo Alto Art Center Foundation is among the 63 recipients of a state grant program from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment.
The foundation is set to receive $82,800 to support its "Social Emotional Learning Toolkit Project." The project provides students in kindergarten through fifth grade with materials that nurture social and emotional learning, the Palo Alto Art Center shared in a recent Instagram post.
Overall, this year's grantees cover more than 25 counties across the state. "This funding will support projects across the state that lift up history and culture that have been underrepresented in the past and enable more people to learn these remarkable stories," California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said in a press release.