The Emily Benatar Foundation, an organization dedicated to the late Palo Alto High School (Paly) alumna Emily Benatar, is granting Paly a $75,000 donation to rebuild the senior deck.
The donation entirely funds the construction of a new senior deck that Gracie Cain, former Paly student and friend of Benatar, designed. Cain majored in landscape design at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
The proposed deck is rose-shaped with overlapping pentagons composing the foundation. The shape is inspired by a memory of Emily Benatar as a child, according to her mother, Lisa Benatar. When pregnant with her third child, Lisa Benatar was taken aback by the unkempt nature of the exterior of her midwife’s house.
“Emily looked at the house and said, ‘Hey Mommy, look at that beautiful rose,’” Lisa Benatar said. “In the middle of all the ivy, there was this one scraggly stick of a rose bush with one white rose on it.”
The proposed deck is rose-shaped with overlapping pentagons composing the foundation.
According to Lisa Benatar, this story perfectly captured her daughter’s ability to see the positive side of any situation. Lisa Benatar also believes the deck will honor her eldest daughter in its ability to bring together different groups of people — much as Emily had done.
Benatar graduated from Paly in 2011 and was a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, when she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis in April 2012 and passed away three weeks later in the hospital. Current vaccines cover the strain Benatar contracted, serogroup B meningococcal disease, but they did not at the time, according to the National Meningitis Association.
The Paly senior deck has been in poor shape and in need of several repairs for the past 10 years, and the new senior deck aims to create a “new gathering place for students to congregate and enjoy for years to come,” according to the School Board’s agenda for the Tuesday, Sept. 26 Board meeting.
The School Board made the decision to accept the donation due to a policy which requires donations to the district to get Board approval if they exceed $50,000.
“I just can’t be grateful enough to the [Benatar] family,” said School Board member Todd Collins during the Tuesday meeting.
Cain initially proposed the idea to the Benatar family of building something at Paly to honor Emily Benatar. The project evolved from a bench to a garden to finally, a new senior deck.
Cain believes a new senior deck is the best project to honor Emily and the memories they shared there.
“I do have a vivid memory of [Emily] attempting to sit [on the senior deck] before she knew the deck was designated to seniors,” Cain wrote in an email. “As seniors, we ate most of our lunches there.”
The lasting effects of Benatar on Cain and Paly were one of the driving forces behind the project.
“She was immensely talented,” Cain wrote in an email. “She was creative, athletic and incredibly smart and everyone loved her.”
Update Spring 2017
Paly is a very exciting place these days. Enrollment is expected to be @ 2150 students in the Fall 2017, and there is an incredible amount of construction going on all over campus. In 2015 the Media Arts Center (across from Town and Country) opened. Called "The MAC", it is a first-class teaching facility with meeting spaces.
The second new building of 2015 was the two-story Math and History/Social Studies Building located near the train tracks. Like the other academic buildings, it is numbered--thus called "The 800 Building".
In 2016 The PAC (Performing Arts Center) opened in time for Senior Awards night in May. It is a beautiful facility.
In October 2017 the Peery Family Athletic Center will open. This includes two new gyms and many other state-of-the-art facilities.
Next on the list is remodeling of the library. Plans are for it be finished in 2018. Following that, the "new" science building will be expanded!!
To follow the students' activities and all aspects of life at Paly explore the official Paly website: www.paly.net.
COMPLETED CONSTRUCTION - BELOW
The MEDIA ARTS CENTER, (fondly called "The MAC") across from Town and Country
is a first-class, very versatile teaching facility with classrooms, publishing and production space along with a meeting area.
The MATH and HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES
A two-story building, known as "THE 800 BUILDING" is located near the train tracks.
The PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (The PAC)
faces Embarcardero on one side, and Haymarket Theater on the other is completed.
Senior Awards Night and Spring Concerts have been held there.
Fundraising for The PAC is focusing on the BUY-A-SEAT PROGRAM along with other needs
The Grand Opening is scheduled for October 21, 2017 at 2:00 pm
Click here to see slide show of the new facilities.
THE HAYMARKET THEATRE above will continue to be used for guest speakers, assemblies and smaller events
NEW PALY ATHLETIC FIELD
Daytime - photo above - Nightime - photo below
PALY PAST (The PALY JOURNALISM ARCHIVE PROJECT) is ongoing.
Librarian, Rachel Kellerman is leading the effort to preserve and share Paly's 122 years of history through archiving and digitization Paly's history (Madrono yearbooks, Campanilies, etc.)
Rachel reports: "We are funded for the online database portion of the Paly Digital Journalism Archive thanks to a great fundraising effort by Paly Alumni and Media Boosters. We would LOVE to have alumni volunteers come in and help. We can teach them how to scan our Campanilies. We are also looking for missing editions to scan. We hope to have the start of the project up and online by Fall 2017."