Profile: Meet Helen Lei, Paly’s resident behavioral health specialist

    In what may be a surprise to many students, Palo Alto High School has its own resident behavioral health specialist.

    Helen Lei of Asian Americans for Community Involvement is available to all students every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for counseling sessions.

    Lei, along with Tristan Wang as well as ASB social commissioners Cezanne Lane and Claire Billman, hosted an Asian American Student Dialogue in the EWC on Tuesday to facilitate a discussion between students about academic stress. The turnout was limited to a few interested students, possibly due to a lack of publicity and conflicting scheduling with the Senior Assembly, but Lei wants to make sure that students know she is available to them for counseling.

    “[I help students know] how to manage your time and how to set priorities,” Lei said.

    Lei hosts two-hour parenting education seminars every Monday at Paly. Parents were the original focus of Lei’s program, and Lei’s job is to highlight the differences between the academic systems in China and the United States. These seminars stretch over a five-week series, with the final meeting on March 27 being open to students as well, for the benefit of facilitating a mixed dialogue.

    According to Lei, many of these parents have lived in China for most of their lives, so adjusting to the system in the United States can be a difficult transition.

    “I do think that parents have a lot of expectations for the students and students have a hard time communicating what they want out of school to their parents,” Lei said. “It’s important for both students and parents to know how to talk. I want to connect the parents and the students.”

    AACI was initially founded as a support haven for local Asian Americans, but now has extended its mission to include all community members, according to Lei. It is the largest program to involve and support the Asian American community in the Santa Clara County. The organization has its strongest presence in San Jose, while remaining relatively small in Palo Alto.

    Although the audience on Tuesday was smaller than expected, Lei wants to continue publicizing her availability to the youth community.

    “I really encourage students to use these resources,” Lei said.

    Parenting seminars are open to all parents in the community, and Lei is accessible to all Paly students for both casual assemblies and structured counseling sessions.

    Parents and students can contact Lei through her email, helen.lei@aaci.org.