Magical Bridge Club brings a kindness component to Paly

    The Palo Alto High School Magical Bridge club will add what members call a “kindness component” — a hand-painted table and chairs — to the campus tomorrow in front of the special education classrooms.

    The project, derived from the Magical Bridge Foundation’s focus on inclusion, will exemplify kindness, unity and inclusion of students of all abilities, according to club members.

    Since the start of the club, Emma Villarreal and club members have been hard at work to fundraise money to bring the new furniture to campus. Villarreal chose a table and chairs to provide a place — the grassy area between the special education classrooms in the 700 building and the 800 building — where students can meet other students and make friends. 

    The table and chairs were built by local artist and builder Barbara Butler, who also built the iconic tree house at the Magical Bridge Playground at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. 

    The project was unveiled on Friday at Club Day 2 when students joined the painting and decorating of the table and chairs.

    “It was important for everyone to be involved in this kindness component because the whole point of this is to emphasize inclusion,” Villarreal said.

    Founded in August 2016, the Magical Bridge Club is led by senior Emma Villarreal, whose mother, Olenka Villarreal, founded the Magical Bridge Playground in 2008 as a response to frustration about not being able to find a good playground for Emma’s younger sister, who has developmental challenges.

    Inspired by the Best Buddies Club, a Paly club that brings together students of all abilities, the younger Villarreal sought to use resources and support from the Magical Bridge Foundation to build a club that would unify the campus.

    “I brought my club to campus to spread kindness and inclusivity,” Villarreal said.  “We are hoping to leave a legacy at Paly by putting in a kindness component. I hope our kindness component will serve as a safe place where people can really be themselves.”

    Olenka Villarreal is proud of her daughter’s achievements in following her footsteps.

    “With Magical Bridge, we say that beyond building innovative playgrounds, we build more inclusive communities,” Villarreal said. “With each community we go into, we love getting to know different community members and we love meeting the students. For us, it is wonderful to see [the kindness component], we hope other schools will follow our school’s lead. Even if they don’t have the physical place like the kindness component, kindness starts to become something that schools not just talk about, but what kids embrace, especially with kids that might be a little different.” 

    According to Olenka Villarreal, the Magical Bridge Foundation is spreading its reach to other Palo Alto schools. The foundation has partnered with Addison Elementary School to bring an innovative playground that all students can enjoy together.

    The project has been approved by the Paly administration.

    “Kindness is contagious and I think that any place in the world could a happier atmosphere at all times, especially in today’s society,” Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson said. “It is a good thing for the school and the community.”

    Paly clubs were given the opportunity to donate money to the Magical Bridge club and help them achieve their goal to purchase the kindness component. In return, the clubs were given a chair that they could decorate. Black Scholars United and Queer Straight Alliance donated a sufficient amount of money for the Magical Bridge Club to fund the project.

    After several years of fundraising and construction, the first Magical Bridge Playground at Mitchell Park opened to the public in April 2015. Shortly thereafter, several other Bay Area cities: Redwood City, Morgan Hill, Sunnyvale and Mountain View, were inspired to add the inclusive playground to their cities.

    Click below to view a slideshow of pictures from Friday’s event.

    Magical Bridge Club's Kindness Component

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