The La Palma-Cerritos American Association of University Women (AAUW) met at Liberty Park in Cerritos for their general meeting on May 16, 2019. Program Co-VP Beverly Zwick introduced the guest speaker for the evening, Michele Steggell. Michele is President and Founder of the La Palma Community Foundation and a member of the La Palma City Council. Steggell was invited to speak at the AAUW meeting by Brenda Hicks, a La Palma resident and the branch’s Co-Program VP, so that members could learn about the different programs and activities that the La Palma Community Foundation participates in for the benefit of residents, students, and families of La Palma and neighboring communities.
Michele said that the city of La Palma is a small city in size, covering an area of only 1.8 square miles with a population of about 15,000 people in 2017. She has lived in La Palma since 1970, attended Walker Jr. High School, and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School. She became a realtor in 2006 and became involved in community activities with the encouragement of her boss, Mark Prapher of Mark I Real Estate. She gives back to the community by participating in community activities.
Michele was first elected to the La Palma City Council in 2014 and served as Mayor in 2017. She was re-elected for her second term on the City Council in 2018. During her tenure on the council, she started the La Palma Community Foundation to connect charitable individuals and organizations with programs that improve the lives of people in La Palma and neighboring communities.
Since its founding in 2017, the La Palma Community Foundation has funded the “Every 15 Minutes” program at John F. Kennedy High School. It is a program where students learn about how someone is hurt or killed by a drunk driver every 15 minutes in the United States. The most popular students are asked to pose as injured students, with make-up put on by volunteers from Knott’s Berry Farm. Jaws of life, firemen and ambulances are called, and the designated “injured” students are taken to the La Palma Hospital Emergency Room. The “dead” students are taken to the county morgue and the “drunk driver” is taken to jail. Parents and students write their farewell letters and a funeral is held for the person who died. Junior and Senior class students see the site of the accident examples in front of the school and witness the funeral.
The “Every 15 Minutes” program hopes to stop students from drinking and driving after seeing and experiencing what could happen to them. It is usually presented Thursday or Friday before Proms.
The “Every 15 Minutes” program at Kennedy will probably take place in 2020 due to the new landscaping and fencing that is being installed. Michele said that the cost of the program is about $8,000 to $10,000, and the La Palma Community Foundation is working to raise the funds needed.
Michele said that she first saw a video of “Every 15 Minutes” at a meeting in Cypress. Cypress Mayor, Stacy Berry, was in attendance at this May 16 meeting and said that Cypress High School also has the ‘Every 15 Minutes Program.
In addition to the “Every 15 Minutes” program, the La Palma Community Foundation supports two other programs. The Foundation requested grant funds from the North Orange County Public Safety Task Force (NOCPSTF) for the School Resource Officer (SRO) and a new program for La Palma teen students called InspoTeen, in partnership with the SRO program. School Resource Officers are present at all the schools in La Palma so that students can talk to them about any potential problems such as bullying and drugs. With the InspoTeen program, students at Walker Jr. High School and Kennedy High School can meet with the SRO officer or La Palma Recreation staff member three days a week after school. The InspoTeen program hopes to inspire teens to participate in exercises and activities that may help to enlarge their personal life skills and prepare them for future careers.
Michele said that the La Palma Community Foundation will be holding their next fundraiser at Knott’s Berry Farm on Saturday, September 14 with all proceeds going to support the “Every 15 Minutes” Program. Persons interested in attending the La Palma Community