Interfaith Council created in Morgan Hill

Morgan Hill seems to be a great place to live. The community has lots of upscale housing, and much of the population commutes to high-paying jobs in Silicon Valley. The taxpayers have provided many public amenities, like a modern soccer complex, indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities, and a community and cultural center.  
But the city isn’t free of crime and strife: warring juvenile gangs, graffiti, a recent murder of one juvenile and abduction of another. Two years ago, a Cinco de Mayo protest and student walk-out made news nationally.
Earlier this year, Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate convened members of the local faith communities along with some community leaders to discuss how to make the city a better place to live for residents. The faith communities’ response was heartening as people attended representing such diverse groups as St. John’s Episcopal Church, Morgan Hill United Methodist Church, Advent Lutheran Church, Saint Catherine Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the South Valley Islamic Community, Morgan Hill Bible Church and Congregation Emeth. Leaders in attendance included City Manager Ed Tewes, Police Chief David Swing, Superintendent of Schools Wes Smith and Erin O’Brien, CEO of Community Solutions.
Participants decided to form an Interfaith Council and, as suggested by Smith, to make their focus the community’s youth because a 2011 survey of Santa Clara County discovered almost half of elementary school students lack adult role models, nearly two-thirds of middle school students feel unsafe at home or school, and most high school students feel unvalued in the community. They adopted Project Cornerstone, a YMCA Silicon Valley Initiative, as one means toward their goal of guiding youth toward healthy living and social responsibility.
Project Cornerstone has identified 41 assets (values, relationships, skills and experiences) that help young people thrive. Members of the Interfaith Council were given a report card showing the low level of support students feel they are given for each asset. Then they were shown asset-building tips, which adults, families, organizations and schools could use to build these assets, empowering young people to build healthier lives.
The City and the school district are committed to supporting this program, as are many other organizations. For example, Advent Lutheran Church held a training session on the Developmental Assets, a course meant for parents, grandparents and caring adults led by Anne Ehresman, the Executive Director of Project Cornerstone.
The Interfaith Council is also supporting the implementation of Rachel’s Challenge, named for Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the tragic Columbine shootings. This student-empowering program teaches strategies that equip students to combat bullying and advance their self-esteem by creating a culture of kindness and compassion in their schools.
Although the Interfaith Council’s next meeting isn’t scheduled until Oct. 25, one of their first public initiatives is planning a 911 Picnic that the whole community will be invited to show solidarity. Readers are invited to contact Tate for more information about attending by emailing [email protected]
Further information about Project Cornerstone is available at or; for Rachel’s Challenge, see

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