Stepping on to a small yellow school bus on a Thursday afternoon, Early Childhood Development students eagerly discuss their plans for the day’s visit to Greendell Preschool from Palo Alto High School. However, a cloud of uncertainty hovers above them, even as they look forward to seeing their five-year-old buddies. 

In recent months, there has been concern over the potential discontinuation of Palo Alto Unified School District financial support for transportation, which is ECD’s largest expense by far, according to the program’s teacher Hilary McDaniel. 

“Transportation is vital,” ECD senior Ruthie Roach said. “There is no way for us to get there [to the schools] without buses.”  

However, this uncertainty has come to an end, as McDaniel confirmed on March 22 that transportation will be fully covered by the district for the foreseeable future. 

“I’m very relieved and excited,” McDaniel wrote in an email. “Thank you to [Assistant Principal Jerry] Mr. Berkson and district staff.” 

BUS BENEFITS — ECD students disembark at Palo Alto High School from a bus after a productive trip to Greendell preschool. “The buses are extremely important because they’re our only method of transportation to the elementary schools,” senior Anisha Gandhi said. Photo: Sofia Antebi

Paly’s ECD pathway, taught exclusively by McDaniel, allows students to earn Dual Enrollment credit and visit a local preschool by bus twice a week. 

According to McDaniel, one of the main goals of the pathway is to expose students to teaching young children as a profession. McDaniel is acutely conscious that in a female-dominated industry, there is an uphill battle for gaining adequate recognition and support. 

“I want to set good examples for my students about how to value their work and ask for proper compensation for their work,”  McDaniel said. “I’m training people to go into the early childhood field, which is drastically underpaid, and I have to be a role model for my students.”

The ECD class, including senior Hailene Stitt, has devoted time outside of school for fundraisers and raising awareness for the program. 


“The kids adore the teenagers and I have seen them [ECD students] make a real difference. I’ve been involved with the Paly program for a number of years and I’ve seen how the program has grown, the senior students are fabulous.”

— Barbara Carlson, “Young Fives” preschool teacher


“Now I think we’re going to be able to focus more on curriculum and the kids instead of brainstorming, fundraising and figuring out fundraising events,” Stitt said. 

Looking forward  

Over the course of the school year, the ECD students organize three main fundraising events, host a week-long summer camp and sell graduation leis. 

“When a community continually relies on that [teachers volunteering their time] to keep things going, it does eventually put a certain amount of pressure on teachers to perhaps provide an unrealistic level of service,”  McDaniel said.

Now that there is no concern about covering the costs of transportation, the profits from their fundraising will go towards other expenses which include arts and crafts supplies, books, color printing, laminating and other essential materials needed for working with young children.

“I’m so excited and incredibly happy especially for Ms. McDaniel because now she has less to worry about for next year,” Stitt said. “The class was so happy and grateful that we received the funding.”

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The impact of the class

“Young Fives” preschool teacher Barbara Carlson said she has only praise for Paly’s ECD program, which allows Paly students to visit her preschool twice a week. 

“The kids adore the teenagers and I have seen them [ECD students] make a real difference,” Carlson said. “I’ve been involved with the Paly program for a number of years and I’ve seen how the program has grown, the senior students are fabulous.”

When leading the kids through their afternoon activities and play, the ECD students are learning as well. 

“It definitely had a huge impact on my life and my thoughts about what I want to do in the future,” senior Anisha Gandhi said. “I know now that I want to continue working with kids because I’ve learned that I really enjoy that.”

The pathway offers the chance to get a head start on the teaching profession. According to McDaniel, most ECD students take the class for Dual Enrollment college credit from Foothills College. Students who qualify can apply to receive a California child development teaching permit. 

Many of the students, including Roach and senior Mikeala Fedder, are considering pursuing careers in teaching.

“It’s a really good class if you like hands-on activities,” Fedder said. “It also opens up an opportunity for a career.”