Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
When we first arrived at the School Board meeting, all of the ILC members gathered together to socialize with and introduce ourselves to others in different programs that we had not met before. I was reunited with some of my friends from middle school that were attending other programs, which I found suprising that all of us were on the same journey once again.
After everyone was accounted for and the audience was seated, we procedded as a group inside where we sat with our respective groups to be presented in front of the School Board. One by one each of the programs went up ad gave their thanks to the school board and the donors who were generous enough to donate to send us on this amazing journey. When my group went up and we stood before the Board, it finally hit me that I was about to embark on a journey of a lifetime and what I had waited my whole life for. After the schools were introduced, students from previous years gave speeches about what the program was able to do for them and their plans for the future. A previous ILC student, Beulah Agbabiaka, shared with us her experiences during the summer program and the great news that she will be attending Columbia in the fall as part of the class of 2015. Her speech and her presence was another major burst of motivation. It was amazing to see how many people supported us in our dreams, not only the School Board and the donors, but the public also.
The dinner at LaFolie in San Francisco was fantastic. The dining experience was something that I had never experienced before and the food was beyond imaginable. I had the pleasure of sitting across from Mitchell Flax, an alumnus from Columbia who was a part of the Columbia Alumni Program in the East Bay. He answered all of our questions regarding the admission process and life at Columbia, plus some opinions regarding movies and teaching.
The program during the dinner started off with a speech from Mrs. Kronenberg. She congratulated us as well as thanked the donors who were there to dine with us and other alumni who were able to joining. Then Beilul and Irene gave speeches about what the ILC meant to them. What they said in their speeches was exactly what each of us felt inside, about overcoming the adversities that were put before us and our excitement towards the journey ahead of us. Following them was Mr. Ramsey, who told us that if we work hard "there will be that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow." It's amazing to know that it started with a dream and now the ILC will be sending the most students it has ever sent(35) to the East Coast.
The final stop before we depart to New York City is the ILC orientation in June. After that, we will have a lot of reading, a lot of packing, but most importantly, a lot of memories.
You know, I was always really impressed by the idea that you could take out two birds with one stone. It'd be tricky, logistically speaking. But here's the blogging version.
So last Wednesday, May 4th, was the school board meeting that all the ILC members attended, and tonight, May 9th, was the fancy dinner at La Folie restaurant in San Francisco that included the Columbia cohort, board members, sponsors, chaperones, alums of Columbia, parents of the students, and anyone generally connected with the Ivy League Connection who could be there this evening. All of the students in the program are supposed to blog after each major event, such as the two mentioned above. I really did mean to write about the school board meeting before this, really; its just that with AP tests, SATs, and regular schoolwork on top, I've had so little time, opting for a few more minutes of snatched sleep instead of doing what I should have and writing about the school board meeting. So when tonight finally rolled around and the dinner came and went and I still hadn't mustered up a few minutes to write, I figured I'd kill two metaphorical birds with one stone and write about both at once.
The school board meeting was really interesting. I got off to a bit of a rocky start; due to a silly wrong turn, my dad and I showed up only five minutes early instead of fifteen like we'd wanted, and the other ILC members were already there and filing into the building. It was the first time I'd worn a proper dress in quite a while, so I felt a tad self-conscious at first, but I blended in nicely with the other well-dressed students sitting around me. While we waited the few minutes for things to get started, I watched the two TV cameras and their operators set up, frankly a bit mesmerized by their efficiency and, in an odd way, pleased when a slight blond woman of about my height had no trouble manipulating a camera set-up that was a good foot over her head and I'm sure a great many pounds heavier. Its nice to see people similar to my small height able to do things that require strength. When the meeting started up, I was surprised to see Suzanna Tran, a senior at my high school, sitting at the table with the other board members, and even more surprised when she spoke in front of them, giving them an update of the goings-on of El Cerrito High. It was great hearing Suzanna talk about the good things the high school has achieved, things I tend to forget while busy with my own life but that are also nice to be reminded of every once in a while. I like Suzanna, and it was fun hearing her speak. After her report, the meeting really got rolling; motions were seconded, amendments proposed, and policy approved with lightning-quick speed. It was a bit frightening, in a way, the sheer efficiency with which the whole meeting was operated: not a moment wasted, everything in its proper timing and order. Then came the ILC's moment to shine. The chaperones were called up one by one, and each said a few words about the schools they were going to and the programs the students were taking there, before they called up each student by name. For me, it was the first time I'd heard about the other programs other ILCers were attending, and it was great hearing a little about the different schools people would be traveling to over the summer. When Mrs. L came up to the podium, she talked about the sheer excitement of New York City and the rigor of the courses we would be taking at Columbia, and then came our turn to be recognized as members of the ILC headed off to an Ivy school for courses in the summer. It wasn't just the chaperones who spoke: a few ILC-alums, all seniors headed off to Ivy League schools for their freshman year of college due in part to the Ivy League Connection, took turns at the podium, one of them another El Cerrito High student, Irene Rojas-Caroll, a really wonderful person with incredible vision and the head of our Gay-Straight Alliance. After we had all been presented to the school board and the speeches were finished, the students, our parents, and the chaperones hustled over and did as Don told us while we all stood and smiled for a group photo that I believe is up on the blog site right now under “Just a Teaser.”
Tonight's event was another breed entirely. It was just the Columbia group this time, not the other students in the entire Ivy League Connection. We all had to take BART into the city (standing for Bay Area Rapid Transit, its the quickest way to get around in the Bay Area), so at about 5:20 my mother dropped me off at the El Cerrito Plaza station, planning to meet me at the La Folie restaurant for our reservation of 6:30. Don was already there waiting along with Will, Eric and his father, Milani and her mother, Mr. Ramsey, and Masao and his mother. Once Beilul arrived with her mother, we set off, taking a cab the rest of the way from the BART station in San Francisco to the restaurant. We were led into a private dining room with two tables set up, and arranged ourselves at the tables. Also dining with us were Ms. Kronenberg and Ms. Hernandez of the school board, several alums from Columbia, one of the generous sponsors of the program, chaperones from other cohorts, and other adults involved in the ILC through their positions as instructors. I and the other students sat in sort of a ring around a very nice man named Mitchell, who had graduated from Columbia majoring Economics and Math in 2009, who we quizzed all night about what Columbia was like, from the social life to the libraries to the core classes to the (sometimes eccentric) student body, in turn being asked questions about the ILC program and about our lives in general. The food was superb, as I'm sure all of the other Columbia students will write about in their blogs, and very nouveau-cuisine, with one of the appetizers being a surprisingly delicious smoked-salmon lollipop (I'm really hoping Milani got a picture of it). Between courses a few mini-speeches were made, with Ms. Kronenberg kicking things off by talking about the ILC program and introducing everyone in the room (including an editor interested in pitching an idea he called “Ivy League Connection: Poets and Writers” that I really hope to hear more about!) before turning the floor over to Beilul and me, who both spoke about what the program at Columbia means to us. Beilul, being her great ultra-prepared self, had a brilliant set of small little flash cards in her hand, and I told her after we both sat down that that was a great idea I was definitely going to mimic in the future. Mr. Ramsey then gave an ultra-rousing, inspirational speech about what the program was meant to do, how it helped kids from the WCCUSD get on an equal footing when applying to colleges and thinking about their future with other students who had had more opportunities than your average high schooler in our district. After his closing remarks, we all applauded and tucked in to the delicious food, not finishing our meal until almost 10:30. The evening was wonderful: it was great talking with Mitchell about Columbia, as well as seeing two of my interviewers for my application to the program, Ms. Hernandez and the other Mr. Ramsey (Charles Ramsey's younger brother), who both congratulated Eric and me and said how pleased they were that they had made the right choice, which is always wonderful to hear from someone.
All in all, the school board meeting and the dinner at La Folie were a lot of fun but also very instructive and useful, which I think is the whole goal of the Ivy League Connection.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Tonight the Columbia cohort had the opportunity to attend a dinner at the lovely La Folie for an opportunity to speak with past participants in the program as well as Columbia graduates.
We arrived at the restaurant and the seats were arranged so that all of the students were able to sit near Mitchell Flax, a graduate of the Columbia class of ’09. Mr. Flax, currently a Geometry and Algebra teacher at Skyline High School, spoke to us about the fine points of life at Columbia. He enthralled us with stories that depicted more about Columbia than the stats; he explained the culture, tempo, and inner workings of student life in New York City. (I am particularly looking forward to exploring Columbia’s intricate underground tunnel system.)
Mr. Flax is also a member of the Bay Area Columbia Alumni Association and was able to provide us with invaluable information about the application and interview process. Having interviewed many prospective Lions, Mr. Flax stressed the importance of developing more than just a visually appealing application. He mentioned that many students with outstanding SAT scores, who are valedictorian and participate in tons of extra-curricular clubs, are immediately categorized as “not right” for Columbia because they don’t have a true passion.
In other words, it is more important to genuinely enjoy the activities you participate in, than to try and manufacture a long list that will merely appear impressive to colleges.
The cab driver who felt that the streets of San Francisco were actually a racetrack was a thrilling way to cap off an electrifying night. I am counting down the days to our departure and slowly beginning to grasp the magnitude of the journey I am embarking on.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Recognition. That is the word that best describes the Ivy League Connection’s presentation to the West Contra Costa Unified School Board this evening. Recognition of the academic achievements of the ILC students of the Summer Class of 2011; of the sponsors who continue to donate the significant amounts of funding that make our trips possible; of the amazing staff in WCCUSD that includes all the wonderful teachers, counselors, administrators and especially the chaperones who help guide their students by urging us to broaden our horizons; and, last but certainly not least, recognition of the growing impact of the ILC throughout the entire district.
The goal of the Ivy League Connection is to create a college going culture in WCCUSD and open students’ eyes to the vast array of colleges and universities outside of California. And, based on the speeches I heard tonight, I believe this is exactly what the ILC does. All the ILC alums that gave speeches regarding where they chose to matriculate attested to the profound influence their experiences with the ILC had on their decision. Irene, Guadalupe, Austin, Beulah and Yueming all emphasized the impact their ILC experiences had on their education and the confidence it instilled in them.
I recall attending the School Board meeting last year and listening to the musings of previous ILC students as they discussed their decisions to attend Ivy League institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. I was so impressed. It is one thing to spend a few weeks enrolled in a summer course amongst other high school students, but to actually be admitted and enroll in one of these institutions is something completely different.
However, this year was a bit different. Not because the students were any less impressive, but because I remember seeing them in the audience last year, as I was. It made me realize they are just like us and their stories were particularly interesting to me because of how accessible they seem. These students sat exactly where we did today and have now been transformed into poised, eloquent and confident high school seniors bidding farewell to high school and welcoming the next chapter of their lives: college. And in one year, it will be members of the current ILC cohort that will attend the School Board meeting to discuss their college decisions.
The School Board meeting was a wonderful way to say “Thank You” to all the people who make the ILC possible. In less than two months, we will be heading off for the adventure of a lifetime and I assure all the sponsors, ILC administrators and School Board members, I have every intention of representing WCCUSD to the best of my ability.
On a hot sunny Wednesday, all Ivy Leaguers, parents, and chaperones gathered at
Once we were all seated, the school board meeting commenced, led by Mr. Ramsey. Following a short assessment of what has been going on at el Cerrito High School, each chaperone was called up to the podium. One by one, the chaperone called up each member of his or her cohort and announced what school he or she came from. After the cohorts from Drown, Columbia, Yale, and Cornell were introduced, ILC alumni Guadaloupe Morales, Irene Rojas-Carroll, Beulah Agbabiaka, Austin Long, and Yueming Wang came to the podium and talked about how the Ivy League Connection has opened so many doors for them and how it couldn’t have been possible had it not been for the board’s support, and the sponsors generous donations.
At the end, the people who fund the Ivy League Connection, the sponsors, were recognized and given a certificate of appreciation. As the sponsors were called up one by one, I was surprised to see two on the panelists for my interview come forward. I had no clue that our sponsors also were asked to serve on the interview panel. However, as I thought about it I realized that by having the sponsors serve on the panel, the sponsors can see who they making generous donations to.
Finally, all Ivy Leaguers gathered on the side of the room to take a group photo with all the cohorts, chaperones, and parents. When the pictures were done, I talked to a few parents, Don, and Mrs. Lilhanand before leaving. I am truly looking forward to spending three weeks in as Mrs. Lilhanand put it, “the great city of
Nelson Mandela once wrote, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of a mine, which a child of a farm worker can become president.”
This is the quote I had scribbled on a scrap of paper as my mother and I rushed out the door to appear at the school board meeting. Nobody had asked me to speak but at Don’s Bloggers Tutorial, he fervently reminded us that Mr. Ramsey often asks people to say a few words at a moment’s notice. If called upon I planned to describe how the ILC acts as the great equalizer Mandela speaks of and what the ILC program means to me.
We arrived at the LaVonya DeJean Middle School Multi Purpose room where all of the students in the program were asked to gather outside while the chaperones chatted and waited for everyone to arrive. Although it had been an exceedingly hot day, I was nonetheless excited because it was the first time I had the opportunity to introduce myself and get to know students from some of the other Ivy League Connection Programs. Despite Taylor Doty being a fellow El Cerrito High School Student, I had never previously had the opportunity to formally meet her because we both have busy class schedules and El Cerrito is such a large campus.
Within seconds, I could tell how she was selected to participate in this prestigious, rigorous program. She had a tremendous presence and a vocabulary far beyond her years. Furthermore, she blows the idea that high school students can’t handle frequent, college length tests out of the water; she has 3 AP tests and the SAT on four consecutive days.
Suddenly, we were briefly told what to expect inside the meeting, and I walked inside with the rest of the Columbia Cohort. When it was our turn to be introduced as a group, I started developing the conclusion of my potential speech in my head.
“Remember to thank the board and the sponsors!” I reminded myself.
Ultimately, I was not asked to give a surprise speech. However, Beulah Agbabiaka, who attended the Presidential Powers Program last year, delivered an eloquent speech that I can only hope to try to make my future speeches resemble. Beulah discussed all of the doors the ILC opened for her and warned us that the class we were taking will be painstakingly challenging, but enormously rewarding as well. Most importantly, she remembered to thank the board and the sponsors; she even thanked her mother for her support.
After all of the groups had been introduced we took a large group photo. I also had some time to personally thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenburg, and a few of the sponsors. Everyone I spoke to and heard from got me more and more excited for the upcoming trip.
On the way out of the Multi Purpose Room doors, I wondered what doors the ILC will open for me down the road.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
You'd never think it would take me almost ten minutes to navigate my own school, but it did.
When I went to the meeting our chaperone Mrs. Lilhanand had called last night to go over paperwork at El Cerrito High, I made the mistake of suggesting we go in the back way instead of through the front doors. “Look, the gates are open!” I said, and my dad shrugged and got out of the car. We'd arrived early in good ILC fashion. The gate to the parking lot was no issue, but then the doors to the A building (where the meeting was held) proved to be locked. So were the doors of the hallways connecting to the A building. We spent ten minutes trying every (locked) door we could find, and ended up giving in and circling around to walk through the front doors, which, thankfully, were open. I was more than a little embarrassed to find all the other students, even those from other high schools, already there enjoying pizza.
The meeting itself was pretty standard. Mrs. L went over information about our travel plans, what we would do in the days before the class started, possible weekend excursions with our RAs, got some helpful hints from parent's who's children had been involved with ILC before (Thanks Mrs. Wang!), and filled out paperwork. When my father saw the forms we were filling out and recognized some of them as forms he had had to fill out for our school district during every single year his two children had been enrolled in school, he laughed and asked me why the ILC couldn't have just gotten them from our files at the high school. I laughed and shrugged; its the way of things, filling out identical forms multiple times a year. We gave Mrs. L a copy of our IDs and a copy of our medical insurance card as she'd asked; we all promised to give her a copy of forms we had filled out for Columbia (that I still have to find!); everyone said “See you Wednesday!” and we all left.
Of the students there, I knew Masao from school, I had spoken to Will before, and Eric was my other classmate from the ILC so I had met him at the interviews. It was my first time meeting Beilul and Milani, the other two girls in the Columbia cohort; although I didn't really speak with them much during the night, they both seemed really friendly. I'm looking forward to talking to them at the dinners and functions and such that are required of the Ivy League Connection students, as well as spending time getting to know all of my classmates while we are back East.