Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Two ILC Birds, One Blogging Stone

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.

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