Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recognizing Past Experiences and Upcoming Adventures

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.

Gathering To Thank Our Supporters

On a hot sunny Wednesday, all Ivy Leaguers, parents, and chaperones gathered at LaVonya DeJean Middle School for the school board meeting. The purpose of the meeting was not only for the school board to know who will be sent east, but for us, ILC members to thank the school board for supporting the ILC and to thank the sponsors whose generous donations made this program possible. While we waited for the meeting to begin, I got to mingle with other Ivy Leaguers while the chaperones talked with each other. Prior to entering the multi-purpose room for the meeting, we were briefed on where we were to sit, and how the meeting would work. I was surprised to learn that no one would have to give a speech about why were we are grateful for the school board for providing us with a unique opportunity to spend three weeks taking a rigorous college course while touring New York City.

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 New York!”

The Great Equalizer

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.