Friday, May 24, 2013

A Taste for Cornell

Tonight, I got my first real dose of my journey to life at Cornell. I was given the amazing privilege to meet and dine with future Cornelians and Cornell alums left and right. 

The event began at around 5:20 PM, when we were to all meet at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. 

When we arrived at One Market, I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. When Don said that everyone at the dinner was your friend, he was 100% accurate. Because we had a bit of time before we actually sat down for the dinner, my cohort and I were able to chat with Carolyn, a former Cornell graduate. We were able to ask her any questions we had about Cornell--from how rigorous the classes were to whether they had a strong Marching Band or not. 

As I walked into our reserved room, I was surrounded by such experienced and extremely knowledgeable scholars. Along with my mother and another parent, sitting at my table also included Cornell alum Jorge Lee, our Cornell chaperone Mr. Alfredo Chan-Law, as well as upcoming Cornell freshman Eric Wang. By conversing with them, I was able to learn a lot about not only pre-college program life but also actual college life at Cornell as well.

For dinner, I chose the vegetarian selection on the menu--and it turned out to be absolutely delicious. The food was amazing, and dessert was just perfect.

School Board President and Ivy League Connection Co-Founder Madeline Kronenberg opened the dinner by introducing everyone attending the event. I was able to meet alums, future Cornell students, donors, supporters, and benefactors of the Ivy League Connection. Ms. Kronenberg then gave the stage to the various chosen speakers for the night: my cohort members Rochelle Yee (Hotel Management) and Christian Abraham (Freedom and Justice), Eric Wang, and several of the benefactors. I  was also able to witness an equally insightful and inspirational speech by ILC Co-Founder Charles Ramsey. From his wise words, I was able to take a lot away from it. When he spoke of how one can never get anywhere without help, and therefore should return the kindness and give back, I suddenly realized just how lucky and grateful I am to have been given this one in a lifetime chance opportunity to attend an Ivy League Pre-College program--all expenses covered. Mr. Ramsey also told us that when people think that they have achieved success because they earned it, they are only thinking of themselves. And instead, he urged us to think less of ourselves and more of the people who actually got us where we are today.

I am truly grateful to have so many resources and sources of information being to accessible. Tonight was definitely a night of learning, a great experience, along with great company.

One Market: One Great Night

The Cornell party waiting for the second train to San Francisco.
Tonight was truly a night of celebration when all the ILC associates, Cornell alumni, and the Cornell cohort joined in an amazing dinner at One Market Restaurant. Despite our leaving the house by 4:50 PM, my mother and I were lost due to the horrible directions given by Google maps. We were trying so desperately to find the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station. After forty minutes of speaking with my father over the phone, he gave GPS-like directions and we were able to reach the station. Unfortunately, my mother and I were the last ones to arrive but we were still warmly welcomed by the other party members. Once Don told everyone the importance of not losing our BART tickets and Clipper cards, the whole group hopped on the train to San Francisco. 

After about twenty minutes, we reached our destination: One Market. When we entered the restaurant, I was surprised by how busy it was and the amount of people within the establishment. Even more so, the Cornell party was given a private lounge where our dinner was held. The vastness and elegance of the room made me feel as though I was attending a Presidential event. While waiting to be seated, Rochelle, Tamilyn, Jenna, Michelle, and I met Carolyn Day Flowers, a Cornell alum and current faculty member. She described to us what her major was (Economics) and her experiences during her days at the university. Hearing her perspective of Cornell made me even more anxious to know what experiences I will have after my adventure this summer. In spite of the tardiness of one guest member, Don assembled the Cornell alums, Cornell-bound freshman, and the Cornell cohort for a group photograph. As soon as the final picture was taken, the tables were ready for us.
The Cornell alumni and Cornell cohort
Subsequently, Ms. Madeline Kronenberg began the dinner agenda by having the Cornell alums and Cornell cohort introduce themselves. Once the parents and present ILC sponsors were acknowledged and thanked for their undying support, it was time for the student speakers-Rochelle and I- to present. I completely agreed with Rochelle's comment of how the ILC will increase her self confidence, as I feel that is a personal aspect I would like to improve on this summer. Even though I was nervous, I was able to convey what I hope to learn at Cornell, both academically and socially. Eric Wang's speech made me even more excited about Cornell as he described how he thought that the school was just the right fit. Finally, Mr. Charles Ramsey's speech regarding the importance of helping one's community and recognizing the potential that the ILC sees in all its members made me reflect on how I will need to do my part once I return from New York. Nonetheless, I am proud to be from the West Contra Costa School District and am greatly thankful to have been acknowleged and given this once in a liftetime opportunity.
The Scrumptious Short Rib
Jesus Verduzco sharing his experiences
Finally, the moment we all were waiting for: the scrumptious dinner. Almost everyone at my table, including my mother, Rochelle, her father Ronald Yee, ordered the Short Rib dish. Its tender, tangy, and tasty meat and the well complemented mashed potato spread caused my taste buds to experience a new flavor. Desert was just as wonderful. The chocolate brownie topped with whipped cream with a raspberry drizzle sweetened my sweet tooth. While I was enjoying my delectable meal, I was able to speak with Jesus Verduzco, another Cornell alum, and Calvin Kuang, an upcoming freshman at Cornell. Jesus shared with the group his experiences of attending Cornell on the East Coast and UC Berkeley on the West coast. His perspective on not being bound to his home state of Texas showed me that I do not need to settle for the expected UC system when I apply to colleges. Broadening my horizons is one the many goals I hope to achieve while being back east. Calvin described his trip to Cornell as a former member of the ILC and shared his memories of the Freedom and Justice program. He was really helpful in letting me know what to expect from the course and how I can maximize my time so I will not be as stressed out as the other students.

By 9 PM, we all had to depart from San Francisco and return to the BART station. After a long and bumpy ride, we got together and gave Don back the tickets and Clipper cards. We were able to go home after doing so. I am so thankful to have been able to meet with veteran Cornellians and will do my best as an ambassador of my community.

Better Than Winning the Powerball

Let me begin with "wow".

I read Brown's blogs and my classmates told me about their dinners, but there was nothing like experiencing it for myself. Usually I'm the one rushing my dad out of the house, but this time he was the one to rush me. We got to the El Cerrito BART station about fifteen minutes before 5:20 and saw Don, Dean, Mr. Chan-Law, and Mr. Rubin. Rochelle arrived after and next thing you know, the whole ILC group is there.
Jenna, Tamilyn, Rochelle and I at the BART station
Cornell alumni, representatives, ILC participants, and parents shuffle up the escalator to catch our 5:42 train. The train is crowded and half of us end up standing up, holding onto the straps dangling from above. Tamilyn, Jenna, Rochelle, and I are all somewhat delicate so we would all budge a little once the train came to a stop or reached a bump. Some of us budged more than others.  Don and Mr. Ramsey yell "ILC', so we all exit and make our transfer. Trains pass as we see our reflections in the tinted windows. I spend most of my time on the second train conversing with Jenna about school and travel.

Once we arrived at the Embarcadero Station everyone associated with the ILC filed out and up into the city. We made a right into One Market, past the bar, and into the atrium. Each of the walls was a restaurant, office, or apartment. If you looked up, only glass separated us from the clear blue sky. Sky's the limit, right? Waiters start offering us drinks and appetizers ranging from mini crab tacos to sliders. We all break out into conversation. For a while, my cohort stuck together. It seemed like the adults were already in conversations, but we were probably just too shy to introduce ourselves. Luckily, a Cornell alumnus, Carolyn, approached us! She asked us about ourselves and talked about her love for Cornell. We spoke until it was time to take pictures.
The Cornellians
After taking pictures, we went straight to dinner. At this moment, I started to feel regret. I wish I had pushed myself to approach the other alumni and past ILC students. I wish I asked more questions and met more people, so when dinner came along, I made sure to speak with those around me. I was wedged between Mr. Levy and Mr. Vollmer, both Cornell alumni. Mr. Levy graduated more recently, so he had a lot to say about the scenery and professors. Mr. Vollmer spoke to us about his engineering endeavors.

While our watercress soup was served, Ms. Kronenberg introduced everyone. Rochelle, Christian, Eric Wang, several benefactors and Mr. Ramsey spoke. Mr. Ramsey gave another empowering speech about giving back and remembering the people that helped you get to where you are. I know that I probably wouldn't be attending Cornell without the ILC and support from members of the community.

My delicious mahi-mahi was served as the table continued to converse. A few key things that I learned from the alumni were: Cornell is one of the few Ivies to require an interview (unless you're applying for the hotel school), only 150 students are accepted into the hotel school, and Cornell offers unique programs that allow you to finish more in less time. Seeing all the pride that Cornell alumni had made me realize that there must be a reason why they love Cornell so much. I haven't even stepped a foot on campus, yet I'm so excited to go and possibly attend Cornell after high school.
My Father
Before we all reluctantly said our good-byes and left One Market, we ended the night with a warm, fluffy chocolate cake. It was even more appetizing than it looked. The cake was soft and melted right into your mouth. I'm so sad that the night had to end. I guess what everyone says is true; all good things come to an end. My cohort and I thoroughly enjoyed our night. The food was delicious; the people were insightful, but the real treat comes when we finally depart into the East.

A Tantalizing Appetizer Before the Entree to Come

Tonight I was given the special privilege of sinking my teeth into a taste of what to expect this summer on the East Coast. After a capricious BART ride which thoroughly tested my balance, I arrived with fellow ILCers, parents, and contributors at the Embarcadero station. The venue for tonight's event was located just several meters from the BART station, and I watched the subtle-hued sign reading "One Market Restaurant" grow larger with each step I took. My stomach churned both in nervousness as well as anticipation, and when I entered the restaurant's wood-framed double doors, the alluring scent of cooking food made my mouth water. 
This year's Cornell cohort (Tomi Balogun not pictured), smile alongside alumni of the program
 as well as the university. Photo credits to Don Gosney.
We were led through the restaurant and out into a quiet space of One Market Plaza. Waiters and waitresses offered an assortment of appetizers such as mini sliders and delectable cheese risotto balls, and I savored the snack as I spoke with a Cornell University alumnus. The attendees were allowed to mingle for a while before Don called us out of the cordoned area for the customary group photograph. After a few minutes of shuffling and repositioning, Don the Photographer had everyone in place and fired off a rapid succession of blinding flashes. A second set of photographs was taken soon after, this time with the Cornell banner held in front of the assembled group. 

My dish of short rib. The meat was so tender it practically melted
 off the bone-- delicious! 
After the group photos, it was time to enter the dining room and thus began an amusing treasure hunt for each individual's strategically placed name card. I found my seat in a corner of the room in between Cornell alumnus Jason Levy and my mother Susan Chai; also seated at my table was Michelle Phung from Pinole High School and her father, as well as Cornell alumnus Alex Vollmer. Once everyone had settled down, the night’s agenda began with introductions of students, parents, district staff, sponsors, and alums by Madeline Kronenberg, co-founder of the ILC. Rochelle Yee and Christian Abraham delivered wonderful orations, followed by ILC alumnus Eric Wang, and co-founder of the Ivy League Connection Charles Ramsey. The speeches were deeply inspirational and my smoldering excitement from the District Council Meeting last Thursday was rekindled with fervor.

Jason, class of '07, was very informative and had a vast wealth of
information from experience. Photo credits to Don Gosney.
Over a gleaming plate of tender braised beef short rib, I spent the rest of the dinner hours conversing with Jason and Alex about various topics such as what to expect when I arrive at the East Coast, information on the admissions process, what I had to look forward to, and so much more. This dinner was a night of information, inspiration, and exquisite food. From risotto to luscious chocolate cake to content-laden discussion, this night was a night of learning and preparation—a tantalizing taste of what awaits me in Cornell University.  

Not Selfish, But Grateful

Today, we had our long awaited fancy dinner at One Market. I was really looking forward to this event because I wanted to meet Cornell Alumni and many of those who helped make the ILC happen. Upon arriving the El Cerrito BART station, I wondered which one of us in my cohort was going to speak. I thought I was in the clear since I already spoke on Tuesday at the Pinole Council Meeting. Surprisingly, Christian and I were chosen to speak! Of course I panicked because I had no idea I was supposed to speak and I didn't think I'd have enough time to give a decent speech. However, I just told myself to relax and not over think things. I've spoken before and I survived, so I knew I could do it again. 

While waiting for others from our group to show up, we Cornell bound high schoolers mingled together. Even though Don told us to meet new people, we all ended up talking to each other in the end. I knew that I was a little scared to go outside of my comfort zone and it was my one regret of the night. By the time I really wanted to talk to other people, especially adults, the adults formed small groups of their own and I didn't want to interrupt their conversation. 

I've never been to a restaurant as fancy as One Market. I knew it was fancy right away when we all got drinks and stood around mingling with others. Appetizers were served and the food was delicious. The five of us ILCers stayed together once again, but this time we were having a conversation with a Cornell Alumni, Carolyn. She told us about the great experience she had while going to Cornell and it got us all excited to be going there this summer. Shortly after, we took our picture and of course, Don took many shots. Once again, I made sure I didn't blink for fear of future embarrassment. 

Jesus was talking about his experience at Cornell
Finally, it was time to sit down for dinner. I was not used to wearing heels and my feet were killing me. My table included Christian, her mother, Calvin, his father, Jesus (one of the many Cornell Alumni), my father, and myself. I really enjoyed listening to Jesus talk about his experience at Cornell as an undergrad compared to his experience at UC Berkeley for grad school. Being from Texas, he wanted to experience both coasts and he didn't want to stay home because he didn't think he'd grow as much at home. I agree with him completely. Home is nice, but reaching out and gaining new experiences is key to independence and growing up. However, I always have a fear of the unknown. It may be easy to say that I want to be independent, but the road to independence may be a difficult one. Nonetheless, I'm excited to see for myself what it is like to be independent. 

Here I am, giving my speech
After  some small talk, Mrs. Kronenburg welcomed everyone and introduced all the student scholars, their families, the staff, sponsors, and alums. There were so many names that I could only remember about a quarter of them (not including the people I already knew). Soon after, it was my turn to speak. I tried not to think about it too much the whole night so as not to make myself nervous. However, as I walked to where Mrs. Kronenburg stood, I could feel myself shaking (this may be due to my lack of experience in wearing heels and not nerves after all). I focused on how well the ILC prepares students for the future. When I was done, I realized I probably spoke too fast and too little. Christian gave a great speech and I could really relate to the things she said. Especially the part about the ILC boosting her confidence. Eric spoke well and he made me look forward to going to Cornell even more. He knew Cornell was the college for him after he spent his summer there last year. Maybe Cornell is my calling as well. 

Mr. Ramsey spoke last and once again, he really knew what to say to make me think. The last time I heard him speak it was at the School Board Meeting and I was proud of being from WCCUSD. This time, he emphasized how we don't EARN opportunities because it is too selfish. We are GIVEN the opportunity and we should be grateful to those giving us a chance. I am VERY grateful for this opportunity. There are many people who helped and supported me when I applied to be an ILCer. The essay readers gave me a chance and the interview panelists gave me a chance. I will not let them regret their decision in giving me this great opportunity. Giving back is a must. 

Dinner continued on after Mr. Ramsey's meaningful speech. The food was great. I just had to take pictures of all I ate, but I missed my chance to capture the soup because I went up to speak when they took it away. I only had about three sips. The short ribs were DELICIOUS. Lots of meat and one small piece of bone. The white stuff (cottage cheese?) was very new to me. It had an interestingly sour taste to it. Desert was amazing. The cake the still warm! My favorite course was the desert because I love sweets. When it's between salty or sweet, I pick sweet any time. 
This is the amazing desert that was still warm
As we ate, we all chatted. I really wanted to know how Jesus and Calvin found their major because I still don't know what I'd want to major in. I realized that just because I decide now, doesn't mean I'd stick with my decision. Although it would be better to stick to a major, college is the time to find myself. Jesus wanted to become a Veterinarian, but he graduated wanting to do something else. Even Calvin said that he's majoring in Urban Planning now, but he may change his mind in the future. It was a relief to know that my indecisiveness is normal. 

All good things must come to an end eventually. I wanted to talk more with Jesus and Calvin, but there just wasn't enough time. On the BART ride home, I had a very nice conversation with Ms. Prak, the counselor at Kennedy High School. Once again, I was reassured that my uncertainty (about what I want to major in) was normal. Even if my parents want me to become a doctor or a lawyer, in the end, I am the one going to school, so I should major in what I want.

Tonight was a great night filled with new experiences, new faces, and good food. These dinners are a great way for student scholars to look forward to going to the East Coast over the summer even more. This meet and greet for Cornellians was a great experience. I'm very grateful that I have been given the opportunity to have this experience of a lifetime and be an ambassador for the ILC.
This is our Cornell group picture

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Deja Vu

A group of ILC members gathered at the Pinole City Hall to present ourselves to the City Council today. We were all to arrive at 6, but the meeting didn't reconvene until an hour later because the Councilmen were having a discussion in private session. In that hour, we all socialized and received a briefing from Don. It seemed like no one else had attended a Pinole City Council meeting before, but I was proud to tell my classmates about what the meeting would probably be like. 

Almost a year ago, Dyana So brought me to my first City Council meeting. It was a hot day after badminton practice that we walked down to Old Town Pinole. Upon taking our seats, we ran into Mr. Ramsey. I'm not sure if Mr. Ramsey actually remembers me because I was so shy then. We sat through the meeting and listened to concerns over the opening of Five Guys and the construction of Pinole Valley High. I told the people sitting around me this and explained that there were a certain amount of Councilmen that rotated positions. The Councilmen filed in and the meeting reconvened.

The ILC was first on the list. Don opened with a speech introducing the ILC. It had several analogies, but there was truth in Don's speech. There's no doubt that the ILC gives us the opportunity to explore colleges beyond California's school system.

Once Don's speech was over, it was the Vanderbilt cohort's time to shine. The members who didn't have to give a speech simply stated their name, schools they've attended, their courses and university they'll be attending. Loan Chung was chosen to give a speech and she did well! She shouldn't have fretted about the speech this morning during P.E. at all!

Penn, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, and Yale followed. I think I spoke too fast when introducing myself, so hopefully that'll change the next time I have to speak! Rochelle Yee from Hercules represented our Cornell cohort. She gave a great speech about being an ambassador for the ILC. The room broke out in giggles when she stated that she was hooked after hearing that the ILC was free. We wrapped up our presentation and went back to out seats.

The five Council Members congratulated us and shared their experiences. Mr. Swearingen talked about his eye-opening experience when travelling to other schools in his freshman year of college. He said it was interesting to learn about other people and their lifestyles, which reminded me of an answer I gave as to why it's important that I'll be associating with students from all around the world. And as usual, we gathered for a group photo once the event was over. There was a bit of seat swapping and voila, everyone became visible in Don's lens! I don't think any of us stayed for the rest of the meeting because we had homework and a busy week ahead of us. 
I know that Cornell will be having our first dinner Thursday night and us future Hotelies need to read our book, The Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy. I finally got through half of the book today! It's a lot more interesting than I thought it'd be. Mr. Sharp, the CEO of The Four Seasons, writes about his personal life as well as business affairs. He approaches business in a very humble manner, not through profit goals, but through quality. Already, I've learned that he was the pioneer of hotel amenities! I'm excited to keep reading the book and analyzing the hotels we'll be staying at this summer.

First Time For Everything

Today was another first for me. I've never been to the Pinole City Hall, nor have I seen the City Council Members. The room looked nice and I was nervous to speak. I jotted a few notes down so that I wouldn't waste everyone's time rambling on and on about things they didn't need to know. Of course, I wrote as less as possible so that I could speak from my heart. 

We waited for about a hour before the meeting actually started. As each cohort was introduced by Don, I felt more and more nervous. When it was finally the Cornell cohort's turn to speak, I tried to take deep breaths. At first, I was calm, but I didn't say all I wanted to say because I looked to the right and saw myself on TV. I could feel my hands shake and my voice shook as well. The gist of what I wanted to say was out. 

I left out the parts where I was going to say how I hope that in the Summer, I would broaden my horizons and meet new people. It's hard to do that here because I always see the same people and experiences are limited. So after coming back from Cornell, I would have tons of stories to tell so that I would be able to recruit more people into the ILC. I'd also know the best way to convince people. I know I was convinced when I heard that the ILC was free. FREE. However, I know nothing in life is free and that there is always a catch. But in this case, it's a small catch. In return, an ILCer just has to be an ambassador and share his or her experience with others in the community. This way, WCCUSD schools would gain recognition from Ivy League schools. It's a win win for everyone. 

After each cohort represented themselves, the Council Members gave some feedback. Mayor Debbie Long said that this year, the ILCers were much more communicative. I knew those that spoke, besides me, did a very good job. They were very calm and knew exactly what to say. Of course, the students were from PVHS, home of a great Forensics Club. They have a very good Speech and Debate program and I'm sure many of the PVHS ILCers were a part of the Forensics Club.  It made me want to work harder in order to better my public speaking skills. This Summer, I'm hoping to come back as a more confident and outspoken person. 

Like at the Board Meeting last week, we took pictures at the end. This time, I made sure I didn't blink. For the last picture, Don sent us one of the pictures and I saw that I was the only one who blinked! How embarassing! Not only was I the only one, but one person zoomed in on the picture and posted it online for the public to see. The picture was quite unflattering. Nonetheless, I made sure not to make the same mistake again. 

Thanks to Don for making everything possible and thanks to the Pinole City Council for their support. I'd also like to thank all those a part of the Ivy League Connection because I'm very glad to be a part of this one and only program for me to better myself and my community.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Always Searching, Learning

I walked into the noisy room filled with well-dressed people promptly at 6 pm not knowing what to expect. I scanned the room as I noticed that everyone had on a curious mixed with an anxious look. I was equally nervous until I found familiar faces- my cohort- and I felt a bit more relieved. It was nice seeing everyone again as we updated each other a bit about our lives before the meeting was called to order.

The meeting began in a professional manner with representatives voicing their opinions regarding a program at Gompers, a continuation school. Because this was my first time witnessing a school board meeting, I was definitely intrigued by the intricate steps that needed to be taken in order to either approve or deny a proposal. Afterwards, the cohorts along with their chaperones for each Ivy League program stood up to represent their school. The chaperone and one member of from each cohort said a few words on behalf of their entire group.

My cohort, chaperone, Mr. Chanlaw and I, representing Cornell University were 4th in line to go up. As I stood confidently next to my cohort as well as the school's banner, it suddenly hit me that I was actually going to be on the East Coast in just a little over a month. It made me suddenly reflect on my entire process to get to where I was that very moment thus far- from the essays, to the interviews, to the forms for Cornell. It has already been a busy few months, but it was just the beginning-- I quickly snapped out of it and made sure I was refocused for the rest of the school board meeting. Michelle, who did a great job in front of the crowd, was the chosen speaker from our cohort.

I am extremely grateful for everyone- Don, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, and the donors for putting in so much dedication and support into us. My journey to the East Coast has not begun yet, but being given this opportunity is just amazing, and I know my trip there will be life changing. 

Officially in the Ranks

Thursday night, May 16, was the time when the Ivy League Connection cohorts would be presented before the West Contra Costa Unified School District's District Board meeting. After submitting the various forms and receiving notifications of my acceptance, I feel as if this night was the official stepping stone to warrant my journey to the East Coast this summer. The opportunity to see my district's School Board was a revealing experience and I felt mentally exhilarated after the meeting. 

I arrived at Richmond's Lavonya Dejean Middle School with my mother at 5:50PM, ten minutes before Don's required arrival time. Upon entering the auditorium I greeted fellow Cornell cohort members Rochelle Yee and Christian Abraham, and together we met with our chaperon, Alfredo Chan-Law, for a debriefing of the events to follow. We migrated next to the table with the Ivy League university flags and, after retrieving our corresponding banner, were shuffled around so as to clear the path to the exit. We met with Michelle Phung along the way, and were soon joined by Tomi Balogun and Tamilyn Chen. With our cohort present in its entirety, Mr. Chan-Law informed us on what to expect and we were able to socialize for the remaining time before the meeting was called to order. Conversation helped to ease our nerves, for we were all quite nervous to some degree, especially Michelle who was diligently rehearsing her speech. 

The meeting began promptly at 6:30PM with a case regarding the status of a school for expelled students, and it was a unique opportunity to watch the case unfold and see the board in action. After the case had been settled, the Ivy League cohorts were introduced alphabetically by school. Michelle and all the other student speakers executed their speeches very well and I was moved by many of their words. The chaperons had interesting speeches as well, often containing information as to what the ILCers would be doing on the East Coast, and there was a personal touch to each oration. 

We were also able to see the wonderful benefactors of the Ivy League Connection, who made everything possible. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed to the program, be it in monetary terms or man hours. The meeting closed with rousing speeches from ILC alums, Charles Ramsey, and Don Gosney before the latter proceeded to organize the photo shoot of this year's Ivy League Connection participants, their chaperons, and their grinning parents. After more than 20 blinding flashes, we were free to go and I stumbled over to where my mother was waiting. 

The night was eventful and deeply inspirational. After two weeks of arduous AP tests and class projects, the meeting provided a few hours for me to just think about what exactly I wanted to be doing at this point in time, and of what I would be able to achieve after participating in this unique, life-changing opportunity. I have been officially recognized and as a member of the Ivy League Connection, and now that I have been accepted in its ranks, I can look forward with zeal to my time on the East Coast. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The "W" in West Contra Costa

ILC events never cease to amaze me and tonight was no different. We started by gathering into our cohorts and socializing a bit. While my cohort continued to express excitement over the upcoming summer, I spent a good ten minutes talking to the wall so that I'd have an outline of my speech.  I didn't want to write a speech out because I knew it would come out robotic, but after I stepped into Lavonya Dejean Middle, I became afraid that I'd mess up and misrepresent my amazing cohort. The clock hit 6:30 and it was time to take our seats.

The WCCUSD School Board meeting began with a few speakers with concerns over a school for expelled students. This was my first time at a school board meeting and it was interesting to hear a little about what else happens in the district. The speakers' request was not passed, so we moved on to the ILC. Each cohort was introduced one at a time.The chaperone and one member of the cohort gave a short speech. After Brown I, Brown II, and Columbia gave speeches, it was Cornell's turn. Mr Chan-Law introduced us and told the board about our courses and the colleges we'll visit. My heart started to pound faster as it became my turn to speak.  Hopefully it wasn't visible, but I became so nervous that the main person who kept me calm was Ms.Kronenberg. She smiled and nodded her head, so I figured that my speech was going well. I just introduced myself, explained how the ILC is beneficial to the community, and talked about how ILC alums have proven the success of the ILC. The remaining schools gave their speeches and we moved on to my favorite part of the night.

Don, Ms.Kronenberg, Mr.Ramsey, donors, and ILC alums gave speeches. For the same reason I chose the Hotel Operations and Management program, I couldn't be more proud to be in the ILC and to be from WCCUSD. My future professor's blog was full of care for his children regardless of their success and the speeches that were given tonight exemplified this warmth. The way Mr.Ramsey was so proud to introduce ILC alums and the vivid memories that Ms.Kronenberg had of the ILC's growth was unbelievable. They were so open about their personal lives and proud of the alums that I felt the sincerity these speakers had for the ILC. I never doubted that these people cared about the ILC, but today imbedded the fact into my mind. Combining what Mr.Ramsey said about our roots and what Austin Long said about competing with the other students, my goal this summer will be for members of my cohort to come up with the best business plan. The other students should know that Tomi, Rochelle, and I are their biggest competitors and we'll always keep the W in WCCUSD. We ended the night with twenty-one pictures. I think I started to see fireworks after the first eight flashes!

Lastly, I'd like to thank my cohort for being so supportive of me. We already get along very well and I think that we'll have sister bonds before the end of the program! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Night of Recognition, Honor, and Gratitude

Earlier this evening, all of the students, teachers, and associates of the Ivy League Connection appeared before the West Contra Costa District School Board. 

Worried that we would be caught in traffic, my mother, father, and I the left the house by 5:30 PM and arrived to Richmond's Lovonya Dejean Middle School at approximately 5:45 PM. Fortunately, we were one of the first people to be there; at least my dad was able to find good parking. Once the rest of the Cornell cohort came, we met up with our chaperone, Mr. Chan-Law. He discussed with us plans to visit other colleges in the East Coast and suggested that we research other areas nearby Ithaca to visit over the weekends. The idea of actually having some free time between all the work that I will face this summer made me even more enthusiastic about going to Cornell. After everyone arrived, at 6:30 PM, the meeting commenced.

I would be lying if I claimed to know the inner-workings of my school district, or even the names of any of the board members (except, of course, for Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey). However, I got the opportunity to observe how the board members unanimously came to decisions regarding the issues within the district's schools. After they finished several agendas, the Ivy League Connection stood before the School Board to be showered with praise and recognition. After Brown I, Brown II, and Columbia were called, the Cornell cohort was up. Accordingly, Mr. Chan-Law introduced us individually and the courses we will attend. Shortly afterward, Michelle came to the podium and gave her speech. I really liked her speech because she conveyed sincerity and confidence as she explained her appreciation for the Ivy League Connection, as we all do. The subsequent cohorts after us were University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, and Yale. 

The speeches made by the ILC alumni were very inspirational. I have such an admiration for how they achieved educational and personal success for themselves and for their communities. I hope to be as good a role model as they are in the future. 

After the ILC handled their business, Don quickly began assembling all 38 students, as well as chaperones and accompanying parents, for the all important group photograph. Despite slight issues with the placement of all members, Don got everyone to squeeze together nice and tight. As soon as he snapped the final picture, we were able to go home.

This evening has showed me how much my community cares about the achievements of its students; especially with the generous donations made by the donors of the Ivy League Connection. Therefore, it seems only right to give back to the community that helped me achieve my academic success.

Smile for the Camera

Today was the day of the Ivy League Connection's long awaited School Board Meeting. The meeting, which was hosted within the auditorium of Richmond's Lavonya Dejean Middle School, was slated to begin at 6:30 PM. However, since Don required that all ILCers and their accompanying parents arrive half an hour early, I found myself arriving at the school at 5:45 PM, alongside my mother. 

Upon my arrival, I joined the other members of my cohort as well as my chaperone, Mr. Chan-Law. I was glad to to see the other girls again, especially since this was the first time we've all been together in quite a while. Though we didn't have much time to socialize, I feel as though the girls and I are going to get along great this summer. I was also ecstatic to be able to reunite with my previous chaperone, Mrs. Lilihand, who had supervised me during my time in 2012 Columbia cohort. 

The School Board Meeting began at 6:30 PM as planned, opening with the Pledge of Allegiance. Next came roll call, with the Ivy League Connection's very own Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg being amongst the many distinguished members of the School Board. Another notable attendee was a student representative from Gateway to College Program, an alternative high school program for troubled students that takes place on the same college campus as Middle College High School. 

The Ivy League Connection was scheduled as the second agenda item, following a brief discussion the future of a educational program that sought to support expelled students. The Cornell cohort was fourth set of ILCers to stand before the School Board, with the two Brown cohorts and the Columbia cohort preceding ours. The other girls and I stood, Cornell flag in hand, as Mr. Chan-Law proceeded introduce each of us as well as courses. Afterwards, Michelle gave a wonderful speech wherein she thanked all of the Ivy League Connection's sponsors and supporters. She then explained how much of an impact Ivy League Connections has on not only its participants, but the community as a whole. After my cohort had finished it business, the procession moved onto the cohorts of the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, and finally, Yale. 

With the end of the introductions, came the beginning of a collection of speeches. Orators included a few generous benefactors of the Ivy League Connection; four veteran ILCers who have now become students at various Ivy Leagues; and Mrs. Kronenberg. Don was the last speaker of the night, and he gave a rousing speech on the importance of giving back to the community. All of the night's speakers gave powerful, eloquent speeches that accurately represented the true meaning of the Ivy League Connection; a revolutionary program that seeks to inspire and better entire communities through the nurturing of a select few student leaders. 

The end of Don's speech marked the end of our time with the School Board, whereupon we were hurriedly ushered to the corner of the auditorium for annual Ivy League Connection group photograph. After getting everyone positioned and poised, Don proceeded to take a series of photographs. Once Don was satisfied, we were free to do as a please and the night finally came to a close.

Model Behavior

For the first time, I went to a School Board Meeting. I made sure I was not just on time, but early. When the rest of my cohort arrived, we had a little discussion about what's going to happen. Mr. Chan-Law talked and suggested that we research places near Ithaca we could go on weekends. All this talk about what is coming soon made me very excited and glad that I got into the program. 

Then the meeting finally started a few minutes after 6:30. Those on stage were so serious, that it was a bit intimidating. When speakers went up to speak, they really only had two minutes to talk. I wondered if the Board Members would cut off the ILC speakers. However, when the ILCers were finally in front of the Board, the Board Members smiled warmly and no one was cut off.

As each cohort stood in front of the Board, it really looked like they were models for the rest of the school district. If we can do it, so can others. Michelle had nothing to worry about because speech was great. When our cohort had our little discussion, she was constantly timing her speech making sure it wasn't too short or too long. As she spoke, I could really relate to her. She said sees those older than her as models. It's like we know we're doing things correctly when we realize we're in the same courses or clubs as those who got out of California. Of course one day, I hope to be the model to others. 

There was a total of 38 ILC members going to Summer School. It was nice to know that the Ivy League Connection is the only one of his kid, according to Mr. Ramsey. We all are very proud to be chosen. Coming back from the trips, we'd definitely get my people to apply for the ILC.
I really enjoyed listening to ILC alumni talk. It was very inspirational, especially Austin Long's statement about how others should fear us. They gave me hope that I could actually go to college outside of the UC system. Anything is possible as long as I work hard and persevere. After this milestone, I am even more excited about Cornell. I'm very thankful to have been chosen for this program.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

And So It Nears

As the weather continues to fluctuate with the heat of summer threatening to bake us alive, the days seem to be crashing into one another. The first week of May is always one of the busiest times of the year for students, especially juniors who are preparing for AP tests. Just yesterday, I was busy running around like a squirrel on caffeine to complete my agenda. I began the day at 5AM for some AP Chemistry studying (which I will need for tomorrow May 6th.) At 7AM I was out of the house volunteering at a city-wide cleanup in my school; 8AM and I was boarding the bus to Richmond to perform with my band at the Cinco de Mayo parade. The parade started an hour later than planned, and after two hours marching down nearly two miles of street, my mom drove me to the entrance of De Anza High School. I was already late by a few minutes and I sprinted down the hallway chasing "Room 206" signs posted on walls and garbage cans before arriving at the computer lab. 

This mask was staring at me during the tutorial, and emanated a
"the doom is near" aura though I appreciated the aesthetic design.
The moment I entered, Don explained the current situation to me. The computer lab's internet connection was not working as planned, and almost everyone was having trouble connecting his/her laptop to the internet. I quickly found a seat beside two of my classmates, one of which will be joining me at Cornell University this summer, and set about connecting my laptop. After a frustrating period of pulling Ethernet cables and experimenting with passwords, Don exasperatedly told us that if we could not connect our laptops, we would just have to use the school's computers. I was disappointed that I could not use my laptop, but I was relieved to find that the school's computers were relatively fast and well-kept. 

Me and Christian using Anmol as our practice model.
Eventually everything was sorted out and Don began discussing the agenda. He began with an introduction to Blogger and gave a detailed rundown of the tools and quality of the site, as well as the specific format he wanted all the ILCers to follow when posting blogs. He then moved on to review examples of model blogs as well as deficient ones, and told us about his administrator powers. Once he had finished his discussion, the ILCers were instructed to post a three paragraph post on Don's practice blog. I had already worked with Blogger before for my Publications class, but I was thankful for the advice on content and format.  

After the topic of blogging had been covered, Don taught us about photography and how to correctly save and archive the photographs we take. Unfortunately the website we were supposed to archive the pictures  in was blocked, so we snapped a couple photos and posted them on the practice blog. Many of the ILCers had fun taking photographs of their friends and Don, and I was happy to be able to use my camera which I had not used for a while. 

The last quadrant of the tutorial consisted of a discussion of etiquette and what to pack for the trip. After hearing about what lay ahead in the Ivy League Connection, I could not stop smiling. Images of fancy dinners, day excursions with my fellow cohort members, and new people I would meet swarmed my mind for the next hour or so.

 I am so grateful to be a part of this experience, and after taking the first milestone, I look forward with even more vigor to taking the next step on my Ivy League journey. 

Never Too Late to Learn New Things

Today, I arrived De Anza and almost got lost looking for room 206. It was a good thing that there was an ILC chaperone close by. After signing in, I chose to sit close to members of my cohort, Tomi, Tamilyn, and Michelle. Our first task was to get ourselves connected to the internet since most of us brought our own laptop. However, it was much more difficult that we thought. First, no one had the passwords for connecting to the Wi-Fi. And second, the Ethernet cables were not long enough. The cables in the computer lab and the cables we brought ourselves were too short. After more struggling, most of us decided to just use the computers in the computer lab.

Tamilyn sat on the left of me
Then began the learning. We went over blogging first. In addition to Don telling us how blogging is properly done, we were also able to practice blogging hands on. This was very helpful because I tend to learn better when I actually attempt the task instead of just listening and watching. Although it was my very first time blogging, I thought I did a pretty good job and only practice makes perfect.

Next, Don went over photography. I always thought that taking pictures from a cell phone was better because it was convenient and the quality wasn’t that bad. After seeing Don’s pictures using an actual camera, I knew I was wrong. Don went over how to edit the picture taken and rename them. We needed to use the MediaFire site, but unfortunately, it was blocked. We then practiced taking pictures around room inserting the pictures into our blogs.

Don adjusting his camera for Tomi to use

After hearing Don tell us what we had to look forward to (dinners, school board meetings, luggage packing, etc), I felt even more excited about the trip than I already was. I’m very grateful for being selected to be a representative for the ILC. I really look forward to this learning experience and opportunity to give back. 

In addition to the words of wisdom Don gave us, we finally met with our cohort chaperone, Mr. Chan-Law. He gave us some advice in terms of what to bring and what not to bring. He also talked about the different places we could visit on the weekends. Once again, I felt even more excited about the trip and I can't wait for the summer to start already.