Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Night to Remember

Tonight was a night of remembrance for this blogger. My day with the ILC began with a rush from school at 2:08 PM to get dressed and present at the El Cerrito Plaza Bart Station by 5:00 PM. Well after I went to my grandparents' house and got all dressed up, my mom and I headed to the Bart station. Since we got to the station thirty minutes early I decided to take a much needed ten minute power nap, before I got out the car. When 5:00 o'clock came around everyone was just about there and ready to go.

After Don explained the plans for the night, he received a call that would force him to catch up with us later. After the situation everyone boarded the Bart train and we were all on are way to the city of San Francisco. While we were on the train my mother, Kim's mom, and Mr. Mannix discussed what we would experience while away in July all the way to San Francisco. After we got off the train we had some of the worst luck trying to get cabs. It delayed our trip to the restaurant about 20 minutes, but as soon as Loan called a cab company all of a sudden like out of thin air cabs appeared. First to go was Kim, her mother, and Mr. Mannix. Next was Mr. Ramsey, my mother, and I to head to the restaurant.

When we arrived it was the second or third building from the corner. I paid the taxi driver like instructed, and received a receipt for the ten dollar ride. Since it was my first time in a taxi I didn't understand that the small cards the driver gave me were receipts. I had mistaken them for business cards and I didn't realize that the driver had to fill them out until Mr. Ramsey instructed me to go to the front of the cab so the driver could fill out the small card. After getting my first job done, I walked into a restaurant that was filled with candles and dimmed lighting. All the waiters and waitresses greeted us,  and then everyone mingled and chatted as Mr. Ramsey set our seating arrangements. After the seating was arranged, every one took their seats and began to meet each other. At my table I had a male named John who is a Vanderbilt alumni and he is also one of the people who interviewed me for the Vanderbilt ILC program.
Caught the ILC a little off guard, including my mom to the right during dinner.

While passing the time waiting for everyone to arrive my mom played twenty- one questions with John about the Vanderbilt experience. She actually had more than me to ask, because usually she is the quiet one. After the majority of the people arrived we received word from Ms. Kronenberg that Don will be arriving in a while after all, which was amazing. 

After about ten or so minutes Don arrived and the night was ready to begin. First to speak on the night was Ms. Kronenberg; she would be introducing all the Vanderbilt attendees, the alumni, the sponsors, former attendees,  and of course the show runners ( herself, Don, and Mr. Ramsey.) The next to speak was I. The whole night I was sort of nervous, but by now I had gotten use to the public speaking from numerous events, and I just saw my speech as a debate but not as intense. Also it really did help with the flow of my speech not reading off of a piece of paper, but what a load off my mind after I gotten my speech over. Last to speak was Mr. Ramsey who really commanded my attention with his passionate speech about us being the future and what not.

After spreading the love and thanks with our speeches everyone began to receive food. First was a small spoon full of brazed (slightly cooked and thinly sliced) lamb, which I've never tried before. It was chewy and not how I prefer my meat which I do prefer well done, but it was well-seasoned. But by far the best dish of the night was the meal entree its self. This entree had some of the most succulent, tender, well seasoned, and best beef tenderloin I have ever had. I mean the meat just melted in your mouth. The second best dish of the night was a brownie cake with chocolate fudge as the filling, drizzled with caramel around the bowl. 

Before everyone left, Don rushed all of the Vanderbilt attendees and alumni together to take a picture in a very small corner. Then everyone got in cabs heading to the Civic Center Bart station and we all caught Bart back to El Cerrito, except Mr. Mannix who got off at an Oakland area. While we were on the Bart heading home my mom was doing what she does best, soaking up knowledge about college from Don. By the time we got off Bart it was 11:00 PM and every one was exhausted and ready to hit the hay. Everyone then said their good byes and took the long tired trip home. This night was truly a night to reminisce about in future encounters. 

Eating in Great Company

After hearing stories about the dangers of arriving late to BART, I made it a point to be on time. Not only was I on time by the ILC’s expectations, but my mom and I arrived at EL Cerrito Plaza BART Station with about twenty minutes to spare. I felt a sense of relief, knowing that I wouldn't be that one person who’d be used as an example of what not to do in the future.

Once we all gathered as a group at the station, Don gave us everything we needed to get to and from our restaurant. Since we didn’t leave as early as expected, we caught a direct train to Civic Center BART station, where we would then catch a taxi to get to the restaurant. Ambassadors were given the responsibility of dealing with the taxi driver and making sure we handled our spare change, receipts, and tips accordingly. Although it took a while to catch a taxi that was willing to pull over to the side of the curb, we eventually did catch someone’s attention.

Facilitated by Ms. Kronenberg, almost everyone in the room introduced themselves. I could see a few familiar faces, some of whom I interviewed with at the beginning of the year. It's shocking how fast these past couple months have flown by. The night was off to a good start, and it was time to eat and converse with everyone. 

I had no idea what to expect by our dinner at La Folie. Not only have I never eaten French cuisine until last night, but to eat in one of San Francisco’s top fine dining restaurants as well. All I knew about La Folie was from the positive yelp reviews I read online. Its yelp reviews did not disappoint. Every detail of the restaurant was taken care of. At first, I thought I’d leave hungry for more, while looking at the appetizer’s small portions. But I was mistaken; it was done to leave room for the full course meal we’d indulge in.

The food was delicious. I chose the Asparagus soup and “Le Boeuf”, a dish that prepared three different types of meat cohesively. The soup was creamy without being too thick. But the meat was the real showstopper. I can honestly say that the meat I had last night was one of the best meats I have ever tasted. It was that good. To top it all off, I enjoyed taking in my chocolate cake with every bite. It’s not every day someone can be offered such an opportunity.

I was in great company, eating great food. What more could I ask for? During the dinner, I was able to talk with several people at my table. Two of whom graduated from Vanderbilt University, Tyler Sanchez and Rachelle Soderstrom. This was a great opportunity to not only listen about their college endeavors, their lives leading to and after attending Vanderbilt. Listening to student’s experiences and visiting campuses trumps college board's college search any day.

Among the useful tips they shared, Tyler mentioned how money shouldn’t get in the way of choosing your desired college. He applied to dozens of scholarships during his senior year, and reaped in rewards as a result. As he said “You have to be in it to win it.” By taking the initiative of going out for numerous scholarships, he was able to save a good amount of money. Many students choose to attend more “financially feasible” colleges. But as Tyler stated, college is totally feasible as long as you’re proactive. By the end of the night, Tyler and Rachelle gave me their business cards for future use. They were more than willing to help me, whether it was finding local eateries in Nashville, or answering questions about the Vanderbilt itself. Their willingness to assist someone like me in the midst of their busy lives blows my mind. 

Not only did our dinner exceed my expectations, but the night went above and beyond my wildest dreams. I am so humbled to be a part of the ILC, a program unlike anything offered in the country. The Ivy League Connection has done so much for me in these past couple months, and my summer hasn't even begun. With four milestone events down, the orientation is the last event standing in the way before we can embark for the East Coast!

Local Hero Eats Dessert

Arriving with my mom at the BART station at 5:01 PM, I was afraid that I was late but thank goodness I was not (I was the last of the Vandy to arrive however). Once everyone arrived and we were ready to leave, Don received some bad news and had to briefly go home and we had to proceed on without him. The BART ride was pretty quite and nothing interesting really happened. A bit of advice to everyone, when going on the BART always sits facing the direction that you are traveling. I faced the opposite direction and got a headache since humans are not used to processing rapid backward movements (or maybe it was just me). 

After exiting the Civic Center station, in San Francisco, we walked for a teeny bit to catch a few cabs. I never had to haul in a cab before but it sure was difficult. We were ignored by all the cabs that drove by and most of them were empty! Ms. Kronenberg informs me that there are shifts change in the taxi industry and those cops were probably going home. We then had to call the cab company and requested some cabs and that still took a while.  I never handled a cab before and it was a great learning experience. We arrived at La Folie at around 6:25 PM.
Ms. Kronenberg, my mom, and I
Jared, the hero, eating chocolate cake
I was seated in front of my mom with Mr. Mannix to my left and a wonderful Vandy alum, Jared Purcell, to my right, Next to my mom was Ms. Kronenberg. Jared graduated from Vanderbilt in 2004 and lived in several places including areas outside of the U.S. He works at Cintas, a fire prevention company, and has been preventing fire since he joined the company ( That's why he is the hero plus he is an ex-military guy). We talked and he told me about two great programs available at Vanderbilt that integrate different subjects, such as engineering and health, together. That way you can get and engineering degree while making your way towards medical school. He also told me about all the great eatery in Nashville. However, If you ever need help with Latin or Chemistry Jared is not your man.

We were waiting for Don as we chatted and he finally arrived after about a little while. How he got a cab so fast we will never know. So tonight Keli'i was the chosen speaker and he was great with his speech. Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey and Don also spoke. We all enjoyed little appetizers while they spoke.
Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, Don, and Keli'i
After the appetizers the main course was brought in. I had asparagus soup which was delicious with its creamy taste and a hint of seafood. Next was the La Boeul, it's a beef tenderloin, short rib, and a Wagyu burger dish. The tenderloin was so nice, juicy, flavorful, and tender. The short ribs were perfect with just the right amount of sauce. And finally was the burger which was the first burger in which I can actually taste the meat and flavor. It has a nice tangy flavor to it. The last dish was the warm chocolate cake filled with molten chocolate in the center. It was the perfect combination of sweet and a slight bitterness. Mr. Mannix had vegan dishes that looked beautiful.
( Left to right) The soup, the cake, Mr. Mannix's main course and desert, and the La Boeul

The dinner was super fun and I gained so much from it. We got to the BART Civic Center station at around 10:00 PM and did not get to El Cerrito until 11:00 PM. I am super drained but it was all worth it.

Vanderbilt Alumni Dinner

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the Vanderbilt Alumni ILC dinner. We started out at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station at 5:00 PM. Don gave us all our tickets, money for the cab, and the address of the restaurant (La Folie). Soon after Ms. Kronenburg, Mr. Ramsey, and Mr. Blackmon (one of our interviewers and a sponsor of the program) arrived and we were on our way, ahead of schedule. We caught a direct train to the Civic Center BART station. 

We got there smoothly, but getting a cab to La Folie was another story. It took about 10 minutes of up hailing cabs to finally get four of them. I was in the last cab which arrived at La Folie just after 6:30 PM. As a teaching tool, Don had the ILC students handle the cab. We had to pay the driver, give him/her a tip, and get a receipt. I had never done this before, so it was an interesting experience. 

Once we arrived at the La Folie around 6:30, I started talking with some Vanderbilt alumni. Mr. Ramsey was in charge of seating assignments, and made sure that there were plenty of alumni around each of the students. Across the table to the right was a Vanderbilt alumni John Tisch, one of the Vanderbilt interview panelists. It was definitely nice to see a familiar face, and to not be completely surrounded by people I did not know. 

Next to me were Jared and Adam, also Vanderbilt alumni. I learned a lot about Vanderbilt through my conversations with all three of them. Before tonight, I did not know that Vanderbilt had a large marching band. I am in a high school marching band now, so going to a college with a marching band is important to me.  The Vanderbilt Marching Band even travels to the away football and basketball games. It is also traditional to wear a tie to Vanderbilt football games. I also learned that almost everyone who attends Vanderbilt lives on campus. In fact, you have to apply to live off campus, and may only do so if you are a senior. Vanderbilt is also big on fraternities and sororities. About half of the students are in one. John and Jared were even in the same fraternity.

In between talking with the alumni, we enjoyed delicious food. We started with two appetizers. 
Appetizer #1
Appetizer #2: A soft boiled egg in the shell with bread.
My main course was an asparagus soup, and "Le Boeuf" (a beef dish.)
Le Boeuf: Beef Tenderloin, Beef Short Rib, and a mini burger.
For dessert we had a mini chocolate cake. It was served warm, with melted chocolate inside.
Dessert: A chocolate cake with warm chocolate inside. The best part of the whole meal!
Overall, the dinner was an amazing experience. I got to meet many Vanderbilt alumni, ate some outstanding food, and learned how to catch and pay for a taxi. Getting a taxi back to the BART station was much easier, as the restaurant called the taxis for us. The last step before going to Vanderbilt is Orientation on June 4th. After that it is off to Vanderbilt!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Making Pinole Proud

Tuesday May 15th at 6:00 PM I attended the city of Pinole's council meeting. When I first arrived at   the Pinole City Hall it was around 5:40 PM, which meant I had some time to explore a new foreign land until we started. When I first arrived the city hall, it was completely empty it was like an old western bar movie scene. When I began to look around I noticed a lot of old town Pinole pictures on the wall. Most of which were all dirt and tee-pees, and it really amazed me how Pinole looked before buildings and schools were built. After about five minutes of roaming around, the people started to pour in the building as far as Ivy League cohorts go. 

With all of us there except for a few Don gave a brief summary of the agenda and plans for the night. He said that we would state our names, school, former local schools, and the school and course we would be attending. Then he announced the positions for the photo afterwards, where he said the shortest male had to be in the middle on one knee. Of course I had to fight for my position in the photo (Really didn't have to fight, won by default, no other runners up.)  After the battle for my position in the photo he said Vanderbilt will be introduced first. That's when I got a little nervous about being first and had to turn to my professional side quick, especially since I was the closest to the podium out of all my Vanderbilt cohorts. At least I didn't have to do our speech in front of the council, which I do give major props to Loan Chung for such a great job. 

Before I knew it 7:00 PM hit and we were beginning the meeting. After the council appointed the ILC to speak, Don began with a wonderful introduction that kicked off the night. When the Vanderbilt cohort was introduced we all got up and made our way towards the podium. I stepped over my mother then adjusted the microphone down just a bit and began, before I knew it I was watching as Loan delivered a heart felt speech. After that, the night just flew by as people who attend Pinole schools, live in Pinole, or just was some how connected to Pinole spoke. 

I didn't realize how much what we were doing meant to the community, until the council members began to explain what we represent. To them we were leaders of the city of Pinole, we were role models for the community. We stood for way more than I could ever think, and it really hit me hard when this man at this hoagie shop was some what proud of me and we had a conversation about the ILC and he knew about it. The whole conversation started because of my suit attire which he recognized and he was just saying with a smile on his face to keep up the good work and how he is proud of me for doing what I do. But to get back on topic we finished the night with pictures of Pinole's ILC members and council. The night ended great and and the city seemed proud of us and what we accomplished. Let's do this for the city of Pinole.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Uncharted Territory

Although I’ve lived in Pinole all my life, it seems like I’ve just recently begun getting to know the area. There’s so much more to Pinole than what people give it credit for. I was one of those people not too long ago. Needless to say, I’ve started to enjoy myself in what my city has to offer.

Among the places I’ve ventured off to in Pinole, one place I have never set foot in until today was Pinole’s City Hall. Since today was the day to introduce this year’s Ivy League ambassadors to the City Council members, I had no choice but to venture off into uncharted territory. With my mother off running errands, I was on my own. However, it wasn’t difficult at all getting to and from the meeting since I live a quarter of a mile away.

Although the meeting didn’t begin as soon as predicted, I was able to reacquaint myself with an old friend of mine, Audrey Webb. While waiting, we were able to catch up and talk about our upcoming senior year. It feels strange seeing how far we’ve come, especially since we grew up attending the same elementary and middle school. And with our junior year coming to a close, the future seems to be creeping up even faster.  This only means that our trips are that much closer within grasp. 

With the Ivy League Connection at the top of the agenda, and with a limited amount of time, today’s meeting was a lot shorter than last week’s School Board meeting. Since Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg were unable to attend today’s meeting, Don spoke on behalf of the ILC. Out of everything he said, what struck me most was when he said “We may be broke, but we are not broken” in regards to the harsh financial woes our district has faced. It hit me close to home, and I know I wasn't the one person in the room feeling that way. 

Since I spoke at the last meeting, Loan was chosen to deliver a speech on behalf of our cohort. But unlike the School Board meeting, each of us introduced ourselves. By the time I finished speaking, one of the most important things I forgot to mention was my name. At that moment, I couldn’t help but feel slightly embarrassed but shrug it off. All I could do was smile and hand the podium off to Loan. She did extremely well controlling her nerves while speaking to the City Council. Actually, every ILCer who delivered a speech did a wonderful job of portraying how humble we are to represent this year’s program.

 With 12 ILCers from Pinole, we quickly rapped up the meeting with a photo shoot including members of the City Council. Since we were taking time out of their meeting to take the group photo, we all followed accordingly to Don’s instructions and left as soon as we could.

One Down Many More To Go

Today was the day of the Pinole City Council Meeting. I had been looking forward to this event but I was pretty nervous because I was chosen to speak for my cohort.

I got to the meeting at 6:00 PM right on the dot, nice and on time. At first I did not see anyone and started to doubt my location. I looked at the big letters on the building several times to make sure I was at the right place even though Don's map showed that it was. My dad, who attended this event and the last with me, and I walked into the building. The lack of people and sounds in the building raised my suspicion a bit more. I spotted a lady in this one dark room and asked her where the chamber was and she showed me the way. I was so relieved when I walked into the chamber and saw everyone sitting quietly and comfortably there. 

The meeting did not start until a bit past 7:00 PM. The meeting room was nicely lit and there were several cameras around the room.

Don gave us an overview of what to do before hand so we were prepared. Luckily for us right when the meeting started, the council members went right to the topic of the ILC. Don gave a wonderful and detailed speech about the ILC and then introduced us, cohort by cohort, to everyone. I was chosen to speak for my cohort and I was super nervous since my brain has a tendency of going flatline when I need it most. But as I gave my incredibly brief speech I felt more confident and was really glad that I got to speak. Soon after everyone else introduced themselves the Council Members congratulated us on being ILC members and wished us a great trip the meeting was paused. Of course as usual, Don took lots of pictures of the ILCers and the Council Members. 

I can't help but think of how much closer we are to summer and to the east coast. I am so excited that I can just explode and those little bits are gonna re-explode. I can't wait for this trip and all the wonderful things that I will get to learn at Vanderbilt.

Pinole City Council Meeting

The Council Chamber, before the meeting started.
Tonight the Pinole City Council recognized the ILCers that live and/or got to school in Pinole. The open session portion of the meeting started at about 7:20 PM. Recognizing the ILC was first on the agenda. (Notice how we always seem to be first or near first on the agendas of meetings?)

First, Don spoke about what the program is, why it is important, and what role the community plays in the success of this program. (Without the community’s support, this program would not be effective.)

Next, Don called up each of the cohorts. He started with Vanderbilt, and then went on to Penn, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, and Yale. The Vanderbilt cohort had four people (since it is a Pinole only course), Penn had three, Cornell had two, and the rest had one each.

This time Loan got to speak on behalf of the Vanderbilt cohort, after we each went up to the microphone and said our name, school, and the course we will be taking this summer. Each designated cohort representative speaker brought up some unique ideas, but they all revolved around the same point: Thanking the Council and the City of Pinole for their continued support of this program.

After all the cohorts had gone up, the Councilmembers commented on what a great opportunity this program is. Many said they wished they had this program in high school. A couple of them mentioned how impressed they were by our public speaking abilities, even going as far as to say they had never seen a better ILC presentation. Since many of the speakers were from Pinole Valley High, we have Ms. Lamons our Forensics, Speech and Debate, coach to thank for that.

After the Council commented, Don took a group picture of all the ILCers and the Council Members. Both the Council and the ILCers promised not to blink or look away during the pictures, so we got away with only 10 shots this time instead of 25. Hopefully Don won't have to do too much Photoshoping for this picture.

With each milestone event, we get closer to going to Vanderbilt, and I get more excited. Our next milestone event is the Vanderbilt dinner on May 29. After that, all that’s left is Orientation on June 4, and getting on the plane to the East Coast!!
The Pinole City Council in Session.

Friday, May 17, 2013

One Step Closer

Wednesday I became one step closer to packing my bags and heading to Tennessee. On Wednesday May 15, 2013 I was scheduled to stand in front of the district's school board in a formal attire, which had me nerve racking and some what excited during the school day.

When I first arrived at Lavonya Dejon Middle School in Richmond, California, I was literally sweating bullets, because I didn't know what to expect when the meeting began. Before the meeting began all the Ivy League attendees were grouped together in a corner, while we waited for our chaperons to arrive. While my Vanderbilt cohorts and I were talking, Don swooped through and grabbed us so we could take our individual head shots which looked gorgeous for the ladies and handsome for the men I might say. But as soon as we returned Kim and I met our chaperon Mr. Mannix for the first time, while Thomas and Loan just caught up on lost time. Meeting Mr. Mannix was great he made us feel comfortable, he talked directly to us, and he cracked the occasional joke that made everyone smile. 

Mr. Mannix made us aware of our plans for the summer, like us traveling up and down the east coast seeing multiple colleges and just site seeing. Then we went over the agenda for the night. First we covered the order in which we would stand in front of the school board, then we went over what would be said in front of the school board, and then we just got to know each other a little better. Then the board got our attention and we all took our seats while they spoke about our opportunity.

When the board started talking I realized how great of  an opportunity it really is to be apart of this program. The board through out some major numbers of people who applied for the program, but only 38 people were accepted which in my eyes was an unheard of percentage of acceptance. Right after the board finished talking we got straight to business, introducing ourselves and our schools to the people who took the time out to support us. While the school attendees were talking and introducing themselves I couldn't help but feel nervous for Kim who was going to give a speech at anytime they called on her to speak, but after a few schools Vanderbilt was called and we were all introduced. Then it was my friend Kim's time to shine with a very heart felt speech that I honestly thought was the best speech presented. 

Towards the end of us presenting we all received certificates that had our name, school, and course we were taking, but the main thing I was worried about was my name being misspelled which was correct. Instead my course was wrong, and the course that was on the paper was Med School 101. Which really wasn't that important as my name being incorrect, but they offered to fix it anyway which was great. After I think Penn went to speak, all the Ivy League participates and their parents took a picture instructed by the great Don Gosney and then we all were told we could go home. But before I took the long tired trip home my mother and Mr. Mannix met up for the first time and exchanged contact information. With contacts being exchanged, my mom feels way more comfortable letting me fly across the country on July 4th. She is kind of ready to get me out the house and I am more than ready to leave and go experience this great opportunity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Putting Things Into Perspective

Yesterday not only marked the end of my Advance Placement testing for the year, but another milestone event I can check off my list before my cohort and I head to Nashville. Although I was mentally drained by my exam, I couldn’t call it a day just yet. It was time to stand before my district’s School Board and formerly present myself as part of this year’s Ivy League Connection program.

Before the meeting commenced, every cohort was given the chance to meet with their chaperone. It was my first time meeting Mr. Mannix in person. Not only did we get the pleasure of getting to know him, but he was able to tell us a little bit more about our upcoming plans. It was then when we found out we'd be spending the fourth of July in our nation’s capital and visit the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Georgetown University before we actually start our courses. My level of excitement dramatically increased from hearing about our jam packed schedule.

Once the meeting started, I began to feel anxious about appearing before the School Board. A couple days prior to the meeting, we were all sent out emails for the specifics. At first, it seemed like any other email coming from Don. But as I was reading through his message, I realized that my name came up. It turned out that I was chosen to speak on behalf of my cohort. Although I’ve been a part of my school’s Speech and Debate team since my freshman year, I still had a sense of butterflies flying inside my stomach as I delivered my speech. Unlike other ambassadors, I had no preparation whatsoever. I planned on being as spontaneous and with as much emotion as possible without sounding not put together.

Since the programs went by alphabetical order, my cohort was one of the last groups to come up. Listening to each of my colleagues’ speeches, I only hoped that I could deliver just as good of a speech. Then it came time for my cohort to stand up and move towards the front of the room. Right after my chaperone Mr. Mannix introduced us before the school board, it was my cue to come up to the microphone. With nothing prepared to guide me throughout my speech, I truly did speak from the heart. What comforted me afterwards was when a fellow ambassador congratulated me on my speech. Feeling nervous about my delivery, I was happy by the fact that someone who I didn’t exactly know enjoy my speech.

As we heard from several people who make the Ivy League Connection possible, one thing that struck me most was hearing from previous ambassadors who now attend prestigious universities on the East Coast. With each alumnus from Pinole Valley, it gave me a sense of hope that my trip this summer doesn’t just have to end then. Because of the ILC, I have started to look at four year universities outside of the University of California System. Nothing frightens me more than to leave the Bay Area, but through this opportunity, I hope to push myself even further out of my comfort zone.

Most students from out district set their sights on the UC system and nothing more. I was one of them. But because of the Ivy League Connection, students from across the district are given an opportunity to bring back hope to their community that the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s students can do so much more if they just believed. Not many students think that they’re good enough to set high bars for themselves. But with several students from our district going on to Yale, UPenn, and Cornell, I believe our district has proven them wrong. 

As the school board adjourned for a recess so that we could take this year’s ILC photo, I could see my mother talking to my principal from my elementary and middle school. Although I saw her before the meeting began, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should greet her. After all those years and all those familiar faces, I never thought she could remember who I was. She not only greeted me with open arms, but was ecstatic by my selection into the program. I can only hope that I can use my experience to inspire my peers in reaching for what they never thought was possible. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ILC Put the Fun in School Board Meeting

This evening I have had the chance to attend a school board meeting. School board meeting just screams  "fun" right? Well actually this particular one did. To be honest I would have never thought of ever stepping foot into a school board meeting but I am so happy that I did. The ILC is so great at giving nudges to try new thingsI was pretty nervous about going to this meeting and it did not make it any better the fact that I was the only girl not wearing a skirt or a dress. I'm sure that no one noticed but I felt awkward. For some reason I felt more relaxed(kind of) as more people showed up. I stood around with my cohort as we waited for our chaperone, Mr. Michael Mannix, to show up. 

Anyway I have lived right next to Dejean Middle School, the school where the meeting was held, for some time in the past but I have never been within fifty feet of it. I thought that the school looked very nice and I was surprised because I rarely get to see almost new looking school. The room we were in had a stage where all the board members and staffs sat in a half circle format. There were three cameras around the room and everything looked very official.

So as the meeting started there were a few speakers for the subject of the ILC was brought up and that was where the fun started. All the cohorts got a chance to go up and introduced themselves, chaperones included. It was great and inspiring to hear about all the different thought people had on the ILC and how wonderful it is. I got to see that the ILC really allowed us and everyone to make connections with anyone and everyone involved in it. Although we did not get to meet the donors and supporters personally, I'm glad that we had the chance to show our appreciation to them. It was so great to hear about and meet the past ILC members and their success with their education. Each word that they say make me a little more confident in working towards my goals. And then there was Don's speech which was just very inspiring and fabulous. Ms. Kronenberg and Mr. Ramsey also made some very inspirational speech. This event was so inspirational that I think the god of inspiration should have come to it and took notes.

So all in all the meeting was pretty great and there were lots of laughs here and there and the image of the black and white school board meeting in my mind was brilliantly colored. We all, students and chaperones, even got these nice little certificate that makes everything all official which was cool. And of course it wouldn't be an official ILC milestone event if Don wasn't there to take loads of pictures.  

Milestone #2: The WCCUSD School Board Meeting

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the WCCUSD School Board meeting where the efforts of everyone involved in the ILC from the chaperones to the students to the ILC administrators (Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenburg, and Don) to the donors were recognized. The meeting started with the usual procedures of the pledge of allegiance and role call, but we were soon on to our agenda item: Recognition of the WCCUSD Ivy League Connection Program.

Each of the cohorts (Brown I, Brown II, Columbia, Cornell, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Yale) came before the board to speak. The students in the cohort held the flag of the school they will be attending this summer. First the chaperone spoke to the Board introducing the students, explaining what colleges we would be touring this summer, and what courses we will be taking. Then one member from each cohort (for the Vanderbilt cohort it was Kimberly) got to speak about what they (and the rest of the cohort) hope to get out of this experience.

After going through all the cohorts, four ILC alumni who are currently attending Ivy League colleges spoke to us about what a great experience the ILC is, and how it prepares you for getting into the college. Each speaker was very passionate about their Ivy League school, and the ILC. They made some very good points, including the fact that by participating in the ILC, you can meet the admissions officers at your school to find out how to maximize your chances of being accepted as a college student later on.

Next, Board Members as well as Don spoke about what an outstanding opportunity this program is. They even brought up how some people they talked to thought this program would fail. That is clearly not the case. Last year, 10 people from Pinole Valley participated in the ILC. I would not have been nearly as motivated as I am to be part of this program if they had not shared their wonderful experience with me. This program definitely works!

Next, the very generous benefactors were recognized for their contributions that make this program possible. A couple of them spoke about how much they enjoy working with this program and watching us grow into young adults. I always wondered where the money for these programs came from, but now I know: Lots of the donors are unions and firms that were hired to rebuild schools in our district. As there way of saying thank you for the projects, they donate money to the ILC.

Two hours after the start of the meeting, the ILC portion of the agenda came to a close with a group picture of all the ILC students, chaperones, and parents. (Yep, you guessed it: Don wasn’t in the picture because he was taking 25 shots hoping to get a good photo to start editing.)

Overall, it was an interesting experience getting to see all the ILCers and their chaperones and families, as well as seeing what the Board Members and the community have the say about this outstanding program.

I’m now one step closer to Vanderbilt. The next milestone is appearing at the Pinole City Council Meeting in a week. With each milestone event, my Vanderbilt journey gets closer, and I get more excited about this trip!!