Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Last Piece to the Puzzle

With finals officially over and done with, I can finally end my junior year with a sigh of relief. All that’s left to do is prepare for my cohort’s upcoming trip this summer. And what better way to do so than by attending the last of the milestone events than with the orientation held at Pinole Middle School.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia as I set foot on my old campus. You could imagine how I felt walking through the grounds as a rising senior, since last time I was here was during my eighth grade promotion ceremony. After nearly three years, Pinole Middle has undergone major improvements. It’s been completely rebuilt from the ground up. And it’s shocking to see just how beautiful Pinole Middle has become since I was last here.

Although I had a few minutes to spare before the orientation could start at 6:00 PM, some ILCers weren’t so lucky getting to the school’s cafeteria on time. I myself can attest to feeling slightly uneasy at the thought of being late to every single event. After waiting nearly 15 minutes for the five ILCers who were running late, this event mainly reemphasized the importance of being on time. Mr. Ramsey and Don couldn’t make it any clearer. Every single one of these events has definitely kept me on my toes.

After waiting for what felt like one of the longest 15 minutes of my life, Mr. Ramsey went ahead and began the opening session before the last ILCer arrived. What a better way to start, than with the first point on the list: punctuality. According to Don, this was the first time in recent years with as many as five people arriving tardy to the mandatory orientation. Although one person was completely off guard about the event being held today, it was refreshing to know that he didn’t lie his way out of it. As cliché as this may sound, honesty is best policy. There aren’t many people who actually own up to their actions nowadays and instead they build a whole web of lies to combat problems.

Once opening session ended, we dispersed into our respective cohorts. As one of the smallest groups, our group was at ease while filling out the permission slips and looking over the agenda. Now that I can see the skeleton schedule of our trip, it looks like all the pieces are finally coming together. I could see why Mr. Ramsey and Don rave about out chaperone. Mr. Mannix could give anyone a run for their money. He may be one of the most put together teachers I have ever come across. He has everything planned out before you can ask a question. And when he doesn’t have the answer, he makes sure he follows up before you forget. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Mannix not only as my chaperone, but as one of our district’s teachers as well. It’s not every day that you come across a teacher like Mr. Mannix in our district. And to top it all off, he is a great conversationalist. I can see why he became a teacher.

Since our chaperone Mr. Mannix concluded with going over the schedule and answering questions, our cohort reconvened with the rest of the cohorts back in the cafeteria. With closing remarks, Mr. Ramsey congratulated all of us as being officially a part of this year's Ivy League Connection. Overall, I wouldn’t have had the orientation go any other way. I can’t believe that in less than a month, I’ll be blogging from the other side of the country all the way in Washington D.C. This whole opportunity is surreal. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lining Up the Ducks

Tonight we had our ILC orientation at Pinole Middle School. The The school looks so new and perfect. I remember attending in seventh grade, I was there for about three weeks and the school has not started reconstruction yet. As usual I was worrying about being late and I probably made it there just in time. Unfortunately, there were a few students who were late and that was really bad. When I heard that there were students who were late, I felt a shiver zipping down my back. I know how much Don talk about being punctual and he always stretches on how important it is so I can only imagine what trouble those students are in. I hope to never put myself in that situation.

After a while of waiting Mr. Ramsey decided to start the meeting. The first item on the list was "Punctuality" followed by "Following instruction". I have always been good at following instruction, except for this one time where the teacher tricked me into being labeled as "Not being able to follow instruction". After that the chaperones went up and introduced themselves to everyone. Mr. Mannix said something (I won't tell what it is yet) about our trip that I cannot wait to blog about. Don then continues to speak about the things expected of us and how we should prepare for the trip. 

Next we separated into different cohorts and had one on one time with our chaperone. Shout out to Mr. Mannix for creating such a detailed itinerary. Some other cohort didn't even have theirs yet and here we have one that has flight numbers, tour confirmations, hotels, train times, and activities. He answered our many questions and when there was no questions, he did an awesome job of keeping away the awkward silence. Thank goodness for that because I have a slight fear for awkward silence. I am so excited for the trip that I’m just itching to blog about it while listening to Mr. Mannix talks about the trip.

Mr. Ramsey’s congratulation for officially being in the ILC afterward made me feel pretty accomplished. He gave some great words of wisdom that was really inspirational and I hope to live by them. Just before we Left Don talked about parents visiting when we are on the east coast, which is not allowed. He said that one parent took a vacation during the time that their child traveled and followed them. I would be as red as a tomato if my parent were to stalk me into the east coast.

The orientation overall was very informational for both students and parent. My dad was pretty glad to have all the flights and hotels information. We are all so much closer towards our trip and I cannot wait.

A Night of Congratulations

The new Pinole Middle School
My night was a night ran off an energy tank on empty. My night was exhausting not only from the two hour orientation, but also from a week of finals and testing. This meeting was set to take place at the new and improved Pinole Middle School, and to begin at 6:00 PM, but unfortunately that didn't happen. Instead we all had to wait for each and every student to show up with their parent by their side, and then the meeting would begin, after Mr. Ramsey would stress the importance of being on time to each and every student.  After about twenty or so minutes every student was there, except for one student's parent, but the show had to go on so we began.

The night began with Don explaining what would happen for the night, and then he explained what the table of materials was for. The table was full of Don's LOANER items. I put loaner in all capitals because Don couldn't stress it enough how important it was to give back ALL the things he loaned out, and in the same condition he gave them. The items that he would loan out were items that a student doesn't have, but needs and doesn't want to spend money on. This is so that the student can live comfortably on campus with little problems. The items consisted of extension- cords, tripods, laundry bags, bed sheets, and even laptops like the one I am currently typing on (Thanks Don.) 

After Don got done talking the mike was handed over to all of the chaperons, so they could introduce themselves and give a brief overview of why they decided to take part in the ILC. After the chaperons gave their personal statements we were directed to go into the rooms that had our school flag on the door, so our parents could sign the permission slips and discuss any questions they might be holding in or curious about. After everybody was herded to their rooms, the interrogating began. 

When in the other room we discussed our site seeing plans for the trip, the restaurants we would eat at, and the colleges we will see. We plan on first visiting Washington D.C. and going to Georgetown University, from there we are heading to New York to check out either Columbia or Cornell Universities. Then we plan on heading down to Penn State where we will taste an authentic Philly cheese steak from the city of Philadelphia its self. Then we are going to head on down to Nashville to begin the real task ahead of us, but that's not all but I'll stop here because I don't want to give away too many clues on what we are doing.
The outside looking in on the cafeteria. 

After playing twenty- one questions with Mr. Mannix, Don came in and took pictures and kind of told us to wrap it up with a ten minute warning to be back in the cafeteria by 7:30 PM. 7:30 came around and we all made our way back into the cafeteria where we were given the final hurrah or congratulations from Don and Mr. Ramsey, because true enough this meeting was the final meeting with the ILC until we are all sent off from the airport. This orientation was really just a secretive way of saying congratulations for making it into the Ivy League Connection program, which lit my face with joy.

ILC Orientation

Tonight we had the ILC Orientation at Pinole Middle School. We were supposed to start at 6:00 PM, but five people were missing. To prove the importance of punctuality, Don and Mr. Ramsey would not start until we were all there. While we were waiting, Mr. Ramsey talked about the importance of punctuality. I agree that punctuality is important, but those hearing the speech were on time, so why do we need to be lectured? Fortunately, all the Vanderbilt students and our chaperone (Mr. Mannix) were early, so the 15 minute delay was not our fault. Even after 15 minutes, one student was still missing, so the orientation started without him.

The Orientation started with the chaperones introducing themselves and explaining why they participate in the ILC. The next few items on the agenda have been stressed since we first wrote essays to apply for ILC interviews. These things include following directions, and communicating. I found this part to be boring, but apparently, some people need to be reminded frequently. Fortunately, most of the remaining agenda items were things that had not already be discussed numerous times. Don recommended getting plenty of sleep the week before we leave so we have energy to spend the long hours visiting colleges, sightseeing, and studying for our classes. He also went over the loaner items that are available. 

Next we broke into our cohorts to discuss trip specifics with our chaperones. Mr. Mannix handed out district permission slips, and gave us a tentative itinerary. He talked about the various sites we will visit, and answered student's and parent's questions about the trip. Just from looking at the itinerary, I can see we are going to have fun. We get to visit the University of Pennsylvania (and see Diana So, an alumni for Pinole Valley High that attends UPenn), Columbia University, Georgetown University, and various sites in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C. One of the itinerary items for the day we spend in Philadelphia is "eat a Philly cheese steak". I am very glad we are doing this. How can you go to Philadelphia and not have a Philly cheese steak?

After the breakout sessions, we regrouped for closing remarks. Mr. Ramsey congratulated us on officially becoming part of the ILC, and gave some life lessons like "You get out of it what you put into it," and "Live life to the fullest." I know I am only 15 years old, but I know that both of these statements are correct. I have spent hundreds of hours practicing band performances, and prepping for Forensics, Speech and Debate, tournaments, and continue to get a lot out of it. In fact, if it weren't for these activities (Band and Forensics), I would not be a part of the ILC. I have met many previous ILCers through the band program at my school, and if I wasn't a part of the Forensics Team, I would not have the speaking ability to become part of the ILC.

Overall, I felt it was a productive orientation. I could tell that my parents felt better as they now know exactly where I am going, and they know my chaperone better. This is the last milestone event until we leave from El Cerrito High to get on a plane to Washington D.C. The Vanderbilt trip is getting so close I can almost reach out and touch it. It is hard to believe that in exactly one month, I will be in DC on the  Fourth of July!!!