Thursday, April 29, 2010

We're almost there

Just recently, the West Contra Costa Unified School District approved the trips to several prestigious universities such as Cornell, Brown, Columbia, and Yale, as part of the Ivy League Connections Program. The Ivy League Connections program is really amazing. It allows bright, dedicated, committed, and enthusiastic students to participate in courses in some of the best universities in the country.

To thank the district for approving the trips and sealing the deal, I, along with six other soon-to-be Ivy Leaguers, had the honor of attending a City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 27, and expressing our gratidue in front of a panel of city council members. We arrived at City Hall and, after Hercules High School Principal Guy Zakrevsky and Assistant Principal Terri Ishmael spoke graciously in regard to the ILC, we were introduced to speak, with sweaty foreheads and palms no less. Don Gosney and Charles Ramsey also spoke, reminding everyone about the significance and success of this powerful program, in which students can make life-changing connections, Ivy League Connections, to be exact. After our speeches, the council members also related their thoughts and feelings about the program. It was great hearing from the people who are in part responsible for the possibility of the ILC. But most importantly, as Mr. Ramsey and Don said, it is the great accomplishment of the students themselves, and the parents' involvement and support.

After our one to two minutes speeches, we gathered around for photos, around fifteen, according to Don, and proceeded to chat amongst ourselves and keeping track of how everyone was doing. The night went smoothly and left me feeling more prepared than ever to go. It felt like the grips of the upcoming summer were finally becoming tangible.

We are more excited than ever for our three weeks in Cornell this summer, and hope to gain, as I said in my speech, indispensable knowledge.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hercules City Council

Today, the seven Hercules Ivy League Connection participants were presented to the Hercules City Council. It was a great way to thank the city for their support of the Ivy League Connection program, as well as their continued support of education in the Hercules community.

We were preceded by an introduction from our principal, Mr. Zak, who spoke of the wonderful academic achievements of Hercules High School students, due in a large part, to the Ivy League Connection. We were then introduced by Hercules Middle High School assistant principal, Terri Ishmael. Following the introductions, each one of us presented our speeches, in which we included which school we will be attending, what program we will be enrolled in, and what participating in the Ivy League Connection means to us. As Mr. Zak and Don summed it all up, Mr. Ramsey arrived and spoke a little about the program and gave thanks to the city for their support. The final round was the group picture with the Hercules City Council members.

This evening was the first to come for the many ILC events, including our presentation to the school board as well as the alumni dinner (which I was pleased to find out our own Hercules city councilman, Don Kuenhe, will be attending) that will be taking place very soon, and I enjoyed myself very much. I would like to thank the city of Hercules for receiving us as well as their tremendous support of the Ivy League Connection. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Better Now Than Ever

We've recently been informed of our trip approval, as you may already know seeing as how I'm behind everyone else on blogging about it. But, the days keep counting down, and our departure date comes closer, and closer, every single day. It’s almost still too difficult for me to believe, I’m really going to Cornell this summer. I mean, it’s Cornell. We’ve been given one of the best opportunities of our lives, and I still can’t believe it. With this recent approval, it makes everything seem just a bit more realistic. But, I won’t fully believe it until I’m on a plane, on my way to probably the best experience of my life. I’m grateful, to all of those who put in long hours of work so that all of this can be possible for us, without all of you, we would be nowhere. We wouldn’t have these opportunities. This time, specifically to our WCCUSD School Board Members, I thank all of you, sincerely for approving our trip.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Final Approval of the ILC!

Just recently our school board of the WCCUSD voted unanimously to support our endeavours in the ILC. I am ecstatic and pleased to finally know that I will be able to embark on such a great journey over this summer. I would like to thank all members of our school board for voting to continue this program and our superintendent for his recommendation for the continuing of this program. I am very honored to be in such a prestiogous program, and to finally know I am going to get the oppertunity to go to Ithaca New York this summer to study freedom and justice makes me speechless. I am glad to know I have the support from my school board and superintendent and would just like to let them know that their efforts are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Good Strings

This past Wednesday, the WCCUSD School Board and Superintendent voted to approve the continuation of the ILC program into the summer of 2010, thus finalizing the last step in securing our departure to Ithaca! I cannot be more grateful to School Board members Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Medrano, Ms. Miles, Mr. Thurmond and our Superintendent Dr. Harter. I assure everyone that I will do my best to represent WCCUSD well and am looking forward to an amazing summer thanks to everyone’s support.

As the school year begins comes to an end and our departure date comes closer everyday, I am taken back to our first official meeting with Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, and Don as well as former Hotel students Stacy Chan, Lousia Man, and Yueming Wang at the Hunan Villa during President’s Week. During this session Jacky, Chris and I heard first hand accounts of what we should expect when we land in Ithaca. I learned that the Hotel Operations and Management course is a 20 minute walk away from the dormitories we will be staying in and that the class was extremely detail oriented. They emphasized the group aspect of the course as well as the mandatory office hours. The former Hotel students also noted, much to my surprise, that the weather in Ithaca was hot, humid and the air was sometimes very sticky!

Throughout that night, one thing I remember very vividly are the encouraging words from Mrs. Kronenberg. She told us that the Ivy League Connection is a scholarship program with strings attached, but good strings! Through my interpretation, the “good strings” are the training sessions, college tours, our chaperone, Ms. Kaplan, the Cornell alumni dinner, and many more. These “goods strings” are evidence that the ILC is a truly enriching experience, both culturally and collegiately. Through the tours of three college campuses (University of Rochester, Syracuse, and Colgate), as well as visits to the Susan B. Anthony Museum and the Fredrick Douglas Center, among other events exclusive to ILC participants, it is obvious that the ILC is a well rounded program.

All in all, the ILC is a one of a kind program that I am blessed to be a part of and I am, once again, very grateful for the School Board’s and Superintendent’s support of the ILC.

To Boldly Go

The title, "To Boldy Go," a slight excerpt from the Star Trek introduction is the perfect way to reflect how I feel about this summer my peers and myself are embarking through the ILC. It feels quite surreal as if all this is really happening, am I really going to go across the country to become immersed in a part of what makes the reputable ILC.? The reality is that we are boldly venturing into new territory and coming out more responsible, developed students.
One thing about this sensation of journeying is that it takes two meanings, a literal and figurative one. The literal meaning is that we are leaving our West Coast in which most of us see as home to the other side of the country where most of us is pretty unfamiliar with. The expectations of seeing things and meeting people unlike the culture found in the Bay Area is probably very high. But the more important meaning is the figurative meaning, in which all of the members of the ILC are adventuring on a level of knowledge; being able to pursue their desired intellect and develop it to become more adept to college calibur. Both these are quite exciting, but one cannot dismiss the journey getting to be part of the ILC and to now.
I remember how intimidating it was in front of the judging panel during the interviews for the Cornell program. Seeing all those judges from prestigious colleges, an engineer, and notable public figures such as Mr. Ramsey was definitely nerve wracking. Aside from the nervousness, I felt some doubts as to being able to keep up with all my AP classes, extracurriculars such as music, and fit in the ILC. It would be hard but I knew it was not impossible.
But the point of this nervousness and doubts is that there are plenty of people who came to support me. Being able to have other students as well as Ms.Kaplan, Don Gosney, and Mr. Ramsey, the preparation part for this big summer was well underway. I feel they kept me on task and help me raise my level for what is expected from me. Their contributions to the program as well as my learning experience evokes immeasurable gratitude from me.
Recently, the WCCUSD Board of Education and Superintendent Bruce Harter has approved our trip to Cornell this year and given us their support to allow us to continue working towards our education. It shows that what we are doing in the ILC is of great significance as we are representatives of our school district at a broader level. I promise to do my best and return my gratitude to the board and superintendent through my efforts at Cornell and those at my own school.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

E c s t a t i c !

As you may have read from the previous post written by Alex, we've just been approved by both the WCCUSD school board and the superintendent to go on our trip to Ithaca this summer!

It is one thing to simply imagine you'll be going to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and another to know that you will be there in a matter of just about two months. The very thought still blows my mind. Now, I can look at pictures of Cornell University, point to them, and say: "That's where I'll be this summer!"

Ever since October of 2009, when Ms. Kaplan and our principal, Ms. Kahn, first introduced us to the Ivy League Connection, it was a roller coaster ride from there on over. First, it started with an essay prompt - to show the ILC that we were interested in participating and capable writers. When I became one of the seven in my school to qualify for the next round - the interviews - I had no idea how nerve-wracking the ILC would become. It just may be the closest thing to knowing what applying for college would feel like when I become a senior. Yet, despite all that tension, it is definitely worth it. I cannot describe in simple words just how wonderful it is: when one gains approval by a panel of 5 judges you've never met, when the very college you're applying to over the summer accepts you, or when you've finally been confirmed by the "head honchos" of your county that your trip to Ithaca, New York, no longer stands behind an obstacles. The horrible steep hill in my roller coaster has finally passed; now, it is time to enjoy the ride.

I see this moment as a good time to reflect. Amidst the hectic environment of AP tests, CST tests, and school work, it's easy to lose track of where you are, who you are, and what lays ahead. The news of our approval struck me; it reminded me that in just two months, I won't be at home, but somewhere on the other side of the country, studying with other brilliant students from around the globe. I am proud of myself - proud that I've gotten so far in something so rare and wonderful as the Ivy League Connection. I'm not even at Ithaca yet and I can already tell it will be a life-changing experience.

I plan to make the best of this trip, really take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by surprising not just the people back home, but myself as well. I will carry with me the eager mind ready to absorb every moment of my experience, and the honor to represent the WCCUSD in the East Coast. When we will depart, I plan to leave behind the fresh and strong presence we will have introduced to Cornell by having it echo within its halls, but we will take back with us the wonderful memories and knowledge we've gained. With them, we will bring back home and indubitably share.

This already-pretty-long post represents a fraction of the gratitude and happiness I feel. I am flattered that both the school board and superintendent have approved our trip to Ithaca this summer. Thank you to: Mr. Harter, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Medrano, Ms. Miles, Mr. Thurmond, and of course, Mr. Ramsey, for giving us lucky scholars the opportunity of a lifetime. I'd also like to take this time to thank many of the important figures that have also helped me since last October, when things began: Ms. Kaplan, Ms. Kahn, Mr. Gosney, my two two teacher sponsors (Ms. Luerson and Mr. Botello), Ms. Elms, the past alums, and my fellow peers. Thank you!

So, what lies ahead for us on the other side of the country?

Only time will tell.

I couldn't have been more honored and excited.

Hooray for ILC 2010 --- We're Approved!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thanks to the School Board

Greetings Blogosphere!

My ILC experience so far has been full of hurdles that had to be leapt. I am 100% positive this will not change, but recently the final phase of the approval process has been completed: acceptance by the WCCUSD School Board and Superintendent. I am simply elated to inform you that Superintendent Bruce Harter and the five members of the School Board unanimously approved of the continuance of our Ivy League excursions this summer. I cannot possibly convey how happy this makes me, but I will try.

To know that everything has been approved for my summer course is an excellent feeling. Events such as the ten grueling minutes to find out if I had made it past the interview, waiting months to know if the ILC would provide additional funding for an alternate (myself) to obtain a solid slot and the longest wait so far, Cornell University's acceptance, left me biting my nails (literally) in the hope of receiving positive results. But now, knowing that the acceptance of the School Board and Superintendent is no longer a question takes a huge weight off of my shoulders! This was the final step to whether I would be able to attend a University of the prestigious Ivy League, and the trip has been completely approved! I must say that this feeling is quite exhilerating.

Now, I would just like to express my gratitude to the members of the School Board and the Superintendent for knocking down this final wall. My thanks go out to Superintendent Bruce Harter and School Board members Tony Thurmond, Antonio Medrano, Audrey Miles, Madeline Kronenberg and, of course, Charles Ramsey. I cannot thank you all enough for allowing me to embark on this journey of knowledge that only comes once in a lucky lifetime. You have done more for me than I could ever ask for and I am eternally grateful for it. Thank you so much.

I'm going to sign off for now, but I will return soon. The deadline for the school board meeting on May 12 approaches and I will definitely be blogging about my experience that night. Until then though, this is Alex Elms signing off.