Monday, May 31, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I must admit, going to last Thursday's One Market dinner in San Francisco for our Cornell gathering, I was skeptical. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I woke up, 25 minutes beforehand from my nap and simply did not feel like dressing up, putting on my tie and driving to San Francisco on a school night. Perhaps it was the thought that I didn't know what to expect from this dinner attended by many honorable guests and feared by me. Whatever it was, I must honestly say, it was a blast.
Obviously, the night did not turn out the way I wanted it to. Having truly scavenged San Francisco only twice in my life, despite numerous visits to my cousin's house in SF, I was excited to see the beautiful city and impressing buildings. All that, however, was nothing compared to the simply put, extraordinarily extravagant One Market restaurant our group entered. It was something you'd see in fancy movies: an iron curtain pushed aside to reveal a stunning display of majesty and elegance. A mini-bar-like stand where a host proffered incoming attendees drinks ranging from orange juice to wine. Numerous hostesses walking around and in between people offering fancy-pancy appetizers that satisfied my every craving. I was afraid I'd become too stuffed to eat the main course.
What I gained, first of all, was a priceless experience with wonderful people, especially Samantha. I learned loads about Cornell, the college-making process, and the rewarding experience that will benefit us all after the end of our summer courses. Also, I can proudly say that this is the longest blog I have ever written in my life and have spent 1 hour and 30 minutes on it. To Cornell!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Prior to the Cornell Dinner with the vast alumni and sponsors, the ILC students representing Pinole Valley High School ventured to our City Hall where we presented ourselves with utmost pride of our achievement and the proof of the ILC's cream of the crop. As we went up to speak about what schools we went to as kids, I reminisced of the old memories when I was a younger kid from elementary school. I never saw myself being able to be part of a program where it promoted so much character development and involves so much excitement. Being a junior, I was proud with others to show what Pinole Valley had to offer despite not coming from affluent backgrounds or having the rich amount of resources other schools have to offer. This is truly reflective of my view of myself and others. We the students of the ILC are made to be resilient and is not limited by factors of money.
The next event, which was the Cornell Dinner at the One Market in San Francisco was mind blowing. When my mother and I returned home from the dinner, she was so happy and at the same time a little disappointed at the fact we could not stay longer. I reassured her that one day I will give her more chances to eat food at such as top restaurant. Aside from the tasty servings of food which certainly was an experience of the high life for me, I enjoyed talking with the people in my table which includes Tony Thurmond, a former councilmen from Richmond and a current school board member, whose presence motivated me about my own aspirations in politics. I also had a great time talking to assistant principals Ms. Kaplan and Ishmael, in which we related from our ILC experiences to our personal interests. The most interesting parts of the night had to be the speeches, especially our student speakers Alex Elms and Jacky Lares who both did a spectacular job embodying the purpose and benefits of the ILC. Again, Mr. Ramsey delivered the ultimate closing speech with a powerful message that we are not afraid to take charge. I learned that taking charge in our lives is the key to our success.
With a few more weeks to come, I and other ILC students are in great expectations of what to come before our departure.
Friday, May 21, 2010
My night started on BART when I was introduced to Joseph Young, an ILC alumnus who will be attending Cornell this Fall. Joseph attended both Cornell and Brown as an ILC scholar during his sophomore and junior years. We spoke for the majority of the BART ride to One Market. He had a lot of insightful comments about the ILC, his experiences and what his attitude towards high school was when he returned. It was a very lucrative conversation. He told me he attended the Brown course covering DNA and biotechnology that a few of my friends are taking this year. Much to my surprise, the course actually discussed cloning! This single statement made up my mind about which program I want to try to attend next year. We also discussed his time outside the classroom when he studied at Cornell. He, along with all of the others I've spoken to about Cornell's landscape, couldn't say enough about how mind-blowing and breath-taking the scenery was. I enjoyed our conversation tremendously.
We reached One Market and, from the moment we stepped inside, I knew we were going to have a great meal. The restaurant was teeming with people and the meals I saw the waiters and waitresses carrying looked delicious. We were served appetizers while we waited for the rest of the guests (i.e. sponsors, alumni, etc.) and while we waited for our private dining room to be readied.
Mr. Ramsey had set seating arrangements for us. In most cases, there was no more than one student-parent group at a table. I was seated with Joseph Young, Doug Mitarotonda (a Cornell graduate who has recently earned his Ph.D.), William Vederman (class of '63), Alex Vollmer (class of '64) and my mother. Will and Alex are two Cornell alumni who have supported the ILC for a few years now. Will is actually the first Cornell alumnus that Mr. Ramsey recruited to become involved with the ILC. Because of this, Mr. Ramsey honored him with a special pin that recognized the WCCUSD for winning a first place Magna Award for the ILC. I had excellent conversations with each of the gentlemen at my table throughout the evening, but I began by speaking to Doug. He had a wealth of information about college life, Cornell and some general pointers for applying to colleges. Doug is an economist. We actually share a lot of academic interests (namely math). He told me that his first choice in college was in engineering, which is what I'm considering, but that he later switched to economics because of the mix of math and human interaction. This had a huge impact on my goals. I am now considering economics as a field of interest because it blends two of the things I love about my current high school experience: math and speaking (forensics). This is definitely something that I will have to give some thought to. We continued speaking for quite some time about all of this and I felt like I could have continued for much longer. But, the night had to move on and Ms. Kronenberg began addressing the room.
Once Ms. Kronenberg began speaking, I knew my time grew closer. Next on the agenda to speak was Jacky, then myself. I must have run through the list of what I wanted to say in my head at least ten times, while still listening to Ms. Kronenberg’s wonderful speech. Jacky began speaking and I began to calm myself down so that I could focus. Soon it was my turn to speak. Once I got my first laugh out of the room full of alumni, ILC sponsors, parents, students etc. I was fine. I continued speaking confidently and actually got some applause. It was definitely my best speech ever. I still can’t get over the feeling of anxiety I felt before I got my speech moving and how it was almost immediately lifted from my shoulders. After that, the night continued to get better.
After Mr. Ramsey’s speech, which was full of kind things to say about the work we have done and the sponsors of the ILC, we enjoyed our main course and some hearty discussion. I wasn’t too focused on my steak though because I launched into an extremely interesting conversation with Will Vederman and Alex Vollmer about forensics and policy debate. I was definitely in my comfort zone because I was able to converse for what seemed like half-an-hour. Will told us that he had recently seen a documentary about debate and he couldn't believe the rate at which the competitors spoke. This was half of the conversation. I told him stories of my first-hand experience with spreaders (fast speaking debaters) and the discussion evolved from there. Most of the conversation after that involved Alex, Will and Doug’s experiences at Cornell and the Alumni Association. The one story that stuck in my mind was one of Will's. He told the story of a student at Cornell who, in the middle of Winter, streaked across the snow-covered quad. I got a pretty great laugh out of that. I had three vaults of college experience sitting across from me the entire night and I didn’t waste a second of our conversations. I definitely appeciated the networking capabilities the evening afforded me.
Between dinner and dessert, Mr. Ramsey stood up again and gave another great speech. He thanked everyone for coming and gave special acknowledgements to sponsors of the ILC. Upon conclusion of his speech, dessert arrived: a strawberry tart with vanilla ice cream and caramelized sugar. It was delicious, to say the least. Shortly afterwards, the evening came to a close and we all filed through the door of our room to the main body of the restaurant where I spoke with Dyana, Andrew and Andrew about our experiences of the night. I think we all brought back our own special experiences with us that night
I’m usually one to speak modestly. It would be an understatement to say that last night was the best night of my life thus far. I wish our dinner did not have to end. I had a great time, the food was excellent and the company was lively. Thank you Mr. Ramsey for organizing the highlight of my ILC experience. On the ride home, I got the chance to reflect on the evening and I realized that I missed it already. As the title says, it was the best yet.
One of my most memorable events of the night was listening to Linda Cohen, the principal of Coronado Elementary. I found her to be an incredibly interesting individual and she had many words of wisdom to impart. She shared with me many interesting stories about her job as a principal and her college years at Georgetown and Harvard. As it is my career goal to be a school principal, she even offered to let me shadow her! Mrs. Cohen also told me of a time when she was fresh out of college and she decided to find a job by forwarding her resume to the United States Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor. Even though neither of them had a job for her, she said they still passed her resume around to others they knew that worked on Capital Hill. This is where she realized the weight of a diploma from a prestigious college.
Another memorable conversation I had was with Joseph Young, an El Cerrito High School senior who will be attending Cornell University in the fall. Joseph is a true Ivy League Connection success story and his acceptance has helped me see for myself that attending an Ivy League school is within my reach, as a student in WCCUSD. He spoke of the many different types of people we will meet at Cornell that come from all over the country and all over the world! I am incredibly happy for him and I hope he enjoys his next few years at Cornell.
Being a part of the ILC is an incredible privilege, and I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity. But, just as Mr. Ramsey said, we should be paying it forward. The 7 Cornellians, as Ivy League Connection ambassadors, are expected to promote the award winning Ivy League Connection program and spread the growing college-going culture throughout our schools.
Our final event prior to our departure is the ILC orientation and then, on June 23, the 7 Cornellians, Mrs. Kaplan, and Mr. Ramsey will be on a plane heading out to Ithaca, New York.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
All the Pinole Valley High School students that are with the ILC this year, had the honor of attending a city council meeting where they were formally introduced.
We sat in the very front row; our eyes were directly set towards the Pinole City Council, who was sitting just directly in front of us. This isn't my first time attending a city council meeting, but I must admit, the presence of the council members still create an intimidating atmosphere.
Even after the memorable school board meeting last week, I still haven't completely gotten over the wonderful fact that I, along with my fellow peers, will be this year's ILC ambassadors. Although we've been presented to the WCCUSD, it was still quite the honor to stand before our own city's council and declare our participation. Despite it being a smaller group and at a much smaller scale, the ILC continues to make its mark in its various cities. Pinole had already been marked by the ILC, but after that night, the mark had gotten so much deeper.
One by one, we lined up to the podium and faced the council. Nervous, but excited at the same time, I told them my name, current school and grade, and past education - just as the people before and after me had done. As we watched our fellow classmates give their little introduction, we waited on the side. Eventually, all of us were finished. Now we were a long line of bright young scholars overlooking a diverse crowd. I could just feel how proud and impressed they were.
Directly after wards, Don Gosney came by with his large camera. He wanted all of us to pose in a picture with the city council. That, to me, was such an honor. Normally, citizens look up to their leaders. But that night, we, as citizens, were looked up open by the council.
Nevertheless, this short and sweet meeting with the council was a great addition to our participation in the ILC. My desire to go increased largely, thanks to the council's kind and encouraging words. I am very happy that they had invited us because it shows just how much they cared and believed in the ILC. The Ivy League Connection, as it stands now, contains numerous supporters. Now, we can add the city Pinole as one of them.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The seven of us entered the council chambers and sat in the front row. We were third on the agenda for the night and we were introduced by Ms. Kahn, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kaplan, each of whom had nothing but praise for the hard work we have done and are soon to encounter. Each time Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kaplan or anyone else gives us praise for the work we have done so far, it encourages me to keep going the extra mile so that I may continue to earn their respect as well as the respect of others.
After we were introduced, we each gave a brief speech telling the council who we were, where and what we are going to study and what schools we have attended prior to Pinole Valley. Mr. Ramsey had said beforehand that we would speak of the importance of the ILC, so I was expecting to give a 2-3 minute speech. It turned out to be just about 15 seconds! Once again I was relieved to know I got anxious for nothing. After our speeches, Don took pictures of the seven of us with the entire council! That was an honor I wasn't quite expecting. After the picture, the council gave a few sentiments about how proud they were of all of our diligence. Once again, my determination to go the extra mile was bolstered by their very kind words.
Last night was another one of our memorable ILC nights that will stick with me. I grow more and more anxious for our departure as the days go by. Tomorrow is another big day because we are having our dinner at the One Market Restaurant with the Cornell alumni and I have been given the honor of speaking. Until my next blog (which will most likely be tomorrow or the next day) I'm signing off.
Friday, May 14, 2010
In the future of the ILC, it is an achievement to expand a program from 6 to 29 students in a matter of few years, and it would certainly yield both expected and unexpected results all for the better. With the continuation of expanding, the ILC will continue to generate such responsible, intelligent students such as past alumni like Yohanna Pepa and Cristina Pelayo. Hopefully when this year's class returns, we will not only impact the ILC with outstanding achievements at respective colleges but also our district.
There will certainly be a big step for the WCCUSD with a powerful army of ILC students returning with both the confidence, knowledge, and the capacity to lead other students to stand up and strive to achieve. I am delighted to know so many good people in our community and see us work together in the ILC.
In the weeks to come, I and other ILC members will continue to take steps in the path to success.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
As we searched for open seats, I noticed immediately my setting - a multi-purpose room that was slowly becoming more and more crowded as the minutes went by. Despite the forest of protest signs in the audience, it was clear that the main "stars" of this show was the Ivy League Connection. Who could miss noticing the bright smiles of the wonderful ILC students, dressed so professionally, as if they already had the world in their hands?
This was a wonderful and unforgettable night of honor. I cannot recall any other day in which I felt such a proud feeling coming from a room full of people. I could see it in the eyes of our parents, sponsors, the school board, and even those who have just heard of the program that night, that they were impressed with the ILC and its selected students. But their feelings I believe, may not have matched that of 29 particular individuals...
Proud. That would be one simple word I'd describe all of us that night. As for myself however, that single word just isn't enough. I am amazed, overjoyed, grateful, and perhaps even more.
I am amazed at how hard work and perseverance has led me in life. Currently, it has taken me to my newest and brightest destination, the ILC program, and soon, Cornell University. Someone from the crowd had told us: "You kids are here because you've EARNED it." This comment really struck a chord to me because I'll admit that I sometime doubt and/or question my own potential. But now, I am completely reassured: all 29 of us are here because of our hard work and devotion. We have crossed many barriers since December and now, we stand rightfully as the WCCUSD's official ILC ambassadors of 2010.
That very night had also been one of great joy. In addition to the smiles of my own and my fellow ILC peers, there were two groups that had smiles that stood out to me even more. The first one belongs to our parents and the second, to the school board. Mr. Ramsey especially, had one of the biggest smiles that evening, as each ILC group came up to be presented. Their love and support is what continues to be the very foundation of our stride to do our very best.
And of course, I can never leave out just how grateful and thankful I am. There are so many people to thank, but a simple "thank you very much" just isn't enough, no matter how many times we say it. I am thankful to the school board for approving our trip to the east coast. I am thankful for the support I've received from parents, friends, and alums. I am thankful to Ms. Lamons, Mr. Botello, and Mrs. Luerson - my teachers, whose assistance had major impact on my meeting here. I am thankful to our chaperons this year (especially our chaperon, Ms.Kaplan), for their endless dedication to their respected groups. I am thankful to the sponsors whom I finally got to see for the first time; it was such a wonderful opportunity to see the very people who have made our trip such a dream come true. I am thankful to Mr. Gosney, who has been working very hard with the ILC, whether it be sending out important emails to taking photos. And lastly, I am eternally grateful to Mr. Charles Ramsey and Mrs. Madeline Kronenberg. Without the both of you, I am positive the ILC would not be as great as it is today.
Speaking of which, I am very impressed with the state of the ILC this year. Despite our county being under these economic times, we still manage to uphold a new record of officially participating ILC students for this summer. What once started 5 years ago with 6 students and small recognition, has blossomed into, as Mr. Ramsey called it, an army of 29. The ILC itself has grown tremendously over this year. I will admit that in my freshman year, I heard nothing of the ILC, but now, this year's freshmen are well aware of this opportunity that would soon be coming their way in their upcoming sophomore year. Knowing how much the ILC has grown and how much more it can expand, I am extremely proud to be part of, in my opinion, one of the best programs in the nation.
I was also quite impressed when I found out that 7 of the 17 ILC students from last year, got accepted to Ivy League colleges. This 40% rate of acceptance triumphs over the nation's average of 10% of students who get into the Ivy League colleges they applied for. That, to me, is amazing. It tells me that students from our district is very capable of competing for a spot in the Ivy League schools. It tells me that it's not necessarily the school you come from or the environment of the classrooms, but the individual themselves. As long as we do our best, we can put ourselves as equals to the other students around the nation, as we all compete to win a spot in some of country's most prestigious colleges.
With only about a month to go, and a certificate that states my official participation in the ILC this year, I, Wing So, am proud to say that this summer, I will be attending Cornell University to study under Professor Kramnick and his "Freedom and Justice" Course!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The Cornell group was the first to be presented and were then followed by introductions of the students (and chaperones) attending Columbia, Brown, and Yale. Overall I thought the entire night was a wonderful tribute to the Ivy League Connection. Along with the introductions of the 29 students that are going this year, the evening was commemorated with testimonies from previous ILC students. Cristina Pelayo, Yohanna Pepa, and Matt Arciniega all gave wonderful presentations about what they learned at their summer programs last year, and how the ILC has helped them as they entered their senior year and the labyrinth of college admissions. Furthermore, at the board meeting, the ILC sponsors were honored for their financial support of the program. They have contributed so much and are absolutely essential to the success of the ILC. Concluding the ILC segment of the meeting were the School Board member’s comments, and a special recognition of the parents. The meeting took a 5 minute intermission for the group photo.
Overall, the evening was very interesting and it was wonderful to see all of the ILC students together for the first time. It was also very rewarding to receive the beautiful certificate that acknowledged my coming participation in the ILC this summer.
First of all, the meeting started with the Board’s opening procedures: the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, etc. After this they moved on to the “business items.” On the addendum, the list of business items looked extremely long. The segment about the ILC was directly after this segment and I thought that it would take half-an-hour to get to through. Much to my disbelief, the board raced through the seemingly long list of business items and suddenly it was time for the Cornellians to take the floor.
Ms. Kaplan began the procession of chaperone-student speeches. After her, it was my turn. I was slightly nervous because I had never given a speech to such important adults before. I dealt with it though. I treated the situation as if I were competing in a speech tournament. This made me much more comfortable. The best advice I can give to any future ILC speakers (or any speakers for that matter) is to look poised, sound confident (even if you aren’t), speak coherently and look your audience right in the eye. Those tactics are what got me through my speech tonight. After my speech, the Columbians approached the podium. After that group came the Brown students and then the Yale students. My compliments go out to all of the other ILC speakers because every speech I heard was eloquent and each speaker was well polished. This was the biggest part of the evening.
After the student and chaperone speakers, the board and ILC members gave their thanks to all of the ILC’s financial benefactors. I had no idea how many organizations funded the ILC! There were over twenty contributors that were called forward and awarded! One of the men that was called forward was actual one of my interviewers. I had always wondered why he was one of my judges because he had not had any prior ties to Cornell or involvement with philosophy/law (not that any interviewers would have to be) but now I understand. My thanks go out to all of the financial supporters of the ILC because without them, I would not be taking the educational excursion of a lifetime. I cannot thank you all enough.
The School Board was the final group to address us. Everyone had incredible things to say about the work we were doing and how terrific the ILC is. I found Mr. Ramsey’s speech especially memorable though. He used a metaphor comparing the ILC to an army marching forth (hence the title of this blog) and making itself known as a united front. I cannot thank Mr. Ramsey enough for all that he has done, all he is doing, and all that he continues to do for us so that we may make our experience as informational, yet exciting, as possible. This would not be the same without you Mr. Ramsey.
I would also like to thank Ms. Kronenberg. She is one of the founding members of the ILC and without her, this whole program would not have touched the lives of so many excellent students. She has also assisted the Cornellians when we needed the conference rooms in the Hercules Library booked. This step helped bring our group face-to-face with each other and strengthen our bonds as a Cornell family. Ms. Kronenberg has been an integral and beneficial part of the ILC and shall continue to be so as long as the ILC exists.
The final ILC related segment of the night was a photo shoot of the ILC scholars and their parents. Tonight I saw Don Gosney in his element with his camera in hand and his trigger finger at the ready. Don assessed the situation at hand and divided the group of well over fifty people into perfect lines of smiling ILC scholar/parent faces. He continually stressed to us that we had to be aligned perfectly and with symmetry so that the photos would come out spectacularly. After about twenty-five camera flashes and two minutes of smiling, the photos had been taken and we could give our jaws a rest. Tonight reminded me of how important Don is to the ILC. He has been there every step of the way, whether it was with a camera or not, to give us guidance and assistance. For this, I am grateful that Don is an integral part of the ILC.
As a side note, I would like to congratulate Ms. Lamons for receiving “Teacher of the Year.” I would also like to thank her for making forensics a unique experience and for recommending me for the ILC in the first place. I would not have made it this far without you, so thank you Ms. Lamons.
That is my account of this wonderful night. This is only the beginning of my ILC event blogs though. I will have another two coming very soon about the Pinole City Council meeting on May 18 and our dinner with the Cornell alumni on May 20. Until then, this is Alex Elms signing off.