Friday, May 22, 2015

Endless Night of Smiles

All that I was looking to after school was the Vanderbilt dinner, so as soon as I was finished with my Forensics Speech and Debate meeting, I raced back home to change. I came home to see my mom ironing the clothes and was panicking over time because I knew that tardiness would not be tolerated. I made sure that my mom and I would arrive on time, if not earlier, to get to the El Cerrito Plaza Bart Station, so I took the wheel instead. 

Luckily, we arrived on time and found parking. We walked over to find Gwennie and her mom, Hummd and her mom, Arnold and his mom, Ms. Kronenberg, and Mr. Enos. Still waiting on Don, we all introduced ourselves to each other again. Once Don came, he explained how the dinner was going to work, making sure that Arnold was going to be giving his speech, and I would give mine to the School Board the next day. He handed out clipper cards, then we all waited until it was time to go upstairs and waited some more for the train to come.

We took a straight train to Powell, then walked around another 2-3 blocks.  As soon as we got off on our stop, I realized that we were in Union Square. The weather was typical for San Fransisco, a nice and cool breeze while the sun was still out, and it was full with plenty of people. There were a few unique plaques on the ground near the crosswalks. I felt like I was playing tourist because of all the pictures that I was taking. Finally, a sign reading Scala's Bistro pops up on the side, and this is where it all begins. 
Union Square
Scala's Bistro ft. Don Gosney

When we came, the tables still needed some more rearranging so Don let my cohort and I go on our own for ten minutes. Immediately, we all crowded on the stairs with a velvety, red carpet and had a few pictures taken by all of our parents. Then, someone wanted to find a bathroom so that allowed us to do some more exploring around the restaurant. It was really amazing how some of the decorations were detailed and eye capturing, going from fancy big red chairs to ceilings that were dome-shaped and painted as a portrait. Ten minutes went by quickly, but we all headed back down to our room and it was more full of people than we last saw. 

The meet and greets were my favorite part about the whole dinner. I really enjoyed talking with the Vanderbilt alumni Tyler Wallace and John Tilch, and more. They has graduated 8 years apart and from both of their views, Vanderbilt was still the same friendly, appropriately-sized school that offered four years of on-campus dorming. However, over the course of the 8 years, a lot has changed varying from school pride (growing bigger each year) to the culture and city outside of school gates. 

Soon enough, everyone was called to attention to find their seats and getting ready to order. At my table, were coincidentally John and Tyler, my mom, Mr. Enos, and Mr. McQuarrie. Ms. Kronenberg started out with the introductions and then had each ILCer introduce themselves. After the introductions of Arnold, Hummd, Gwennie, and I, the Vanderbilt alumni did the same. It was really interesting to have people from each part of the country to have attended Vanderbilt, and most of them said the same thing when asked about their favorite thing about the university. I am under the impression that Vanderbilt has a great environment filled with each individually, qualified students that makes the school just the right size, big enough that you would still run into new faces, but small enough that you will get closer with a majority of the students. From hearing these magnificent compliments about Vanderbilt, I was (and am) more excited than ever to see the school and experience everything for myself. I even got recommendations to go to a few places that are worth seeing. 

As the salads were being passed around, I learned more about Tyler's and John's post-college experience, and how they both wanted to have the same experience again by going to San Fransisco. Nashville was something new for the both of them and after graduating it wasn't the same and they wanted to see new horizons and expand to where similar experiences can be made. John's perspective definitely changed when he came to Vanderbilt, he used to hate country music but it had gotten switched around now because that's what he really associates with Vanderbilt. Listening to the both of the alumni talk about how they knew Vanderbilt was the one for them was really interesting, like John had visited the campus at night and already was set on it, and Tyler thought the same when he found out about the school's size and majors that were offered. Somewhere between all of this, the salads were finished and our steaks were being passed around in the table. I really learned a lot more about the school because people who actually experienced the whole college life there spread the spirit around at this dinner. I learned that even though Vanderbilt is known for having a top medical hospital, there are plenty of majors to go around that leads to lifetime careers after graduating from there. 

The steak was really delicious and very tender. Everyone at my table seemed to really enjoy it, and as everyone was finishing up, I was able to talk to Mr. McQuarrie. I discovered that he was the head of constructing De Anza High School, El Cerrito High School, and the reconstruction of mine, Pinole Valley High School. My mom and him were conversating about our culture and his time in Vietnam as well as other countries. He asked me about my extracurricular activies, and I told him one of which I was going to be the drum major of the marching band next year, and interestingly enough, he was also a drum major for three years! I genuinely really enjoyed talking to all at my table, there were so many new things that I was glad to listen to and learn from, and also meeting everyone. 
Medium Rare New York Steak With Snap Peas and Potatoes
Overall, the whole dinner was really amazing and worth getting home past 11 p.m. I got to talk with a Pinole Valley alumni from the dinner also, Casey Word. It was nice to know that she had the same APUSH teacher as I currently do, and I even passed on her card to him. I noticed that Vanderbilt alumni have many connections and from talking with Casey about my future potential career choice, a pharmacist, and she passed on my contact information to her friend, who is also a pharmacist, to answer any questions that I may have.
One of the many photos that were taken during the night with us soon-to-be Vanderbilt students and alumni.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Night's Intimate Dinner

I'll have to apologize for this one; timing for blogging about this event seems slightly overdue, but after a wonderful dinner, we all made it home pretty late (11 PM at the BART Station).

The day for me began with school as usual. As always, school consumes much of your time and it seems so endless sometimes! However, despite this dinner event lasting almost as long as a school day, it felt so much shorter for the amount of time we had. Time flies when you're enjoying yourself and others' company.

Waiting for the train
The cohort, along with our parents, arrived at the BART Station shortly before Don advised us to. Ironically this time, we arrived minutes before him, making the process a lot smoother and efficient. Once everyone had arrived, we were handed the Clipper cards and boarded the train to San Francisco. On the way, Katherine and I enjoyed getting to know us more, learning about how school has been, and discussing the typical overachieving high school student's dilemma, the AP exams. We shared our aspirations and downfalls of the exams briefly and somehow ended up touching upon the subject of genetics- or at least I remember wanting to talk about it. There's way too much I'm curious about (I can go into that all on its own, but that's a separate blog; I hope I can elaborate on this through my experiences taking Medicine, Health, and Society!)

Waiting for our train.

Best BART Station. I mean LOOK at that!
Upon our stop on the Powell Station, our entire group re-grouped and made our way up the stairs. As we rose on the elevator, we were welcomed by the busy ambient of San Francisco enveloped by the tall magnificent buildings in surrounding us. We made our way through the wind and crowded crosswalks until we all made our stop at Scala's Bistro. We were taken to our private (perks) dining room only to find out that there was a slight delay from alumni who were unfortunately unable to join us that night. On the bright side, this was quite a positive thing for us in the sense that it created a warm, more intimate and friendly environment among ourselves. Anyhow, before everyone actually arrived, most of us went on a search through the restaurant (which I believe was also part of  a hotel) for the restrooms. After some dead ends and right before finding them though, we came across these four old-fashioned, bright red chairs- of course, the four of us in our cohort agreed that it was the perfect time for a snapshot.


Mingling at its finest: having a pleasant conversation with Tyler.
Once we made it downstairs and back to the dining room, we were surprised to see that there were already guests waiting for us. We saw some familiar faces, like John Tilsch, who interviewed us, as well as new faces like Tyler, an alum who became one of my favorite people from the dinner. Soon after greeting each other, more and more guests arrived and everyone eventually came up with their own groups in which we learned about the alumni. Tyler, who Katherine and I spoke a lot with, told us how he was an Engineering Science and Economics major at Vanderbilt, Class of 2012. He would explain to us how he fell in love with Vanderbilt since it was a lot more like a community. He mentioned how it was small enough to get to see friends ans familiar faces, but large enough to meet new people and how he appreciated the class sizes, the food, sports, tailgating, and the Southern charm that Nashville offers. Having had the experience I did at Brown last summer, I can imagine how Tyler felt as he reminisced his good days at Vandy; putting myself in his shoes, I can only imagine how great it will be this summer. It's only so bittersweet how we will have to wait almost halfway through summer to take on in this experience!

I was feeling it while speaking that night.
Eventually it was time to sit at our tables and speak with the people at our tables. At mine, there was David Sanchez '14, Ms. Kronenberg, Isaac Escamilla '14, Casey Word '09, myself, and my mom. I honestly cannot remember everything we talked about because we went from subject to subject within minutes. We had a speech by David, who was at my table, with the theme: Vanderbilt Was Right for Me and it Can Be for You, Too. Honestly, with everything there is about Vanderbilt, including their strong alumni here in the Bay Area, I have to say that at least for now, the excitement is mounting and I just can't wait to explore as much as I can and see what there is out there. With that in mind, it was my turn for presenting my speech with the theme: Looking Forward to Vanderbilt. Because last year's dinner at Brown was in a huge room and it had a podium, I was sort of hoping for something similar, however, as I mentioned it was a rather small and intimate room of us Vanderbilt enthusiasts. That said, I had a notecard with things I wanted to say, but with no podium, I put it away and tried to take advantage of the warmth of our dinner guests and spoke from the heart. I mentioned how I was looking forward to see in which ways I will be able to grow and venture out of my comfort zone once again. Having had my experience last year, I know the struggles, but feel more than willing to take on the challenges and grow from them. With such a cooperative and smiling crowd, I don't know how I was feeling nervous on the inside. It was truly comforting feeling support  and nods from the audience- from strangers I had just met or only glanced a hi at. It made me wish there was more time to interact and get to know all of the alumni and  make more of these warm connections with.

Once my speech was over, we finally placed our orders. I personally wanted to try the fish dish with the fancy name and pancetta. Who can't appreciate food? I ate the entire fish and enjoyed that delicious bread and olive oil at the table. It was superb. With Casey at our table, it was so funny and interesting to hear her enthusiastic, charismatic sarcasm when it came to her adventures living both in Tennessee and San Francisco from no hot water for three months, to finding the best short ribs that a man sold from the back of his truck, in a parking lot behind a liquor store back in Nashville... As cheesy as it is,  it made this summer that much more anticipated for myself. Furthermore, I was reminded by Ms. Kronenberg the A/C that Vanderbilt would have that Brown didn't and heard about the plethora of options at Vandy's dining commons. Eventually, I learned how Casey chose Vanderbilt for her Masters degree in Finance as it was one of the only schools that tended to her specific needs and because of how personal and amiable the people there were when she arrived for the first time ever for the Admit Weekend. In all, it was a pleasant experience learning about her funny experiences throughout high school as well as the insight from everyone into their jobs as Google workers (David and Isaac) and actuary (Casey) and the typical day in their life.

As the night came to an end, I was saddened to know that that was it for the night. It was time to go, but first we had a group picture. Right after, I had said my goodbyes to many of the people we met, including some I hadn't gotten the chance to meet as much. I still remember how personable and supportive Tyler was since he came back to say goodbye to Katherine and myself, having had one of our most engaging conversations of the night with him. As I mentioned before, it was incredibly warming to feel the support and enthusiasm not only from Tyler, but from everyone who came and provided insight as to their experiences out in Tennessee.

As the dinner ended and the alumni and sponsors left, the group offered the tables' flower centerpieces to our mothers and made our way out into an even colder and windier San Francisco to the BART Station. Making our way literally down the street, we were able to get there a bit quicker, though we had to wait a while for our train home to arrive. The ride was long and crowded. We were all very sleepy. We were enlightened that night, but dreaded the burden of having to blog on a school-night. To our salvation, Don let us know that this blog wasn't due until tonight, hence this blog being posted tonight and not a few ago. Nevertheless, the dinner was a splendid experience and with this to initiate the rest of our time with the ILC, our cohort made it through the night feeling extremely fortunate and excited for the days left to come for us- and that's how it should be, being grateful and appreciative of everything the ILC and life has given us the fortune of having.

I had a great time, getting to know and speak with those I had the chance to.

The Journey Begins

On Tuesday evening, the Vanderbilt cohort had our ILC dinner. The evening began when I arrived at the El Cerrito BART station 15 minutes early, just to be sure I wouldn’t be late. I was the second to arrive, Hummd having already been there for several minutes. The rest of our cohort trickled in, and to our surprise and pleasure, all of us were there before Don arrived! This was definitely a good thing, given how long he’d spent telling us how terrible it would be for everyone if we were late. Once Don arrived, he handed out clipper cards for BART and told us more about what to expect at the dinner. Then we all chatted as we waited for the BART train. 

Waiting for our train at the El Cerrito BART Station
Hummd, Katherine, Arnold, and I are all currently juniors, so naturally the first topic of conversation was how we felt about almost being seniors—and of course about having to deal with the whole overwhelming college application process. (SATs! Essays! Forms! Choices!) When we arrived in San Francisco, we walked several blocks from the BART station to where our restaurant, Scala’s Bistro, was. Unfortunately, my hair was down, and the sharp wind was not being kind to it. There’s something about having hair blown in your face constantly that’s just terrible. 

At the restaurant, before dinner we had the opportunity to chat with all the alumni who were there as we ate hors d’oeuvres. First of all, let me just say that the little steak sliders and the crab balls were the most amazing things I’ve ever had. Wow. My mouth is watering just remembering them. During this time, one of the people I talked to was John Tilsch, who had been one of the Vanderbilt interviewers when I applied to the ILC. I also met Jenny Sklar-Gilbert, who will be the chaperone this summer. She and my mom and I had a (small) conversation in French. 

At dinner, I sat at a table with Don and three alumni—Trevor, Jessica, and Alex. They told me a lot about why not only Vanderbilt is wonderful, but one of the best parts of it is that it’s in Nashville, which they all said was a great city. I also learned that Vanderbilt has full tuition merit scholarships! They made the excellent point that all the top schools will give great educations, so you want to look for the other things they do. They said that one reason they loved Vanderbilt was that it had a really good balance of academics and extracurriculars, that it had pretty much every club you could think of, and if it didn't, you were encouraged to form one yourself.

After dinner, Don organized us all and took several group photos of the cohort and the alumni. At the end of it all, I can only be grateful for the incredible opportunities that the ILC offers me.

Yes We Canderbilt

My mother and I were the first
to arrive at the station.
Tuesday was our first official event as a cohort at Scala's Bistro in Union Square. The Vanderbilt cohort as well as a few other people met promptly at 6:00, where Don briefed us on what was going to happen over the course of the evening, as well as how to use our clipper cards. Before I get into the details of the evening, first and foremost, I have some fashion tips to share. If you're like me and you have long hair, figure out a style that holds all of your hair down tightly. We didn't walk for very long but San Francisco is extremely windy and since my hair was loose it was flying all over the place. By the time we got to Scala's I looked like I had narrowly missed being swept up by a tornado. (This also makes me wonder why Chicago is the one called the "Windy City" when San Francisco should totally be a contender for the title.) My second tip is to avoid wearing heels if at all possible. Yes, you may adore your 4 inch patent leather Mary Janes. Leave them in your cupboard at home...just trust me on this one.

The lobby above Scala's 
Once we arrived at Scala's we met an abundance of Vanderbilt alumni. Apparently Vanderbilt has one of the strongest alumni networks, with over 2400 alums in the Bay Area alone. Before settling down for our meal we got to mingle with the other attendees. I made an effort to speak to the people that I knew I wouldn't be sitting with later in the evening, since I would not have an opportunity to talk to them later. One of these people was Ms.Word. Unlike many of the other alumni present, she had gone to Vanderbilt for graduate school. She was accepted into Vanderbilt's business program, which is also a very male dominated field, and therefore she had a very unique perspective to share. 

After around twenty minutes of introducing myself and hearing about all the different career paths people took after going to Vanderbilt, we found our seats and listened to the speakers. After Ms. Kronenberg welcomed and introduced everybody, David Sanchez, a recent graduate, gave a very comprehensive speech about how "Vanderbilt was right for me, and it can be right for you too." Then Arnold represented our cohort wonderfully with his speech about how much he was looking forward to Vanderbilt. He was very eloquent, and did a great job expressing the gratitude all of us feel towards the program. 

Once the speeches were over, we settled down and I started talking to the alumni I was seated with Nick and Meghan, as well as our chaperone, Ms. Jenny Sklar Gilbert. Everyone was incredibly friendly and I felt very comfortable talking with them. We spent a lot of the evening discussing how important it was to "know people" when applying for a job, since the alumni network for Vanderbilt is so strong. Meghan stressed that it really comes down to how proactive you are, during college as well as after. Nick talked about how supportive the faculty is at Vandy if you take it upon yourself to reach out to them. Since Meghan went to UC Davis after finishing her undergraduate education. I took this chance to ask about how challenging the shift from Tennessee to California was and the merits of a mid-sized school versus a large one. I feel like I was incredibly fortunate to have the table-mates that I did since they were fascinating and very open to staying in contact with me after the dinner in case I had any questions.

As the evening wound down and people started expressing their desire to get home due to commitments the next day, Don gathered all of us for a group photo. As always, getting everyone to keep their eyes open and stop fidgeting was a bit of a struggle, but we eventually managed it! On the way back Gwennie, Katherine and I almost got left behind during a transfer since we didn't know where everyone had gone and were waiting for them before entering the next train. Both of them also found about my rather embarrassing...distrust of the escalators that take you to a lower level (I maintain that it is a totally valid fear since I tripped down one once.) It was great getting to know my cohort better and I can't wait to spend more time with them this summer as we go on this journey together.

School Board Meets Vanderbilt

At Lovonya DeJean Middle School, there was a school board meeting held that featured hundreds of outstanding teachers from De Anza High School that had received recognition along with their military group as well as the Ivy League Connection associates. I wanted to be sure to get there early, so my mom and I left the house an hour earlier than expected to arrive at the school. We came around 5:20 p.m., found a parking spot, and sat in the car until it was nearly 6 p.m. 

Once the time had come, my mom and I approached the building with the school's name on it, mistakenly thinking that it was the correct place to go for the meeting. We discovered that we had parked all the way on the other side of the multi-purpose room, where we needed to get to. I did not really mind the walk much because I was more concentrated on my speech that I would present later. 

When we finally came to the right entrance, I ran into a lot of familiar faces. I joined the clumped group of Ivy League students and reintroduced myself to a few of them. I reunited with my cohort after seeing them the night before, and conveniently finding our wonderful chaperone, Ms. Jenny Sklar Gilbert, who was also looking for us. We confirmed our names, grade, school, and course with her as she handed out our scholarship certificates. Soon after, we found seats to settle in that were enough for the 5 of us, in the front row. 

The official school board meeting began with the pledge of allegiance, followed by two special guest speakers (I am assuming) that are from the Waters family who spoke about their passion for their community. Then, one of the Ivy League Sponsors went up to the podium to introduce the chaperones and their cohort. As the cohorts went up one by one, I sat in my seat nervously, feeling anxious. Although it is truly an honor to be given the chance to present a speech to the school board, I thought that I would not be able to show how the large amount of gratitude and excitement that runs through my cohort and I.

The whole experience was not as bad as I thought it would be, I felt proud to showcase my voice to the supporters and all who make the Ivy League Connection thrive and prosper now as it should in the future. The speaker who came up after us was an upcoming graduate from De Anza High School, who also got accepted to multiple private universities, such as Yale and Harvard. Her speech was one of my favorites because of how incredibly touching the excepts from her personal statement were. 

After all of the speeches were finished, we received complimentary comments from those from the school board. The Ivy League Connection students, sponsors, parents, and chaperones all transitioned to the back of the room to move to the gymnasium for our group picture. When Don was taking a dozen photos of us all together, it really dawned upon me that the group picture was the first of many to reaffirm the connection of the Ivy League Connection. 

Once More, With Feeling

The school board meeting is another one of the milestone events that we have while we are still on the West Coast, and it was my second ILC event in two days. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this meeting, so I was feeling fairly nervous, hence today's post title. I arrived at the meeting about half an hour early since Don warned us that parking would be at a premium due to some of the other presentations that would be occurring that night. 

Before the meeting, I had the chance to mingle with my fellow ILCers from the other programs. I saw a lot of familiar faces since I had met many of them at the blogging tutorial session. Anyway, I think that the diversity in the course selections made are extremely interesting. They range from something that occurs light years away with "Physics of the Stars" to something that addresses something that affects most social interactions we have, with "Women and Leadership."

Before Katherine made her amazing speech, Jenny introduced her.
Once the meeting started, De Anza High School was recognized for all the positive changes that it has made over the last few years. Then, after a brief introduction about what the Ivy League Connection is, it was time for a member of each cohort to present on behalf of the other delegates to the school. 

Katherine did an amazing job presenting to the board. She brought up many good points about our program, and I would like to highlight a few of them. This amazing opportunity that we have this summer is due to an effort undertaken by many people (such as our sponsors), and the endless hours that Madeline Kronenberg and Don put into making our time at our schools the best that it can be. She also expressed a desire to see the Ivy League Connection in other school districts, and I think that that is a great idea. 

After a member of every cohort has spoken, it was time for our group picture. We were divided by height, and I was once again reminded of the fact that I can only be considered tall if I am wearing four inch heels. Considering the fact that Don had to corral 33 restless teenagers as well as their parents and chaperones, we got out of there surprisingly quickly. 

The Connection in Ivy League Connection

This evening has marked itself as yet another milestone for everyone of us in the Ivy League Connection. It has personally been one of the better events I have been a part of. This evening, Lovonya DeJean Middle School held one of its school board meetings- personally, a really great one actually.

School this morning was comprised of working on my final school projects, my exhausting Jazz Dance class, and working on my class's walk-out rally banner. I took a break from things I had to do with a new cooking class program offered at Richmond High. There, the class made some healthy "Ants On a Log" celery sticks and a homemade trail mix. I enjoyed my time there with some of my friends, until I decided I had to get home and work on the rest of my final projects. Not the case. Instead, I came home to my younger sister and niece (elementary school girls) singing the life out of their voices to some song on YouTube- it's how they welcome me, apparently. Anyhow, after a typical greeting from the girls, I headed to my room. I was going to begin my work. It's what I had in mind since school ended. That was not the case. Instead, I crashed.

It has been a hectic day, considering we all arrived home from a charmed dinner last night with the Vanderbilt cohort and alumni at a considerably late and unprecedented time (it's only high school, where's the sleep?!). Given that, after a restful nap, the clock had called for my time to have a bite and get dressed for the school board presentation. I fancied myself up in my light blue dress shirt, my navy blue slacks, black dress shoes, and of course, my jet black tie. I also decided to add the final touch- some cologne. It  was essential.

My mom, who was able to come to the school board meeting with me, fancied herself up as well and we made it to Lovonya. We both expected no parking, as Don had let us know there would be more people than usual this evening. Good for us, we found a spot right in front of the school.

I entered the doors of the Multi-Purpose Room to see that it wasn't quite full in there either, though I saw many of my fellow ILCers mingling amongst themselves already. I had the pleasure of mingling with other ILCers I hadn't met yet as we somehow had continuously changing cycles of forming new groups every few minutes. I introduced myself to Justice, Julie, Thao, Brandom, Chiamaka, Shanti, among other new and familiar faces. It was a pleasantly warm experience feeling the vibe of the community we all built in the short amount of time we had been there so far. Making the moment even better was seeing some great people like my chaperon, Alana, from last year as well as folks from the RYSE Youth Center who I saw as well. Having worked at the RYSE Center for a while, being involved in it through school, and surprisingly finding out that folks from there were at the presentation, it was so encouraging to know I had support during this important day for me. That said, settling down was the hard part. I had to say my temporary goodbyes to everyone as we ILCers received our ILC certificates from our chaperons and proceeded to our seats as the meeting began.

Gotta stay on guard with a camera in
Don's hands at a major milestone in the ILC.
After everyone took their seats and shortly after the school board began the meeting, the event's agenda was addressed. At the beginning, there was a recognition for De Anza High School, which earned it by demonstrating leadership and excellence through their passionate and determined staff- each applause showing our support and admiration for their work. Given, it was actually one of the first things I enjoyed most about this evening. It made me think of excellence in the context of my school, since it's where I  have personally seen positive changes. It made me think of my spark of interest in the field of education and empowerment and inspired me to think along the same lines as De Anza in terms of collective unity and progression as schools and it made me wonder how, besides having a dedicated team, De Anza has come to be where it is today. That being said, it set the mood for the meeting, which had its exceptional moments throughout the rest of the event.

Following De Anza's recognition, there was a brief introduction as to what we, the ILC, are and, one by one, each cohort went up to the board members and community partners of the evening to express our collective gratitude, our excitement, and out ambitions towards this humbling privilege. There were moments where ILC partners were thanked and after each round of applause, we all thought of how much there was to be thankful for. There are so many partners involved in the ILC that make it what it is, and that has been the essence behind the ILC as an organization itself and its success. Thanks to all of the benefactors and sponsors, as I mentioned during my speech during last night's dinner, these people are the ones who make it more possible for students like ourselves to go somewhere in life. Many, many thanks and gratitude towards all of the ILC's benefactors- they make it possible.

Katherine doing justice to our cohort- she did great presenting.
Of course, who can't say Don has played such an instrumental, if not the most hectic role of this entire ILC program? Because we addressed every single contributor of the ILC, the board gave it up for the parents, chaperons, sponsors, generous benefactors, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don. I can't quite recall the order of speeches, but one of them surely struck me the most. It felt like someone was speaking for my [previous] experience as part of the ILC.

I apologetically cannot remember her name, but there was a young lady who spoke on behalf of her personal experience with this program. In essence, it was the fact that she learned something about herself and the world around her. The way in she conveyed her story and conveyed her message was so eloquent, though, that I don't know how I could ever express it the way she did. We both had our challenging experience back East. Coincidentally, this happened at Brown. She took the Women & Leadership course, while I took the Techniques in DNA-Based Biotechnology one (or Biotechnology for short). However, the catch is that we were both in a situation where we felt and were behind in class. For her, it was a lack of vocabulary knowledge and for me it was a lack of understanding the scientific, micro-details encompassed within my class. It was astonishing how in both of our cases, it was during the pinnacle of our class that we had a serious talk with our professors. Through her experience, this ILC alum learned the power of education and being knowledgeable. It made her want to improve and do better- to learn and grow. She learned what subjugation meant and how she felt a victim to subjugation- and she wanted to overcome that. In that same way, it was one of the many times I stayed after class last summer to speak with my professor, Jody, and catch up with the foreign world of biotechnology half of my summer was comprised of. We were working on a mathematical problem set based on a lab we were doing in class and for some reason, I could, but couldn't understand it. It was ironic and it was confusing. I began to complain actually. I envied how most of the students were so ahead of me and it made me feel weak and it made me feel inferior. I was struggling throughout most of my time last summer with the class and tried to convince myself that it was all great, but that aspect was the most deteriorating. Feeling like a failure class after class and lab after lab. It wasn't until that day that Jody had made me realize what I was missing- and it's something I hold dear to me to this day. It's the one thing that made me feel so connected, in the experience, with this ILC alum. That one thing was perseverance. Jody had pointed out that conceptually, I was understanding something that is tough for others to wrap their mind about. "You have a gift," I remember her telling me. As much as I didn't want to accept it, I couldn't help but feeling like I had emotionally collapsed inside after feeling inferior time after time in class. That moment both broke me completely and built me up at the same time. I found a new sense of pushing through. At the moment, I had only recognized that it was a struggle, but it wasn't until after my ILC experience last year and now that I can actually not only recognize, but rejoice in my struggle. It's today that I am able to acknowledge how great of a shift it was for me going from my school to a completely new classroom environment in which everyone was beyond smart and engaged. It's that long, harsh experience in the classroom that taught me my greatest lesson yet on perseverance. It's the single, greatest thing I gained this past summer.

This is where the connection in the Ivy League Connection lies. Since I hadn't opened up about this experience as much last year, I had no idea who else I could relate my experience with, but today realized I shared the exact same feeling and had a nearly identical experience as someone else who went through this program. During my past summer, I also would have never thought that I would have used that experience for something like my personal statement, but I saw how she took the moment and showed how it was so meaningful to her. As a matter of fact, her personal statement on this experience is what granted her acceptance to Yale, Brown, and I believe Harvard, if not more schools. Who would have known how important an experience this program provided would be. I certainly wouldn't have contemplated on it until today.

Before I let this blog continue on forever, I'd like to say that today newly cultivated an inspired and ambitious attitude toward not only the final 11 days of school left or the summer experience itself, but from today on in general. I truly value occasions like these, where you are able to re-center yourself and contemplate on experiences, realize that you share some of the same, harsher ones with others, and solidify that you made one of the best choices you could have ever made in your high school career. It's been really great expressing gratitude towards those who make the ILC possible, and receiving both support and accolade for our efforts as well, but it's also been wonderful meeting fellow ILCers and creating special bonds to carry out from today on. It's been a great day to center myself, reflect on my experiences, and think of how I can continue to grow and do great things (I purposely left that one open-ended). Whatever opportunities may come at me tomorrow, I know that I am capable of fearlessly taking them on. I might experience success, but I might also experience failure instead. Whatever the case, and if anything, failure is a critical step in personal growth. That said, my previous experience was rough- but I'm just so grateful to recognize that my "failure" was quite actually not in vein.
A shot with the guys!

On a positive note, I present to you 2015's fine Ivy League Connection group.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Inspiring Night

This evening was the School Board Presentation. We were required to be there no later than 6:00 (half an hour before the meeting officially started) but Don had warned us that it might be hard to find parking, so I arrived (with my sister Helen and my mom) at 5:45. Even though I participated in ILC last year, I wasn’t there for the School Board meeting because I was at a science fair in Los Angeles, and so today I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. However, there was nothing to worry about. 

Before the meeting started, I saw John Hillyer, my chaperone from last year at UPenn, and I really enjoyed talking to him again and catching up. Also, this board meeting is the only time when all ILCers are together, so it was great to see everyone who would be participating this year. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with Shanti as well before the meeting started. She went to Vanderbilt last year, and told me about her experiences. I hear that the food is wonderful, which is great to hear. 

During the meeting, we sat for about half an hour as the board members took care of other business, then it was our turn. The cohorts were called up and introduced one by one, and from each cohort the chaperone and a student gave a short speech. Everyone was very eloquent, and showed few signs of the nervousness I know I would have felt, had it been I and not Katherine giving the speech for our cohort. 

After the cohorts were all introduced and spoke to the board, the ILCers, chaperones, and parents went to the gym for Don to take a picture. Or should I say, twenty-four pictures. (Yes, I counted.) However, it didn’t take as long as I had expected—after a bit of shifting around to get everyone to fit (and to make sure that the rows were centered, with the same number of people of both sides), Don took all the pictures right after one another, and we were finished in just a few minutes. 

Finally, I bade farewell to my fellow ILCers and cohort members, and went home, looking forward to the next time I would see the people I’ll be spending a month with this summer.

The full group of ILCers, as well as chaperones and parents.

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