Thursday, May 21, 2015

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews