Thursday, May 15, 2014

The School Board Presents: The Ivy League Connection

Today the West Contra Costa Unified District presented their School Board Meeting at LaVonya DeJean Midde School in Richmond. It was my first time attending a school board meeting and I wasn't sure what to expect. But to my surprise, I was very interested about how the school board ran the meeting. In truth, this was the first time I saw educational advocates actually discussing about school affairs in such an official manner. It was so different from the regular teacher and administrators conferences that are held in the school library.

One thing that I was really surprised about and admired was that every school board meeting has a guest student speaker, who can take a vote in certain matters and talk to and question some of the cabinet members on the board. I respected the fact that the school board meeting allowed student speakers have the chance to take part in their community and public school system. I believe that it really advocates students to come out of their shells and take part in something great. In addition, I also admired how organized the meeting went and how there was a flow to going from one point to the another.

Vanderbilt Cohorts and Chaperone, Micheal Mannix, showing their
Vanderbilt pride in front of the school board members.
During the Ivy League Connection presentations at the meeting, different schools went up with their chaperone to say a few word about this opportunity. When the Vanderbilt cohorts were called to go up, I was overjoyed to publicly show my pride of being an ILC cohort and to hold the Vanderbilt flag with my fellow cohorts in front of the board panel. As I was listening to each of the student's speeches I realized again how grateful I was to be given this opportunity  to experience something great and how thankful I am to the beneficiaries and sponsors for making that happen.

During the meeting I was excited to see many familiar faces as well as many new ones.  I got a chance to see some of the cohorts from the other schools that I had met previously already, as well as cohorts that I haven't met. I was really happy to have met most of the Ivy League Connection cohorts and I wish to have more opportunities where I can meet them again.

Near the end we took our Ivy League Connection group photo that included all the Ivy League cohorts and their parents. Although the preparation for the photo was a little hectic and troublesome, it was worth it. After the group's photo shoot, my cohorts and I all went outside to receive our certificate by Mr.Mannix. As I was being handed my certificate, two thoughts were on my mind. The first one was how blessed and grateful I was for this opportunity and  the second one was, what color frame I should buy to accompany the certificate that was going on my wall with pride?
Chaperone, Mr.Mannix and the Vanderbilt Cohorts taking pride with their certificates.

Nearly One Hundred

The entire body of the Ivy League Connection met at 6 PM at DeJean Middle School for the West Contra Unified School District Board of Education meeting. The board meets about once or twice every month, and a portion of this meeting was devoted to the Ivy League Connection.

When I came into the "multipurpose room," I found my cohort immediately. Every ILCer and chaperone gathered around, and we were given the procedures for the meeting. First, a few individuals were to speak about the Ivy League Connection. Mr. Ramsey, who co-founded the program, spoke about how far we've come. A few students that were accepted to Ivy League schools also spoke about how the ILC impacted their high school careers.

Next, each cohort was to come up and speak. My cohort came up towards the end, and Mr. Mannix threw in a joke in his speech about our summer plans with the ILC while he could. I enjoy a good sense of humor! Chiamaka spoke next about she will benefit from the ILC, just as every cohort had one ILCer speak right after their chaperone.

Shortly after each cohort presented, every cohort lined up for a group photo, as did the parents of the students. It took longer than expected to line everyone up, and I could easily tell that Don was becoming upset from the effort needed to compose the photo. It's going to be a bit difficult trying to arrange nearly one hundred people! Thankfully, we completed earlier than I expected, and everything went smoothly. We were essentially dismissed after the group photo, though everyone stayed around for at least a few minutes to chat.

Mr. Mannix discussed some short-term plans with us. We are to have a casual cohort meeting sometime in June, after the school year ends, though we're still going to plan that out. We also will have our orientation coming up (July 2!), where we will discuss specific details such as itineraries and places to visit.

The purpose of attending this meeting, as far as I can tell, is to present ourselves to the general public. Unlike the dinners, where we find ourselves listening intently to alumni talking about their experiences, we are the ones that speak about our (prospective) experiences. When I looked around in the middle of the meeting, I saw that the room was packed. A lot of people go to these school board meetings! I'm sure they were interested in seeing what the leaders of the future generation will become.

This year's meeting felt rather different from last year's meeting, even though I had a few moments of deja vu. A part of the difference is that I interact with my cohort this year a lot more than last year, so I could chat with them instead of sitting alone in a crowded room. Additionally, I was much more intently focused on the speakers this year, whereas last year, I was spacing out (even though I have more of a reason to be tired today. I took my last AP test!). I was much more analytic of what the speakers talked about. After having a year with the ILC already, I can decisively say that there is a huge gap between reality and idealistic dreams. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Sense of Community

Being a part of the Ivy League Connection has introduced me to a side of my community I've never seen before. Attending the School Board meeting tonight opened my eyes to the hard work that is being done behind the scenes. I had never been to a School Board meeting before tonight but that is something that I'm going to have to change if I want to play a bigger role in my own education.

I had the honor of representing the Vanderbilt cohorts tonight by giving a short speech in front of the school board members and in front of a camera (eek!). Needless to say, I was very nervous. I tried not to let my apprehensions get the best of me as I spoke about what I'll be doing this summer. My speech included my excitement for my upcoming summer and my plans to give back to my community after my trip to the east coast. The Ivy League Connections has presented me with a unique opportunity that I will spend the rest of my life trying to find the best way to repay them. I know that I will gain unforgettable memories and will forever remember being a part of this organization. 

Being at the school board meetings with all of this year's ILC members brought a sense of community within all of us. I vividly remember a stranger stopping me while the meeting was on hold for the group photo to tell me how proud she was of all of the ILC members for being great representatives for our district. This made me feel so proud of everyone and their accomplishments that led them to get this far into the Ivy League Connections.  

The meeting came to an end for us after we all gathered together for a group photo. I loved the feeling of togetherness I felt as all of the ILC members gathered together to immortalize a moment in their lives that they will hopefully never forget. I know I won't. 

Don's photography skills are impeccable

The Countdown Begins: School Board Meeting

Today I attended the School Board meeting at DeJean Middle School. I had the opportunity to meet the rest of the ILCers and the chaperones. I was able to spend time with Mr. Mannix and the rest of my cohort. We had a great conversation. 

Before the ILCers were introduced, two Ivy League alumni talked about their experiences on the east coast. They both were extremely grateful for the Ivy League Connection because it gave them a chance to explore colleges outside of California. I also enjoyed listening to the students' speeches, and hearing the chaperons say wonderful things about the past summer programs. I could truly connect with all the students' speeches because they shared the same excitement as me. All the students are looking forward to bringing back a great experience and sharing that experience with their peers and community. 

After all the ILCers and the chaperons were introduced, we took a group photo. As Don had warned us before, it was extremely hard to organize the entire group. We had to take about twenty photos. Once the group photo was taken, the Vanderbilt cohort gathered outside to take a final photo with our certificates. 

Overall, the School Board meeting had a fun and exciting atmosphere. I am extremely excited to attend Vanderbilt. I have started the countdown on the calendar for the adventure that waits!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Night of Nights

Tonight was a night full of memories that will never leave me. From the amazing, well-accomplished alumni that I met, to the first class dinner that I had at Scala's Bistro, I have to say that I am even more excited to be heading to Vanderbilt this summer. Of course I was quite apprehensive about the dinner because I wasn't really sure what to expect. Even the countless number of times that Damian Wong, a former ILCer, told me that there was nothing to worry about, did almost nothing in calming my apprehensions. We all met as a group at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station and introduced ourselves which made the trip a little bit less nerve-wracking, even seeing my name spelled correctly strangely helped ease my nervousness.

A rare picture of my name spelled correctly
As the night went along, I learned that there was really nothing to worry about. Throughout the dinner, I had the opportunity to know more about Vanderbilt through the alumni at my table Kathleen Simcoe. She talked about different aspects of Vanderbilt that she fell in love with during her time there and also gave me advice on how to get a full scholarship. As Don would say, "free is good." Mrs. Simcoe now works with kids with autism and says that she completely loves her job. She is fortunate enough to have become what she has always wanted to be. She serves as an inspiration to me as I try to forge my path to being a doctor.

The dinner also consisted of really amazing food. I had Halibut for the first time and it was also an amazing experience being at a five-star restaurant. Just the overall vibe of our room at the restaurant was so hospitable and friendly. Before the dinner was over, Mrs. Simcoe was nice enough to give me her business card and told me to email or call anytime which really made the realize that the 'Connection' part of the Ivy League Connection is what really make this organization special.

Learning more about what Vanderbilt has in store made me even more excited for the experiences I will have with the my cohorts. Also, I am excited to see what I will be able to bring back from the trip to my peers.


Tonight's Vanderbilt alumni with us four! (I was trying not to sneeze when taking these photos.)
It is now the kickoff of the ILC dinner season, as Mrs. Kronenberg said tonight! The ILC had its first social event, and we the Vanderbilt cohort had a formal dinner at Scala's Bistro in San Francisco with ILC staff, Vanderbilt alumni, sponsors, and parents. This marks the start of a busy period for the ILC, and more dinners will be coming up for other cohorts, as will be other events!

We met at the El Cerrito Plaza BART Station at 4:55 PM, though we departed for San Francisco a little earlier than expected because everyone was extremely punctual. As we arrived, we introduced ourselves to each other, and we the students introduced ourselves mainly for the others that did not know us as well yet.

On the BART ride to San Francisco, I sat with Mrs. Kronenberg, and we had a rather deep conversation that started with involvement with the ILC at different schools. We spoke about the current status of schools in the district and how different students want different things from school, and we each shared our viewpoints as a student and as a school board member.

We disembarked at the Powell Street Station, and we began to walk to Union Square. We were rather early, so we had time to spend at Union Square. Most of us just stayed within the group and made conversation.

The circle we formed to chat around!
We left and walked about one block over to Scala's Bistro. I was a bit surprised to see how close it was to Union Square, since I expected it to be a few more blocks over. We met with Peter, who was the first student to participate in this program at its inception! He spoke with us as a group to get to know the cohort a bit more and to give out advice, before we were seated.

I found myself seated in the corner of the room with Jasmine, our parents, and an empty seat (it seemed like there was a slight issue with attendance). Thankfully, an alumnus from another table moved over to sit with us. His name was Adam Spector, and he is the COO of a small startup based in San Francisco! I was certainly very engaged with the conversation we had, and he provided insight into the process of deciding upon a college.

The menu!
We had a bit of a ceremony to start the dinner. Mrs. Kronenberg, a Vanderbilt alumna, Jasmine, and Mr. Ramsey each spoke about the ILC or about Vanderbilt. Considering the circumstances, I thought Jasmine did a good job at executing her speech.

Our meal began with a salad, followed by a choice of halibut, filet mignon, and pork chops. I opted for the filet mignon, which was cooked rare. It was extremely tender and juicy, and I enjoyed it. Garlic bread and peas were served with my filet mignon. I ate rather slowly compared to everyone else at my table, perhaps because I was too focused on the conversation. Thankfully, it was not a problem at all. We had a rich and creamy chocolate cake for dessert.

The dinner went by extremely smoothly. I had an enriching conversation with Adam, and I enjoyed his company greatly. I do feel that there was some unusual seating arrangements, though. We had four ILCers and four alumni, but two ILCers sat with one alumnus while two alumni sat with one ILCer. I would have liked for the distribution to be a little bit more even.

We took pictures before we left (one being the first picture in this blog!). We made our way straight to the BART station from the restaurant, and on the way back I had a conversation with Don. We spoke about the history of the ILC, and it gave me a little more insight on how things have progressed over the years.

Some of us disembarked at different BART stations, but the last of us arrived at El Cerrito Plaza BART Station and we parted ways from there. Tonight's dinner was definitely a success, and there were no major issues that hampered any part of the event.

My Vanderbilt Dinner Experience!

The Vanderbilt Cohorts with the Vanderbilt Alumni
Today I got to experience one of the perks of being an Ivy League Connection cohort and that is being able to go to events, like the dinners. This dinner gave me the opportunity to connect and talk with amazing people. Tonight I was able to get to know some of the big supporters of the  Ivy League Connection as well a few alumni that went to Vanderbilt.

I was very nervous about the dinner. I wasn't sure what to expect from the dinner. It was all very new to me but I was surprised to how comfortable I was conversing with the alumni and supporters. I met two of the alumni, in particular, who gave me great details about the school and its environment. I was in awe about all of the positive feedback about Vanderbilt and will use that knowledge to my advantage. Not only did they give me a better idea of how Vanderbilt was going to be but they gave me great advice about the college and the experience overall

I was so grateful for this opportunity to meet the alumni and supporters. This dinner really made me even more enthusiastic about going to Vanderbilt. I am looking for my summer experience in Vanderbilt and the dinner made me realize how much I want to be there. I hope we have another dinner, where I can meet the alumni and supporters again because I really enjoyed this one.

The Journey to Scalas' Bistro

Today, I attended the Vanderbilt dinner at Scalas’ Bistro in San Francisco. From the time I got to the El Cerrito BART Station to the time I got off, I had an amazing journey. When I got home from school, I quickly got ready and arrived at the BART station. My mother and I were the first ones there, so we waited as everyone else slowly came pouring in. We were introduced to Mr. Ramsey, Mr. Mannix, and Ms. Kronenberg. Since everyone had arrived on time, we got a head-start and arrived in San Francisco early. During the BART ride, I was able to talk with Shanti’s sister about what steps I should take in college.

Because we had arrived early, we waited around in San Francisco. Mr. Mannix and Ms. Kronenberg gave us a description of Nashville, Tennessee along with the other universities that we will be visiting. Mr. Mannix also warned us that we will be doing a lot of walking on the trip- which I am looking forward to.

Around 5:00 PM, we walked to the restaurant. Before being seated we were introduced to Peter, who was the very first ILCER. He gave us really useful advice about applying to college. I learned that it is best to focus your personal statement on one topic rather than trying to include everything. He also told us to start our college application early, especially the letter of recommendations.

Once we were seated Ms. Kronenberg introduced the Vanderbilt alumni and the sponsors for our trip. I was seated next to Adam. I had a great time learning about his college experience at Vanderbilt. After the introductions, I had to give to a speech on what I hoped to bring back from my trip. I was a bit nervous at first. However, it  was not that bad after all because I had a very friendly audience. I did learn, though, that I need to speak up.
This is me giving a speech.
I was more relaxed after my speech, and I had a very exciting conversation with Adam. He told us how he fell in love with Vanderbilt when he first saw it. We also talked about what colleges and careers I am interested in pursuing. I found out that Vanderbilt has a really great medical program, which I am interested in learning more about. While we were having this conversation, we were served a delicious dinner along with dessert.

At the end we took a group photo with the alumni, said goodbye, and headed towards the El Cerrito BART station. I truly enjoyed the dinner and I am looking forward to meeting everyone again at the School Board meeting. The alumni were extremely nice and they had really positive comments to make about Vanderbilt. They increased my excitement for the trip, and I can’t wait!