Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hola, Chevy's!

The thing about electronic communication is that it doesn't feel tangible - reading someone else's words and replying back to them is nothing compared to talking and laughing with their living, breathing face. So after emailing our cohort and chaperone for the past couple months, it was wonderful to sit down for the first time and "break bread" and talk together.

Can you say olé?
On Thursday night, we headed on over to Chevy's up at Hilltop for that experience. I must admit that I was surprised when we asked the hostess if Tracey had arrived and a completely different person that what I had expected appeared. It turns out that Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole is very familiar with the Punjabi culture and speaks Punjabi! I met her child, an 8-year-old boy who was quite the hilarious and witty one, and sat down. Soon enough, everyone else showed up, and we dug in on our starter platters, full of wonderful Mexican delights, including quesadillas and flautas.

Our conversations throughout the meal were enlightening. We all introduced ourselves and discussed our goals for the summer, and then broke up into separate discussions. I sat close to Liam's family and Tracey, so I mostly conversed with them, though I was able to learn a little bit more about Damian. Tracey comes from the Stockton area and taught up there until about three years ago, when she got the job offer at DeAnza. One fun fact that she shared with us was that she was originally hired to work at my school, El Cerrito High, but the district moved her special education position over to Pinole Valley and then to DeAnza. She's a friendly, talented, remarkable teacher who makes an impact on hundreds of students each day, taking on additional responsibilities to make sure they all have access to a fantastic education. I understand why she was chosen to be a chaperone for the Ivy League Connection.

I found that both me and Liam shared an interest in studying political science in college. We're both interested in how decisions are made and how choices countries make affect each other. We're also both involved in our school's Interact clubs and really care about our communities, so that was another interesting bit I picked up from him. One big overarching theme during the dinner table conversations was education. Hearing a special education teacher's take on life at DeAnza was interesting in itself, but when we started discussing the roots behind behavioral, learning, and communication issues, it got even more fascinating for a person who really cares about education reform. It looks like we'll be loaded with a ton of conversation fodder for the plane ride to Yale!

Toward the end of the meal, Eric mentioned that his sister was now eight years old. Eight. I had remembered when she was born, and the fact that she had grown so much floored me. It made me realize just how far I've come, and how much I've grown. This summer, I'm so excited to grow some more with my cohort and fantastic Teacher of the Year chaperone, Tracey Singh-Poole; learning, discovering, applying, and strategizing together.

Contact Josh by commenting below or by emailing him at

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chevy's Meeting with Cohorts

Setting up a Meet and Greet with my ILCers and their parents was a way for us to meet in  a relaxing environment before we begin the next steps.  As so as I found out who the young men that I would be chaperoning this summer were, I contacted them to set up a meeting with their families.  Being a parent myself I wanted their parents to feel comfortable that I would be supervising their child on this fantastic journey.

On Thursday April 25th we met at Chevy's.  All the young men arrived with their parents to begin the process of getting to know about each other.  I began by telling them about myself and why I choose to participate in the ILC this year.  I then had each of them introduce themselves so that their fellow ILCers and their parents would know something about each of them.  I soon discovered one key item...each of these young men are AWESOME!  These ILCers discussed all of the school and community activities that they are involved in as well as their future goals.  It is impressive of how involved they are in their school, communities, and still have time to be great students.

We had a lot of food and a really good time and this meeting confirmed why I choose to participate in the ILC.  The thing that I left with was how impressed with each of these fine Yalies and how much I am looking forward to spending the time this year chaperoning them on this trip of a lifetime.  I am lucky because I have a wonderful group of young men to work with. Eric, Damian, Josh and Liam I am proud to be chosen as your chaperone for the Yale program this year !

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dinner at Chevys

Last night was filled with good food, insightful conversation, and an all-around good time. Damian, Eric, Josh, and I were finally able to meet Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole, who will be the chaperone on our trip to Yale this summer. We met a Chevys restaurant only about a ten minute drive from my house and very quickly found the table Tracey had reserved for us. I was very happy to finally meet Tracey, seeing as we had exchanged e-mails earlier in the week.

Eventually, everyone arrived and we sat down. Tracey told us who she is, who she works for, where she works, and why she wants to be our supervisor. My comrades and I then introduced ourselves to each other’s parents. At first, like at all meet and greet events, it was a little awkward, but as we started speaking to one another we became engaged in what others were saying. Tracey teaches special education for children with moderate to severe disability, and the way she describes it sounds like a lot of work. There is one kid in her class who just screams all day, and working with him sounds difficult, but rewarding. De Anza High School, where she works, has twenty percent of its students in special education. She receives a lot of support and it sounds like working with those kids is very fulfilling.

We also spoke about the California Standardized Testing, how to get the “bad” kids to take it, and how to get the parents more involved in the children’s education. Tracey is a very educated woman, both book smart and culturally smart. She knows a lot about the Indian Punjabi culture and even knows Punjabi. This allows her to get Indian students who aren’t showing up to classes to come because she knows their culture and their language, making them more open to her. Tracey is also approachable, amiable, and is a very nice person. She is confidant in her ability to supervise us while at Yale, and this fills me with confidence. To say the least, I think my comrades and I will have a great time getting to know her better over the coming months.

I also got a chance to talk to Josh, who was sitting across from me at the dinner table. Josh is a smart, hardworking guy who likes swimming and playing in a band. Unfortunately my other comrades Damian and Eric were across the table, so I didn’t get a chance to talk with them. But there will be plenty of time for that later as we go to other dinners and council chamber meetings.

We did go to Chevys, as mentioned before, and the food was good. Tracey ordered three or four sampler platters topped with flautas, a Latino finger food usually filled with chicken or beef and topped with melted cheese. The cheese on top blended so well with the corn tortilla and the beef chicken inside. It’s as if the flauta melted in your mouth. There were also buffalo chicken wings with this tangy hot sauce that went so well with it. It had sort of a mesquite aftertaste that made irresistible. The other food was ok at best. They had these mini pizza slices that were bland and had a funny texture. There were also quesadillas, a Mexican food where cheese and meat are placed between two tortillas and grilled. The cheese didn’t melt in your mouth like it was supposed to and the meat was a bit dry.

All in all though, I loved it. Getting to know people better is what life’s all. I am happy I met Tracey and I could not think of a better chaperone for my comrades and me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back in the Swing of Things

And so it begins again. After almost eight months of rest, I am blogging again. Well, rest is a slight exaggeration. Really is has been eight months of being a junior, reapplying to the the Ivy League Connection, getting in (as you might guess from my presence on this blog site), and more recently applying to Yale. And let's not forget the reading. After almost a thousand pages of reading (only a fraction of what we will have read by the end of the course) I am more excited than ever to take the Grand Strategies course.

An image that almost made its way unto the blog site
This past Sunday I met with my cohort, and of course Don, for the first time since our interviews. Despite our originally planned location, Starbucks, falling though, the Peet's just down the street worked just fine. After a few hours we finally assembled our blog site, and I for one am quite pleased with the result. We worked together quite well as a team, making decisions together, splitting up the work load, and generally getting along.

I am very excited to be a part of the ILC again, and I expect this time the be just as good, if not better, than last time. I like my cohort, and I cannot wait to get to know them all better. This Thursday we convene again, this time for dinner, to meet the Yale chaperone. Then a few weeks from now we have our fancy dinner in San Francisco, then orientation, and before we know it, we will be off to the East Coast. It is good to be back with the ILC.

To Blog Or Not To Blog

My fellow Grand Strategy cohorts, Don, and I planned to meet at a local Starbucks at 2:30 PM. Don was the first to arrive, I was second, Eric Wilson was third, Liam Guevara was fourth, and Joshua Ko was fifth. When I arrived, Don greeted me and pointed out that there was absolutely no room in Starbucks. After everyone arrived, we all decided to go to the Peet's Coffee across the plaza. Luckily, there was a counter for all five of us to work there. 

This was the first time that we reunited after the interviews in December. I was a bit nervous at how we would all interact. Thankfully, it was not awkward and we all spoke with one another comfortably. The day was quite beautiful, seventy degree weather and not a cloud was seen. We enjoyed some drinks at Peet's Coffee and proceeded to work on our blogs. I was never the one to be interested in computers, so setting up blogs is a bit foreign to me. Fortunately, Don and my cohorts are perfectly capable in that area. We all decided on the banner and background. The area that gave us the most trouble was the margins. It was necessary for us to repeatedly go back and change the width, but in the end, the blog turned out wonderful.
Don and I on our laptops
For inspiration and ideas we went to the older blogs of some Ivy League Connection alumni and to the blogs of current Ivy League Connection cohorts. We pieced and puzzled backgrounds, schemes, colors, font, font colors, banners etc. That was the easy part. One very difficult thing was the Internet connection. Liam and I decided to connect to the Fed Ex wifi unlike everyone else, who bought a drink and received an access code from Peet's. The slow connection made looking up pictures and refreshing the blog a painful snail-paced task. 

After about four hours we finally finished. I was the first cohort to arrive and the last to leave. I was and am extremely pleased with how our blog turned out. I began to show the blog to my parents and friends. I hope that this blog will receive many views.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sun Tzu, So True

"If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it?”
Pericles, from his Funeral Oration

And so describes the Ivy League Connection experience. Four months ago, I found myself sitting in a large science lab with four smiling adults with brand-spanking-new notepads and pens, their heads nodding and noting as I spoke. Little did I know that I would find myself, not two months later, with a bevy of reading material, with handy notepad nearby, to help prepare me for the Grand Strategies course my cohort and I will be taking this summer!

My personality is that of a reflective, introspective, outgoing person. Through that lens, as I read the material throughout the past couple weeks, and as I type these very words, I noticed specific bits of Sun Tzu's The Art of War that revealed themselves to me in reality this weekend as we put together our blog (which you're seeing the fruits of right now) in the caffeine-infused haze of Peet's.

"The first of these factors is moral influence; the second, weather; the third, terrain; the fourth, command; and the fifth, doctrine."

As a cohort, one of our first goals was to put together a blog that would serve as a beacon of Ivy League light to the online community and introduce a life that many prospective college students have never considered. After deciding to meet on what is now this past Sunday, the weather turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a group of teenagers and Don Gosney, our fearless Ivy League Connection head connector, to put that blog together. Unfortunately, we hadn't mapped out the terrain quite as well as we could have, and we found the Starbucks location we had chosen to have no room for the blog session we needed to have. After checking out Yelp, we went across the street to Peet's, which had enough room and beverages for us all, an environment that would work for us!

"Sun Tzu sees the business of a general to consist, in part, of creating changes and of manipulating them to his advantage."

After cups of coffee and minutes staring at our bland-looking blog, Don sat us down and shared ways with us to make an aesthetically-pleasing blog that was easy to read and visit. With prior experience working with Blogger, I was ready to go, and so was the rest of my cohort. We worked with Photoshop to create multiple banners and backgrounds until we were all pleased with the final turnout.

"Generally, management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization."

We ended up splitting up tasks among the cohort to make things go faster. Liam's post goes into further details about our exact individual tasks, but we worked together, debating color schemes, pictures, and fonts that would work the best for our blog.

"If the officers are short-tempered they are exhausted."

After nearly four hours, we found ourselves winding down, finishing up our respective cups of caffeine and chocolate, putting the finishing touches; adding links to our fellow ILC blogs and making sure all the gadgets were in order. After a twenty-minute worrying fit (and then later discovering that the button I was looking for was in front of me the whole time), I happened to be picked up right after. As I leaned back on the leather interior, I sat comfortably and calmly, although my eyes were tired, knowing my cohort and I had had only the first of a series of even more complicated and exciting adventures together.

As the blog continues to be further updated, check back later in the week for my bio, which will give you, the reader, more information on my life, why I am interested in going, and what I hope to get out of the experience. Thanks for reading, and don't hesitate to give me feedback by commenting or emailing me at!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Finer Points of Blogging

Then there came a problem with the Internet at about 5:00 PM. Whoever bought a drink only got Wi-Fi access for an hour. After our one hour limits were up, some of us bought another drink while others used the free Wi-Fi that the FedEx next door had. It was slow, but it was free Internet access. Worth it to Damian, Eric, and me.

We got a lot done and I got to know my cohorts a little bit better. Knowing the basics about blogging and setting up the site now will ensure that we don’t get frustrated while on the East Coast trying to figure out where to include links or how to change the background. Knowledge is power, and I will use this knowledge to make a great blog.

Damian, one of my cohorts, working hard.

Then there came a problem with the Internet at about 5:00 PM. Whoever bought a drink only got Wi-Fi access for an hour. After our one hour limits were up, some of us bought another drink while others used the free Wi-Fi that the FedEx next door had. It was slow, but it was free Internet access. Worth it to Damian, Eric, and me.

We got a lot done and I got to know my cohorts a little bit better. Knowing the basics about blogging and setting up the site now will ensure that we don’t get frustrated while on the East Coast trying to figure out where to include links or how to change the background. Knowledge is power, and I will use this knowledge to make a great blog.

The Four Horsemen

I was planning on titling this blog The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse but worried that someone might get the wrong idea about who and what these four men are all about or even what may lie on store for them when they get to Yale or even what may lie in store for the rest of us once they put into practice what they learn while at Yale.

Way back in December--the 13th to be exact--thew ILC’s Yale panelists read the application essays, reviewed the transcripts and listened intently to the responses to the 10 questions asked of each of the applicants.

As usual, the cadre of applicants were all qualified and made the job of the panelists all the more difficult.

In the end, though, four were selected to be this season’s Yale cohort.
In just two hours from the time of this posting, the four will gather to start setting up this blog site and personalizing it as their own.

In the coming months we should read of their reading of the many thousands of pages of preparatory material, of their appearances before City Councils, their tutorial session where they will learn more about working this blog site, their dinner with sponsors and alums from Yale, their presentation to the School Board and their Orientation session to prepare them for their trip.

Stay tuned for more.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Heavy Reading

At Don’s behest, I want to write about the reading that my cohorts and I have to do before we go to Yale. We have to read over 850 pages by the 21st of April. We have been given a month to read these pages, but this is only the beginning of approximately 4,000 pages that we will have to read by the time we depart for Yale. We have to read such books as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and The History of the Peloponnesian War.

The Art of War was extremely interesting because of the military strategy that Sun Tzu proposes. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “One able to make the enemy come of his own accord does so by offering him some advantage.” This simple yet elegant statement says a lot about Sun Tzu’s military philosophy. He believed that the part before every battle was the most important. He has an entire chapter titled “Strengths and Weaknesses” where he does not only talk about the strength you must have in battle, but how to build and keep your strength before battle. If your army is weak before it goes into battle, then it will be weak during battle. Sun Tzu also mentions gaining strength by holding key vantage points at passes or at rivers. Another quote I like about holding key points is “When a cat is at the rat hole, ten thousand rats dare not come out.”

He warns that weakness comes if soldiers feel contempt and at ease in their camp. This will make them less prepared for battle, and preparation is vital. Sun Tzu also talks about when and where to strike. He says that in the heat of battle, finding a weak spot and pushing to attack it can make the enemy crumble. He also suggests that you strike the mind not with weapons, but with ideas. If you can convince the enemy that your force is superior even if they are not, then you have won the battle before the first man is killed.

Another drier book was The History of the Peloponnesian War. It drones on and on about how the Greeks are in a war with the Peloponnesians, then they make a peace treaty, then they are at war again. The writer describes the battles in the book using a lot of flowery language that draws away from the point he is trying to make. I read an entire page that could have been summed up in one sentence. Not to mention that the monologues that some of the characters give are so long that you forget what he is talking about. There is one obituary that a great Athenian philosopher has to give to praise the fallen soldiers and all their sacrifices for Athens. The man drones on for a whole page about why he has to give speech for the state, what will happen if he doesn’t, and who he was asked by to make the speech. Unnecessary details abound, it blows up simple sentences into mini speeches with the continual use of colons and semicolons.

Thankfully, though, I have finished The History of the Peloponnesian War. I have moved on to a 90 page report by the U.S. federal government made in 2002 about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and what it will do for the nation after it is made. It’s so interesting to read how the U.S. plans to protect our borders, our infrastructure, and our liberties from terrorists. It also describes a few counterterrorist methods, like more thoroughly searching through imports brought on ships and checking what’s inside semi-trucks that pass from Mexico to the U.S. everyday.

Well, that’s just an update on my reading that I have to do. Hopefully the Department of Homeland Security report stays interesting and hopefully they’ll include something on how to get other nations to participate in counterterrorist operations.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tutorial At My School

I woke up at 7:00 AM to attend a tutorial for the Ivy League Connection at my school. I thought to myself, "Great. The last place I want to be on my Saturday morning is at my school." I got ready and left my house knowing that the outcome would far outweigh attending the tutorial in the dusty, musty, depressing, and crumbling computer lab that used to be my geometry classroom. Since the geometry teacher left in the middle of the 2013 school year, the classroom and its computers have been constantly abused by students. I remember when my class took a health survey in there, we immediately became dangerously aware of how filthy and run-down this once lively classroom filled with posters of movies and hope became. What disgusted us even more was our hypothesis that someone had empty their fluids into the hand sanitizer. Then again, all the hand sanitizers at school smell unsanitary, so our teacher told us to pay no mind.

When I got to the school, I parked right outside of the computer lab to save walking distance. When I walked in, I noticed that I was the first student to arrive. I also noticed that the computer lab was a lot cleaner than my previous visit in this classroom. Don later told me that the custodians, who usually hold excellent conversations, cleaned the place. The room was no longer as dusty and sticky as it used to be, but what didn't change was the empty and cold feeling that lingers in the room and the horridly slow and run-down equipment. It wasn't until about ten minutes after my arrival that chaperones began walking into the classroom. Then about five minutes after the chaperones, came the students. 

Before the tutorial began, many people ran into technical difficulties. Half the kids had no idea how to access Blogger and Blogspot was restricted on our computers. Don and one of the chaperones had a little episode in setting up a new Google account and getting access to Blogger. It became increasingly frustrating and I began to space out. Being the only person in the room without a laptop made me a bit self-conscious and I pondered on the idea of owning a laptop. By the time I knew it, Don was ready to lecture. The tutorial began with special tips, tricks, and talismans to ward off "Evil Don." Through out the tutorial Don taught the students the ILC standards of blogging and reasons as to why our blogs must meet the criteria. Throughout the tutorial I was a bit bored. Of course in a cold, smelly, and dejecting classroom, it gets a bit hard to focus especially when the classroom brings back a flood of memories. It took a bit of effort to keep myself interested, but Don's quick quips, snide remarks, and occasional jokes and punchlines made it a bit easier.
Hercules High School. Ironically, I found this picture on the website of my former geometry teacher.
The rest of the tutorial went on in a similar manner. Don teaching us about blogging, the East Coast, loaner items, etc. while inserting little anecdotes and other interesting, humorous, or awkward comments. We had a few quick breaks which I spent either walking slowly to the bathroom, attempting to start a game of Solitaire, or exploring Facebook. There isn't much to do when no one is at school and you're in a room filled with people you've never met with their faces blocked by bulky snail-paced computers. When it was time to scan our personal information, the scanner decided to inconvenience the group even further by not working. Half the tutorial was filled with technical difficulties and frustrations. What would have been a possible hour long tutorial, doubled in length due to electronic errors and irritations.

I didn't feel as if my time at the tutorial was a complete waste, but it was a bit tedious.  I learned little tips and tricks about the East Coast, Adobe Photoshop, blogging, picture taking, and much more. Unfortunately, the most important aspect of the tutorial, scanning the information for our plane tickets, amounted to nothing. Although there was nothing much Don could do, he repeatedly apologized. After I left the tutorial, I ran a few errands, went home, and continued my interrupted slumber.

The Tutorial

When I woke up this morning, I knew that Don Gosney, the man in charge of directing all the students in the ILC, had an informative session planned for us. What I didn't know, however, is how deep Don would dive into each subject. Don, seven of my ILC cohorts, and and I met at Hercules High School for the tutorial. The campus was large but the empty campus had a sense of peace to it. The flowers were in bloom and the sun was shining. I would have preferred to have spent such an afternoon on a walk down and up the hill I live on, but the information I gathered from the tutorial is invaluable.

Everything that I needed to know for making this blog, Don taught me. The justification of the lines of text, putting in an adequate amount of photos to keep the reader interested, and of course, how to make our blogs interesting. I also relearned the skill of checking my work after I'm done typing it. I know it may seem like a little thing but a grammatical error here and a syntax error there can misrepresent you as lazy or apathetic of your work.

There are of course those bloggers that don't care. Don gave us some humorous but true accounts of people failing to capitalize the first word in sentences over and over again, having blatant disregard for the proper spelling of some words, and writing a boring story.

Don also showed us exceptional writers. The one that I want to emulate is Mr. Austin Long. As he recounted his tale in his blog, I felt as if I was actually there with him on the Yale campus. When he described the food, I felt as if I was there eating it with him. The visuals, too, brought his story to life.
Hercules High School Computer Lab
We also learned that pictures are vital. If you write a lot and don’t have pictures to provide something for your readers to look at, they lose interest quickly. Don also showed us a couple of photo editing tricks to get the picture to look how we want it to. I’ll definitely be using this a lot to modify my photos because I get way too much sky when I take a picture.
Hercules High School
Beyond that, Don went over general things like the responsibilities we had to fulfill, like giving speeches and going to events, and mingling with adults. Mingling with other people has always been easy for me, so I think I’ve got that down.

But with the good, there is always the bad. The school district basically cut us out of the sites we needed to get to for Don to show us exactly what we needed to do. When I was trying to log in to this blog site, I was blocked by the Internet. I tried using a proxy website to get around it, but was stopped at each of the sites I tried. I tried getting in through my Gmail account, but couldn’t find it until Don pointed me in the right direction. To express the frustration that I felt when working with a system that was bent on keeping me from reaching my goals would require me to use some words that shouldn’t be exchanged in polite conversation. Not to mention that my ILC cohorts also had problems accessing their accounts using such slow and archaic technology.

We got a lot done today, and I am now more enthusiastic than ever to participate in the Yale Grand Strategies program. I can’t wait to share my story over these next few months. Also, to those reading, if you think that my stories are dry and droning please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Constructive criticism is all I ask for, and in return I will be able to better articulate my experiences so that you, too, can share in my journey.