Monday, May 27, 2013

A Refresher Course

Due to SATs, school and events I missed both of the previous chances to attend the ILC Tutorial session. Although, judging from Don's stories and the blogs of other ILCers, that may not have been a bad thing. Luckily, this is my second year with the ILC, so the tutorial was more of a review than a learning session.

Don was kind enough to schedule a separate tutorial session just for me. He arrived at my house at around 12:00 PM on Sunday and we worked hard until 2:30. We reviewed the intricacies of the blogging procedure (many of which I had forgotten), things I should pack for my trip East, ILC loaner items, and how to use Photoshop. I was not looking forward to having to do the tutorial, but it actually ended up being very helpful and relatively enjoyable.

With the tutorial and this blog done I am slowly checking items off my list of things to do before summer. Unfortunately that list is still very long and I need to get back to my Calculus problems, physics worksheets, and English essays...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pinole Council Meeting

Well, tonight was probably the shortest Ivy League Connection event I’ve been to ever since I was accepted in December. We were in and out in only 2 hours. This does not, however, diminish from the responsibility that the twelve of us ILCers have to both our home town of Pinole, California, and to our community. Myself and eleven others had the honor of gracing the Pinole City Council chambers and tell the Council Members, who include such members as Roy Swearingen and Mayor Debbie Long, about the Ivy League Connection’s mission and ultimate goal.

Don gave a good and concise speech on what the Ivy League Connection stands for and how this is a unique chance to show more students in the West Contra Costa Unified School District that there are great colleges outside of California that they should shoot for. He then went on to say that this is the only program of its kind in the world and that all of those chosen for the Ivy League Connection are some of the best and brightest.

Here we are before the meeting.

Then, one at a time, we were called up as a cohort and every person in the group introduced themselves, what elementary and middle schools they went to, and what program they will be attending this summer and at what university. Unfortunately for Josh Gonzales, Bryan Moran, and me, we were the only ones there to represent our comrades. I know that extra pressure made me feel a bit more nervous but if it affected Bryan and Josh, they didn’t show it. They were cool, calm, and gave excellent deliveries. Bryan spoke the truth about working hard while we are on the East Coast and Josh really made us feel important, calling us ambassadors of the District and Pinole. 

Then, Loan Chung, Rochelle Yee, and Michael Vroom went up and knocked it out of the park, so to speak. They were eloquent and represented the gems that we have in Pinole that have a knack for giving great orations. Compared to such powerful words and dead on executions, I felt as if I was underprepared. But last week at the School Board meeting, it prepared me more for giving a speech. I of course thanked Don and the Pinole City Council, and told them that I plan on having a unique and rewarding time while at Yale and I will of course make memories that will last a lifetime. A short speech, but I felt that I did well at representing my comrades and their abilities as well. 

We then gathered for a picture with the Pinole Council. Don put his many years of photography experience to use and arranged us that he got all of our best sides.

I only hope that we Pinole members of the Ivy League Connection make the Council and the town proud. We are representing a small town in the Bay Area that probably no one has ever heard of, and yet we will show that we can compete against those kids who have rich parents. Who had a head start in life. Who had the opportunities handed to them that we have had to fight for. Those who will meet us at Cornell, Penn, Vanderbilt, Brown, Colombia, and Yale will remember the small town that helped nurture twelve young adults to compete against the nation’s privileged. We will show that we have the same grit and work ethic that will take us far. Just as far as the privileged kids’ parents. America is all about opportunity and having more than our parents had. Twelve kids from Pinole will do just that.

Here we are with the council members

Friday, May 17, 2013

The AP Tests, The Yale, And The School Board

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 was everything but normal. It was euphoric, it was depressing, it was ire, it was annoying, and most importantly, it was important. Words cannot explain how hectic and bipolar my day seem, but I have plenty of words, so I will attempt to explain just how insane the day was.

My day began as an abnormal Wednesday. It was near freezing, though it was spring. I woke up at 7:20 AM, though on Wednesdays I wake up at 8:15 AM. I'm normally an all around energetic person, no matter what part of the day, though I felt like I was half way to death. The reason for my different mood was because this day; this hectic day, I was to take the AP U.S. History exam. History has never been my strong subject, but nevertheless I got up, got ready, and got to school. Since by law I am not allowed to speak of the material on the exam I will say this -- this test was absolutely horrible. It wasn't just the test itself, but also the atmosphere, the length of the test, and the people supervising the test. Many of my fellow students and I went in to take the test knowing very little, and I believe many of us came out knowing that we knew less of what we originally thought we knew. The test was a grueling four hours, there was nothing but thinking, analyzing, and remembering. The people who were conducting the test continuously ran in and out of the classrooms, had conversations on their walkie talkies and phones, and constantly switched shifts, leaving the new conductors confused and the test takers annoyed and frustrated. After the test, some strange force shoved me to French class, though I really should have gone home because my brain refused to function properly after the difficult test. After French I decided to leave school and find some food. Siri ended up taking me to a nearby Thai restaurant, where I met my mother and had a little lunch date. After my delicious meal of Pad Thai and Thai iced tea, I went to my car. The second I ignited my engine I received a phone call. I whipped out my phone wondering who it could be.

"Hello Damian? This is Don Gosney. I thought you would like to know that Yale just contacted me and has accepted all four of you!"
"OH MY GOD! Are you serious?!"
"Yes, thought you'd like to know. Though I don't think they were pleased with the e-mail I sent them."
"Thank you SO much Don! Bye!"

This is where the euphoria kicks in. I was elated. I was awestruck. I couldn't believe it. After months of being put on the waiting list for the Young Yale Global Scholars Programs, I was finally accepted. I stepped out of my car looking for my mom. I just had to tell her. She was halfway out of the parking lot and I proceeded to flail my arms like a stranded man on an island who has just seen a ship. She drove up to me and I told her that Yale has just accepted me. She was happy and shocked and would meet me back at home. I went home and I was more jolly than Saint Nick. I was finally accepted into the program. The next few moments were all a blur, but after all the testing and screaming I did, I was exhausted. I decided to take a nap until 5:00 PM.
As you can see our flag is facing the correct way and Liam is about to give his speech.
When I woke, I immediately started getting ready for the School Board meeting. After the same old routine of choosing a blazer, a tie, a shirt etc. I was ready to head out with my dad. I had already told him via cellphone that my fellow cohorts and I will be going to study Grand Strategy at Yale this summer. With the help of my trusty iPhone GPS, we made it to Lavonya Dejean Middle School. I walked in and talked to my cohorts, my chaperone, and my classmates. Then we were instructed to sit down. Everyone sat with their cohorts and we listened to some worries and concerns of a people in the area. Then it was time for the Ivy League Connection to have the spotlight. All the chaperones and groups went up one at a time. After the chaperone gave their speech, a member of the cohort spoke to the board expressing their gratitude for the Ivy League Connection and what they hope to achieve, accomplish, and bring back. The Yale group was the last to go.  We lined right next to the podium and after a little fumbling around we held up the Yale flag. First we held it upside-down, then we flipped it up only to realize that the flag was now backwards, and finally after flipping it around, we had our flag ready. Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole gave her speech and handed the podium to our chosen speaker, Liam Guevara. Liam did a fine job with his speech. I distinctly remember speaking about how he'd like to teach illiterate children in his community how to read. After his speech, Ms. Tracey had us go up to the podium and introduce ourselves. After the Yale group, the sponsors were told to stand up and were given a round of applause. Two of them went up to speak and again were thanked by the board and the audience. Ms. Kronenberg spoke of all the hours and hard work put into the wonderful Ivy League Connection and Mr. Ramsey spoke about giving back. Finally, it was time to take the group photo. Don positioned the students, chaperones, and parents and took 21 photos so that he wouldn't have to dilly dally in photoshop for too long. After the board meeting, I couldn't even go home! I had to go to practice. By the end of the day I was beyond exhausted, but to me it will all be worth it. To be able to study at Yale. To visit Wesleyan, Brown, and Harvard. I don't think I'd miss this opportunity for the world. 

The Ivy League Connection is one of a kind and very kind. Thank you to the sponsors, the chaperones, and to everyone who is connected to the Ivy League Connection. Words aren't enough to explain my gratitude.
The entire Ivy League Connection and its chaperones and parents.

School Board, but Never Bored

There's this imaginary clock that runs in my head. It ticks and tocks and mirrors the beat of my heart, whirring softly as I run from place to place. The seemingly never ending cycle of something finally took some kind of beating as I finished the last AP test of the year on Wednesday, May 15. The clock winded down until it was nothing more than a slight whisper. And of course, what better way to celebrate the ending of adrenaline-induced stress than by celebrating...

Oh, of course. It'd probably be better to build up to there. When I got home from school that day, I turned my phone back on (after keeping it off during the test) and was surprised to find that I had received a voicemail from Don Gosney. The only thing I could think about was Yale. "I wanted to give this message know, person to person..." the message started out. "Oh, snapple," I thought to myself, but then the message went straight into saying that "they're going to take all four of you in." And with that, the muscles in my face managed to twitch up into some form of a big grin, although I had to quickly adjust it so that grin wouldn't look too creepy.

Four hours later, my mom and I arrived at Dejean Middle School in Richmond, CA to attend a WCCUSD (West Contra Costa Unified School District) School Board meeting, where we'd be introduced and congratulated as this year's members of the Ivy League Connection. It already planned to be a more poignant evening thanks to the day's earlier terrific news. After getting there, I met up with the rest of my cohort and shot the breeze, talking about the AP tests, trip to Yale, college tour, and a whole gambit of random topics. Eventually, we took our seats and sat down as the board came back after their closed session.

After a rousing Pledge of Allegiance, the meeting kicked off with some rousing public comments over the changing of the guard at Gompers from the district to the county. A lawyer team brought up their plaintiff's case during the comment period, so of course, lively discussion between the board and the lawyers followed. After the board refused to back down, the pair of attorneys walked out, in step, their briefcases moving in tandem with each other. It was quite the way to start off.

However, soon enough, we made it to the ILC presentation, and cohort by cohort was introduced by their chaperone and speaker. After Tracey's short introduction, Liam took the podium for us and did a fantastic job, expressing his deep gratitude for what the Ivy League Connection is going to do for us this summer and for the rest of our lives. In fact, all the speakers that went up did incredibly well, speaking eloquently and expressively. The ILC program closed out with grateful thanks toward the benefactors and leaders of the program & congratulatory notes from all of the board members. The group photo ended up only taking twenty minutes to set everybody up - and then bright, loud flashes of light repeated over and over again as Don told us to "sit still" and "stop blinking." As soon as it was over, my mom and I rushed back to the car, headed off to a swim banquet. The clock ticked in my head, but I managed to keep it in the back of my head, quietly as the hands moved.

To close, here's what I thought about last night put in Public Comment form:

To the Board of Education, to the benefactors of the Ivy League Connection, and to the community of the WCCUSD: I am honored and privileged to stand before you today as a member of the Ivy League Connection. Thirty eight of us stand here, holding our flags of the Ivies and throwing up smile after smile. How did we get here? We didn't grow up in a community of the very wealthy. Our district is thought of as the place with the crime and grime and no time. The money that goes toward education here is certainly not that of other areas. And yet, we hold these flags, and we speak to you today because of you. The very reason we were able to interview with the best of our abilities and think critically is because of the people in our lives that brought us up to be those quick, critical thinkers. In a community riddled with stereotypes that people hold from far away, you hold us close as we learn from you. 

Mr. Ramsey often talks about the idea of giving back, the fact that that idea is something that just...must be done. When I look back and see what the community has already done for me, teaching, nurturing, guiding me through my life, even before I entered into the ILC, how can I not want to repay all of you? Your generosity of time and talents means so much to me and everyone else here, and I thank you for all of your service to the students and community of the WCCUSD.

When I go to Yale this summer, people will ask where I'm from, and I'll tell them that I'm not simply next to the Golden Gate Bridge or "that hippie town Berkeley." I am a proud citizen and member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. We fought tooth and nail to get to where we are. We read till our eyes hurt and spoke till our mouths were dry to compete. The fact of the matter is that there are other places where other students are given more tutoring, more education, more money...but none of that matters. The tenacity, perseverance, and strength that this district has causes all of us to invest not only in ourselves, but in each other. 

When I get back, I want to give back. I want to attempt to give even a fraction of the time some of you put into this community. I want to show people what's out there, what people can accomplish, and how to dream and succeed.

So thank you, Board, for your support of us - your smiles are infectious. Benefactors, thank you for believing in this community. Don, thank you for your tireless efforts to get us to work hard and achieve great things. And community, thank you for standing behind us proudly. We are the Ivy League Connection - proud ambassadors of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. 

Contact Josh by commenting below or by emailing him at

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More than Just a Board Meeting

Last night was a night filled with praises, thanks, and powerful speeches. Let’s see, where to start, where to start? Well, why not at the beginning. While in the middle of class, I received a phone call from Don. Unfortunately, I had to take it at a later time because my teacher would kill me if she saw me on my phone. I waited until after class, gave Don a call, and he gave me the best news I’d heard in the past two weeks: My comrades and I were officially going to Yale. I was walking in the clouds for the next few hours, to say the least, and am so ecstatic that I will be going. After that, I went on home and got ready. My preparation time was quick before myself and my parents departed for Lovonya DeJean Junior High in Richmond. It’s only a twenty minute drive from my house and looks quite nice. The buildings are relatively new and free of graffiti that plagues most of the other junior highs in our area. When Don Gosney told us that the board meeting was going to be held in a junior high, I immediately thought, “Why isn’t the board meeting going to be held in city hall?” I am very naïve and soon learned that Don needed more open space to bunch us up for a huge group photo.

In any event, Don told us to get there by 6:00 PM and that is when most people, including me, starting filtering in. The meeting itself wouldn’t begin until 6:30, but Don knows that with some people you got to tell them that an event starts half  an hour before it really does so that they get there on time. While waiting for the meeting to start I met up with an old friend of mine, Mr. Thomas Johnson. He and I used to play flute back in Pinole Junior High and it was great to see him again and get the opportunity to participate in such a magnificent program as the Ivy League Connection. He will be attending Vanderbilt this summer, the Ivy League of the South. I wish him luck in his endeavors. In addition, I got to talk more with Mr. Malachi Gonzales, another friend of mine from Pinole Junior High. He’s still the cool character I remember him to be. He told me how he will be studying macroeconomics at Brown and the excitement he expressed for getting the chance to visit the East coast. I also talked with a few other ILC’ers and got to know my comrades better. I wish them luck on the advanced placement testing.

Then at 6:30, we were all called to sit down and begin the board meeting. Role was called, the agenda was amended slightly, and a case was brought before the school board. The case was about how the school board should keep a vital program for underprivileged children open. The three speakers had such fervor and tenacity in their speeches that even I, who knew only what they had told me about the program, felt as if it was imperative to keep it open. I can only hope that my speech giving skills will one day be that good.

After the board made its decision on the program, the Ivy League Connection was introduced. It felt as though we were the highlight of the evening, what everyone had been waiting for. The man who introduced us was an eloquent speaker and gave the ILC’ers, the board, and the benefactors such great praise. He went on to thank the board, and then the first group went up. If my memory serves me, I do believe Mr. Simon Cohen went up first to talk about Columbia University. He set a tone of professionalism for the rest of the evening that made me feel as though my speech was going to be no good. I admit that I did my best to mimic the speed of his speech and timber in his voice to sound more professional. I only hope that I did as well as him. One by one, each cohort went up: Brown, Cornell, Penn, Vanderbilt. Yale was last. At first, I thought that they were saving best for last. But as each troop approached the podium and Ms. Michelle Phung, Ms. Audrey Ehi Webb, Ms. Crystal Tse, and Ms. Kimberly De Dios, spoke on behalf of their cohorts, I felt great pressure to follow up such good speeches. Then, the Yale troop was called up. Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole introduced us all and Don got some good pictures of us. Then it came time for my speech. I thanked the board, told them why I am proud to be part of the Ivy League Connection, and what I will bring back to my community and my school. I felt I did okay compared to the other very well planned speeches. We were then walked off stage and given a certificate. I felt a certain relief on no longer having to give my speech, and yet I felt I did well enough that I can do this again if I am requested too.

Then the main benefactors were brought up, thanked, and also given a certificate for all of their hard work. I spoke with Mr. Dave Olsen and thanked him in person. He told me that getting up there and being thanked felt unnecessary and that we, the ILC’ers, deserve more credit. As humble as Mr. Olsen is, I thank him and all the benefactors. Their contributions turn dreams into reality. We then wrapped up the night with inspiring speeches by Ms. Madeline Kronenberg and Mr. Charles Ramsey. If anyone had a shred of doubt that the Ivy League Connection has sent people and changed them not only for self-benefit but for benefitting the community, then they have been disproven. Mr. Ramsey even went on to say that we were the ambassadors of the West Contra Costa Unified School District and that we are the crème of the crop. Thank you Mr. Ramsey, we will not disappoint you.

Later, Don took a picture of all of the people in the Ivy League Connection and their parents, and even managed to squeeze in the chaperones. We finished off the night by bidding farewell to everyone and hoping that they are successful in their struggle while on the East Coast. I feel honored to be part of the Ivy League Connection, and I will not let them down. 
All the ILC'ers, parents, and chaperones.

Can it be true?? We are Yale bound??

Who can that be? Calling me during a staff collaboration? Doesn't this person realize my principal does not like distractions?  I decided this call must be important and stepped out of the room.  When I answered the phone the last thing I expected to hear was Don's voice. "Tracey I just thought you would want to know but I just got word your cohort was accepted to Yale”.  

Wow!!! I could not imagine what these four young men were feeling right now.  To know that they had finally been accepted and that their summer journey would begin had to be truly amazing.  It couldn't have been any more fitting of a day as we were getting ready to go before the WCCUSD school board to be presented as the Yale ILCers and it would have been a little less excited if we were still waiting to know if they were truly going to have this opportunity this year.  

After having way too many meetings at school, I began my journey to DeJean Middle School to attend and be part of the School Board meeting and present to the Board my cohort.  
Upon arrival we all hooked up and talked about the mood of hearing today’s news.  We talked about the colleges they would visit before their program (Harvard, Brown and Wesleyan) and what we will do for the first few days before they would go into the hall of Yale.  

My cohort is excited despite knowing how much work is ahead of them, they have taken on the challenge and are ready to show the folks at Yale that they were worth every bit of their admittance into the program this summer.  

Being at the meeting tonight and seeing so many bright and motivated students makes me both proud and optimistic.  I am proud that I have the opportunity to work in a district that produces a fine group of young men and women with such bright futures.  But most of all I am optimistic that each and every one of these young men and women will make a difference in not only our world but their community.  As we continue forward we have so much to do but we accept the challenge with great pride.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Our Night With the School Board

Today was a wonderful day, although it did not begin as such. It started with the AP United States History Exam which I felt, despite attending a review course over the past couple weeks, unprepared for. At the end, however, I took a deep breath and realized that  I actually felt pretty good about it. And so concluded my AP testing experience for junior year, a huge load off my plate.

When I turned my phone back on after school (it was still off from the AP test) I had a missed call and voice mail from Don Gosney. My first though was "Uh oh...What did I do wrong?" The initial tone of the message did nothing to help; Don's opening (with an ominous tone) was "We just heard from Yale. Sorry I could't give you this message person-to-person, but I thought you would want to hear it anyway." So of course I assume he is about to tell me that I did not get in. Luckily, this was not the case. All four of us were admitted to the program, which I am pleased about. I would hate to leave any of the other young men in my cohort behind and would hate even more to be left behind myself. I finally got the learn the colleges we are visiting and was pleased to see that they are all ones I have not visited before. We are visiting Harvard University, Brown University, and Wesleyan University. I am excited for the chance to see a whole new batch of schools. In my two years with the ILC I will have visited all the schools except for Dartmouth.

The sight of the WCCUSD School Board Meetings

The majority of my afternoon and evening was taken up by the school board meeting where the Ivy League Connection members are presented to the community. It began with standard school board proceedings which, gave me and my fellow ILCers a chance to see how the leadership of the district that is sending us to the East Coast operates. While admittedly not the most interesting event in the world, it was an educational experience that I was happy to be a part of. The Ivy League Connection was the last thing on the list and took up the greatest amount of time. Every cohort was introduced individually, with the chaperone and one member of the group giving a brief speech. Everyone had something a little different to say and I thought all the speakers did an excellent job of not only communicating an important message, but also doing it with confidence and authority. Representatives for many of the sponsoring organizations game forward and it was great to put a name and a face to the people who contributed so much to the students in our community. Finally the "Three Pillars of the ILC" (as I heard them called today) each gave speeches. It is clear that a lot has been given to us, but it does not come for free. We are expected to represent our district to the best of our ability and bring back what we learned and use it to help not only ourselves, but also our community members. After a massive group photo taken by Don it was time to go home. The countdown until summer and my trip to Yale is almost complete and I get more excited as time goes on. I cannot wait to finally start the program. We should receive our official reading lists soon, so we can get started on the real work.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We Speak, We Dine, We Learn Things.

There are certain days that are not normal days. The day explodes with hyperbole and blown-up feelings and events that spin wildly out of their comfortable, neutral orbit. They're the extreme days that cause extreme reactions, and Wednesday, May 8, was certainly one of those days. A hot meal is the incentive to look forward after a moderately tough day. I was blessed to have the Yale dinner at Kuleto's to look forward after a four hour intense, long, difficult AP Calculus AB exam (your typical extreme day). The dinner was a great event for everyone that attended and was excellent in its social interaction, dining, information, and program.

Over the BART ride over, I was able to talk to Damian, which was great because I got to know him a little better, as well as Genevieve, a senior at El Cerrito High who's Yale bound come this fall! I was also able to sit down next to Tracey, our Yale chaperone, and catch up on what was going on with her and the Yale program. It was from her that I found out that the district had won an effort to use the funds from the bonds in Measure E that we passed last November. There was more to celebrate besides the creation of this blog!

Kuleto's was only a couple blocks away from the Powell Street BART station, so we all made it there relatively early. The private room where our dinner was held was very intimate, but it felt very elegant. During drinks, I met Peter Hanley, a school board member from San Mateo, as well as Ivy League Connection interviewer. Hailing from the Burmington shipyards up near Seattle, Mr. Hanley also runs an education reform organization that aims to give parents the choice to decide where to send their child for school. As he said, "We already get to select what grocery store we go to, where we get our haircuts...why shouldn't we be able to select our school?"

Sitting down with my mom, we introduced ourselves to Andrew Gao, a Yalie, class of 2011, who was working in the tech industry, literally a block away. Sophia Lee and Ning Liang also joined our table, two other intelligent, engaging Yalies (class of 2011 and 2009, respectively) who worked nearby in investments and analytics. They came from diverse backgrounds; Sophia was originally from Kansas and raised in Texas, while Ning was from Seattle (That Seattle theme came up a couple more times during the night, I met two other people from there!) While I only had a chance to really talk to Andrew toward the beginning of the dinner, I can say without a doubt that all three of them were articulate, charming, and well-mannered, engaging in high levels of discourse. By that, I don't mean "oh, gee, they use big words." They have a wide grasp of the English language and yet weren't pretentious about it. That's a combination that should take them even farther in life from where they are now. We talked about a dearth of topics, from Suzy Lee Weiss to snowboarding to jazz to toilet paper! Suffice it to say, I was privileged to sit at a table with such interesting people.

The program began during the conclusion of the first course (don't worry, an entire paragraph devoted to food follows this one) and started with everyone introducing themselves, from the Yale alums to the ILC Yalies for 2013 to the donors. Bill Lindsay, a friend of the district and a Yale alum himself ('78) shared his remembrances and impressions of Yale. For me, my favorite moment came when he started talking about when he felt that he was really "at college." "I got out of the bus with my friends, and the snow was falling down on a cold, lamplit street at night. We threw the freshly packed snow at each other and that was the moment." Eric took the floor to express his appreciation for everyone there, and as usual, it was a very charming and heartfelt speech. Charles Ramsey closed the program by discussing the struggles we face as a district. The WCCUSD is stereotyped as the district not to go to, with people always focusing on its problems, but there's so many bright spots that people don't know about - and the Ivy League Connection is helping to change that. However, just being intelligent or having talent is not enough. As Mr. Ramsey explained further, "that knowledge needs to be utilized into helping others." No one believed our district could take on the state - and the State Superintendent of Education. But we did - and we won, the same day as the dinner. There was so much more to celebrate besides a great meal and an upcoming life-changing class.

The food, overall, had a lot of great flavor. Appetizers included lots of bruschetta-inspired samplers and romaine salads, which are always delicious, and the filet mignon was very tender, the butter melting well with the meat and vegetables in your mouth. The callebaut cake was very smooth, combining effortlessly with the vanilla bean gelato. I thought the food had a lot of pop and was certainly good quality food, but I could find food of equal quality at a better value somewhere else if I were to eat there again.

The evening ended with more photos and conversations, including talking to Mr. James Lu about
meeting up with his daughter for a little pre-Yale get-together. Gosh, those Bay Area kids are just so talented. As we said our goodbyes and headed out back into the blurry San Francisco night (yeah, it would've been clearer if my glasses were on), I walked slowly, past the illuminated storefronts, through the busy crosswalks, and down the escalator, heading back home; stocked up on experiences, memories, and remembrances.

I took a moment to really think about the night's events when I got home, but soon after, it was back to blogging and the daily school grind, practicing for AP tests and finishing the work I needed to complete. It may seem to torture to many people that aren't me, running from place to place and working day after day. But I don't think of it as torture - I think of it as Yale prep.

Readers, you've been warned - the program legendary for its academic achievements, as well as the extremely long days of work, will be covered entirely right here. Last night was an example of an achievement for not only the cohort, but the partnership between the West Contra Costa Unified School District and Yale University, after long periods of hard work made by all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have another AP test to study for.

Contact Josh by commenting below or by emailing him at

Kuleto's: A Dinner to Remember

Last night my cohorts and I had dinner at Kuleto’s, a restaurant known in the Bay Area for its excellent food and high class clientele. But we weren’t there just for a good meal: my comrades and I were on a mission. We knew that we were going to meet Yale alumni and get a chance to pick their brains for any information that will make our summer stay in Yale more enjoyable, what to expect, and how to prepare ourselves. We also knew that the men and women who fund the Ivy League Connection would be there and that it was expected that we thank them for their contributions. Finally, we knew that we were being given an awesome responsibility at this dinner. We not only represent our respective schools, but we represent the next generation of Ivy League Connection scholars. With Mr. James C. Lu there, we had to show that our generation was going to be the best of the best. And what better way to do that than with a dinner? But before I go on and tell the highlights of last night, allow me to tell you of the hectic time I had preparing earlier that afternoon.
Mr. James Lu on the left and me on the right

I know that anyone reading this probably wants me to get directly to the dinner, but preparation with the Ivy League Connection is just as important as the events themselves. Following a long day at school, from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, the last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere. Nevertheless I had a duty to fulfill. My mom showed up with my suit at my school, I ran into the locker room, made a quick change, and I was ready to go. I made sure my suit matched the dress code, my camera had enough memory for pictures, and that I had spare batteries, just in case. It was also vital that I work on my introduction. People don’t want to hear your whole life story, just a quick blurb about who you are and what you represent. That is one of the more important things that I learned from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone. I bolted out of the locker room at 4:20 and hopped in my mom’s car and she drove us to a BART station. BART is our local train station that takes us all over the Bay Area, for those of you reading who are unfamiliar with the means of transportation in the Bay. I was tense that we were going to be late, but lo and behold there was little traffic and we arrived twenty minutes early. Well, it’s better to be early than late. We waited a while, caught a train ride to San Francisco, and walked to Kuleto’s. As we approached Kuleto’s we saw such extravagant stores like Sephora and Nordstrom in a busy upper class shopping district.

Our party waiting for the train.
Then we entered Kuleto’s, an Italian restaurant that had a warm, delicious smell in the air as you entered. We walked down a piece to our private room and along the way saw people dressed to the nines. This looked like the kind of restaurant that you have to call three months in advance to get a table. The room that the Ivy League Connection had leased for the evening was the Machiavelli room, a small and intimate space with mirrors on one wall. Don gave me some photography tips so that I would get hit with my own flash reflection on a mirror, and they did prove very useful. I mingled lightly before dinner with former Ivy League Connection member Austin Long, who wrote a great report on Bull Dog Days at Yale. There were also, as mentioned before, Yale alumni who provided some insight into the campus and the culture of Yale. I also got a chance to talk more with my comrades and got to know them better. AP testing is on all of their minds, and I wish them the best of luck with their endeavors.

Left to right: Josh, me, Damian
At about 6:30, we all sat down and began the dinner. They brought out tiny pizza slices and cheese and ham on small slices of toasted bread. It was good, but nothing to write home about. But far more important than the appetizers was the company. Some of the Yale alumni who gave me some great insight not only into the Ivy League Connection but also into campus life include Esther Hong, Ken Yamaguchi, and Austin Long. Each was from a different college within Yale University, and I soon found out how deep one’s commitment to their college runs. Ken told me about the modern architecture that is in the newly renovated Stiles and Moore building, which piqued my interest. But then Esther came along and told me her experience about living in a “castle” as she described it. But beyond those two and Austin debating which college was the best, I had the pleasure of picking their brains on the majors offered, the teachers, the food, the dorm life, and everything in between. The excitement in the conversation made it go by all too fast. Before we knew it people were giving speeches and introducing themselves to the assemblage.
Me with Esther

Bill Lindsay gave a speech on his experience in Yale along with some personal experiences that I hope I will one day use. His wisdom is priceless, and when he spoke about being a “lost Californian” and finding the help and the strength to keep going will inspire me to shoot for the stars. All of the people who help fund the Ivy League Connection also spoke and a story by a man named David Leuffler who spoke about having to fight the school board to start the Ivy League and finding the funding. Another funder talked about the struggle to get funding to build new facilities and buildings for schools. Then, my comrade Eric went up and talked about what he plans on bringing back to the West Contra Costa Unified School District and how he plans on using it. Eric is a smart guy, as are my other comrades, and his speech was both eloquent and concise. He gave enough information for all of us to understand where he is coming from and what he’s going to do without clouding it in excess material.
Eric giving his speech.

After that Mr. Charles Ramsey spoke and praised my comrades and me for our hard work and grit along with thanking those alumni who showed up. Charles also gave us some great advice on how to deal with the struggle of the real world where we must help the community around us. He said that it is not enough to have a nine-to-five job and come home to be with your family. We must help the community that has helped us; give back to those that gave us so much. To quote Charles, “The more you give, the more you get.”

The rest of the evening was followed with wonderful fillet mignon with mixed vegetables. It seemed to melt in my mouth and the butter on top added so much. The rich, creamy butter and the vegetables, along with the medium rare fillet mignon complemented everything so well. The food complemented the conversation so well. We talked more about the classes, how Ken and Esther picked their majors, and how Austin enjoyed the entire Ivy League Connection when he went to Brown. The time spent conversing with such educated people has broadened my horizons. I have always wanted to enroll in a university on the East Coast, and after talking to these people I am positive that I will apply to all the ones that I can. Yale has the classes that I am interested in, and from what I got from Ken and Esther it really isn’t that competitive and more cooperative. I was told that everyone there wants you to succeed and is extremely supportive. This is the vibe I get at my high school, Middle College, and a vibe I hope to experience after I apply to Yale.
Ken Yamaguchi and me.

We finished off the night with pictures next to the Yale alumni and pictures next to people like James Lu and Madeline Kronenberg. We then walked to the BART station, seeing the extravagant stores on our way out, caught a train, and made our ways home. It was a fantastic night filled with educated people and intelligent conversation. It has prepared me more for my trip this summer to Yale.
The name of the restaurant emboldened over the entrance.