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.

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