Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday, funday?

Sunday, fun-day?? With only 5 weeks left and over 3,000 pages to read for my Yalies, I decided today as I sit home watching movies that I would begin the required reading.  So I took out the ipad, a pen and paper, and sat with my cup of coffee to begin.  My first decision was which one to start with. 
Should I begin one of the long readings or kick out one of the shorter ones? So many decisions.  I sit here thinking would as as a junior going into my senior year of high school have as much motivation as my four cohorts?  After only 1 minute I know the truth that at their age definitely not.  But then again there was no ILC in my day or anything in my district that would encourage me to believe that I could attend a 4 year college and especially an Ivy League school.  As I have been through ever step of the process of the ILC so far it has really opened my eyes even as a adult.  We are still 5 weeks out from the beginning of our trip but I have already changed my way of thinking towards Ivy League colleges.  Listening to alumni talking  at the dinners, talking to the admissions counselors from various colleges to arrange tours, as well as all the readings I have done to prepare myself for this trip has left me excited and ready to show the world to my four cohorts.  I am looking forward to walking through this process with four young men that I know will not only do their best to make the ILC proud of them but who will also use the knowledge they learn from this experience to give back to the ILC and their communities.

So off I go with my first book, coffee and an excitement to know that we are so close to our departure day!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Smooth Sailing

Contrary to my absolutely mortifying experience about a week ago, this Ivy League Connection gathering went a lot better. Instead of showing up an hour late, I showed up an hour early, though by mistake, but better early than late. When it was time for the Hercules City Council meeting, I was a bit nervous. I've never been to the Hercules City Hall, I've never spoken about the Ivy League Connection to so many people, and I've never spoken while on television. A few years ago, I would have never even imagined being in a position like this. The meeting started at 7:00 PM and it began with the introduction of the agenda, then roll call, then a presentation, which I barely understood, and finally the Ivy League Connection. 

Ironically, Mr. Charles Ramsey and Ms. Madeleine Kronenberg both showed up about half an hour late. In my head, I played with the idea of chastising Mr. Ramsey, but knew that would be a situation headed for disaster. Both of them walked in during the presentation, and were polite and created no disturbance. 

After the presentation, which had something to do with public transportation, Mr. Ramsey went up to the microphone and, after a few kind words, had the Ivy League Connection kids step up. First up, was Rochelle Yee, who will be going to Cornell very soon. She did a wonderful job. Her speech was both informative and funny. In my head I was thinking, "How am I supposed to beat that?!" Up next was Christian Abraham, then Anmol Randhawa (they are both leaving soon too). Both girls spoke excellently. 
Fourth in line, was I, and I was up next. I could feel my heart pounding a mile a minute and it was louder than Maria Sharapova's tennis grunt. I had written what I was going to say while driving to City Hall, but after hearing all those speeches, I was at a loss for words. I didn't want to top anyone, but I certainly didn't want to seem incapable. I looked down at the paper and introduced myself, the schools I went to, and what program and college I will be attending. The rest was almost a blur. I was shaking. I was tapping my nails onto the podium. I remember saying how this program is one of a kind, how the Ivy League Connection allows students from the West Contra Costa Unified School District to compete with students from not only around the nation, but around the world, how I will be helping future Ivy League Connection applicants, and how going to Yale will change me. I concluded with a thank you, and walked back to my seat. I was still shaking, not just because of the adrenaline, but also because my legs were sore due to a tennis workout from the previous day. Jenna Lee, Johnny Ko, and Jay Fan spoke next, they are also leaving soon and also spoke fabulously. In a nutshell, all of us just finished our junior year at Hercules High, everyone, except for me, will be leaving in June, and we're all very bright.
To end the Ivy League Connection's presentation to the Hercules City Council, Mr. Ramsey said a few kind words, which filled in the gaps, and invited Mr. Alfredo Chan-Law (a teacher at Hercules High) and Ms. Kronenberg to speak. Afterwards, the mayor called for a recess so we could all take pictures. While Don was setting up, the students exchanged small talk with the members of the Council. I found out that Council Member Romero has daughters who attended the same elementary school as I, which isn't in Hercules. 

Don set up the bench and positioned each of the students and Council Members. I was placed at the end of the bench, but in order to make room I had to sit with half of my butt on the bench. My legs were already sore, but I could stand this bit of pain. Don took about three photos, then fixed my sitting position. He told me to move my hand to the side of my thigh and to close my legs. This caused a bit of a giggle, then I apologized and said my legs were sore, which caused another giggle. My legs felt like they were on fire, but I took it like a man. I was sitting there with my legs closed and slightly trembling, while faking a smile. Don took about five more photos and I was glad to stand up. We said our good-byes and headed out to the parking lot. Don and I exchanged a few words outside. I got into my van and Don tapped on the glass. I rolled down the window and he explained why Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg were late. He joked that he didn't care what it is, they should have been there on time. Don joked, "I would have liked to see you take Mr. Ramsey outside and have a talk with him," to which I light heartedly replied, "Oh! I was contemplating it!"

I wish all the Ivy League Connection kids a wonderful time on the East Coast! While you are off learning during June, I will be anxiously waiting for my time in late July and early August. Have an awesome time and be sure to stay safe!
The Hercules City Hall.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Let Us Orientate You

We orient ourselves for orientation.
Throughout this blog, I've used really strange comparisons when describing the different events we get to go through as members of the Ivy League Connection. So, with that in mind, bear with me as I describe tonight's ILC Orientation as a City of Gold. The Orientation was originally scheduled for last Thursday, and then pushed back to tonight. At Orientation, we would finally learn all the answers to every question we desired, and then we'd soak in the Pinole Middle School River of Knowledge and go home. And as our expectations normally go, my metaphor was thrown completely out the window. Kapoosh.

After arriving and signing in right as Mr. Ramsey began to speak, I noticed that there were still a number of people missing. "Uh oh," I thought to myself, and sure enough, not two minutes later, the first important item on the orientation menu was to discuss tardiness and timeliness. As stragglers came in during the first couple minutes and got admonished, the tone of the room was definitely very awkward and unsure of themselves. I felt sympathetic towards both sides. While tardiness is often easy to overcome, there are some occasions where life takes us down more crowded and confusing roads on the way to our destinations; it's happened to us all. On the other hand, I also understood why Mr. Ramsey and Don (and much of the ILCers) were upset that they had to wait. But, as I've said, it happens to all of us at one time or another, and hopefully we'll be all prepared and set for the next time.

During Don and Mr. Ramsey's presentation, they discussed points that affected all of us - like behavior (once again, the Cornell and Co. in Canada story made a welcome reappearance), transportation, manners, communication, and timeliness. We were formally introduced to the list of chaperones - so everyone other than the Yale cohort got to meet our fantastic chaperone, Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole, for the first time. From what I heard, the other cohorts are going to some great places on weekend trips! We'll get to ours in a moment.

Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole
After the group introductions, we split up into our individual cohorts to talk about things relating specifically to Yale. That's when we learned that - guess what, no final itinerary was ready. Nonetheless, we were able to see a temporary schedule, and, if you haven't seen already in a previous blog post, officially found out that we'll be visiting Harvard, Brown, and Wesleyan Universities this summer on a college tour before our course! We also discovered that - guess what - there were no weekend trips. Our experience is definitely going to be completely different than most of the other cohorts, but we all share the similarity of going to great schools and learning and studying incredible concepts and ideas with other talented individuals and professors this summer! Since our chaperone won't be able to see us while we're at Yale, and we still had a limited schedule to look at, with no flight information as of yet, we simply sat and chatted. ILC Orientation definitely orientated me in areas other than the ILC through our chats and conversations while the other groups went on! Our cohort is also different in the fact that we leave at the tail-end of summer, when almost everyone has come back. Most are leaving within the first few weeks of summer, and so it is vital that they have access to all of the information they need. I don't mind; an orientation is meant to give you an introduction to the new places and ideas you'll explore - the actual exploration and information will come soon!

You'll hear a lot more from us come summer!
Eventually, we were all able to sit back down for the closing remarks. Mr. Ramsey went over a few more things before announcing that we "were now officially part of the Ivy League Connection!" And with that, I ended up leaving because I had another event at El Cerrito High to catch. But, as I walked out those doors and through the newly polished metal gates of Pinole Middle School's campus, I realized that I was simply one more step closer toward that "City of Gold." As members of the ILC, we've all made an effort to get ever closer to the knowledge that eludes us. That "City of Golden Knowledge" may always seem inattainable, but the golden nuggets we pick up along the way make it worthwhile.

Officially Part of the Ivy League Connection

There are thirty eight members of the Ivy League Connection. Thirty eight young men and women who will go to and study in world renowned universities. Some will be going a second time, while others are new to this experience of leaving your parents for up to three weeks. But in either event, we all must go to the orientation.
We wait for the orientation to start.
It took place at Pinole Middle School, where my sister attends. It’s about a five minute drive from my house and now looks a lot better than when I was attending that school four years ago. They now have a real multipurpose room, with the walls all refurnished and the floor complete. I’ll tell you, before the floor had tiles missing, the walls had holes in them, and the color was one of decay. It was old, and you could see it by looking at it. 

Anyway, my parents and I got there at about ten minutes to six o’clock, so we had some time to kill. We spoke with Tracey, our chaperone, and outlined the itinerary for our trip to the East Coast, what restaurants she’ll go to, and some colleges she’ll speak with to represent the West Contra Costa Unified School District. As six rolled around, I was raring to go. But alas, five people had not yet shown up. Mr. Charles Ramsey then told us again how important it is to show up on time and know where it is you’re going so you don’t get lost.  Wise words from a wise man. He even gave us an example of how even if you are only one minute late to take the BAR exam to become a lawyer, they won’t let you in to take the test. Let me tell you, I won’t ever be late to any business related event after hearing that.
Charles Ramsey and myself.
People then began to shuffle in late, and they found their spots. But there was one person who was still late. Mr. Ramsey waited for this person until six fifteen, then he told Don to start without them. I feel sorry for this person, who shall remain nameless and genderless, who has incurred the wrath of Mr. Charles Ramsey. I would later hear that if this person had showed up five minutes later, he/she would have been booted from the program. Thank goodness they weren’t. He/She is a smart, dedicated individual who simply got their dates mixed up. Everyone is only human after all.

Then the actual orientation started. Don let all of the chaperones come up and say who they are and what school they are going to. First to go up was Mr. Hillier, followed by Ms. Tracey, Ms. Lilhanand, Mr. Enfield, Ms. Neal, and Mr. Mannix. Then Don dived into all of the important travel related stuff that we need to know. He told us about the items that he can loan out, including laptops and power strips. There were even a few people who were asking for one of each of the following: power strips, surge protectors, and extension cords. This would give them sixteen sockets in all to plug in all of their electronic devices. Don thought this was too many sockets, but is glad to give them out if they need them. I, for one, don’t see why anyone would need sixteen sockets, but with people having to charge their phones, laptops, iPods, Kindles, iPads, and all other manner of electricity consuming products, I may be wrong.
We are told why never to be tardy
Don then talked about the various itineraries, having us blog every night while we are over there, making sure we do in fact understand the list of “I Understands” (A list of rules that we swear not to break) and gave quite a bit of information for our parents. For example, Don told our parents that they cannot follow us to the airport in the shuttle and that they cannot visit us while on the East Coast. Mr. Ramsey also spoke a few times to add emphasis on some of the more important points of the orientation.
The chaperones speak.
We then broke out into our respective Ivy League Connection cohorts. Tracey came to our group with parent permission forms. Our parents filled them out, and this basically ensured that we youngsters had our parents’ permission to travel to the East Coast and take part in a once in a lifetime opportunity. When you think about it though, what parent wouldn’t sign that permission form? Tracey then gave us a run-down of what we are doing, where we are going, and when we are leaving and arriving. Tracey is quite fortunate because after she drops us off, she’ll be able to go up and down the coast talking to various universities and enjoying some of the great things that the East has to offer. On the other hand, though, she won’t be able to experience the great Yale campus with us. We then found out that we will be touring the campuses of Harvard, Brown, and Wesleyan University. I can’t wait to see in person the halls of such esteemed universities. One place I would have liked to have visited, though, is Sarah Lawrence College. I have heard great things about it, and have read up on it. Alas, it was not meant to be.

We then spent a little more time talking about dealing with packing our bags and who is going to bring what. Thus far it appears that Eric will be bringing an iron, and that each of us will bring a fan to keep our respective dorms cool.
Don talking about one of the items he can loan out.
Then at seven forty, we reconvened as a whole and discussed some of the final things that we need to know before we go, like making sure that we stay on top of our game while at our respective colleges. Don wants to know what are rooms are like, so we’ll tell him. Don wants to know what the food was like, so we’ll tell him. This is all in an attempt to make our experience the best one they can provide.

Before we left, Mr. Ramsey congratulated us on finally being official members of the Ivy League Connection. We had worked six hard months for it all to come together and it finally has. I feel proud to be among such smart and charismatic individuals, and at times their skills make me feel as if I may not be able to compete with them. But that’s not what the Ivy League Connection is about. It’s about comradery. It’s about making friends. It’s about building connections and experiencing something new and exciting. It’s about going to the East Coast and showing everyone what we’re made of. We’ll show them that we have the “right stuff,” and may we all have a great time now that we are an official part of the Ivy League Connection.

Looking Forward (and Back)

Tonight was the final step in the ILC experience before we leave for the East Coast. The meeting was not much more than a repetition of of all the things we had heard earlier, but I got the feeling that it was more for the parents than the children, to reassure them that we will be in capable hands, and so they can know at least some of what we are doing from day to day. From what I can tell, reassuring the parents is crucial. Don and Mr. Ramsey have multiple amusing stories of parents who could not let go and showed up "for vacation" at the exact same restaurants as their child. I noticed that during the meeting Mr. Ramsey was smiling nonstop, and it was obvious just how proud and excited he was. Seeing this really inspired me to be positive throughout the orientation and not see it as a chore to be there, but instead to view it as the privilege that it is.

We broke in to our cohorts for the later half of the meeting to discuss our schedules for the trip. The Yale schedule was pretty simple, visit a few colleges, then class, then more class, then more class, then we fly home and in two days start school. This may seem like a negative comment, but I am truly excited to be a part of the ILC again and to be taking this particular class. It will be hard work, but work that I want to do. It is often said that when you enjoy something it becomes more fun and less of a chore. I am absolutely sure that this will be the case.

As I was driving back from the meeting I got a sense of déjà vu as memories of the return journey from the same meeting last year came flooding back. I was struck by how different things are now, and how so much of it has to do with my trip to Cornell with the ILC last summer. There are the basic differences of course. I am sixteen now, I have my driver's license, I am a junior (almost a senior!!!), etc etc etc. More important however are the changes in my personality. I met people from countries all over the world, and learned about what life was like where they were from. I experienced what it was like to live alone, and have to take care of myself. I learned how fun and enlightening college can be, but also how easy it is to fall behind if you do not keep up with your responsibilities. All these experiences changed me and I came back a more mature and worldly person. I am grateful and excited to be able to go through it again this year and hope to see the same changes in myself and my fellow ILCers.

It is almost summer, but we still have almost two months before we leave. That is good though, because we have a lot of reading to do before we depart, and it will be time to go before sooner than I expect. Until then though, I will be busy preparing myself for the experience of a lifetime.

Good luck to everyone in the Ivy League Connection! Work hard, have fun, and do not forget to blog.


Today was the Ivy League Connection Orientation. If only I knew it was today instead of thinking that it was on Friday. Everyone was calling, texting, Facebook messaging, and e-mailing me, but I was nowhere near my phone. My friend, who is not even affiliated with the Ivy League Connection, had to find me and scream that the Orientation was today. I immediately ran to my car and drove to Pinole Middle School. 

When I got there I was met with a lot of ILCers, including Don and Mr. Ramsey. I immediately apologized and sat at an empty table so that I would not bother anyone. In my rush and hysteria, I completely forgot to contact my dad. Mr. Ramsey pointed that out and I immediately ran out the door (the back one of course) and began calling home. I was met with complications. In the mean time, Mr. Rhea and Mr. Ramsey stepped outside and calmed me down. I was told that if I had no parent who could come, then I would not be allowed to attend. This, on top of my huge embarrassment, completely mortified me. This far into the program, and my mistake would cost me my place. The place that I earned, the place that so many people would die for, the place that my parents and many others were so proud of. To lose that place would be more than devastating.

After a phone call, I tried my dad's cell phone. This would be risky and I began to lose hope because my dad hates cell phones and would rather leave his at home. If my dad didn't come soon, Mr. Ramsey will kick me out of the program. Thoughts rushed in and out of my head. What if dad didn't bring his phone? I'm screwed aren't I? How can I ever make up for this mistake? After the fourth ring my dad picked up. I was relieved, but that didn't last long. I explained why he has to be at Pinole Middle School right away. But he had other things in mind. He still had to pick up my little brother. Mr. Rhea asked for my cell phone and explained the entire situation to my dad. Mr. Ramsey came out and said that if my father didn't show soon, then I can kiss Yale goodbye. I told him my dad is on his way right now. I went back into the multi-purpose room and sat there, praying and hoping my dad would be here soon. 

Meanwhile, Don was speaking of loaner items and where each group was to meet. The Yale cohort gathered and Miss Tracey Singh-Poole passed out the permission slip and itinerary. Where was my dad? Did he go pick up my brother? I was scared out of my mind. Finally, after the itinerary was explained, I saw my dad's car outside in the parking lot and breathed a sigh of relief. He's here! When he got to the table, he immediately began to chastise me. "What's wrong with you?" "You always think wrong." Even while I was paying attention to the outline of our plan he was telling my brother to be more organized and not to make a stupid mistake like this.

When it was time for everyone to meet back in the multi-purpose room, my friend's mother came up to me and explained what it was like before I got to the destination. This story had me feeling even worse. I wasted precious time and money. I wasted everyone's time. Words cannot describe how bad I feel. An apology will not suffice. They must have been sitting there waiting for an hour. This is time that is lost forever. While I was doing something of no importance, they could have been productive. I wasted precious time, and almost wasted a whole lot of money. I know it's futile, but I'm sorry.  I cannot show how sorry I really am.

When it was time for the meeting to reconvene, Mr. Ramsey and Don congratulated the entire Ivy League Connection. They said, "Congratulations, you are now officially part of the ILC." Does this mean I'm not getting kicked out? I'm officially in? I can't believe it. I was so relieved. Even after we were allowed to leave, I was dreading a talk with Don or Mr. Ramsey. I was so sure that they would chastise me. I know I deserved it, but no one ever wants to be chastised. To say that I was shocked when I received a personal congratulations is not enough. But I knew I couldn't rest so easily. I know my dad, and he is not the type to let this slide by so easily. I know that he will lecture and chastise me. He still is and he will for a long time. And I totally deserve it. I have no words to argue, I have no defense, I have no excuse, because no matter what my reason is, it will not suffice. I know I'm going to be mentioned in many blogs, be it in a neutral or negative light. And I know there's no use crying over spilled milk. What happened has happened. I can't be sad about it. But I must learn from this mistake, and I must excel at Yale. I will put in more than what I have into this program. I'd like to thank everyone for giving me this opportunity, for putting up with my tardiness, and for giving me this eye opening experience. I know that this is an area that I must work on. And I will.

To think that I almost missed a once in a lifetime opportunity because of my careless mistake is unfathomable. This will haunt me for my entire life. My dad will remind me of it, my friends will remind me of it, even applying to college might remind me of it. But I will constantly be reminding myself of this situation. I am now officially part of the Ivy League Connection and I can't be anymore grateful. After months and months of worrying I can finally go to Yale, study Grand Strategies, and meet people who I would have never been able to meet. This is why this program is called the Ivy League Connection. This program allows students to connect with people that would be impossible to meet under normal circumstances. This program not only allows students to connect with other people, but it also allows students to connect with themselves -- and I nearly threw this opportunity away. Thank goodness I didn't.