Friday, May 29, 2015

Don't Mind if I Do!

On May 26th, my Columbia cohort had our official dinner with the wonderful sponsors and alumni. 

My Grandmother and I
I was really excited yet stressed out for the day. I was mostly concerned about punctuality, as I had gotten out of school at 4, and the report time was 5:10 PM, and I knew it would take at least 30 minutes to arrive at the Bart station. My grandmother picked me up, and we tried to prepare ourselves as quickly as possible. 

My grandmother and I left the house at around 4:40, so I was on edge as I really thought that we would be late. It also did not help that when I punched in the address to the El Cerrito Plaza Bart, the ETA was 7:10 PM (I had realized that it only registered the side-street route, which is pretty strange. Silly Google Maps.)

Thankfully however, Google Maps was very very wrong and my grandmother and I arrived at the station at 4:58. I had nothing to stress over after all. While walking towards the station, I immediately spotted some fancily-dressed individuals, with whom I identified as Don Gosney, my lovely chaperon Ms. Thrift, Mark, Izabel, and their mothers.  We a conversed a bit, however it was still a tad awkward since we still aren't quite acquainted with one another. At 5:08, my other cohort members Saba and Deborah arrived with their mothers. However, we still had to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Kronenberg, and Ms. Sophie Evans-Boroditsky, an alumni. I believe it was about 5:20 when everyone finally arrived. It was great to converse with everyone and see the beautiful faces of my cohort's mothers. 

The Lovely Mothers of the Columbia Cohort
Once everyone arrived, Don handed out the clipper cards that we were going to use throughout the night. We scanned our cards and went up the elevators to the trains. While we were waiting for our 5:36 train to arrive, I was able to converse with Ms. Sophie Evans-Boroditsky about college and some advice for our future occupation choice. The biggest thing I learned from her is that one of the most important things in life is to always do what you love, because otherwise the journey would not be worth it.
BART Selfie!
When the train arrived, I spotted an empty seat next to our chaperon Ms. Thrift, and jumped at the opportunity to be her "Bart buddy". We discussed matters about New York such as the intricate subway system and theater productions, and had quite an interesting conversation on the controversial topic of the nutritional rating of whole-wheat pancake-mix.  The train ride was probably 30+ minutes, however travel time passed quickly as I had great conversation during the whole duration of the journey. 

Once we arrived at our stop, we went up the stairs and immediately felt the chill of San Francisco weather. I was wearing pants, and jacket, and a warm blouse, and I was still freezing! I was truly concerned for Saba as she was wearing a dress and high heels--she looked absolutely fabulous, however I know I would not have been able to pull off that look without tripping and falling at least once. Props to her!

Mark Bordas and I
After a few blocks of walking, I saw the Prospect logo on a glass wall-- even from the outside it looked like a fancy place! We walked into the restaurant I immediately felt a calm and professional ambiance. The waiter walked us to the back of the restaurant towards our private dining room. By just walking through the restaurant, my fellow cohort member Mark and I were just astounded by the fanciness of the venue; we spotted at least 5 different giant plants, artwork, and lone standing ice-bucket containers-- indications of a truly fancy restaurant. We were in such awe that we couldn't even enter our dining room right away. We counted to three, and took our first step into the room together.

The Dining Room Set-Up
At first I really didn't know what to do, as I expected to just be seated right away. However, we were given a good amount of time to take photos, eat hors d'oeuvres and have some small talk with sponsors and alumni. I took part in a few conversation circles with alumni such as Ms.Elizabeth Sanders, Ms. Blaine Harper, and Mr. Mitchell Flax who happened to be seated at my table. They were all incredibly down-to-earth and open to any questions we had regarding their experiences at Columbia. After about 20 minutes of this free time, Don called everyone down to take our seats. 

Mrs. Kronenberg opened the dinner with an introduction of all of the people present at the dinner. I became familiar with all of the sponsors, alums, as well as a few honorable guests. Then, my cohort member Mark gave a great speech on what he hopes to learn at Columbia. He provided the audience with a peek on what motivated him to attend this program and how his childhood influenced him to make this decision.Then, Mitchell Flax, 09' alumni, made a speech on why Columbia was right for him, and why we should consider it also. What he said was great and really motivated me to consider Columbia as a college option. 

The Dinner Program
After the presentation program, we began delving into heavenly blessing of our main courses. There were two options for each entree, so I made sure my grandmother and I coordinated our meals to ensure we'd get a taste of each different entree. The food was nothing short of amazing. I can honestly say my dinner at Prospect was the most delicious (and probably expensive) outdoor meal I've ever had. The conversations at the dinner table were just as amazing as the food. At my table was Saba and her mother, Mr. Mitchell Flax, Ms. Elizabeth Sanders, Mr. Matt Pettler (a sponsor), and my grandmother. At first, we engaged in conversations dealing only with Columbia, However, later on we all started getting more comfortable with one another and talked about funny school stories, driving, and events going on in the district. It was truly a remarkable experience to be sitting with such inspiring and incredible people. 

After the dinner, we all finished up our desserts and it was time for pictures (aka cramp-up-your-face time). After about 30 shots taken by Don, it was time for goodbyes.
The 2015 Columbia Cohort (ft. Izabel's mother)
We headed back towards the Bart station and arrived at El Cerrito at around 10:45. We were all pretty burnt out, so thankfully Don gave us an extra day to blog.

This night was nothing short of amazing and made me so much more excited for my trip to Columbia this summer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Good Food, Better Company

For weeks I have been thinking about this day: The Dinner. The Ivy League Connection Columbia University dinner was held on May 26, 2015 in San Francisco, CA at the Prospect restaurant. This event is unlike any other event that we have had  because it is the first event that is solely focused on the school we will be attending this summer, which is Columbia University (as you may know by now). The purpose of the dinner is to meet and dine with sponsors of the ILC, alumni of Columbia University, ILC administrators, our chaperone, and our interview panelists. I have been looking forward to this day because it has finally given me a chance to get some one-on-one interaction with the people who made this trip possible and to get information about the school from those who have actually attended Columbia as students (and a great meal isn’t so bad either).

Since the week before was the last of my junior year of high school I woke up that afternoon ready for the day well rested and excited. I was sure to have my outfit already situated the day before so that I would be well prepared that day. This gave me a chance to relax and lounge around until it was about time to begin to get ready. Don told us that we could only bring one parent so my mom was more than happy to accompany me to the dinner. We began to get ready for dinner together but unfortunately she was not as prepared as I was so she took a considerably longer amount of time than I did. After we were finished getting ready, off we were to the Bart Station.

Don instructed my cohort and I to meet at the El Cerrito Plaza Bart Station at 5:10 PM. luckily my mom and I arrived a few minutes early so that we could find parking. After we parked we found Don and the rest of my cohort along with their parents waiting. Deborah and her mom arrived about the same time as my mom and I so the whole Columbia cohort was present but we were still missing alumni and Ms. Kronenberg and her husband. As we waited for everyone to arrive Don told us how to use the clipper cards that the ILC supplied us with and how we were to get to the restaurant. Soon after his instructions Sophie Evans-Boroditsky and Elizabeth Sanders, both alumni, and Mr. and Mrs. Kronenberg arrived at the Bart Station and off we were to the city!

Ms. Sanders and I
When we got on the Bart headed straight to San Francisco I sat next to Elizabeth Sanders and had a great conversation with her on our 30 minute trip. I proceeded to interrogate her about the university and on all the great spots we should check out during our time there. She gladly divulged all the information she acquired there during her time finishing up her masters degree in English from the teachers college. She told me about a great 24-hour falafel place and awesome museums that we had to check out. One trend that I noticed with her and with Ms. Boroditsky was that whenever they talked about locations in New York City they would name the exact streets that they reside on. All I could think about was how can they remember all of that and will I leave the East Coast describing places in that manner as well?

Sadly our conversation had to come to an end because we had come to our stop. We all proceeded to follow Don in his handsome tan suit up until we got outside the station. After we all caught up with him, he led the way for another 3 or 4 blocks until we reached the Prospect restaurant. As we all shuffled in I kind of felt out of place in the fancy and elegant setting of the restaurant since I had never been to a restaurant of that caliber. A waiter noticed our fairly large group and led us to a room in the back were we would have our dinner.
The Prospect restaurant from the outside.
When we got to the room, my mom and I made sure to take photos with everyone up until the sponsors and other alumni arrived. As we waited for our tables to set by Don and Mark I made sure to introduce myself to more people and after my great interactions with Ms. Sanders and Ms. Boroditsky I was less intimidated by everyone. I noticed a young lady walked in so I introduced myself to her. Her name was Blaine Harper and she graduated from Columbia in ’13 with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. After I learned her major I was so excited because I too want to pursue a career in neurology. I was so happy to hear that Columbia is a great school for neuroscience and she told me about her experiences there at Columbia.  As we were talking Fred Powell came up to us and introduced himself. I was shocked to find out that he is apart of all the reconstruction that the schools in our district have been undergoing and I made sure to give him the praise that he deserves for not only the constructions of our amazing schools that he has helped build but also for the support he has given to us as a sponsor of the ILC.

My fellow neuroscience major, Blaine Harper.

Once our tables were set we all scattered around to find our assigned seating. The table my mom and I were assigned to sit at also included Ms. Sanders, Matthew Pettler, Mitchell Flax, Alyanna, and Alyanna’s grandmother Gloria Paulino. The waiters came around to each of us and explained the menus in front of us. My mom and I made a deal to get totally different meals so that we could share. I got the scallops first, salmon second, and tart last.
Where’s the food?
As we waited for our food Ms. Kronenberg gave each of us from the Columbia cohort time to stand and give our names, grade, school, and program the we would be attending. As we went around the room Ms. Kronenberg mistakenly forgot me but it was funny and made my introduction less frightening. After our introductions Ms. Kronenberg gave time for the sponsors, alumni, our chaperone Joyce, and the ILC administrators some time to talk as well. Mark Ramsey had a rather powerful and impressive speech that was unbelievably impromptu.

Smiles of concealed hunger.

Mark was the last to speak and as he got up to give his speech the food started to come out. Although we all had our first amazing plate of food, Mark was still able to keep our attention with his great speech. He would holler every time he mentioned Columbia or De Anza High School like he was saying his favorite sports team, which made me laugh.

After his speech we all dug into our food. My scallops were beyond amazing, as expected, and the salad that I saw some people had looked great as well. At first everyone around the table seemed a bit awkward and did not know what to talk about but that quickly changed after a couple of minutes. At first we talked about Columbia but somehow we started to talk about other things such as their and our own personal lives which I kind of found more interesting because I got to learn what paths attending Columbia University has led them to. Ms. Sanders and Mr. Flax are both teachers and they talked a bit about their jobs which I found really cool. We even talked about driving and funny stories about driving, which I found highly amusing. The dinner was not really what I expected it to be because I thought we would just talk about Columbia University, but I was really relieved that we just talked about ourselves, which made the dinner so much more fun.

My delicious tart. 
When the waiter asked if I wanted a coffee I knew that our dinner was coming to an end. I made sure to thank everyone for their awesome company and support before we went to the side of the room to take our pictures. Don once again positioned us perfectly and took so many pictures that my cheeks began to hurt from smiling. And of course our parents made sure to take pictures with their phones as well.

Wonderful picture with the Columbia alumni

After the photos we sadly had to say our goodbyes to everyone. I was kind of sad because I did not get a chance to go around the room to meet everyone because I would get caught up in so many awesome conversations. Before, I had an irrational idea that Ivy League Schools produce stuck up and obnoxious people that I am now very embarrassed about because I was completely wrong. Everyone I met at that dinner including sponsors, alumni, and ILC administrators were so friendly, supportive, and down-to-earth.  Hearing the speeches and speaking to everyone really opened up my eyes to the mass of people who have made this summer possible to us and how much everyone believes in us to put an investment of time, money, and energy in us.  I do not know if there will ever be words that are adequate enough to express my gratitude to everyone who have made this possible but the words “thank you” will have to do for now.

"I'd like some clear, fresh, well seasoned perspective."

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I have a confession to make. Contrary to the rest of my more mature peers, I was originally excited about the prestigious Ivy League Connections dinner for the food. Nothing more, nothing less. My list of expectations were as follows: stiff alumni and sponsors, uninteresting small talk, and the overpowering air of professionalism. And while I do value professionalism as much as the next girl, it hasn't always made for the most engaging conversations. But hey, at least the food would be amazing, right?
I am most grateful in having the opportunity to testify to just how wrong and shallow I was. It's actually quite funny because there were some moments during the dinner where I just zoned out, busy looking around, trying to take in my surroundings and bring myself back to Earth while an Electric Light Orchestra song played in my heart.

The restaurant was beautiful. The ambiance was perfect. The food was exquisite.

But the people were even better.

The first person I saw the second I walked into Prospect was wearing a stylish black fedora and my immediate thought was "I like this guy". Interestingly enough, this man just so happened to be Mr. Fred Powell, president of Powell & Partners and gracious sponsor of the Ivy League Connection. We met formally just before the dinner began when people were mingling and Mr. Powell coolly waltzed over to my circle and introduced himself. He discussed his company and the amazing things he had been working on, but I, unfortunately, wasn't able to talk further with him as our circle was disbanded shortly afterwards. After looking around the room a bit, Alyanna and I introduced ourselves to Mr. Mitchell Flax and Ms. Ilana Somasunderam, Columbia alum of '09, or they introduced themselves to us after we made longer than normal eye contact. I can't quite remember. Both of them were incredibly down-to-earth and subtly humorous, almost as if a wink was appropriate at any given moment, in the best possible sense. I found out that Mr. Flax was an Economics major and Ms. Somasunderam an Environmental Science major. To my surprise, they both worked as high-school freshmen biology teachers, although Ms. Somasunderam, from my understanding, became more of a specialist than a teacher over time. Throughout our short ten-minute conversation I think the most important takeaway was their mutual reassurance in my uncertainties about the future. They explained that not knowing what to do with my life at this point was perfectly fine. In fact, they stood as real examples that life could take you in unplanned directions with everything still working out in the end. To them Columbia University was just an avenue in which they had taken to get to their destination - a mighty fine avenue, might I say.

A literal avenue.

The dinner hadn't even started and yet I already felt so enlightened and impressed by the character and intelligence of everyone I had met.

On a completely unrelated side note, I just figured that I'd mention that all of the alumni and sponsors have amazing names (in case one stumbles upon my blog) and I didn't get to tell any of them how great I thought their names were. I have this strange affinity for names and in my notebook of random things is an ever-growing list of names I like. Let me just say that quite a few went on that list after the dinner, "Mitchell Flax" being my personal favorite. He honestly doesn't know how mentally stoked I was when I found out his last name was Flax.

Blaine Harper, Carissa Vasquez, and Julio Vasquez being
incredibly gracious with me as the flash kept going off haphazardly.
The dinner began with speeches made by Ms. Kronenberg, Mark, Mr. Flax, Don, and an impromptu one by Mr. Ramsey. All of them varied in tone and speech but were unified by eagerness and dedication. Don actually sat at my table, along with my mom, Ms. Blaine Harper, Mr. Julio Vasquez, and Mrs. Carissa Vasquez. Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez were also another one of our generous sponsors and their sincerity just emanated. Mrs. Vasquez was a bubbly individual working in HR, with an impossibly warm smile, and Mr. Vasquez, an architect and U.C. Davis alumni, with his smiles in his eyes. And although you could tell Mrs. Vasquez did a bit more of the talking, his presence alone held weight at our table. A huge majority of my conversation, however, was with Ms. Harper who was a recent graduate from Columbia and was planning on pursuing a PhD at the University of Arizona. She recommended some places to visit in New York (as well as some books to read) and explained what it was like at Columbia. Her own interests dealing with the potential psychological benefits of certain drugs as well as the activist side of drug testing on animals were extremely fascinating. Even the tangential sidetracks we took in the conversation were evidence of her passion and hunger for learning and change. Needless to say, it was fantastic talking with her.

After the dinner, we took a group photo. By now, we're all experts. *coughs* Sort of.

On the BART ride back home to little old El Cerrito, I was able to chat with Ms. Sophie Evans-Boroditsky, a sharp, sparkling, cutting-edge Columbia alumna currently working at Wells Fargo as a development team manager. After telling her about my interest in the mathematics and science field, as well as why I had chosen the Business and Economics class at Columbia, she recommended looking into the Applied Mathematics field in the future. This led to further discussion about math and her own experiences with math in the past, with a bit on the slide rule thrown into the mix. She also recommended me a book to read, after checking out my Blogspot profile and discovering a shared interest in Ender's Game. By then, we had reached our BART station stop and it was time to say goodbye to everyone. I was utterly exhausted but happy nonetheless.


I shall now take the time to dedicate a small portion of this blog to how I felt about the food. If you had a nickle for every time I gushed to my mom about how spectacular the food was, interrupting her
enjoyment of the meal to express  my own, you'd have a little over a dollar.

That being said, on a scale of how I felt about the dinner from a frowning Kristen Stewart to Buddy in Elf, I would fall under the crying Tobey Maguire category. (We'll pretend that they're tears of joy.) Okay. That may be a slight exaggeration; I just really wanted to put a picture of Tobey Maguire crying in this post. Perhaps this entire post is slightly exaggerated, or perhaps I just wanted to make things a little more lively.
Regardless, the dinner made even me more excited about going to Columbia, which is quite an impressive feat considering I was already beyond excited. For the past few months I had been wowed by the glittering (and mostly theoretical) imagery of academia that Columbia offered but now I had actually seen a tangible manifestation in the people I met, touching those from all different walks of life. 

(Tobey Maguire picture is from I don't want to get into copyright trouble now do I.)

Fine Dining With Columbia

Yesterday night on 5/26/2015, I had the privilege to both dine and associate with the most interesting people I will ever meet. Last night I was able to attend the infamous Ivy League Connection Dinner with multiple sponsors, Columbia Alumni, and WCCUSD school board members.

I'd say that my wonderful night began at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. I arrived at around 5PM, ten minutes before the required meeting time. Izabel and I were the first ones on seen along with our mothers. Soon after, more cohort members started to arrive along with Don Gosney, other Columbia Alums, and WCCUSD Board Trustee Madeline Kronenberg and her husband.

The BART ride was quite pleasant as I had the chance to talk with Columbia Alum by the name of Sophie Evans-Boroditsky , Mrs. Kronenberg and her husband. I told them that I had a great interest in the United States Military Academy (USMA), and along the ride we discussed the USMA's  application process, history, campus, and nominations. I was greatly inspired by Mrs. Kronenberg's efforts in helping me connect with Congressman Mark Desaulnier, for a USMA nomination.

After a thirty minute BART ride, we finally arrived at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco. I'll never forget rising from the underground station and seeing the beautiful skyscrapers towering above me while simultaneously feeling the cold Bay Area wind breeze past me. I barely go to San Francisco, so this feeling was just amazing.

Shortly after regrouping from the BART station, our cohort and our guests continued our journey on foot to Prospect, the restaurant we were to dine in. Along the way, I was able to have a brief chat with Mr. Kronenberg, who was surprisingly also a Columbia grad with a JD in Law. We talked briefly about law school and I was able to ask questions on the different legal professions available. During our brief walk, I was able to know my cohort a bit better while at the same time admire the sights and sounds that San Francisco had to offer.

Upon arriving at Prospect, I felt my heartbeat start to race. I was completely at awe upon walking through the darkly lit ornate restaurant. Once we were about to enter the reserved room, I took a deep breath and with my fellow cohort member Alyanna,  we counted to three and took our first step into our very first Ivy League Connection Dinner.
My mom and I at Prospect in San Francisco.

I was surprised to find that seating was assigned, and we were matched up to sit with different sponsors and Columbia Alumni from very different backgrounds. I myself had the pleasure of sitting with former WCCUSD School Board President Charles Ramsey,'09 Columbia Alum Ilana Somasunderam, Erica Perry, and Leonard Berry who is currently the managing director at Backstrom McCarley Berry & Co., LLC.
Hors O'devours Sir?

Before dinner started, everyone had the chance to mingle with one another. Don had specifically stated before the dinner to get out of our shells and talk with the sponsors and alums. After a minute of awkwardly waling around, I decided to take the chance to talk more with Mrs. Konenberg and Mr. Charles Ramsey. We discussed the newly founded AFJROTC program at my school and other matters regarding the ILC and education. It was really nice to be able to have such an intellectual discussion with not only Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg, but also with the other sponsors who have helped to make this all possible!
Me with Mrs. Kronenberg (Left) and Mr. Ramsey (Right)

After the reception, all of the guests took our seats and Mrs. Kronenberg gave the welcoming remarks. One by one, my cohort members and I all stood up and told all the sponsors and alums what school we were from, what course we were taking, and what grade we were in. Shortly after, I presented my speech. I spoke about what we, as a cohort, hope to learn from Columbia, what we wanted to see, and our main priority of giving back to our friends and family the importance of a college degree. After speaking, Mitchell Flax, an '09 Columbia grad, spoke on why Columbia was right for him and how it can be for us. 

Once we began dinner, I was able to both enjoy excellent San Francisco stake with individuals with amazing professional backgrounds. Columbia Alum Ilana Somasunderderam was a former teacher at my school and is currently an environmental media specialist at San Francisco State. Mr. Leonard Barry is a managing director with his own firm who works with big associations, one of them being San Francisco International Airport as their top client. Along with these two amazing individuals were Erica Perry and Fred Powell.

Charles Ramsey I thought was the most inspiring person at our table. Mr. Ramsey discussed the importance of speaking out and making your voice heard. Mr. Ramsey drilled into my head the most important life lesson that I will never forget in my future career, "Closed mouths don't get fed." I learned from Mr. Ramsey the true utmost importance of the value of making sure your voice is heard. 
Toward the end of our exquisite dinner, our cohort and Columbia Alums got together and took a group photo. We all stood as a group in one corner of the room with huge welcoming smiles on our faces as we looked directionless because of the multiple cameras.
Future Columbia Lions Maybe?

After a delicious dinner, over packed BART trains, and an overabundance of picture taking, we finally made it back to El Cerrito Plaza Station. We exchanged goodbyes and walked back out into the freezing Bay Area wind. It was a truly unforgettable night, and I will treasure this day for many years to come. Thanks again to our sponsors, the Columbia Alums, and the ILC. Just from tonight alone, I can tell that this summer is gonna be a blast!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

With Prospect Comes Fine Dining

I can not remember who's hand is in the picture.
I have waited for this dinner for so long and the day finally arrived on May 26, 2015 the Columbia cohort finally had there dinner with the sponsors and the alums. I was looking forward to the dinner this whole week. I was the first to arrive at El Cerrito Plaza BART station; I believe that if you show up on time them you are late that being said I arrived 15 minutes early. My mother accompanied me to the dinner. At about 5 in the afternoon everyone began to arrive Mark and his mother arrived after which gave me the chance to introduce myself to his mother and to talk more to Mark to get to know him better. One of the thing both Mark and I had in common was that we were both affiliated with a paramilitary organization, and before we knew it we were discussing chain of command and off all things how to shine boots. I was glad I had chosen to wear a suit and not a dress like I have planned because the night was chilly. While on our direct BART ride to San Francisco I sat next to Deborah we talked about our expectations if the trip and some of the activities we hoped to do. 
Alyanna and my mother
It was about a four block walk from the BART to the restaurant. During my walk I talked to Alyanna grandmother, Gloria who was just lovely to talk to. I enjoyed talking to her grandmother she made me feel like we had knew each other for a long time. When we reached Prospect restaurant we were scoured to a privet room. During the cocktail hour I spoke to Sophie Evans-Boroditsky ‘94/’95 alum. Sophie talked to me about her experience and how she managed to live of a small amount of money. I was inspired at how she managed to have the full college experience on a budget which made college seem more realistic. I also learned from her that even if you have a set major it might not be exactly what you end up doing in your profession.  
Deborah and I on BART
When we were seated I found myself next to Samara Trilling a recent graduate who literally just graduated last week. The one advice that she gave me was to take a programming class in my freshman year of college because it could be a tool to help me deal with data. She also helped me understand the importance of being open and not being scared of change in particulate social change. I enjoyed listening to the group discussions going on around the table. It opened my eyes to what Columbia has to offer in respect to the alumni's.
I am truly thankful to be participating in this summer’s Constitutional Law course. Thank you to all the sponsor, supporters and founders who make this program possible. I also wanted to thank the alum who talked us students and gave us something to look forward to this summer. 
The main course 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Together as One

My mother in the middle and Jenny on the right 
The day finally arrived when my cohort would be presented to the school board.  I finally had the opportunity to meet my 2015 Columbia cohort as well as my chaperon Joyce.  I was glad Don had sent out headshots of our chaperons because I had not yet had my meet and greet with her yet. I was easy to spot her in the crowed and with a warm smile we formally introduced ourselves to each other. Joyce was the chaperon for the Columbia Cohort last year which means she was aware of what to expect during the school board meeting. Joyce asked us to begin thinking about the activity’s we like to do while in New York.
Thao was so happy
Before the school board meeting began I had spare time to get to know some of the other students I will get to spend the summer with. When I began talking to Mark and Saba I could tell that we were going to get along great. I also talked to Jenny and Thao and caught up with them.
 I am so grateful to be going to Columbia University this summer and once again having the opportunity to bring something different back to my school.
Joann from U  Penn ILC group
 My cohort was the first group to be presented and Alyanna was the first to give her speech. She did a wonderful job speaking about her expectations and what she hopes to learn as well as what she expects to give back to her community.
Mark on the right 
Earlier that day I had been nervous about meeting my new cohort but once I began talking to them my nerves became excitement and I now look forward to our meet and greet because I want to get to know everyone more. Don did a great job taking the group photo of all the ILCers and the parents as well as the chaperons. 

The Doors Are Open!

The weeks dragged on and the days flew by, but the day finally came. Today on May 20, 2015, I finally realized the full extent of my new and upcoming journey at today's West Contra Costa Unified School District's board meeting to honor both my high school for its Gold Ribbon Award and the students engaged in this year's Ivy League Connection.

I woke up this morning in a cold sweat at around 6AM. I felt nervous but at the same time exuberance overcame my anxiety. After eating a quick breakfast, I left the house with an infectious positive attitude that I hoped would last throughout the day. Just a few hours prior to dismissal, I was told by Principal Evans that I would have to wear my Air Force JROTC dress blue uniform to the meeting tonight to represent De Anza High School. I agreed but contacted Don Gosney to ensure that I would meet the professional image that he set for us.

After coming home, I dressed into my JROTC uniform and headed out with my two friends, Cadet Quintana and Cadet Simundo. We felt our attitudes immediately change from mischievous high school sophomores to professional, polite and confident Air Force Airmen.
Joseph Quintana (Right) Joshua Simundo (Left) and there's me in the middle.

Once entering into the beautifully renovated Lovonya Dejean Middle School, I felt a really positive vibe between me and the other cohorts. I immediately met up with my other cohort members: Izabel, Saba, Deborah, and Alyanna along with our chaperone, Joyce Thrift. Soon after chatting with my cohort and chaperone, I could tell that we would get along incredibly well since we were not at all introverted with each other. Our conversations were lively, enjoyable, and just down right wonderful! It was almost as equivalent to conversing with an old friend from pre-school. Shortly before the start of the board meeting, we were given certificates recognizing us for our academic achievement and acceptance into the Ivy League Connection.

Now before the ILC was to present before the board, De Anza students and teachers were asked to present prior due to our recent Gold Ribbon Award. I stood alongside my fellow JROTC cadets at the position of parade rest as each teacher got up to the microphone to say a few words. A sense of pride overtook me until Principal Evans tapped me to speak. I was suddenly overcome by fear since I had no preparation at all. But I did my best and spoke to the best of my ability to represent both the cadets, the students, and the teachers and staff at De Anza High School.

Our cohort was the first one to present in front of the board. We walked up to the front of the board members with our Columbia University Flag with huge smiles and a huge sense of confidence. Our chaperone, Ms. Thrift, announced each of our names to the board members and what course we'd take at Columbia. Once Ms. Thrift announced my name, an overwhelming roar of cheers and applause overtook the room from my supportive JROTC cadets and De Anza teachers who were present at the meeting. After announcing our names to the board, Alyanna gave an eloquent speech thanking the ILC and the school board for this wonderful opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious learning institutions in the country.

After all the other cohorts had finished their presentations, we proceeded towards the gymnasium to take our official ILC group photo. Don did an excellent job in arranging all of us in our proper places. Don executed in a rapid yet professional way and in only a few moments, our ILC group shot was done! Afterwards, all the young men of the ILC requested for a group picture with our certificates.

As expected, all our mothers and fathers followed all of us to the courtyard of DeJean Middle School with their cameras and phones ready to bombard us with pictures. 
Nice, neat, professional.
The 2015 Ivy League Connection Boy's "Squad"

At the end of the day, I came home exhausted but at the same time overjoyed by the fact that studying constitutional law was no longer a fading dream. I realized today that the door had finally opened and that a dream I had since I was 8 years old had now become an official reality. Thanks and kudos to the WCCUSD School Board, and the Ivy League Connection for beginning this wonderful opportunity for me and my fellow cohort members. We won't let you guys down!
My dad and I shortly after coming home.
Look at those fat smiles!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The School Board Meeting ft. the ILC!

On March 20th, 2015, the ILC had the opportunity to be showcased at the school board meeting at DeJean Middle School. When I went to check my schedule this morning and saw that the meeting was today, I felt a flush of excitement--and nervousness.

My stress levels began to rise right after school today, at approximately 4pm. I knew I had to leave the house by 5:20 in order to arrive at the school on time, so I had a limited window to shower, dress up, eat, and write my speech. Terrific.

Somehow, I managed to pull through, and I arrived at DeJean Middle School at around 5:45 PM. At first I was unsure of where to go, until I saw a group of people dressed up fancily, so I just followed their path. Upon walking into the multipurpose room, I saw many familiar faces from the tutorial session. I first saw my cohort member Saba at the side, and wondered where the rest of us Columbia kids were located. We walked towards the back of the room and quickly spotted our snazzy cohort.

I was immediately greeted by the friendly smile of the drama teacher at my school, Ms. Thrift. I was absolutely ecstatic to find out a few weeks ago that she was going to be our chaperone--I had actually starred in two productions of hers a few years ago, so we were familiar with one another. Our cohort talked about where we'd want to visit in New York, and what was going to happen at the board meeting. Although I had met all of my cohort previously at the tutorial, it was really great to "officially" meet everyone and see all of their happy faces.

When the clock striked 6:29, a board member stood up and began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. (Go America!) For the first 20 minutes of the meeting, the board addressed news of our district, and honored teachers from DeAnza for receiving the Gold Ribbon award. It was really inspiring to see a school that was once at the very bottom move up to ranking in the top 100 schools. I hope my school achieves that someday.

 After many honorable mentions and announcements, my cohort was the first to present. Walking up to the podium, I felt really nervous, as I was the student speaker for Columbia. But my cohort members were really great about comforting me and telling me that I had nothing to worry about. (Thanks guys♥) Ms. Thrift introduced myself, Deborah, Izabel, Mark, and Saba to the board and audience, and said what high school we were from, and what program we were attending. It really calmed my nerves to realize that I wasn't the first one of us to speak up there (sorry Ms. Thrift!). After the introductions, I stepped up to the podium and adjusted the mic.

I started my speech, and realized that my cohort members were right--I had nothing to worry about. Once I started speaking, I began to relax, and my heart rate slowed. I tried to deliver my speech with as much emotion and sincerity as possible, as we are truly grateful to our sponsors and parents, and everyone who made the Ivy League Connection possible. I said my last sentence, and took a deep breath as I realized the worst part was over. I sat back down with my cohort and watched the rest of the schools present.

Immediately after the meeting, we headed into the gymnasium, and took the group photo. After reading Don's email about picture setups, I was nearly certain that I'd be sitting in the front row with the rest of the "shorter ladies". But thanks to my heels, I made the cut to stand in the second row! Organizing a large group of people is really not an easy task-- kudos to you Don!

After about 15 flashes and attempts at blinding us, Don said he was finished. I was relieved, as my cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling at that point. I left with my dad and grandparents, and headed home. This school board meeting was a tremendous experience, and I'm super glad I got to spend it with the members of the Ivy League Connection.
Ivy League Connection Students and Parents

Fairly Formal Forum.

Like many others, I had no idea what to expect from the school board meeting. It wasn't that I was nervous as much as I was clueless. Upon my arrival to Lovonya DeJean Middle School, I bumbled about in the multi-purpose room before I had the pleasure of meeting our cohort's chaperone, Joyce Thrift. Ms. Thrift was so lovely and kind and I'm looking forward to getting to know her more on the trip and at our upcoming dinner. Along with Ms. Thrift, I was finally able to meet and talk with all the other members in my cohort officially. Although I've always felt like meeting other high-school kids in an official manner is slightly awkward, I've realized that maybe it's just me. Saba, Mark, Alyanna, and Izabel were outgoing and not awkward at all and I'm definitely excited to become better friends with them as we explore the fascinating things the East Coast and New York City have to offer together.

We were seated in the front aisle, up close to where all the action took place. After the meeting began and the school board completed all their official tasks and procedures, it was time for us to go up and shine (for around 3 minutes). Fortunately, I was confident in my flag-holding abilities. As the other cohorts were introduced, I found that the most interesting part was listening to the speeches given by fellow ILC members. They were all impressively professional and confident. Could I have done that?
One can only hope.

The group photos taken afterwards were much less tedious and difficult than legends told them to be. Although my mouth did hurt a little from smiling so long, the arrangement went well (thanks to Don's attention to every little detail, of course). Altogether, it was really great to get to see the generosity and support shown to the Ivy League Connections program by sponsors and the school board firsthand. I hope to make them proud as a representative of the district and El Cerrito High embarking on this new journey.

The Official Ivy League Connection 2015 Introduction

I arrived to Lovonya Dejean Middle School located in Richmond, Ca for the long awaited School Board meeting 30 minutes early. Every one of my fellow ILCers were expected to be there and I was super nervous. I have already met the majority of everyone who have been accepted into the Ivy League Connection during the tutorial day we had weeks ago at De Anza High School, but this event seems so much more legitimate and intimidating. Today was our first real introduction to our community as the 2015 Ivy League Connection group. It is not only intimidating that we are presenting in front of the School Board, but its is downright frightening that we will be televised as well!

Even though I arrived early to the meeting I saw a lot of familiar faces right away. I felt quite shy and awkward to go up to anyone and say hello. I sat away from the growing group of ILCers with my mom and tried to calm my nerves. Around 15 minutes later I felt confident enough to leave the comfort of my mother’s presence to finally meet my Columbia cohort and chaperone officially. Our chaperone Joyce Thrift introduced herself to Deborah, Mark, Alyanna, Izabel, and I and told us about all the fun we were going to have in New York this coming summer. I immediately began to warm up to her and my cohort and the more we talked the more I found myself wondering what I had been so nervous about before. Joyce also gave us our official Ivy League Connection certificates.

Ivy League Connection Certificate

In the middle of our conversation we were called over to take our seats because the meeting was starting. Joyce gave us a quick rundown on how we were going to stand when it was our turn to go up to the podium and also made sure she knew how to pronounce each of our names correctly. We were told to sit in the front of the auditorium because we were the first cohort to present. At this new piece of information Alyanna began to get more nervous because she was the chosen one to give a speech on behalf of our cohort. I tried to comfort her by telling her that she would do great, but that did not seem to help.

As the meeting commenced it was a bit confusing to follow. It was like an infinitely more complex and formal leadership club meeting that we have at my school. I found it interesting how there were two young men who are students at Gompers High School who got to be apart of the School Board and sit with the older members and actually be apart of their voting. I recognized Madeline Kronenberg sitting among them and saw Don walking around with his huge camera snapping photos of the event.

No words can explain how happy I was in that moment, but Don did a great job capturing it in one awesome photo.
After a couple of presentations, it was our turn to go up to the podium. I, along with my cohort, went up to the right of the podium holding our huge Columbia University banner with a huge grin on my face. Joyce introduced each of us individually our name, grade, school, and program. When she got to me all I could her is my mom’s proud yell in the back which made me smile even more. After our introductions, Joyce moved aside for Alyanna. Alyanna gave a great speech that effectively summed up all of our gratefulness and excitement to be apart of this amazing program. Don took lots of pictures while we were up there so I made sure that I made my grin visible to his camera.

My Columbia Cohort (aka new besties)

After we sat back down all the other cohorts introduced themselves and gave their speeches. The University of Chicago cohort was the last to present and after that we headed over to the gymnasium to take our group photo. As I was walking to the gym I realized that I had left my mother back in the auditorium. When I turned to go back and get her I saw right behind me, ready to take our photo. 
Proud Mother

When we got to the gym, Don split us all up into groups according to where we would be positioned in the photo. He split us up into chaperones, parents, short girls, tall girls, and boys. I ended up being a “tall girl” so I stood behind the seated “short girls” in the photo. My mom made sure she got a spot close to my in the photo. Don has a great eye for symmetry so he made sure that everyone was positioned in the right place and were also in view. As he took 2 dozens photos I smiled so much that my cheeks began to hurt. We were free to leave after he was done but my mom and I ended up staying longer because she wanted to take more photos of me and my friends Jun and Justeen.

Ivy League Connection 2015 (Woo Hoo!)

The School Board meeting really opened my eyes up to how much support and pride that our community has given us. We are truly going to represent our community in the east coast and we will not let them down. I feel that it is an honor and privilege to be given this opportunity to be the representation of a community of supportive, achieving, bright  young scholars.