I heard about the Ivy League Connections Program long before I had the opportunity to apply.
I was a freshman in high school, new to the area, on my way to an away match for tennis. We were waiting on our Singles 2 player to get out of "some presentation for some program." As soon as she came out, we bombarded her with the normal, curious questions and she patiently explained that the presentation was for the reputable "Ivy League Connections program". I didn't think much of it then, but it sounded like a cool idea, and I stashed it away in the recesses of my mind.
Flash forward one year. I was a sophomore and both my brother and I had been invited to the Ivy League Connections presentation, after which we were both enamored by the prospect of free travel, food, experience, and education offered to us by Don Gosney, the program's equally enamoring salesman. But from there we took very different paths. He, the more responsible and diligent of us two, finished his application early and proceeded to nag me about mine. I, on the other hand, waited until the last minute to get all my forms in and write my essays.
Needless to say, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who got in and who didn't.
My brother came back from his program enlightened and excited about life, eager to take college by the hand and guide her to the future - his future. Meanwhile, I could only watch from afar and admire. The Ivy League Connection had offered far more than it had advertised and in my ignorance, I had missed out. Despite feeling like I had shot myself in the foot, I sat patiently and waited for a second chance to apply. This time, it would be different; and nothing could stop me.
When the first emails from Don about the program hit the masses, I eagerly ate up every word. There was no way the program could escape my grasp now. And so, I wrote my essays and paid my dues. Somehow, it got me an interview. I remember thinking about answers to every possible question that I thought that they'd ask me and practicing them in the shower.
The actual interview was nerve-wracking - your average sweaty-palm hysteria complete with friendly overtones and cutthroat undertones. All that was left for me now was utter triumph or devastation - a wasteland of woe and disappointment. I attempted to convince myself that there was some middle ground but the paths were clear.
My heart soared the second my name was called as one of the chosen few and my eyes may or may not have bugged out. Elation is not extreme enough on the scale of emotion to describe that secret recipe.
Thus began my love-love relationship with the Ivy League Connection program.
I won't pretend that it miraculously fell in my lap, because I would have got in the first time if that were the case. But I still find it hard to believe that such an amazing opportunity like the one that the ILC provides even exists. I regret nothing and cannot go on enough about how grateful I am. I'm thankful for each one of the sponsors who helped pay for each and every student's trip and for the people who helped coordinate it. I'm thankful for the tireless workers in the program's figurative backstage and for those in the stressful spotlight. I'm thankful for Ms. Madeline Kronenberg, Mr. Don Gosney, and Mr. Charles Ramsey. I'm thankful for the people I was able to meet whether it was school alumni or the people in my cohort. I'm thankful for the food - oh, the delicious food! *swoons* I'm thankful for the knowledge that the trip equipped me with for the upcoming years in both the traditional sense and the non-traditional. I'm thankful for everyone that supported me and my fellow ILCers along the way and for those who read my blogs, goodness knows y'all are soldiers.
My cohort was so wonderful. Mark, Alyanna, Izabel, and Ms. Thrift: you made the trip more amazing than I could have ever asked for and I love you all so dearly. Initially it was terribly awkward; let's be real, it was. But then, all of a sudden, it wasn't. And now, I consider us to be one big, happy, (slightly dysfunctional) family - cream of the crop.
Being a part of the ILC program made me realize things about myself, the world around me, and the people around me that were always there but that I'd never taken the time to think about. It taught me the virtues of friendship, second chances, and a good cup of coffee. I have been so incredibly blessed to experience some of the wonders of this world in such a short amount of time and to even be given that chance in the first place.
At the end of the day though, I'm sure to plenty of you reading this, you've already read the same thing a thousand times before, just in different words. I'm sorry to say that I can't offer anything new or refreshingly insightful on what the ILC gave me. I can, however, say this: That's really what the point is. As long as the ILC program is going, it will continue to spread smiles across the country and give kids like me once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It will continue to change lives and it will continue to influence even more. The torch is passed down from year to year but the flame is no less bright. And with each new inquisitive soul that is somehow touched by the ILC's magic wand, it gets even brighter. I just hope to be useful as a tool in this process, sharing my story with others as many of those have done before me and stoking the fires of the future with the passion of the present.
Long live the Ivy League Connection!