Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vanderbilt Bound

I realized tonight what had yet to hit me in the past six months; I am going to Vanderbilt University. Of course, I have known that I will be attending this prestigious university for some time now, but it never really hit me until tonight. 

This evening, my fellow ILC peers and I congregated at Pinole Middle School for the final milestone event of the program: the orientation. I felt nostalgic as I walked across the campus of my old middle school to the multipurpose room, which was where the meeting was to take place. I titled my head as far back as my neck allowed and stared at the newly renovated school. A smile found its way to my lips as memories of middle school days returned to me. It felt strange coming back. I had changed so much since I left this school, I had learned so much. 

" Hey, you have to sign in," my father said, snapping out of my reverie. He was staring down at a piece of paper with the word Vanderbilt printed in bold across the top of the page. We signed our names and entered the room. I lead my father to a seat at the front and began digging through my bag for my notebook. "Make sure you take good notes," my father whispered to me. We sat in silence for a while as we waited for the meeting to start.

The first few minutes of the meeting consisted of Don and Mr. Ramsey giving some announcements, followed by a brief introduction of the chaperones. I listened to each person speak as I scanned the handouts that were passed out. After all the speeches were through, we all headed into separate classrooms to meet with our cohorts. Mr. Mannix, my chaperone, handed out some very detailed documents containing all our travel information. We discussed our plans for our trip; where we are going, what we plan to do at the cities we stop in, who we are to have dinner with, etc. Before I knew it, we were all called back into the multipurpose room for a few final words until the orientation was over. 

I left the orientation feeling more informed about my trip. I feel more comfortable now that I know the details of the trip. The final step is done, and I am now one step closer to Vanderbilt. 

On My Way To Vanderbilt

These past couple of weeks has been an incredible journey for me, and now that my trip back east is coming ever closer, I find myself becoming more and more excited by the day. 

This evening, I went to my former school, Pinole Middle, for the final ILC event before we leave for Vanderbilt: the orientation. The orientation was replete with a whole lot of helpful information regarding our departure times, and even items to take in our luggage. Even though there are many things we need to take on our trip, Don is there to help us out by loaning some of these items out. I am extremely grateful for this because I certainly do not want to go buy all of these items myself. Don really goes out of his way to help us all, and I cannot give enough thanks for his part in the ILC.

This orientation also reminded me how important we are to our district. In fact, WE are the sole representatives of our community and we must set a high example for everyone to see. When we go to Nashville, we will be meeting not only kids from across the United States, but also the whole world. This is great for me because I am a naturally inquisitive person, and will probably ask a whole lot of questions about these foreigners, whether they are from the U.S. or not. 

Madeline Kronenberg also reminded all of us of how important our part is when we come back. This is not only supposed to benefit you, but also everyone else in your community. This scholarship is not like any ordinary scholarship as well. It is not just a prize; it is a job, a job that must be carried out with hard work, diligence, and ambition. As Ms. Kronenberg said, “Take this opportunity and remember that it is also for the 25,000 people that did not get to go.” In the end, the ILC is all about how we represent and give back to our community, with as much spirit you can possibly give. 

After these couple of speeches, we all went to a room with our respective cohorts. There, the Vandy chaperone, Mr. Mannix gave us a plan of the 3 weeks of our trip. As I was reading the schedule, I realized how crazy it was, I mean we have a dinner the night we arrive! Still, that is exactly what makes our trip so exciting; we will never have a dull moment of doing nothing. We will always be planning, working, and having fun. 

Speaking of fun, we also have a “day off” on July 4, in Washington D.C, where we can spend the day doing whatever we want. I can’t wait to see the astounding fireworks in the birthplace of America. I know this day will be one of the most unique. As we were talking about the Washington D.C., all of us joked about seeing the President of the United States there, since he might be in the area for the celebration. I personally think that talking to him can be an incredible opportunity not only for us, but also for the ILC because we can get the chance to tell him about us and this exceptional program. This is of course, wishful thinking, however it does not mean it is totally impossible. 

By the end of the orientation I was feeling happier than ever. In a matter of weeks, I will be on my way to a whole new place. A place where I can learn about myself and my potential. Our real journey has begun and it is time to take off those training wheels and set us all free. This is our time, and we need to make the most of it. Thank you Mr. Ramsey, Don, Ms. Kronenberg, and chaperones for guiding us every step of the way. I know we will make you proud. 

Last Milestone Event, The Milestone Journey Begins

Wow! All of us ILCers are almost on our way back East! Tonight, we all attended our last milestone event, the ILC Orientation. I once again arrived early, because punctuality is key in being part of the Ivy League Connection. Mr.Ramsey and Don couldn't stress enough how important being on time is, because back East no train or plane will wait for us. Ms.Kronenberg stressed the fact that we can still be taken out from this exceptional program, and that we all earned our right to be here. As the Ivy League Connection program supports us, we must support them. This trip is not like any other scholarship, it comes with strings attached. It is each of our duty to represent our schools, our towns, and most definitely our district, as we meet new people, particularly admissions officers. It's interesting to know that the first thing admission counselors do, is Google our names. The first thing that will pop up is our Ivy League Connection blog leaving a lasting impression on them. Although I'm only a sophomore, my first step for college has already begun. It's an overwhelming feeling to know that the ILC cares about the future leaders and ambassadors of this world.

This program is giving their full support for us even towards the small, but important parts of our trip. I am very thankful for Don for giving us an opportunity to borrow loaner items. This is a huge load of help to many families, so we don't have to spend a lot of money for the things we need. From bed sheets to a laptop security cable, Don has it! The Ivy League Connection is preparing us for this trip very well, and I am so grateful for that.

Additionally, I obtained a lot of information as we broke off into our respective groups by the school we are attending this summer. Let me not forget to mention the beautiful new campus our orientation was held at, Pinole Middle School. I got a chance to use the first new building in seventh grade, but this newer building is also very nice. My cohort, our parents, and of course our chaperone, Mr.Mannix, gathered in a classroom and discussed our itineraries back East. As I skimmed over the large stapled packet of all our plane, train, and hotel information, I grew more and more excited. It was a relief that we don't have to wake up super early for our first flight to North Carolina, but to get up around 3 in the morning is still pretty early. I am very impressed on how organized the ILC program is, giving us each and every detail for our transportation and hotel reservations. It also lifts a burden off our parent's shoulders, knowing that we are put in safe hands. On top of the very important packet, our chaperone gave us an itinerary for the places we will be going, and things will be doing on the East Coast. Our very hectic schedule is packed with college tours of Duke University, Georgetown University, and University of Pennsylvania, an amazing fourth of July at Washington DC,  and even dinners with college admission officers and alumnus. Being the only cohort going to Duke University, Mr.Ramsey made sure that we will put a first good impression on the school, and hopefully start a relationship with them and the ILC. It is very exciting to see what has been planned for us, and just by looking at the itinerary, I know for sure, we will all have a blast.

This Ivy League Connection program is not only giving us the opportunity to explore the beautiful college campuses back East, study with a college professor, make connections with people who can put a great impact on our  futures, but also come back as a better person. Mr.Ramsey said to all of us, "You're opening doors, let's continue to make it happen." This program is not only impacting us, ILCers, but also the thousands upon thousands who don't get this opportunity. The ILC wants each one of us to come back as an active ambassador, so that all students know they have many opportunities set before them.

As I was talking to Yohanna Pepa, who is an ILC alumni, a rising junior at Yale University, and who will also be participating at the Yale Grand Strategies program this summer, she told me to, "Put a lot of effort in, because that's how much you'll get out." She reassured me that all ILCers got to this point, because we each deserved it, so we should make the most out of it and have fun. I must remember to go back East with an open mind to the different cultures and endless possibilities.

This orientation was just another reminder that we've made it! All of our hard work has been put in and we're almost there. With high expectations, new challenges, exciting plans, and  new places to explore, I know we'll have an unforgettable experience. One more month, then Yessenia Reyna, Chris Han, Narges Sahibzada, Mr.Mannix, and I are off to the East coast! Next up, packing!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Gang's All Here

In my previous blog entry, I mentioned that I've never been to a City Council meeting for the 16 years I've lived in Pinole.Well sadly, I've never been to a District School Board meeting either. I feel ashamed to know how little I've known about the people who've been running my community for these many years of my life. However, although going to my first "meetings" with the government leaders of our community reminded me to give plenty of shame and pity upon myself, these happenings have reminded me, again, just how important and just how unique this program is for me. To be honest, without the ILC, I would never have bothered to go to School Board meetings or City Council meetings; but now that I have realized just how important it is to participate and know what's happening in my community--and that includes Board meetings--I'll make to sure to attend these meetings more often in the future. 

Every time I watch a School Board meeting on T.V., the auditorium where the meeting is held at (DeJean Middle) is practically empty. So, it was a great surprise to me to see that there were so many people in the auditorium, so many in fact, that it posed a fire hazard (no joke). One reason for the vast number of people at the meeting was for several of the community's citizens, from young children to the elderly, wished to somehow move the Board in order to save the Adult Education Program in our district. They emphasized the importance of this program. One man that really moved me in particular said, "I don't want to be a burden to my community, so I wish to have an education and at least speak English." This really melted my heart, and I can't but only hope, that the Adult Education Program will be saved. On a positive note, it's nice to know that our community is willing to fight for what they believe would benefit their community, and that's always a good thing. If only we had more money...

Anyway, reflecting upon this School Board Meeting, I, along with the other 41 ILCers this year, are the future leaders of the world, and I believe the world will be in good hands, because we're ambassadors of this district, and soon every city in this country (or even world) will recognize the importance of the WCCUSD and the bright students, as well as young adults, it has produced. This thought truly hit me, when the chaperone for the Yale program said, "These students will take a course that will teach them how to take over the world." He went on to mention that the world will be in good hands, or at least that's what I got out from his speech. Another speaker I was inspired by was Austin Long, who is also a good friend of mine from Pinole. He is soon to be a sophomore at Yale, and his passionate speech really just continued to bring me honor and excitement for the future of this program and what it will accomplish because of us. There was also another speaker; her name was Tarilynn (forgive me if I spelled it wrong). She will be attending Harvard University next Fall, and the part in her speech where she mentions "expect the unexpected" reminded me about what Don said, "Everything is a test". Everything the ILC has done for us is a test and prepration for the "real world", or perhaps I should say "college world".

All in all, it was great to finally see and meet everyone who has contributed to this unique program. I got to see the entire "gang"--the entire workforce that made this program possible. The administrators, the ILC alumni, the chaperones, the sponsors, and of course the students (young adults and ambassadors) of this program were all there, and we took an enormous picture. And all I can say is, "The Gang's all here".

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We Can And We Will

Getting out of the car and into the summer air, I saw many people waiting to get into the multi-purpose room for the School Board Meeting. It was amazing to see the amount of people in that room, all going there to support a cause. 

As I got together with my Vandy cohort, the first point of the night came up. The purpose of the discussion was whether the School Board should close the Adult School. One by one, the brave English-learning speakers came up to express their opinion on the matter. I was especially moved by the little girl who made her own short speech. She reminded me a lot of my own little sister. In all honesty, this topic hits close to home. I know how hard it is for them to be disadvantaged this way. It is much harder to find a good job and keep your family happy and stable. Fortunately, my mother speaks and understands English very well, but I know that if she didn’t, things would have been so much harder on her and our family as a whole. In an ideal world, this problem would have all worked out, but I know that in difficult times like these, it does not. But one can still hope. 

Right after this presentation, it was our turn to be showcased in front of the board. Once again, we all got introduced, this time starting from the multitude of Brownies to the future conquerors of our planet known as the Yalies. It was really refreshing to see all these students stand proudly before the board with huge smiles on their faces.

Once the introductions finished, a couple of student speakers came up to speak on behalf of the ILC. One of them, Austin Long, a rising sophomore at Yale, delivered a very passionate and powerful speech, demonstrating the overall prowess of the ILC and how it has changed the lives of so many young adults-including his. His speech was really one of the highlights of my night because it showed how every one of us in that room can be destined for greatness, even for someone like me, who comes from a very different back round than most of the people I will meet back east. 

Another speaker, who will be going to the prestigious Harvard this year, also spoke about the opportunities and doors that the ILC has opened for her. She talked about the Harvard interview and how she was prepared for it by, “expecting the unexpected,” a skill she learned from the ILC. Apparently a skill that requires the knowledge of the Spongebob theme song. Nonetheless, I was proud to hear of all these students' achievements and what they have done for our district and community. 

After our presentation, all the parents, ILCers, and chaperones were squished together to take the big ILC photo-or should I say 25 photos. I must say, smiling and trying not to blink during a seemingly never-ending photo shoot is not easy stuff. I am sure Don will not have a problem finding a few good photos of all of us. 

Tonight has made me even more excited than I was before taking that huge step in representing my community as well as spreading my wings and showing the world what I have to offer. This night has been a magnificent experience for me and all of the ILCers. I hope all of us left that room tonight with a newfound confidence in ourselves and our abilities because in all honesty, I know all of us can make any dream we have a reality. We are all brilliant in our own way. We really are. 

Almost There

My journey to Vanderbilt has barely begun, and yet I am learning so much. The Ivy League Connection has exposed me to my community; it has removed the veil that once hid my eyes from my own district. This program has allowed me to grow more mature, and meet the people who preside over my hometown, but most importantly it has shown me the passion and ambition of the people in this community. 

As a high school student, I am constantly surrounded by high school students who are complacent with their academic achievements. Naturally, I thought the majority of the people in this district ( despite a rare few) were satisfied with where they are and never wanted to improve. I thought that education was the last thing the people of WCCUSD cared about, that I and my peers were the only ones who cared about education and progress. Boy, was I wrong. 

Today at LaVonya Dejean Middle School in Richmond, I attended my very first school board meeting. All the members of the Ivy League Connection were expected to show up and present themselves to the school board, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect for the evening. What surprised me, however, were the number of people who spoke on behalf of stopping the budget cuts on adult education. I was completely taken away with the passion in the words of the English learning speakers who stood up to give a speech in front of the board members. I respected their bravery; making a speech is nerve-racking enough, but I can't imagine having to give a speech in a tongue that is not your first language. I felt a lot closer to the people of this district than I ever did before. 

After those speakers gave their speeches, Mr. Ramsey adjourned the meeting temporarily so that he could join the ILCer, their chaperones, and their parents for the annual ILC picture. After much maneuvering around, we stood there with big smiles plastered to our faces as Don snapped about 100 pictures of us ( okay, it was only 20, but it sure felt like 100). 

It was a very pleasant evening that I enjoyed very much. As we drove back home from the meeting, I stared out my window at the flurry of cars passing by me on the freeway and got lost in a reverie. It suddenly hit me that there is really only a month left until I leave for Vanderbilt. A huge grin found its way upon my face as a little voice in my head said, " You're almost there." 

The District Recognition

Tonight was another memorable night. I, along with all ILC ambassadors, their parents, our chaperones, and sponsors, attended the WCCUSD School Board meeting at LaVonya Dejean Middle School. We all patiently waited in our seats to be recognized by the school board. Each cohort: Brown, Cornell, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and of course the "Ivy League of the South," Vanderbilt was called, and presented to the school board by their chaperone(s). It was another great honor for all of us to be acknowledged for the hard work we put in, passing the interview stage, and standing in front of our whole community, proudly representing the investment they have put in us. It was with great joy that we each received awards from the school board, distributed by an ILC alumni, Terilyn, who is also an upcoming freshman in Harvard.
Vanderbilt cohort!

It was amazing to hear the ILC alumni speak, showing their gratitude to the Ivy League Connection program. I had another chance to listen to the exceptional speaker, Austin Long, who confidently put his faith in us, ILC ambassadors, as we begin a new journey, competing against other bright, intelligent students, and rising to be the best of the best. His words of encouragement has pushed me to reach over and beyond my potential. He is a clear example that the ILC program does work. Upon arriving from his summer program on the East Coast, he took what he learned and put it into action, forming a science club at his own high school. He is also a rising sophomore of Yale University.

Terilyn is also one of the many examples that the ILC is producing actual Ivy League students. When she studied Hotel Management at Cornell last year, the one thing she learned was to "expect the unexpected." She carried this lesson to her Harvard interview, and it is one of the reasons why she will be attending the prestigious school next fall. During her interview, they didn't just ask her about her academics and extracurriculars, but their conversation led to the topic of Spongebob and The Hunger Games. Who would have thought these things would be brought up in a college interview? Nonetheless, she used the skill of expecting the unexpected, and now she is moving on as an ILC alumni to do greater things.

In addition, we were all praised by the school board, with their assurance in us, that we will all someday take on a big responsibility in the world. A great feeling ran inside me, as the school board put amazing faith in us, to go to the other side of the country, and show that we can do just as well as those who come from richer backgrounds. This whole program would not have been possible without the generosity of the sponsors who are giving back to the community and investing in the future. I cannot express how thankful I am for them, and to Mr.Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, and Don Gosney, for putting this one and only program in the country, together. 

We of course finished off the night with a large picture of this year's Ivy League Connection ambassadors, along with their parents and chaperones. With over 100 people in one picture, I don't blame Don for taking 24 pictures, maybe even more. I left the meeting with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and happiness, knowing how confident our community has for us to do great things. We can do it! Yes, we can!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Night of Self-Worth and Praise

I've never been to a Pinole City Council Meeting. Perhaps even worse to say, I've never even been inside City Hall for the sixteen years I have lived in Pinole. But Wednesday night, I finally had the chance to visit. 

Seeing so many of the Pinole students--not just my classmates, but my friends--who are apart of the Ivy League Connection, brought me excitement and happiness for everyone who's got in to their school for the summer. In fact, Pinole will be representing each school this summer: UPenn, Columbia, Brown, Yale, and of course, Vanderbilt. The only school a Pinole student didn't get into is Cornell, which isn't a district-wide program. The fact that Pinole has accomplished this gives me great pride, and I feel honored to be a student of Pinole Valley High School. This accomplishment has made me realize Pinole has so many opportunities--academically and non-academically--that other schools in the district may not have. It's made me realize that going to a school that may seem disadvantaged to other high schools is actually at an advantage to these schools. And I'm proud to be an ambassador for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Keeping up with the positivity of this post, I can honestly say everything went fairly well. From start to finish, we were praised--something that rarely happens for me--by the City Council, parents, administrators, and others for our hard-work into getting into the colleges we applied for. It felt great to be treated so highly of, just like the fancy dinner at One Market. However, unlike the dinner, the atmosphere was less pressuring and more layed-back, which helped me to feel much more comfortable and just "chill" with my fellow ILCers. All of the ILCers even got to receive a Pinole Valley High School '12 medal (given from the mayor!) for just being a participant in the program.

Overall, it was just a great night to show-off the ILC ambassadors of Pinole for 2012, and inform the Council that Pinole is on the radar, and we're accomplishing amazing things in this program. We gave the Council assurance that we would come back and share with our community all of the amazing things that we'll discover in the East Coast and Nashville, Tennessee. The City Council seemed very proud of us all-in-all, and their feedback to the "young adults" (current ILCers) at the end of all of the speeches by past ILCers who are now attending an Ivy League school, the ILCers this year, and the ILC administrators and chaperones made me only feel even greater honor--that being in this program is much more than worth it.

Meeting The Mayor

This evening, my fellow Ivy League Connection ambassadors and I had the honor of meeting the mayor of Pinole as well as several prominent members of the city council. We were given custom made metals as a reward for our hard work and perseverance, and we even delivered speeches to the city council members. It was yet another memorable night that made me realize that I am part of a truly great program.

ILC ambassadors receiving metal from Ms. Khan and the mayor of Pinole. 

I have never been inside the Pinole City Hall. I have passed by it several times on my way to the post office, but I have never actually stepped foot in the building until this evening. Some of us arrived earlier than the council members, so we waited in the hall until more people arrived. When the doors of the council chambers opened, we all scurried in and waited for more people to arrive. The chamber itself was nothing too extravagant; the
walls were simply painted, with no pictures hanging on them. The only decorations were the three flags standing limply behind a podium that was shoved to the left-hand corner of the room, and a few T.V. screens suspended from the walls. Several rows of seats spanned the medium sized room and faced the desk of the city council members.  There were several rows of seats facing the desk of the council members.

We took our seats and the meeting began. The council members went over the agenda, but then adjourned the meeting to discuss things amongst themselves. After they had returned, several people related to the ILC made speeches. Ms. Khan gave a particularly touching speech and gave us an unexpected present: custom made metals to rewards us on all our hard work.

After listening to several speeches and posing for a multitude of photos, my turn at the podium finally arrived. I had practiced my speech several times before, but to no avail for I as soon as I stood before the council members, I forgot everything. I could recall only certain fragments of my speech, but I grabbed at whatever words floated into my mind my spoke them. I must have done better than I thought though because the council members complimented all of the Ivy League ambassadors on our public speaking skills.

This is only the second ILC event I have attended, but it has helped to boost my self-confidence. It felt so sublime being praised but such prominent figures in society. It was the first time in my life that I actually felt proud of myself.

Future leaders of the world. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Inspiring Night

When I arrived at the Pinole City Council meeting with my fellow Vandy partner, Narges Sahibzada, I saw Dyana So there, sketching in her calendar. We chatted with her for a while, discussing what was in store for the night. Dyana started talking about how such a great opportunity these meetings are since they allow us to show how we can make our community a better place. 

As we all entered the council room, I noticed how small the room was. However, the room was bright and very warm which gave it this cozy, home-like feel to it. When we finally got started, Mr. Ramsey introduced us all and gave us a lot of praise that really made me feel proud of myself. I felt especially honored when Ms. Kahn spoke and she got a little emotional expressing how proud she was of all of us. It honestly touched my heart. 

Our student speakers who were past ILC members began describing just how much the ILC and the Pinole Valley community has changed their lives. They were all students living in a small town that have great futures ahead of them. For one, Austin Long, who has just finished his first year at Yale. He described all of the wonderful things he has done for our school such as creating these science outreach activities, which is a great program that gets elementary school kids motivated and excited about science. Another ILC alum,  Dyana So talked about being born in Hong Kong and how the biggest plans she had for herself before the ILC was UC Berkeley. However, now that the ILC has expanded her outlook on other universities, she has chosen to attend the University of Pennsylvania, being the first in her family to go to college. These are the things that show that no matter who you are, and where you come from, you can go wherever you want to go, and you can be who you want to be.

As our presentations went on, us new ILC members had the opportunity to speak in front of the council and express our gratitude to our community. I was pleased with what everyone had to say, and I honestly believe all of us are going to go far one day. By the end, some of the people of the council, Timothy Banuelos, Roy Swearingen, Peter Murray, Debbie Long, and Phil Green all congratulated us on our achievements. “You guys were all awesome,” said Mr. Green. Other council members also complimented us on how confidently we spoke, “far beyond our years,” said one of them. All of these things show how appreciative city of Pinole is. We even got some wonderful medals that were presented to us during the meeting.

This night has motivated me to try my absolute best in everything that I do, because now I know that even though I am a Hispanic girl living in a small town, I can do anything. I can’t wait to embark on my journey to Vanderbilt to finally bring back personal experiences to lead others into taking that giant leap forward, and not being afraid to take it.

Once again, I thank all of those who were there, including Mr. Ramsey, Don Gosney, Sue Kahn, Madeline Kronenberg, and the city council members for making this night happen.

From Small Beginnings to Prestigious Schools

Attending my second Pinole City Council meeting was another great honor. I attended one a couple of months ago in recognition for the Pinole Valley High School Marching Band performing in the San Francisco Chinese New Year's Parade. But this evening was something different. Ten Pinole Valley students had the amazing opportunity to be recognized each for being an Ivy League Connection ambassador, by the City Council. We even got to receive special medals, as elite Pinole Valley Students.
After listening to the many speeches, from each ILCer, ILC administrators, chaperones, and alumni, I had an overwhelming feeling of great achievement. It was great to hear from Austin Long, Dyana So, Alex Elms, and Andrew Gonzales about how the Ivy League Connection each touched their lives. Now that they are going on to Ivy League Schools, you can see how proud they are to be products of Pinole Valley High, particularly the Ivy League Connection. It's amazing to see how they each came from a small town, competing with students coming from prestigious public and private high schools, and succeeding into attending an Ivy League college. It has proven that although we come from a low income school, we ALL can succeed if we want to. 
It was an honor to also speak to the City Council, expressing my gratitude for their support of public education and beyond. I am really excited as the Vanderbilt Summer Academy approaches. "With great gifts, comes great responsibility." Pinole Valley High School has given me and many of my peers an opportunity to explore the world outside the small town of Pinole, and in return I am willing to come back with an eagerness to share my wonderful experiences with other students to encourage them and inspire them to fulfill a higher education. I thank the city of Pinole for pushing us in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Fancy Dinner to Remember

It was a hot summer evening, as my mother and I headed to the BART station to make our journey with the Ivy League Connection to the restaurant One Market in San Francisco. It was an interesting feeling for me on our journey to BART; I hardly felt nervous this time--compared to the tutorial session. However, I was that last one to arrive at the BART station, but I figured I couldn't change that; and so I let that go and had my mind set and ready for the dinner. Even on the BART I felt at ease, and just went with the flow. Perhaps the only thing I was nervous about was my table manners and how to eat the such elegant food with, well, elegance.

As we entered One Market, I felt an entirely new environment. This new environment made me realize that I am no longer a teenager, but a young adult soon to enter college. I just couldn't help but smile and observe the fancy dinner tables and soothing jazz music playing in the background. In entering, I was asked several times by waiters and waitresses if I wanted these elegant-looking mini-appetizers. I of course said "yes" with excitement almost every time. And I'm not even going to kid myself, it felt good to be treated with such prominence,  by not only the workers at the restaurant, but all of the others joining us for dinner--that all my hard work payed off into getting in to the ILC and that perhaps in the future I will be living this luxurious type of life.

The Vandy cohort was split up when we sat into our tables. Because of this, I had to opportunity to make conversation with Vanderbilt's alumni and the people who have sponsored me into going to Nashville this Summer. One of the very first things both alumni said was, "There's nothing bad that I can say about Vanderbilt." Now I know they wanted to show off Vandy, but it really did seem like they were being totally honest. 

We spoke a lot about the area, Nashville, itself. The estimated population of Nashville is a pretty good size, with over 600,000 and over a million in the metropolitan area. Yet, everything is very spread out, and it's a very "chill" city. No one's rushed like in the Bay Area. One won't be surprised if they're suddenly making conversation with a stranger. So although the South is politically conservative area, this doesn't mean their people are. It won't surprise anyone in Nashville  to walk in a restaurant and hear live music by a famous music star, or even go on a date (with a tie and everything) to a football game. Compared to life in the Bay Area, the social environment in Nashville might be a good change for me.

On the campus itself, all students are required to live on campus for all four years. This really gets all the college students involved and closer together. Many are in fraternities or sororities, especially women--half of the female population at Vandy are in a sorority. Ironically enough, the campus library is where all the students socialize (well at least they have good intentions, right?). By my senior year, I would probably be able to know everyone in my class (which one of the alumnis did).

After talking a lot about the social life in Nashville and the school, we finally started talking about the education at Vanderbilt. No matter what area of study you wish to pursue, you'll know it's a top-ranked course in the nation. The class sizes are nice and small (10-15 and the most is about 40) with some of these classes even smaller than some of my high school ones at Pinole Valley. This would give me opportunities to actually know the professors, instead of going to a UC lecture hall and never even saying one word to them.

Vanderbilt also gives you the opportunity to take a variety of different classes. You can even double major or make your own major. But whatever it is you wish to pursue and decide to major in, Vanderbilt will make it work for you. Also, being a Liberal Arts school, Vandy has certain classes that are mandatory. They make you take a philosophy class, which is actually a good thing because I'm very interested in philosophy. But all in all, Vandy doesn't just give a student a good education; it prepares them for the real world, giving classes ,just like philosophy, to help make a student the person they'll be for the rest of his/her life. With all the different types of courses I'm interested in--English, History, Humanities, poetry, philosophy, sociology, psychology, marketing, international relations, and etc. (and of course religion)--I know Vanderbilt will have them available for me and let me major in them in any way I want.

 Overall, the dinner was a great experience, and it was an honor to have finally met my sponsors and the alumni--not to mention my principal, Ms. Kahn--who seemed very excited for the four of us to study at Vandy. I've learned a lot about Nashville and Vanderbilt, and I know the next couple of events will just make me more excited for our trip. 

To end this entry, I just like to say I am truly grateful for everything the ILC has done, and I don't think I've could've said it any better than Hannah when she gave her speech. I just truly hope that the students in our district know there's so much more to life than just the Bay Area, or California.

With the cohort and the alumni after dinner.

The First Dinner

"I'm proud of you." They were words that I had not heard in a long time, but they made a special night even better. 

Yesterday evening, my fellow Vanderbilt cohorts and I attended a dinner at One Market restaurant with our parents, Don, Mr. Ramsey, and several other important people. We were the first party to arrive, so we waited until everybody arrived before we took our seats in the room that was reserved for us. As we waited, we were served some hor d'ourves, but I was too nervous to eat anything. My anxiety only grew as more people began to arrive and the hall in which we had gathered slowly grew more crowded. What should I say? How should I act? I asked myself, as I accepted a glass of water from a tray a waiter had offered me. I sipped the water and felt my anxiety dissipate as the icy water went down my throat. The sudden coldness made me shiver.

Soon it came time to enter the dining area and we were ushered to our seats. As I sat down next to my father, I scanned the room. It was small, yet it maintained a sense of elegance. I noticed how crowded the room had become and aware of the fact that all these people were here for Hannah, Yessenia, Chris, and myself. I felt like a celebrity. 

We ordered our food and listened to various people speak while we ate our salads. Our table was very crowded, so I tried to prevent myself from knocking anything down and making any noise with my glass and silverware. In the end, I decided to wait until everyone was done speaking to finish my salad. 

Once everyone had finished speaking, I began to converse with the people sitting at my table. I much about them: where they went to school, what they majored in, their experience at school and in the real world. I also learned from Casey, who is a Vanderbilt alumni, that Vanderbilt's English department has very small classes. That instantly appealed to me because I like smaller, more intimate classes rather than huge, distant classes. She also answered the one question that has been hovering in my mind since I found out I was going to Nashville: how culturally diverse is Vanderbilt? I was worried about being the only Middle Eastern person at Vanderbilt, but Casey assured me that there are many culturally diverse people at Vanderbilt. 

All in all, it was a great night. I learned a lot about Vanderbilt and about the people who are sponsoring my trip. However, the highlight of the night for me was after the dinner, and after the BART ride. My father and I were in our car heading home. I asked him if he had fun and he replied with a smile, and slightly teary eyes. "I had fun watching you speak to them, you sounded like such an intelligent young woman." I smiled and thanked him, not sure if he meant his word. But then he reached over and grabbed my hand and said"I'm proud of you", and I knew then that he meant what he said. 

A Dinner Filled With Vanderbilt Alumni

I must admit, I am not a fan of BART rides, they are too crowded and I get sick from all that motion-and yesterday was no exception. However, the dinner at One Market really made up for it.

When we walked into the tastefully decorated restaurant, the waiters ushered us into an area where they offered us the most delectable hors d'oeuvres: a crunchy tuna tostada, and a juicy slider. I figured that if we waited any longer, I probably would be filled up on those snacks before I even sat down!

Right before all of us sat down though, I got the chance to have a quick chat with one of the many Vanderbilt alums, Casey Word, who finished graduate school there. We talked a little about life down in Nashville, and how it was a city in perfect balance between city life and small town life. The area was neither too small nor too big, which made me feel like I could fit right in.

When we found our seats, I discovered that I would be sitting with alumni John Tilsch, Rachelle Soderston, Casey Word, and School Board member Madeline Kronenberg. As we talked about Vanderbilt and how their personal experiences were for them, I expressed my concern for the lack of diversity there. Even though Rachelle agreed that Vanderbilt was not the most diverse, she assured me that it would not be a problem. Casey and John also confirmed this by saying that I can find any type of person at Vanderbilt, and that I would have a great time meeting people and making new friends.

As I was digging into my strange-looking Caesar salad, Mr. Ramsey talked to us about how the ILC came to be. It is amazing to hear that in just seven years, this organization has grown so successful. I was also surprised to hear that there is nothing like the ILC in the United States. This really shows how unique this program is.

Throughout the dinner, I had a great time speaking with all the people at my table. They all had very different and interesting lives. I learned that John is in a business that helps couple’s boutiques expand, while Casey is an analyst, who is someone that calculates the costs of insurance per individual. As we talked, she spoke about her experiences with grad life, like roommates. Although her Vandy roommates were great, her roommates after did not fit that description. In the end, she got a restraining order against this roommate of hers. “Never again,” she said, “I am done with roommates.”

I also got some great information from Rachelle regarding financial aid at Vanderbilt. She said that the financial aid there is great and I would not have to worry too much about the money. Ms. Kronenberg also told me that if a family makes below a certain amount, then they don’t have to pay a thing in some universities. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the sound of my mothers’ sigh of relief. I think we are both glad to hear this valuable piece of information. 
The Incredible Tart

Overall, the dinner proved to be a great experience. I am so glad I got to meet all of these wonderful people because without them, the dinner would not have gone as well as it did. I am especially grateful for the delicious food I got to eat; the filet mignon was exceptional and the strawberry tart thing was so delicious, I definitely wanted an extra one of those.

This dinner has made me even more excited for Nashville, and I can’t wait to spend three glorious weeks there with my cohort. I give my thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Don, Ms. Kronenberg, and everyone who was there for a memorable night of great food and fun. 

Memorable Night of Making Connections

The Vanderbilt cohort!
Excitement and nervousness filled me up as my dad and I drove over to the BART station. I made sure to leave my house extra early, just in case we got lost. Fortunately we got there early, and our ride to San Francisco was pretty quick, arriving at One Market with time to spare.

 My nerves began to build as more and more people began arriving at the restaurant, but I was happily distracted by the delicious appetizers and kind service. I enjoyed the ahi tuna and of course the cheeseburger sliders. As I began chatting with some alumni and my chaperone, Mr.Mannix, I realized that there was nothing to be nervous about and that all these people are here to support me.

As we entered the dining room, about 30 of us: ILC sponsors, administrators, district members, alumni, our chaperone, my cohort and our parents, looked for our names on the tables. We were all split up, to be sure we get to know new people, and make new connections. At my table sat: my father, Tyler Sanchez and Summer Preve, two of the eight Vanderbilt alumni that attended, and also two sponsors of the Ivy League Connection program, who were both architectures. It was awesome to know that one of the ILC sponsors was one of my interview panelists and is even the architecture for the future Pinole Valley High School.
It was a great experience to talk with Tyler and Summer about their high school experiences, and their life at Vanderbilt. I learned that they both were greatly involved in sports, leadership, and community service in high school which paid off in the end, as they received many scholarships at Vanderbilt. One interesting thing that I learned, was that Vanderbilt allows you to create your own major, to study specific courses which you are truly passionate for. Both Tyler and Summer both studied areas which they loved, and now both work for the company Google. Another interesting fact I learned, was that Vanderbilt is very safe. You can have a police man escort you from your dorm room to the library if need be. I was amazed to learn how Vanderbilt is very closely knit, with buildings surrounding the whole campus. In addition, you will able to build a one on one relationship with your professors. Compared to many Universities out here in California, average class sizes are hundreds upon hundreds, while at Vanderbilt there's about twenty to twenty-five students in each class. I believe that this is a very important aspect of colleges to consider when applying. It was a fun experience to be able to connect with these alumni, and I am very grateful to them for offering their own time to be with us.

 Amidst all the wonderful conversations I had with the alumni and sponsors, it was an honor to speak as the student speaker for this Vanderbilt dinner. All my nerves were gone as I began to speak, and I spoke from my heart, letting everyone know how excited I am to be attending the Vanderbilt Summer Academy, and also giving a big thank you for the opportunity the Ivy League Connection Program has set before me.

 I must not forget the wonderful food at the One Market restaurant. Although I didn't quite understand the names of each dish, I can say the crab soup, the bacon wrapped filet mignon with mushrooms, and the tart-like dessert with strawberries and ice-cream were all quite delicious. It was very satisfying and I enjoyed the pleasant meal.

Lastly, I'd like to give a warm blanket of thanks to the whole Ivy League Connection program, especially, Mr.Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, and Don for believing in us, continuing this Vanderbilt program, and paving the way for our future.