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!