Monday, April 30, 2012

Who I Am and Why I Am Here

Hey everyone, my name is Lucas Lochner Bravo and I am a sixteen year old junior currently attending El Cerrito High School. I was raised by two parents who, partially because they were not born in this country (my mom is from Chile and my dad from Germany), gave me a childhood a little different than most people toward growing up in America. I think this has been a fantastic thing, although that opinion may vary from person to person. Of course, I have still found my own way to blend in to this culture, as I finally joined Little League sports and became a passionate fan of American football. That being said, I still get funny looks from the majority of people when I tell them that I’ve never owned any video games or that I really do not wish to drive a car. I enjoy these looks, though, as I am very proud of the person I am and I don’t mind at all what others think of it.
Martin Luther King Jr., someone I find to be one of America's
most inspirational leaders.
All this being said, though, I still have a whole lot in common with kids my age. Like every teenager, I struggle every day to find the precarious balance between academics, health and personal interests, all while (trying to) avoiding the distractions flying at us from every direction in a world that becomes more and more complicated every day. There are days when I love school, when I am able to soak up information about the things I love, such as hearing the stories of World War II survivors and debating the numerous meanings of symbols in George Orwell’s 1984. Of course, there are just as many days on which I feel that there is somewhere else I could be, something else I could be doing, and a much better way to use precious time. When not absorbed by schoolwork, I spend the majority of my time pursuing personal interests, particularly baseball and some of the many issues concerning society. I am currently starting for El Cerrito’s Varsity baseball team and am a member of El Cerrito’s speech and debate team. I am extremely passionate about politics and issues concerning not only myself but every one around me, and if I were to have the opportunity to use my time differently, it would in some way be related to this passion.

People across America weighed in on whether or not they felt
the Occupy movement had taken the freedom of speech too far.
In fact, come this summer, I will have that opportunity. That is precisely the reason I applied to be a part of the Ivy League Connection; I was offered the opportunity to pursue some of my most passionate interests. The person I am and the goals I have drew me particularly to the Constitutional Law course at Columbia University. The course focuses on the role of the U.S. Constitution and its connection in the relationship between law and society on a variety of topics including freedom of speech, gun control and civil rights. This focus is achieved primarily through class discussion and debate, a format design to help students develop skills reading and interpreting Supreme Court documents and to sharpen reasoning and analytical skills through forming persuasive arguments. From the sound of it, this class is taught in a way which I feel will truly help me succeed in the course, and it covers a wide range of topics encompassing exactly what I was looking for when I applied.

With the help of the Ivy League Connection, students in the WCCUSD like myself are able to spend their summer studying what interests them at some of nation’s most respected universities, all expenses paid. What this experience means of course, is different for every student. Many will find themselves being guided toward a particular path in academics, others will simply find themselves changed as a person. Through offering the opportunity to experience college life and study a topic which fascinates me, I feel that the Ivy League Connection will help me to gain that knowledge of politics and law that comes with experience, get a taste of college life, and by studying something I truly love, enjoy myself! I enjoyed simply writing the application essay; now I will be taking an entire course on the topic! As a person, the Ivy League Connection will help me learn what it is like be away from the life I know, and, living in an area of predominantly Democrats, gain the perspective of others who live and view the world differently than I.

At the conclusion of this program, I will share my experience with others to generate more interest in college and the ILC, and describe to others what the unknown is actually like. Hopefully I can bring back advice on what an experience like this can do for one, and help combat any uncertainties others may have regarding stepping out of one’s comfort zone or challenging one’s self. I will also integrate what I have learned into my school and community, be it as a club leader at my school on a small level, or 50 years from now as a politician on a much larger stage.

Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut 
In addition to attending a course at Columbia, our cohort will be making numerous college visits in the days leading up to the course. In preparation for this, each of us was assigned a university to do some research on, and I was lucky enough to pick up Yale University. Yale, consistently respected as one of the top universities in the United States and the world, is a highly selective private school located in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Applicants aspiring to be a part of Yale’s class of 2015 were accepted at a rate of only 6.8% --- one of the lowest rates in the country and Yale’s lowest acceptance rate in history. Roughly 5500 undergraduate students attend Yale, 12% of them coming from outside the United States.

Yale University was originally founded in 1701 as The Collegiate School by members of the colony of Connecticut aspiring to create an institution to train ministers and leaders for the colony. Originally the only college in Connecticut, The Collegiate School was for the sons of the elite. In 1718, businessman Elihu Yale of the East India Company donated a large sum to the college for the construction of a new building, and out of gratitude the school was renamed Yale University. Curriculum and culture at Yale University revolved greatly around religion in 17 and 1800’s, in fact, until the mid 1800’s it was considered a campus crime to express disbelief in the Bible or profanity toward the Sabbath.

Today, students are a little less restricted in their interests and beliefs, as they are given the opportunity to study roughly 100 majors over 13 different schools, all while boasting a low student:faculty ratio of 5:1. Were I to attend Yale, I would love to study International Relations and Affairs, Political Science and Government, or Sociology, although I would be grateful simply for stepping into a class for 10 minutes to listen.

John Kerry and George W. Bush during the a debate for the
2004 Presidential election. Both graduated from Yale.
Yale has produced numerous respected alumni over the years including 49 Nobel Laureates, 2 U.S. Secretaries of State, 19 Supreme Court Justices, several foreign heads of state and 5 U.S. Presidents (William Howard Taft, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush). Yale alumni are represented in all levels of government across America, in fact, Yale alumni were represented on either the Democratic or Republican ticket for every presidential election between 1974 and 2004. Both Bushes and Senator John Kerry were as part of the Skull and Bones secret society, although they refuse to reveal what their role was.

I acknowledge that I have a habit of overworking and staying up until ungodly hours, so I’ll wrap it up here. I also acknowledge that my titles are very uninteresting; I'm working on this.

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