Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Step Closer

Well, let me begin by telling you that it took me a day or two to start this blog, and another two days to write it. There was far too much to write about, and I had an extremely difficult time trying to figure out how to organize it. While I ended up doing it chronologically, it took me quite a while to figure out that that was the best way (yes, it would probably take most people about 5 seconds). My concern was that writing chronologically might end up leaving my blog with far too much plot summary, but I decided to just take that and run with it. Plot summary, reflection, and what it all means---it's all here. It's very long, so I ask for your patience if you choose to read it, but I had a lot to say and didn't want to leave anything out. Here is my Ivy League Connection experience:

Joining the Ivy League Connection

I never mentioned this to anybody, but my Ivy League Connection experience actually could have started during my sophomore year, over a year ago. I received a note in class that there was a meeting at lunch that I should attend, and I forget why, but I never attended the meeting. Back then I did not check my email quite as often as Don Gosney has trained me to do now, so if any follow-up emails were sent, I didn't receive them. Maybe I missed the meeting because I had friends to talk to, or a teacher to speak with, but I probably just forgot.

At the time, I was still a very good student, getting A's, but I looked at my education through different eyes. I can't for the life of me tell you what on Earth I was thinking, forgetting to attend a meeting that could've gotten me an opportunity that high school students across the nation would dream of, but the purpose of education to me then was not so much to learn as to get good grades. My actions more than year ago remind me of the quote Don Gosney puts at the bottom of all the letters he sends; the quote read (something like): "When opportunity knocks, some answer the door, while others complain about the noise." I didn't really complain about the noise of this amazing opportunity, I'd say that by stuffing the note in my pocket, I just put some headphones on to ignore it.

In hindsight, though, do the actions of the kid I just told you about sound like the actions of somebody deserving of this opportunity? I'd say I was academically smart enough, but I completely lacked the ambition and maturity necessary. I don't know when exactly things changed for me, but when the opportunity that was the Ivy League Connection knocked at my door again this year, I jumped up to answer as if I had been waiting for that knock for months. In a way, I had been waiting for it.
There were days this junior year when I loved school, when I was 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. However, there were just as many days on which I felt that there was somewhere else I could be, something else I could be doing, and a better way to use precious time. When not absorbed by schoolwork, I spent most of my time pursuing a personal interest in baseball and, more importantly, an interest I have in someday changing the world. Yes, I know that sounds extremely cliched; it's probably what 110% of kids will write on some of their college application essays. But I want to leave this world years from now knowing that it is very much changed from the world I entered, and that I played a major role in that. I aspire to someday take up a position of leadership to help carry the world in a more progressive direction. I have yet to determine whether I will advocate for much stronger power to the United Nations, an organization that attempts to achieve the goals of humanity as a whole (rather than an "America first, then we help everyone else" approach), or whether I will advocate for a more balanced distribution of wealth in a nation where some cannot afford health care while others can afford to pay for numerous multi-million dollar homes, but I know that my value in life is not in what I achieve but in what others can achieve through my helping hand. I have yet to determine how I'll do it, of course; I am only 16, but the set of goals I have is very clear to me.

Anyway, I have a general idea of what I want to do in life. Understandably, sitting in class trying to understand how a hyperbola works (*), when I could be reading about the removal of Oakland Occupiers can get frustrating sometimes. I wanted to spend my time differently; I wanted the opportunity to pursue the aforementioned interests and goals to a much larger extent. And then opportunity knocked, and I leaped up to take advantage. I had expected to receive the note for the Ivy League Connection eventually, but the day I received it in Ms. Hebden's class was a very satisfying day.

Anyway, THAT is why I joined the Ivy League Connection. I felt the opportunity provided by the Ivy League Connection would take me a step closer to someday reaching a position of leadership where I can help provide every member of this family of mankind with a stable and healthy life, and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. My Ivy League Connection far and away exceeded this experience.

*I acknowledge the tremendous value of math, I just didn't always feel that it was directly tied with my life goals. This is not to discredit the value of math, though, math plays a tremendous role in our everyday lives

Pre-Columbia University
While the events leading up to my departure were not the meat of the experience, they undoubtedly had a strong effect on me, and for that reason, they are definitely worth mentioning.

A. School Board Meeting
The School Board meeting actually affected me in a completely different way than the organizers of the Ivy League Connection had probably planned. Of course, I was honored to walk up in front of hundreds of members of our school district, as well as the School Board, but it was a different part of the meeting that affected me. On this day, the issue concerning a large portion of the community was the possible termination of adult education. While I had no prior knowledge of the situation before hearing what many speakers said, and while I may have only heard one side of the story, I was very moved by what some of the speakers said in their defense of adult education. The vast majority did not speak English as a first language and simply wanted to be able to help their kids with their homework. They said they felt powerless and useless not being able to help their children with elementary school homework simply because they had not developed English skills yet.

Thankfully, adult education was/is there for them, and it has been able to slowly combat this problem.
In a nation filled with immigrants from all corners of the world, adult education, I feel, is a necessity, plain and simple. Before this school board meeting, I had never given it much thought, but you can now count me as a supporter and an advocate of adult education. Of course, the reason for adult education's dire situation was/is not that it is not important, but that there is no money to pay for it. And that gets into an entirely different issue, why our country and our state don't have enough money to adequately educate our residents. I heard there were some billionaires living in this country, but they would rather buy multiple million-dollar homes and keep their money to themselves than pay higher taxes and help out those in need. If I someday have the power, I will put an end to that to the best of my ability.

B. Alumni Dinners
Once in San Francisco, and four times in New York, we went to dinner with alumni from some of the schools we may someday apply to. At these dinners, I was able to ask more personal and specific questions than I would ask on a tour, and in addition to us learning about the school, the alumni were able to learn about us and what we may be able to bring to these schools. We also discussed the college application process; I heard everything from students who got into Yale on early decision to students who applied to over 20 schools. In addition to all this, I have to say, the dinners were a lot of fun. Everyone we spoke with was very intellectual and many had a great sense of humor; the conversation was always going about what courses Columbia requires you to take (but why those courses are actually fun) to what I was planning on doing in life.

C. College Visits
Probably my favorite school of them all - Columbia University
Of the schools we visited, the ones that appealed to me most were Columbia, Yale and UPenn. The fact that I like those more than NYU, Sarah Lawrence or Vassar has absolutely nothing to do with their distinction as members of the Ivy League; it has more to do with simple characteristics of those schools. For instance, I'm sure now that I will not apply to Vassar or Sarah Lawrence (as well as other similar schools) because I feel the community on and off campus is too small for me. The way I live life, I love to explore and discover new things every day, and in the sense that Vassar and Sarah Lawrence have student bodies of around 1,000-2,000 kids and are not located in very urban areas, they don't offer me the opportunity to walk around campus and see tons of faces I've never seen before, or walk off campus to explore a new part of the surrounding community in the way that a larger school in a more urban area may offer me that opportunity. Life at small, suburban (or rural) schools may become a bit repetitive, in my opinion.

Additionally, while I have never had trouble making friends, I have had quite a bit of trouble in life finding people who are similar to me. Without discussing my entire philosophy of life (which can be a bit controversial at times), I'll just say that I think a bit differently than most people. At my current high school of 1300 students, I often find myself alone when it comes to issues such as why I feel accumulating great wealth is not a good thing, but a selfish thing. As a result, I'd like to attend a school where there are a greater number of students, and thus, a greater chance of finding more like-minded people.

Also, I have a great interest in participating in my community, and I feel that in more urban areas, there are many more opportunities for me to do the work that I feel will achieve my goal of leaving a world that is better than the one I entered.

Also very important to me are a very diverse and integrated community, as well as a strong international presence. I loved how active NYU was around the world, but what I didn't like about NYU was that its campus was too urban; I felt like I was not on a college campus but on city streets.
Columbia, Penn and Yale all perfectly fit into what I am looking for in a college, though. Each of them are large enough that you'll meet new people wherever you go, but that you'll also probably see someone you know wherever you go. Each of the schools are in urban areas, with many things to see and many opportunities to help out the community. Each of them have very diverse student bodies, made up of students from different ethnic backgrounds, different parts of the world, different personalities and different economic situations. Moreover, the alumni and tour guides we spoke with went on and on about how much they loved their school; the schools seem to be not just amazing places to learn, but amazing places to live in as well.

D. Cohort Trips
In addition to going to dinner and touring schools, our cohort also made many side trips that I learned very much from. Of course, the one I found to be most fun was our sunset cruise down the Hudson and then up the East River, but the ones that impacted me most were our trips to Independence Hall, the home of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United Nations and the 9/11 Memorial.

I won't go into full detail simply because this blog is already way too long, but an example of something I enjoyed learning about was our visit to the United Nations. This was a particularly important visit for me, as the set of goals the UN has are a set of goals I strongly support. Around the world, the UN combats the effects of natural disasters, poverty, starvation, violence, human rights violations, etc. through aid on the streets and in government. I'm not going to pick a career today, but I definitely would not mind someday working for the United Nations. In fact, while many of my friends have jokingly told me I should run for President, I would much prefer to be a part of the United Nations. While all Americans value life as a whole, in this country, an American life tends to be given slightly more importance than others, and that is an idea I just cannot stand for. I feel I'd be able to achieve my goals worldwide with much more ease were I to be part of the United Nations.

Columbia University

A. City of New York
While kids across the West Contra Costa Unified School District all got to attend Ivy League classes, nobody got to experience the city of New York the way our cohort did. And while city life may not be for everyone, I could not have felt more at home. The fast-paced life, the convenience of public transportation (I'm kind of anti-cars, if that makes any sense. It's for environmental reasons.), and the abundance of things to do made me feel right at home. Of course, while in college I wouldn't have a great amount of time to spend in the city, but the convenience of having a Duane Reade a block away, or any location in the city a subway ride or two away is extremely convenient. Additionally, I love the fact that New York City is a blend of so many different cultures (the most linguistically diverse city in the world), and because I'm big on diversity, there is no better place than a city like New York to be a part of it all coming together.

B. Life in College
My bed is on the left.
As far as independence and living on my own goes, I feel ready to live in college. Within a few days of arriving, I had already fallen into a routine which did wonders for me. After my morning class, I would always head back to my room for a nap of about an hour, then leave myself with just enough time for lunch. After my second class, I would always leave my room to do some work outdoors at some shady spot on campus. Then I would return and spend the rest of the night with some of the friends I had made.

The only tough part of life in college for me was being so far away from home. Physically, I can do my work, make meals whenever necessary, and go out and buy things like shaving cream,  etc. without any problems. Emotionally, though, the connection to my family was greatly missed. And with everything we were doing, it was difficult to call very often, although Mrs. L helped to make sure we were doing fine and that we were staying in touch. I know that 3,000 miles across the country, though, my mom was able to feel closer to me because she would read my blog every morning with her coffee at 10 AM during her break at work.
Life in college will definitely include some all-nighters.

C. The People I Met
One of the most eye-opening aspects of this trip for me was the people I met that were also participating in the Columbia program. I met people from all corners of the world: the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, name it. Nearly everyone I met was extremely nice, and I cannot put into words how much I enjoyed being in a setting where everyone I spoke to was intellectual! It really broadens the possibilities for a topic of conversation.
My awesome ConLaw friends
The aspect of meeting these kids that really opened my eyes, though, was that I was able to gain the perspective of kids who did not think the way I did or did not come from the same background that I am from. I gained different perspectives from kids on a number of different levels. There were the less significant differences, like the fact that people thought A's fans didn't actually exist, or the fact that the Bay Area uses some very unique slang which nobody I talked to had ever heard of. There were also the more eye-opening perspectives, though; one which blew my mind was the situation of education for public school kids in wealthy New York and New Jersey. I asked them what the size of their largest class size was, and most kids gave me answers between 20-25, occasionally 30. My largest class last year had 47 kids. "47?! Wow, that sounds more like two classes," I remember somebody telling me.

And while I may not have agreed with him, it was so cool to argue about politics with a libertarian from my class, and it was a change for me to not be able to make sarcastic Mitt Romney comments whenever I wanted. Coming from an area made up almost entirely of democrats and people apathetic to politics, it was amazing to actually speak with people who supported George W. Bush.

By far the most astounding perspective I was able to learn about, though, was the economic perspective. To be rather blunt, just about everyone participating in this program was rich. For me, personally, this did not cause any major problems (one minor problem: I was unable to attend a baseball game because everyone else wanted to go for $100 tickets). I was in an environment where there were very few people as money-conscious as I am, as the vast majority of kids at this High School program came from more affluent backgrounds.

I feel, though, that the fact that the student body was made up almost entirely of students from affluent backgrounds is the epitome of an underlying problem: the United States' ridiculous wealth disparity (worldwide, as well). I'll start by saying that of the hundreds of kids I talked to at this program, not a single one gave off any signs remotely close to suggesting they were representing the lower or middle class. It's not as if I asked everyone what their family income was, but if you pay close attention, you can get an idea. For example, spending $500 dollars on a suit for a three-hour dance with no dress code, or students saying they travel across the country to New York twice a year, or spending $100 on a baseball game where there are $10 tickets available, or constantly paying to eat out when you have free food in the cafeteria, or introducing me as "the thriftiest kid you've ever met." Before anyone gets the wrong idea, though, these kids have done absolutely nothing wrong; they all seem to be perfectly good kids who more than deserved the chance they got to study for a few weeks at one of the world's top universities. I had no problem at all with upper class students being here.

My cause for alarm is the kids who were not there. Unless you were given some miracle opportunity the way I was, the opportunity to study at Columbia for the summer was available only to those who could pay for it. The reason is that money buys opportunity. Students with money can attend private school or can move to wealthier areas and attend a wealthy public school. Lower class students do not have this opportunity. Many lower class students will live in lower-income neighborhoods, and may attend "dropout factories," where fewer than 60% of the freshman class will still be in school by senior year. Success in these dropout factories is unlikely. College? Hopefully. A 3-week Summer program at an Ivy League school? Almost no chance. And as the upper classes can buy more and more opportunities unavailable to the lower classes, the lower classes get left behind.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is a problem, which, if I someday have the tools and/or the power, I will address and attempt to reverse. Instead of Mitt Romney being able to own 5 houses (worth a combined $30 million), I'll hope to raise his taxes so that many of those millions can be used for the well-being of those in need, not for the greed of Mitt Romney.

D. The Class
I don't want to sound over dramatic, but the three weeks I spent in my Constitutional Law class may have been the best three weeks I have ever had. They weren't just educational, they were fun! Above all, the part of the class I enjoyed most was debating; I had not debated in over a year and had completely forgotten how much fun it was. This time around, though, I was making not moral arguments, but legal arguments, something I had never done before. Nevertheless, I did my research, pulled my all-nighters, and when the dust settled in the morning, I was always proud of the work I had done.

The highlight for me was the speech I wrote arguing that the death penalty was unconstitutional. This was an issue I felt very passionately about morally, but legally, the US Supreme Court had continuously upheld the death penalty's constitutionality. However, the writings of Justice William Brennan were extremely helpful to me in writing my case. The influence of his writings did not stop there for me, though, I've continued to read much of what Justice Brennan wrote, and I am fascinated by many of his legal arguments.

As I anticipated, I have already been able to apply what I learned to real life. Although I have stirred up quite a bit of controversy with my friends, I have used what I learned in our class to argue that, however ruthless and inhuman Jason Holmes may have acted, he cannot be given the death penalty. I argue not on the basis of my personal beliefs, but with legal arguments that I developed while in class. It is situations like these where I am able to apply my new knowledge of Constitutional law to the lives of Americans in everyday society.

The class has completely transformed the way I now argue for and against certain legislative bills, police actions, etc. I argue now not on the basis of what I feel is right or wrong, but of my interpretation of the Constitution. As I said earlier, I don't want to pick a career today, but one day becoming a Supreme Court justice would be a dream come true.

It is not just the material of the class I have to thank, though; none of it would have ever happened without the phenomenal instruction of our two teachers, Jeffrey and Luke. Whether it was opening our minds to the writings of the Supreme Court or facilitating philosophical discussions about the interpretation of the Constitution, the instruction of this class was top-notch. Furthermore, I fed off of the knowledge of each of my peers, contributing what I could to discussion and debate, and learning from my classmates how they felt about the same issue and why.
The people I spent some of the best weeks of my life with.
 I don't know whether it was on this blog that I was supposed to say whether or not I feel the ILC should continue the class, but my answer is an emphatic and unequivocal YES!

Wrapping Everything Up
Well, that's it. My thoughts on my Ivy League experience. If you made it to the end of this blog, I hope it was enjoyable and thought-provoking. I thank you, and I thank everyone who has read any one of my blogs sometime during the past six months. It's has been a pleasure.

Additionally, I'd like to thank my classmates and my teachers, Jeffrey Lenowitz and Luke MacInnis, for making the class what it was. Everything I wrote about how I now look at society's controversies not only from a moral perspective, but from a legal perspective as well --- You are all the reason for that. The class has changed me as a person.

Mrs. L, I'd like to thank you for caring for us like your children and leading us through this experience, be it at a daily meeting of ours, or through the chaotic first week of events. You guided us, but let us make our own decisions when it came to how we would spend our free time and how we were getting involved in campus activities. Your patience and guidance meant the world to us; this could not have been done without you.

To my cohort: you guys are amazing. I came into this knowing only Adrianne, and I leave with a family of friends that I will always hold onto. I can't even count how many laughs we all shared together, as well as intellectual conversations and debates. At our best and worst moments, I always had each of you by my side, and as the months and years will pass, I hope for the same. You guys are the best.
I'd like to thank Don Gosney (and Evil Don), Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg, and all other Ivy League Connection organizers, without whom this never would have happened. The masterpiece you three have poured hours of effort into has changed the futures of each and every one of us, as well as the hundreds of other students that have been lucky enough to be offered such a rare opportunity. In addition to the three of you, I would also like to thank the Ivy League Connection's donors. The money you so generously donate has allowed myself, my ILC family, and hundreds of other students the opportunity of a lifetime. As I said, our minds and our futures have been changed. Don, Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, and ILC donors, I cannot put into words how grateful I am for all that you've done for my education and for our school district. I truly appreciate it.
And of course, I'd like to thank my family for all of the emotional support along the way. I missed you all deeply, but your encouragement always kept me going.

And there you have it. In the following months, I know we'll (my cohort) all meet again to discuss how best to utilize our experience to create a more college-bound attitude in the minds of our classmates in the WCCUSD. In the years after that, I know each and every one of you will be very successful in life at whatever it is you choose to do.

As for me, well, we'll see how much the world has changed many years from now. After this experience, I'm a step closer.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" -Colossians 3:12

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

From Cheryl Lilhanand—the Columbia Cohort Chaperone
With eyes wide open my cohort of six high school students experienced the unique opportunity to visit major colleges back east during one full week of traveling, followed by a three-week course at Columbia. To say the least, this unusual and unique opportunity truly opened their eyes to new horizons of which they never dreamed, let alone thought possible. As a result they have gained confidence in themselves and proved that students from West Contra Costa USD can compete with the best and are prepared to handle the course load from an Ivy League School, or any other top ranked school in this country.

From the beginning, our pace was extremely hectic. Our week started with an early morning flight to the Big Apple. For some this was their first trip out of the State, for one it was her first plane ride. As we crossed the Queensborough Bridge to enter Manhattan the students were so excited and became wide awake as they caught their first glimpse of the high rises of New York City, which seemed to reach for the sky.

During our first week we went on a whirlwind tour of four top schools. On our first morning we rose early to catch the subway to Penn Station where we boarded our first Amtrak to Pennsylvania. Upon arrival in Philadelphia we met up with the Cornell cohort and together toured Independence Hall. To walk the grounds where our country was founded and hear historical stories was truly amazing. Visiting this area of Philadelphia fit in nicely with my student’s classes, which they would soon attend at Columbia.

As with my previous trips, my cohort was very impressed with UPenn and all the support systems built into their programs. Not only is the campus gorgeous, every alumnus and student we spoke to raved about his experiences there. Also, as in the past, more than one of my six students plan to apply to UPenn. In fact, the ILC has students attending this university now.

Our next day took us upstate to a new college for the ILC campus tour: Sarah Lawrence. Here the students were greeted on a much smaller campus located about a half an hour train ride from NYC. What a difference in size. During the tour we sat in a typical lecture hall—with no more than 30 seats. Oh, the advantages of what small colleges can offer with small class sizes as well as constant individual academic support and counseling. Here again, two of my students felt very comfortable in this setting and plan to apply.

Thursday we headed up the Hudson on Amtrak again. Upon arrival we headed straight to Hyde Park, summer home and Presidential library of FDR. After watching an excellent video on his challenging life and touring his house and gardens, we learned to really appreciate his dedication to the American public knowing the constant battle he had with polio. Then we were on to Vassar. Trying to ignore the near 100º heat, we attended an information session, which was followed by a campus tour. Since there is no graduate program, professors are able to focus their attention on their students. Later, after talking to some alumni over dinner, we were told that Vassar is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the U.S., such pride. On a side note, one of the ILC students I brought here last year will attend Vassar as a freshman in the fall!

Friday we were off to Connecticut to visit Yale. Their information session was the most dynamic of all the schools we visited. We were so fortunate to have lunch with Yohanna Pepa, a former ILCer who attends Yale. She brought some current students as well and afterwards they gave us a personalized private tour. Here again, a couple of my students added Yale to their application list.

In between our site visits we met with current students and/or alumni from UPenn, Vassar, Yale, and Columbia over lunch or dinner. In each case the conversations at the table were priceless. My cohort felt so comfortable asking endless questions about the curriculum, class size, support offered, housing, clubs, overseas programs, etc. I strongly feel the dinners and luncheons were probably just as powerful and informative as were all of the site visits.

After a week of traveling my students finally moved into the dorms at Columbia. Over the next three weeks they experienced student life; such as the stresses of completing assignments on time, massive reading assignments, doing laundry and eating in the cafeteria.

Four students took Constitutional Law and two took Presidential Powers, from Washington to Obama. The Con Law students read many court cases and debated a number of issues. They even had to write a six-page court briefing. Whereas the two in Powers had to complete a major research paper, 20 pages long. Students in both classes had an extensive amount of reading and class participation was an important part of both courses. All six students said they absolutely loved their class. They all repeated that the ILC should continue to offer these two classes to students in the future.

Our district can be proud of all six. They worked hard and took their classes very seriously. Each one loved their class and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge each one presented.   In our daily briefings I could see them gain confidence in a variety of areas from their debating skills to doing extensive research. In short, they blossomed and took their challenges head on ...and succeeded!

The best part about being a chaperone to six high school students for four weeks is seeing them open up; academically, socially, and culturally. My students gained confidence by reaching outward and upward, they met their challenges and took pride in their accomplishments whether it be in a class debate or quiz or paper, their smiles grew bigger. Their conversations changed. Their thinking jumped to a different and higher level.

None of this would be possible without the incredible vision and dedication of the ILC founders: Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg. Another very important person to the success of the program is Don Gosney. And of course none of this would be possible without the generosity of the sponsors. On behalf of my cohort I want to thank the sponsors for giving my students the opportunity of a lifetime. I know how much this trip meant to each one. In our daily debriefs they often expressed their amazement and gratitude to the ILC program and the sponsors. After meeting and talking to other students in their classes they soon realized our group was the ONLY one supported by someone other than the individual family. My hat goes off to each of are truly making changes in our student’s lives, in more ways than you can imagine.

What more can we ask for? Well, we now hope this cohort, as well as the other cohorts, will share their incredible experiences with other students in our district so they too can reach for the stars with eyes wide open.

From the Mother of Lucas Lochner Bravo

It was late December 2011, summer in the Southern Hemisphere. We were on vacation in Chile. As soon as we got there, my son Lucas informed me that he was applying for ILC and that he needed to talk with someone in the USA to get the details. After a long and expensive phone conversation, Lucas told me, “I have to write some essays as part of the selection process,” and “I have a deadline.”

From that day on, I started my own journey as a mom, being with Lucas every step of the process.

During that vacation in Chile, while the rest of us spent time on the beach, or in the pool, or going places, Lucas stayed home, sometimes going to bed as the sun was rising, working on his essays for ILC.

I saw how just writing about a specific topic enhanced his knowledge about life, about the world, and about himself.

It was the time of the Occupy movement in the USA, a time of economic hardship for many families—foreclosures, unemployment, global warming and so on. I saw how Lucas was becoming more and more interested in what was happening in the world; at the same time I saw how he started an internal dialog, searching for possible solutions.

I saw my son more involved and engaged, with more clear political philosophies that reflect his own values in everyday life.

Finally, after a stressful but extremely enriching interview process before the ILC panel, Lucas was nominated as one of the kids who would participate in ILC at Columbia University, attending a Constitutional Law class.

What followed that day was a preparation for the big day that he and five other students would leave for the East Coast, to be active participants in the Constitutional Law class.

Before the trip, Lucas prepared everything by himself; I was silently close to him.

When he left for Columbia, I felt a mix of feelings: emptiness, joy, and excitement. I knew that this would be an extraordinary experience for him.

During the four weeks that he was there, I had my own routine; at 10:00 am I would have my coffee break and I would enjoy reading Lucas’ blog as well as the other students’ blogs.

I saw how Lucas was transforming in front of my eyes; he became this young man, who started using terms like “social justice,” “human rights,” “freedom,” “equality.” It brought memories of my own adolescence, growing up in a country under dictatorship.

What ILC has given to Lucas is a treasure, an experience during which the kids needed to integrate intellectual work, social skills, life skills and ideals that make you grow as a person.

We are so grateful to ILC for this opportunity that otherwise we would not have been able to offer to Lucas.

Lucas’ younger sister has seen his progress through this experience, and now she is thinking of applying to ILC too, because she knows it would be an experience that would change her life too.

For now I need to prepare myself. My son will leave soon for college, a new chapter in his life as well as mine. In my culture, kids stay with their families when they go to college. Here it is different. I need to let him go.

As a friend of mine says …..”We give our children roots…and we give them wings.”

Thanks, ILC
Victoria Bravo (Lucas’s mom)

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Officially The End

“Leonard Eisen. Lucas Lochner-Bravo.” One by one, they announced the names of the Ivy League Connection’s newest members.  “Adrianne Ramsey.”  As the room filled with applause and congratulations, I found myself inching towards the exit. There was no way that I had been accepted—all of the other applicants were much better choices; they were far more gifted than me, not to mention more articulate and charming. I braced myself as the interviewers began to announce the fourth and final name. “Oluwatomi Balogun.”

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly half a year since my name was called that day. The process following my acceptance into the Ivy League Connection was certainly a long and stressful one, but the end result was certainly worth all the effort. Now that a little over a week has passed since returning home, I would like to take the time to reminisce about my trip.

The first seven days of in New York were arguably the most eventful part of our trip. Each day we visited one of the nation’s most esteemed campuses, each one with its own breathtaking landscape and unique atmosphere.  I’m really apprentice of our tours and information seminars, as it was through theses means that I was able to realize what kind of school I would like to attend.

This trip has helped realize how close-minded I’ve really been. Before this trip, the only school I wanted to go to was UC Berkeley. I couldn’t even give a legitimate reason as to why I wanted to go besides “It’s a good school.” Through my experiences, I’ve come to ask myself a very important question: “Do I want to go to UC Berkeley because I think that it’s right school for me or do I want to go to UC Berkeley because everyone else wants to go to UC Berkeley?”  While I still plan on applying to UC Berkeley, I also would like to apply to Columbia University, UPenn, and New York University. Not only because they’re great schools, but also because I love their environments and I can honestly see myself being successful whilst attending anyone of these schools.

One thing that I certainly won’t forget about this trip would be the dinners. I honestly can’t remember a time where I was even a little bit hungry; if I wasn’t already full from a previous meal, then I was sure to more than make up for it during the next. I was treated to some of the best food that I’ve ever had in my entire life. Not only was the food always cooked to perfection, but their presentation was fabulous as well. However, I think that my favorite part of our dinners were the conversations. Thanks to our entertaining and knowledgeable alumni, our dinners were able to become as fond and memorable as they are today.

Our first week in New York ended all too quickly; it was hard to believe that in the timeframe of just one week I went from touring some of our country’s top schools to actually attending one.  My time at Columbia University is something that I will never forget.

I already find myself missing my friends and suitemates. I spent three weeks getting to know them, and knowing that we’ll most likely never see each other again is rather upsetting. While it’s true that we’ve exchanged contact information, it’s certainly not the same as sharing a room or dormitory.

I absolutely adored my Constitutional Law class. My classmates and instructors were amazing; I thoroughly enjoyed our class discussions and debates; it was a never-ending battle of wits in that class. Needless to say, I was able to fulfill my goal of exposing myself to new viewpoints. Whether or not I agreed with the opinion at hand, I would take the time to compare another person’s views with my own views in order to get a better idea of my own beliefs.  Because of this class, I was able to learn about both constitutional law and the importance of opinion and interpretation. Personally, I believe that it is necessary to be versed in both fields in order to become a model citizen, making the things that I learned in this class valuable both in and out of the classroom. As I said before, I really loved this course; a part of me even wishes that it have been a year-round, rather than just three weeks.

As for trips, I’m sad to say that most of my Top 15 Picks were left unfulfilled. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t have fun regardless. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I was able to visit so many famous sights, some of which that I had never before thought of going to. Some of my favorites were the Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock, Central Park, and the fireworks display on the Hudson River. This trip also marked many firsts for me, such as my first time on a boat and my first time on a skyscraper.

Never in my life would have I ever imagined myself in New York City—but as luck would have it, I was just there a week ago.  This trip was probably one of the best experiences in my life, and thanks to this blog, I’ll be able to remember practically every minute of it.While there's still a few weeks of summer vacation left, there's certainly nothing that can top this trip. 

Although, I thanked everyone in a previous post, I would like to make a few special mentions. I would like to thank Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, and Don Gosney. Without their time and efforts, the Ivy League Connection wouldn’t even exist. These three people have helped countless students expand their horizons and achieve things they may have thought impossible. I also like would like wholeheartedly thank them for impacting my life for the better. I’m incredibly grateful.

In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen

We waited anxiously in the room for minutes, but they all felt like hours. We waited, the time ticked away as we clicked our pens and glanced around nervously, wondering who was ultimately going to be chosen by the panelists. We stepped inside the silent rooms one by one, hoping to impress our interviewers with our personalities and ideas. The room was silent, and around the dark wooden conference table sat 6 worthy individuals, from lawyers, to experienced teachers, acting as our interviewers for the day. One seat stood out, however, one seat was completely empty. Every gap around the table was filled with one individual, but one. That was left for us. We sat at the head of the table, across from a tripod. On that tripod was one of the most intimidating factors of the whole experience; the video camera. While our every move, our every breath, and our every stutter was recorded on tape, it did not just end there. Our every smile, glance, and gesture was also documented by the flashing camera that cased around us while we spoke. The questions were all equally challenging and thought provoking, but we all endured the intimidating environment while also answering each question impressively. Once the 10th and final question was answered and the last drop of nervous sweat secretly glided down our foreheads, we rose with confidence and pride, shaking each and every hand in that room and walked out that room with bold smiles. We emerged into the waiting room once more, the hours now felt like days as it was finally approaching the time where the six panelists chose the worthy ones for admission into the Ivy League Connection and redemption of the generous scholarships granted by the independent sponsors. Finally, they chose us all to re-enter the room, this time, all together. One by one we entered, our hearts beating rapidly, our minds filled with doubt; was I really going to be the one chosen to attend Columbia University? Suddenly, in the midst of her speech, Mrs.Kronenberg said my name. I felt like the world around me just stopped, no sort of sound glided through time, no movement emerged, nothing. Everything just stopped. A tear of joy ran down my cheek; I was one of the only two chosen in that interview for Presidential Powers to study at Columbia University in the city of New York.

From day one, my experiences as a proud member of the Ivy League Connection has never seized to amaze me. On June 18th 2012, my fellow cohort and I left to New York city in a stretch white limo. From the start of our  trip, our journey began with luxury, a reward for our accomplishments thus far you may suppose. Our first week in New York, we toured from restaurant to restaurant, visited different colleges, met with different alumni, admission officers, and students alike, speaking to each in regards to their experiences at different universities. There, we not only enjoyed the rich, tasty meals at each of the best restaurants in the big apple, but what we enjoyed even more was the rich conversations we had with each unique individual.

My Suite
After our first week, we took our first steps on the campus we soon called home, the campus to Columbia University. We walked that day with baby steps, and we soon left that campus emerging like giants that had gained their height by soaking up all the information and the rich culture around them. It wasn't only that we were studying at a world class institution, we were also in a new world that was so different from the one we came from and for the first time, we were completely independent and alone. Our parents left us the time they said their final goodbyes at El Cerrito High School, that entire month we were alone, and our responsibility, maturity, and independence took over in the bustling city know as New York. There, us 6 teenagers soon learned a life time of experiences with endless challenges on each path we took.

At Columbia university, Aurea and I studied Presidential Powers at Home and Abroad with Dr.Porwancher whom had received his PhD from Cambridge. He was a very intelligent professor, of course, but he also had a bright and humorous personality that never allowed for a dull moment in his class. Each morning, Aurea and I would wake up, eat breakfast at John Jay dining hall, and head to Schermerhorn for our first two hour session of class. There we sat around the conference table for our "discussion seminar," where we discussed each challenging article we read the night before. Every night before class, I would sit in my room under the dim lighting of my work lamp and read the articles assigned to us. However, I would not just read it, I would analyze it, make inferences based on my reading, and draw conclusions and evaluations as well. Then the next day in class, I would constantly raise my hand and contribute the most I could to the class at all times. Each and every day, I never failed to come to class unprepared.

After those two hours, we would take a break for lunch and then went straight back to work. This time, we spent the remainder of our two hours at the beautiful Butler library. This was probably my second home at Columbia University, the place where I spent the majority of my time on campus. There we went from room to room looking for our books and our sources. Why? Because throughout or month in Columbia University, Aurea and I were writing a 20 page research paper for our class. The amount of time we worked on those papers far exceeded the two hours we spent at the library each day, however. Many times Aurea would go back to her room and nap, then later come to the library and work for the rest of the night on her paper. I, on the other hand, never enjoyed the luxury of napping throughout my stay, but I constantly stayed in Butler library until closing time simply working on my paper. The topic I chose was definitely a hard one, nonetheless. I chose to write about how media affects political images and success because I wanted to challenge myself. However, I failed to realize that a 20 page college research paper is definitely a challenge within itself (especially since it was the first research paper I had ever written). The topic was challenging because it was almost like merge between media studies and political sciences, and aside from that, it was really difficult to find primary sources. Others chose to write about one particular president or once particular incident, but my topic went into detail in regards to a few different presidencies and incidents alike. Thankfully, after all the risks I took by choosing that topic and the hard work I put into the development of my paper, it all finally paid off. My professor sent me my paper back in the mail with a personal comment at the end written, "Morvarid, you've done some very solid research and amalgamated a lot of interesting material into a coherent and explanatory framework." Those words were the words I really looked forward to every day I typed away my nights on my laptop in Butler library. Later, he also mentioned in a different message, "I was very pleased with your performance." These simple phrases carved a smile on my face that I will never forget. The feeling of success that blossomed in my heart was a true feeling of joy, and for that I was very thankful.
Our first session class.

I remember the first day of class, I walked into the room when everyone was very stiff as they were still very unfamiliar with their new classmates. While everyone was looking down awkwardly and played nervously with their hands, I walked in with a smile and sat at the end of the table and introducing myself to those who had been sitting at the same table for quite a while but probably did not each other's names.  From that moment on, we all became very good friends despite the fact that we all came from different areas of the world. Some were from China, others from Korea, and some were very local and lived in New York. To my surprise, one was very close to my home, he was from Southern California. Another, was even closer to where I consider home, he was Iranian. The rich and varied culture we created in that class allowed us to not only learn about the topics discussed in class every day, but also from each other, our cultures, our identities, our ways of thinking, and our different beliefs. 

Every night before sleeping at Hartley Hall, I could count with my fingers the amount of new students I had met. Every moment before I closed my eyes and fell deep into my sleep, I could count the different cultures I had been introduced to. ILC students can all say they attended a prestigious university, but no one but the Columbia students had the advantage of the New York experience. It wasn't just the different environment, but it was also what we were exposed to as well that created such an impact.

My lovely Cohort.
As for my cohort itself, I'd like to take this time to thank each and every one of them for the great time we had together. Our time in New York felt like months rather than weeks, and I'm so glad we have all became so close. Without all of you, this trip would have definitely not been as fun as it was. You were all what made every second what it was. I can't remember one day not laughing until my belly hurt without you all, or even one day where I wasn't looking forward to seeing your smiling faces. Seeing you all brightened up each of my days from June to July, and I definitely cannot wait to see you all once again. From Lucas, to Lenny, Aurea, Adrianne, and Tomi, I'd like to take the time to tell you guys that you all have special place in my heart and I care for you all tremendously. I hope you all enjoyed my company as much as I did yours. I hope I never offended anyone or hurt anyone in anyway! If I did, I deeply apologize. You are all like brothers and sisters to me, and with Mrs.L, we complete a family. Thank you so much Mrs.L for the amazing time we had with you throughout our trip. You have such a beautiful smile that made every day even better than it was. Thanks for being patient with us and taking care of us in New York City, just as if we were your own kids. I miss you already and I hope to see you soon! Nonetheless, thank you so much to the sponsors that made it possible for us to have this life changing experience, and the Ivy League Connection, Don, Mr.Ramsey, and Mrs.Kronenberg that believed in us and created the Ivy League Connection for students like us. Last but not least, I would like to send a great "thank you" to my professor and TA, Professor Andrew Porwancher and Kelsey Kearns for being the great instructors they were and giving us the best possible experience in our classroom environment. I truly enjoyed the course and they were both very inspirational. All I look forward to now is to apply to Columbia University, this time as an official student. Long story short, I always liked the school, but now I passionately love it!

The key to my dreams.
Now on a different note, we may be back from our trip outside of California, but our adventure does not end quite there. We have just finished a chapter in the new book we have unveiled, and now a new chapter will emerge. In this chapter, we will use the experiences we have acquired in Columbia University to give back to our community and the students in our schools. Everything we have learned will now transfer to our students for we are ambassadors in our own community. The Ivy League Connection has allowed us to absorb all of this information and now it's time to clench the thirst of the thousands of students at home that were not chosen by the ILC and inspire them on their journey towards college by giving them all the necessary information we can for their success. Like Columbia's motto,  "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen"(light shall we see light). Now it is time for our students to see that light, and we will act as the transfer to guarantee this to happen. With our dedication to both our school and community, we will hold ourselves responsible for this and will not give up until we see this through.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer of a Lifetime

My journey to New York did not begin on June 18th. It began in October, with the Pinole Valley High School College Fair, at the ILC booth run by Alex Elms and Don Gosney. This was not my first time hearing about the program or meeting Don, but it was when things really began. The road from then until now has been a long, difficult, and undoubtedly rewarding one, that I know will have a lasting impact on my life. 

I think I can break up my trip into two chronological sections: the first week, and then the following three. They differed greatly. When we first arrived in New York, we were constantly on the move. It was really exciting. One moment we would be at UPenn, and the next we would be having dinner by Central Park. We did so much in each day, that I honestly thought more time had passed than actually had; every time I thought of "yesterday," it would feel like several days ago.

The highlight of that first week wasn't the extravagant dinners, or the excitement of NYC, or even learning about amazing schools. For me, it was getting to have conversations with the students and alumni of the colleges we visited. It didn't matter if it was at a Cuban lunch, a Greek dinner, or while walking through a Universities quad; the profound insight they can give us into what life at their school is like is priceless. 

On a brief side note, I also enjoyed the train rides. I wish public transit in California was as extensive and mainstream as it is back East. It's a far more efficient, Eco-friendly, and enjoyable way to travel. I know there are a lot of factors limiting such a system existing out West, but it would be nice to have. 

The second portion of our trip was very different from the first. While before, we had been constantly on the move, we were now spending most of our time in one place. That's not to say that it was less exciting, but it was certainly more relaxing. 

I spent my last three summers taking classes at UC Berkeley in the Academic Talent Development Program. It was a great experience, but it doesn't even compare to my time at Columbia. The sheer number of different regions and cultures represented made the population a micro-UN. 2/3 of the residential students were from other countries. I can't say that they come from ALL backgrounds though, as nearly everyone there was a private school student and came from a privileged home. You need to have a high income to be able to send your child to the program, especially if you are from out of state. It seems that the ILC is the only program of its kind, because everyone I talked to said their parents were paying for the trip and were amazed to hear that my school district sent students there for free. This is yet another opportunity to thank the sponsors. I'm realizing more and more how lucky I am to have had this experience. Most people can't say they took a class at Columbia while in high school, let alone with the expenses paid for by benefactors. 

I made a lot of friends in this program. Thank goodness for the internet, because it's the only way we can stay in  touch. I'm still in contact with people from New York, Florida, Canada, the Netherlands, India, China, Australia and farthest of all, Los Angeles.

The high light of my trip was definitely the class. I may have already said this, but this was the best coarse I've EVER taken. Everything about it was fantastic. The material was interesting, and I've already been able to apply what I've learned to my conversations back home. The other students were all brilliant, though most would never admit it. A large portion (if not the majority) of the class time was spent on discussions, which were intelligent and constructive. When opinions came into play they were always backed by solid logic. Most importantly, the teachers were amazing. They were a really dynamic combination. Jeffrey usually led the teaching of the cases, while Luke led discussions concerning the theories behind the Constitution. They were always really good at explaining things, and usually did it with a sense of humor. They understood that many things about our nation's history seem ridiculous to us today, and they both capitalized on that to keep our attention. I'm still blown away by how much we all enjoyed and thrived in this environment. 

It wasn't all study, though. I found time nearly everyday to explore the city with Resident Advisors, fellow students, Ms. Lilhanand, and of course, my cohort. I saw the beach, parks, museums, restaurants, Time Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, NYU, and plenty of upper Manhattan, I only saw three of the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens), but I can't imagine having had time to see the other two. I think my favorite experience was going to the Neon Trees concert. The rush of being so close to the bands, surrounded by friends was, for lack of a better word, awesome. 

In general, I loved New York. The skyline, the art, the performers in the subway, the food: it was all fantastic. That being said, I don't miss it. New York's a great city, and I may even want to live there some day, but right now, I'm glad to be home. There's something different about the atmosphere in the Bay. People seem more relaxed, even in the cities. Maybe it's just because I grew up here, but this area is just more comfortable for me. I may have gotten used to tall buildings and an unforgiving sun, but I think I still prefer, homes in the hills and a nice cool breeze. Sorry NYC, but Bay Life is where it's at.

I guess that pretty much wraps up my experience out East. This is the most amazing summer I've ever had. I think the most profound thing I've gained from this trip (besides memories) are the ideas that have formed in me. I can't really show this through my blog, but I've grown over the last month. My class and my experiences have taught me so much, and I'm beginning to develop opinions and beliefs based on them. I have a better idea of what I'm good at and what I'm passionate about. For example, I now believe that the Constitution needs to be reformed. I didn't want to write about any of my views on this until I had completed the class, but I now think that if the Constitution is to accurately reflect the beliefs of the people it has power over, it needs to be re-written every generation. The morals of the current American people are different from those of the very limited pool of legislators back when it was written. I also believe that the Supreme Court has too much power when it comes to Constitutional interpretation, so we need a more specific document that is easier to change. This will most accurately reflect the changing views of the people. I don't think that the beliefs of the hundred or so rich, land and slave owning, white, christian and male writers of the Constitution reflect that of our extremely diverse nation. Of course, this is only my own opinion, and I'm sure the other students in the class came to their own unique conclusions. I just wanted to express my beliefs in what may be my last blog entry.

I'll sign off by thanking you, the readers. Who ever you may be, you are the reason we wrote this. Wanting to impress you is what kept us trying to outdo ourselves with each new entry. I hope my posts stayed interesting and that you enjoyed and learned from them. Sorry that this one lacked photos, but I've already shared most of them with you. If it's any consolation, below is my favorite picture from this trip. I took it on a train returning to Manhattan from New Haven, CT. Once again, I hope you enjoyed what you read. Thank you.

A Check off the Old Bucket List

February 10th, 2012. I don’t think there was a time in my life that I was so anxious, excited and relieved. With the support of my peers, family, and friends, I finally accomplished a goal in life I thought I would never achieve; I was selected in the Ivy League Connection. As clichéd as it sounds, no words can describe the instant that my name was called to go the American Presidential Powers course at Columbia University for the summer. It’s funny to think that I kept my composure while talking to the panel, Mr. Ramsey and Don Gosney but once I stepped foot out the room I squealed like a fan girl- along with Morvarid Mehdizadeh of course.

Fast forward about three months and eight days later, and all the preparation the 2012 Columbia cohort received finally was put to use. The tutorial, dinner, meetings and orientation built the momentum for out departure to the Big Apple. Here we were, a group of six California teens flying about three thousand miles away from home with a chaperon for a month in the bustling city of New York. Yes, it’s still unbelievable to even me that I was part of such an experience.

Before the Columbia Experience
Most people associate this trip with the course the students took but often forget the enriching trips we had along the way. Before stepping foot on Columbia’s campus, we stayed at the Beacon hotel for the beginning duration. But do not mistake our first week as relaxed- it was everything but that. We bounced back and forth between college campuses- even states- trying to fit as much activities into our first week.

We began each morning and ended each night the same way; bright and early to start the day while dark and exhausted to end the night. We visited Sarah Lawrence College, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Vassar College, and New York University- although the latter wasn’t until our third week into the trip. The group listened to information sessions for each school and toured the campuses, taking in as much detail for memory. Being a rising senior, I knew these opportunities to see different college environments were vital to the upcoming application process. Schools that I once thought were for me turned out not to be. Now I have a better idea to what I want in my education after secondary school. Medium sized campuses with an urban or suburban setting are a must with me along with study abroad programs. I’m happy to announce that my college list has drastically shifted from California based schools to out-of-state schools, such as a one in Hawaii and a few in New York. I know my family won’t be too thrilled with my decision but a good four years outside of Cali will be good for me.

Along with our college sight-seeing were dinners with alumni from the above schools. Unfortunately we were unable to meet with Sarah Lawrence and NYU alumni, but the dinners with Yale, UPenn, Vassar, and Columbia alums made the experience even more elevating. Not only did I learn valuable information about the colleges the alumni and admission officers were representing but I learned general college tips that most students my age would never think to ask of. Colleges don’t want the perfect model students who work like robots; they want unique individuals who will impact the campus in such a dynamic way that may be deemed as inconceivable. I learned that one does not have to major in a specific concentration to have one’s dream career. I learned that one should be as true to one’s self when writing a personal statement; don’t use clichéd, dramatic happenings in one’s life, write about what’s shaped the character of one’s self. I learned that networking is probably the greatest resource and skill a college student have when defining his/her career. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.

During the Columbia Experience
After a week of non-stop action- okay, we did get a few hours of sleep in during the nights- we began what the donors and sponsors poured their money into, the Columbia High School Summer Program. And of course the time and effort from the ILC staff. Thus was the start of a three week course I will never forget.

To start off, residential advisors for the Columbia High School Program laid down the rules. The most important of all is to ALWAYS make it back before curfew. If one’s late, depending on the duration of one’s tardiness, consequences vary. Also security at Columbia University is very strict. Most buildings, if not all, require students to have a Columbia identification card.

Residential advisors also planned trips around NYC. From eateries to Broadway plays, students were able to tour the city with a group. But if students didn’t want to go on a planned RA trip, students were given the freedom to go out as long as they notified their RA’s of their whereabouts. I had the pleasure to see Maroon 5 on the Today Show, see the 4th of July fireworks at Riverside Park, see the Bodies Exhibit and Seaport Village, visit Coney Island and the beach, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, go on a Sunset Cruise, and of course go shopping on 5th Avenue and Macy’s. Whether it be fun or work, NYC will always keep you busy.

Dorm life for me at Columbia University was adequate; I had the necessities- a bed, sheets, pillow, desk, bathroom, and air conditioning. I, along with Lucas, Lenny, Adrianne, and Tomi, stayed in the Carman building while Morvarid stayed in the Hartley building. Carman dorms consist of two double rooms and one bathroom. I say adequate because it wasn’t the nicest dorm on campus but I could have had it worse by staying at John Jay, where the whole floor had to share a bathroom.

My roommate was fresh graduate from a high school in Hong Kong and was taking the College Prep class. Unfortunately she left the program early for a college interview back in Hong Kong, so I had the whole room to myself for the last week. My floor was comprised of many different girls. In my RA group, I met a girl from Greece, New Jersey, and other parts of the world. Columbia’s High School program for this summer had more international students than usual, so we all had our fair share of cultural learning along the way.

I know you’ve all read about the fun aspect of my trip but it wasn’t all fun and games. With my American Presidential Powers class, I was required to go to a two hour session in the Schermerhorn building then another session at a library. For me, the class was less rigorous as I anticipated. My first session consisted of discussions on fifteen to twenty page articles on presidential power. Then my second session was devoted to researching for my paper. The best advice I can give to anyone taking this class in the future is to manage your researching and writing. No one wants to be up finishing one’s paper till dawn- although this didn’t happen to me, just very late into the night.

My favorite part of the class was probably the debate we had on court cases. Like the Constitutional Law students, we debate two sides of the case and legality of it. Court case debating is definitely different from the type of debating I do- which is policy debating- so it was a learning process for me along the way.

My professor was laid back and not only taught us the class but college prep tips as well. Professor Porwancher laid down his college experiences and the best advice I gained from his class was to never be upset about not getting into the “best colleges.” It should never put down one’s own spirit when going to school. Although the one thing my professor wanted me to take from the course was to learn to qualify my argument and frame it to a more sophisticated one; I know, I liked the college tidbit better.

Along my journey at NYC I made not only close friends with my cohort but with others as well. Although I met lots of people, from Australia to Turkey, the two I bonded with the most outside of my cohort were Rowland and Brittany. Rowland is a rising senior from southern California while Brittany is a rising junior from Texas. Our group slowly incorporated the two and we all got along wonderfully, cracking jokes at each other here and there. But other than our laughs, we also had meaningful talks to learn about each other, such as our backgrounds and where we would go to college. The two became so inclusive of our group that Ms. L even knew the two!

After the Columbia Experience
Sadly my twenty-six days at NYC had to end and now I’m back here in the Bay Area. Although I loved the Big Apple, home is such a nice place to be. I know that I would love to go out of state, preferably New York, for college but I couldn’t stay there the rest of my life.

For me, this trip has made my college decisions bounce back and forth. I thought that engineering was always for me but learning from my actual course and the alumni dinners made me realize that it may be not for me. Engineering would be something I would be good at but in the end I don’t know for sure if it’s something I would do for the rest of my life. Political science has never been so tempting to me before along with a psychology. I know, two different ends of the spectrum.

Due to my fickle heart and mind when regarding my future, I’ve actually narrowed down my college choice list. I’m now down to eight schools that I’m applying to; Boston University, Columbia University, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, Stanford University, Syracuse University, University of California Berkeley, and University of Hawaii Manoa. I don’t plan to apply early decision anywhere since my mind is having an internal struggle with itself. Who knew the future could be so stressing?

Since my last blog was inadequate in my thank you’s, I’d just like to give them here:

Ms. L, thank you for being such a great chaperon. Actually the word chaperon doesn’t bring to justice the role you played for us while at NYC. For me, you were literally a second mommy to me while on the East Coast. You read all of us like an open book, especially me when I was on my off days. You were lenient yet strict when dealing with our outings and were always available when needed.

Columbia University High School Summer Program staff, thank you for the opportunity of a life time. Being able to study at such a prestigious school was such an honor. Thank you especially to Darlene Giraitis, the director of the summer program, who will be retiring after twenty-four years. And of course, Andrew Porwancher, the professor for the American Presidential Powers course, who taught me that better arguments aren’t always the obvious. My enriching trip would not have been so without their key roles in my learning experience.

Pinole Valley High School ILC staff, thank you for the help and support. Dyana So and Alex Elms are two students I would like to acknowledge separately due to their help. Without your advice and guidance, I probably wouldn’t have made it into the ILC. I’d also like to thank Mr. Wilson, who not only helped me with my essay and interview but with my research paper as well. His assistance on what would be a better thesis for my paper really helped me frame my essay into such a complex argument.

Ivy League Connection staff and sponsors, thank you for the life-defining trip on the East Coast. No words can explain my gratitude to such an amazing organization which lets middle class students go on an opportunity of a lifetime. I’d like to especially thank Mr. Ramsey for the hard work he puts into the program, such as planning functions and finding sponsors. Thank you Ms. Kronenberg for going back and forth on the East Coast and checking up on how we’re doing as a group and how we plan to give back. Thank you Don Gosney for all the time and labor you put into the program, from emails to personally delivering items and letters. And of course, thank you all the sponsors who have invested their money into an incredible trip. Your investments will not be wasted, especially when the ILCers give back to our community.

The 2012 Columbia Cohort, thank you for such a fun experience. Due to such a different group, from sense of humor to morals, conversation was never dull with any of you guys. Lucas, thank you for your patient, calm, and honest disposition. Having you around always made us mindful of others and courteous. Plus we would never get lost in NYC with you! Lenny, thank you for your sense of humor and witty remarks. Although half of them did provoke teasing, your remarks lightened up the mood. Tomi, thank you for your quiet and down to earth personality. Although you were silent for a few moments, the impact of what you said always left me amazed and laughing. Morvarid, thank you for your cheery personality. Not matter what the situation, you always tried to look past the negative aspect and work something out. And finally Adrianne, thank you for being you. Although some people may find your disposition bold, I admired that aspect of you, since not many people can truly be themselves around everyone.

Although my summer at NYC has ended, that doesn’t mean the ILC won’t hear from me. I plan on keeping in touch with as many people as possible. Also for potential ILCers, don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. There’s a reason as to why the ILC picked us as ambassadors for our community, so feel free to ask for advice anytime. Once again thank you for the marvelous experience!