Monday, August 27, 2012

Brown Mentorship Program: Take 2!

Before I participated in the Ivy League Connection this year, I was in it last year as well. I went to Brown University and took the course Women and Leadership. A month before I left the trip, my father invited me to be a part of the ILC Brown Mentorship Program, which pairs Brown alumni/current students with ILCers who are interested in Brown University. I was paired with Corryn Browdsky, who also attended my high school. Over the course of my junior year, Corryn and I exchanged many emails, and she was a great source of comfort when I was stressed out. She also gave me great advice about dealing with the rigors of school and preparing for the college application process. The mentor program has many fun events, as we went to a brunch at the Olympic Club, a Raiders Game, and saw Billy Elliott in San Francisco.

I was invited to come back to the mentor program and happily accepted. I am really excited to see new faces, as majority of the student members who were in it last year graduated from high school this spring. The newest addition to the mentor program is the Yale component! While I am still pairing with Brown, I am happy to see this mentorship program growing.

This Sunday, the first mentor event was held at the Olympic Club. My Uncle Ismail is a member of the club and was able to secure this event for us. We had a buffet brunch and got to reconnect not only with other ILCers, but with some old faces as well. I was really happy to see Elizabeth Gonzales and Donna Chung again, who just graduated from Brown this spring! Both of them attended El Cerrito High School. Elizabeth majored in sociology and is looking into UC Berkeley's graduate schools, and Donna majored in psychology and education. She is now pursuing a Master's degree at Stanford University.

I thoroughly enjoyed the brunch. It was interesting to learn about how Brown is evolving as a campus. Donna mentioned that Brown is trying to make the freshmen more accustomed with each other, as they are trying to make freshmen-only residence halls and a possible freshmen quad. One concept I definitely remembered about Brown was there sense of unity.

Attending this brunch made me realize even more how my love for Brown really shines through. I have begun working on my college applications and hope that my new mentor can provide insight on my personal statement and supplements, especially for Brown University.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Negative Weekend Turns Positive, Thanks to the ILC

My weekend had been going horrible this week. I was so excited during the week because school started and I was familiarized with all my new challenging courses, and even more enthusiastic about receiving a letter in the mail saying that my application for the Junior States of America Northern California North Star Newspaper Editor in Chief position had been accepted! I was the new Editor in Chief of the paper I was so passionate about! I constantly wrote for the paper out of pure devotion, interest, and passion even though I did not have an "official" reporter position and despite the fact that I was already an editor in my school journalism committee. I just did it purely because it mattered to me. Now, I felt like, my passion had been discovered and I had been granted this position. Just saying I was ecstatic may be an understatement.

I later received an award in the mail, and I was also granted a special Junior States of America e-mail address especially for my position. I had incoming e-mails about future meetings, and an invitation to the cabinet confirmation event. It was difficult for me to attend the event since it was really far away from my house, but I still managed to go and meet my fellow cabinet members. There, I mingled, I chatted, and I met many of the people that were also on cabinet like myself. I introduced myself as the new "Editor in Chief" when we all shared our jobs on cabinet, and we later sat down with our appropriate departments to discuss plans and create goals for our specific duties on board. I sat with my new reporter and discussed a lot of duties I expected from her, created deadlines, made suggestions, and told her everything that was basically necessary to make a successful team and newspaper. LATER, they called each of us for an interview; I was one of the first to go. Just thinking of having an interview made me smile as I looked back at the time I had my first panel interview in the Ivy League Connection. I sighed in relieve because I felt like I was ready for an interview session since the ILC had already familiarized me with the process, and I realized that the confidence I had gained as part of the Ivy League Connection has really benefited me as a person.

It was odd to hear that we were being interviewed after the application process and being officially selected from the applicant pool, but I was still excited to meet the interviewers. I entered the room with a smile, and I was introduced to only a few set of questions that never really asked about my experiences, or my intended plans as the future Editor in Chief of the paper. The questions basically asked, "Will you be able to communicate with others? Will you be able to handle the stress? Will you be able to attend all of the events?" Of course, I referred back to my experiences to prove to them my success and capabilities in the areas they mentioned. The questions, however, did not ask for a lot of information about me and they were limited by time. They told me to turn around for them to discuss my confirmation and although I was not looking, I heard things like, "She's already doing a lot of extra-curricular activities." That was something they never asked me about, so I was shocked that they even said that. Now, before I even looked back, they told me they were then casting a vote. I murmured a prayer to myself, hoping they would confirm me, and drew a deep breath. They told me I could turn around within a minute and I did, only to hear that I had been...rejected.

I was shocked, and heart broken. I couldn't understand! My interview went so well, my application was accepted, I had the necessary experience, the leadership abilities, and the responsibility! I even sat with my reporter and led her through all my expectations and all her duties, they had congratulated me with this honor, how was I suddenly no longer their editor? They moderator pulled me out and apologized, but I couldn't help but to ask in the midst of my confusion, "May I at least ask why?" He replied "No, I cannot disclose that information, I'm sorry." I returned to my seat sad, confused, and broken. People came up to me mentioning how no one ever really gets rejected form Cabinet Confirmation, and I replied, "I just did." Similarly, people were shocked and confused as well because many of them knew me and my capabilities. Others in charge were equally confused and went to speak to the interviewers (the interviewers themselves were students like myself running the student bureaucracy). However, no one told me why, but they offered me other positions. I rejected thinking to myself that the reason why I applied wasn't because of the title or the "position," it was because of my passion and my care for the paper. I was not interested. So they asked, "Would you like to be a reporter?" I again thought about it, and I said, "Well, what I truly care about is the North Star, and that's the closest way I can contribute to what I care for. I was going to write for it anyway, so why not." I accepted the position and was re-interviewed and accepted, but I left that room hurt and broken. Later, my friend told me that the interviewers just thought my interview sounded, "too perfect" compared to the others, I was shocked! How can I be rejected because I sounded "too perfect?" I was only being 100% honest. Also, they just assumed I had a lot of things going on that I would be unable to handle the position (again without asking me about it). However, If I couldn't handle the position, I wouldn't apply. I knew I was highly capable and they knew that I was highly qualified. I was just stuck in a state of confusion, that's all. Also, on the other hand, other students were only asked one or two questions in the interviews and accepted, and others were just "lectured." The questions were more carefree because they were running out of time, and at a certain point they even thought about not interviewing a group and just accepting them! They even brought a whole departments in as a GROUP so they can get them over with and proceed on their agenda. The time factor also made the other interviews shorter as well; I found all of this completely unfair. The answers were not the same, they did not have previous questions designed, and the they were simply accepted nearly by default because of the time factor? Now, my first assignment as a reporter is to write about Cabinet Confirmation and according to my director, "write positive." That is something I cannot do: to be dishonest. My Saturday was unfair in terms of selection, and terrible in terms of my disappointment. In regards to my journalistic integrity, I cannot accept to do that: to lie.

So today, I woke up still kind of sad about the day before. It was the Brown and Yale mentor dinner hosted by the Ivy League Connection that I had been looking forward to all week! However, I wasn't as happy in the morning as I should have been because I was still looking back at the opportunity I felt like I was stripped away from and the position I had so much passion in; all in an unfair and unjust manner. To be honest, that's all I really thought about when I was getting ready, repeating to myself in my head, "If they really thought I did not deserve it, I would accept their decision and respect it, but they never asked me questions to make such an inference. If the selection process was fair, I would feel better, but why was I the only one to be stripped of what I cared for? I was never even given a chance..." By the time I was eating a little breakfast snack, I decided what has happened is now my past, and I must let it go and think about the future. It was simply time to move on since what happened was now totally out of my hands. So I focused on the amazing opportunity the Ivy League Connection was giving me and I smiled.

The ILC had once again provided me with an opportunity to connect with very important alums within my community and learn about both their experiences and the universities the universities they attended.
This morning, we all met at 10:00 AM at El Cerrito Plaza Bart and gathered around to speak to one another before departure. There, I was absolutely excited to see Adrianne Ramsey from my Columbia Cohort; I had missed her so dearly! We chatted a while before Don separated all of us into groups to carpool to the Olympics Club (that's where we were going to have our event). The Olympics, thanks to Mr.Izzy Ramsey, was going to sponsor our brunch!

My mother, whom was also invited, rode with me in Don's mini-van, along with Adrianne Ramsey, one Brown alum, and one sponsor. During the ride, Adrianne and I caught up and chatted since we hadn't seen each other in a few weeks. We talked about our courses, our plans, and our excitement to meet all the amazing college students later that day.

Since we were busy talking the whole time, it felt like a fairly short ride! Soon enough, we were finally at the beautiful Olympics Club in San Francisco. The scenery was gorgeous as we walked up the steps and inside the majestic building. There we were greeted with the alumnus and began engaging in very interesting conversations right after the "hello!" I had a great time right from the start!

While we mingled, Mr.Ramsey's brother gave each group an independent tour of the restaurant we were going to have brunch in as well as the history and importance of the Olympic Club. (Did you know the Olympics club is the oldest athletic club in the nation with the word "Olympics?" Not to mention, the oldest out of all of them as well.)

Later we were invited into our private room to sit down with our the alums we had just met. Parents sat at one table, alums sat together with us students, and other adults at another table. The tables were also split based on university. One table was strictly Yale, and the other was Brown. Sitting with the Yale alums, I had the opportunity to meet and converse with many different individuals from different backgrounds and interests. One was interested in teaching, the other in computer sciences, and the other in economics for example. We all shared  our names and our interests as well and soon began very interesting conversations regarding academics, life in Yale, and a variation of other specific conversations that we all found equally helpful and engaging. I really enjoyed speaking to them and getting to know them, it was truly my pleasure.

After we were done eating our dish of pastries, scrambled eggs, sausages, and bacon, it was sadly time to say goodbye. During this time, Mr.Ramsey mentioned how on September 30th, he has arranged boxed seats for us and our mentors to attend an A's game in Oakland, creating yet another day for us to connect with one another and learn from each other. I was really excited to hear this because I really enjoyed and was thankful for the connections I had made today. I was glad I could stay in contact with them and found that very helpful in my application process.

By the end of the day, I felt like a weekend that I thought could not get better, turned out to be okay thanks to the fantastic day the ILC provided me with. Not only did I have fun, but I also engaged in a lot of very interesting and serious conversations that I know the knowledge I acquired throughout them will definitely help me in the future. For this, I would like to give a sincere "thank you" to the Ivy League Connection, and to the alums for attending this event and devoting their time to us. I really appreciate it all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From the Mother of Aurea Riboroso

First of all, I would like to thank you all for your time, sacrifice and efforts to make this summer program successful.

I was shocked when my daughter told me that she was going to Columbia University. It was so hard because it was her first time being apart from her family for so long. But, she explained to me that it was a great opportunity for her. I didn’t want to be a hindrance to her dreams.

Finally she got my approval but I was still worried about her. When she left, I constantly checked the ILC website to see her blogs: I was so amazed by all her adventures explained in her blogs. It gave me a peace of mind to know she was doing well.

I’m so proud of her. Her growth in maturity and responsibility is astounding. I am very thankful for all the people part of the Ivy League Connection. This is a tremendous program that molds the students for a brighter future.

I also want to thank Mrs. Cheryl Lilhanand for a great job. I know it was a big responsibility to take care of youths for about a month in such big city. I’m grateful that my daughter was part of the ILC.

Mrs. Carmelita Villa

Thursday, August 2, 2012

From the Mother of Morvarid Mehdizadeh

My daughter came to me one day telling me she wished to attend Columbia University over the summer and asked for my approval to apply to a program that might allow her this opportunity. I was jumbled with different thoughts, not sure exactly what to say in response. This would be the first time my daughter would leave us and go some where far away without us. I had mixed feelings because I was proud of my daughter, her independent and confident attitude, and her willingness to step outside her comfort zone and constantly challenge herself in all ways. However, as a parent I was also scared.

I began learning more about the organization she told me about that day: “The Ivy League Connection.” I realized how important it is to be a part of the organization and the responsible, generous, and caring individuals behind the program. Slowly, I was no longer the scared parent that was thinking about allowing her youngest daughter to leave home for a month, but I was the supporting mother who encouraged her and told her she could do it.

Around December, I watched as she spent hours preparing essays to submit to the Ivy League Connection in hopes of acceptance into the interview phase of the program. I even watched as she screamed in excitement that she had only entered the interview portion of the application. After witnessing her passion and tremendous amount of time and care she put into the program from the start, I knew exactly how much this all meant to her. Finally, all her work paid off and I was proud to witness my daughter’s acceptance into the program of her choice; the Columbia University Presidential Powers course. She was one of the only two individuals chosen for the program and as her eyes sparkled in the room when she heard the news, as a parent I couldn’t be any happier as well.

I do not know how to thank the people that gave these opportunities to the students of our district enough to show how thankful I am to each and every one of them. I am really thankful of the people that provide these opportunities for bright students, like my own daughter, to have such experiences. I’m really happy of the experience my daughter had, to go to New York, to speak to students and alumni, to study at Columbia University, and to enjoy the development of a deeper understanding for different cultures in a different environment. Without this program, my daughter would have never had an opportunity equal to that of what the ILC provided.

My daughter was really happy about this program and every aspect of her experience was like a dream come true for her and it was the same for my family as well. After my daughter returned and told me about the restaurants she visited, the people she spoke to, I felt like I was actually there as she told me with excitement and enthusiasm. I felt just as happy to hear about the stories, her class, and her challenging curriculum as she was there to experience it. It was all a completely new experience for her and the amount of things she learned within a month was astonishing. My daughter grew both intellectually and as a person.

The Ivy League Connection provided an opportunity for students to develop independent skills and confidence. As a whole, this entire experience is very beneficial to our students, and I’m really thankful for such an organization.

The chaperone, Mrs. L also played a tremendous role as a part of the program. She was very patient and caring towards the students. The first time I saw her she seemed like such a lovable and caring person. I liked her a lot and I truly felt like my daughter was in good hands. Knowing Mrs. L was the chaperone, I was no longer worried even though this was the first time my daughter was going to be away from us. Overall, I strongly recommend this organization to future parents and students alike. Once again, there’s really no way for us to thank the caring sponsors, Don Gosney, Mrs. L, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg for giving my daughter such an opportunity and experience. My family is very thankful and we are all very proud of the ILC students’ accomplishments.

Thank you,
Maryam Yazdi

From the Parents of Leonard Eisen

A Parent’s Words of Appreciation for the Ivy League Connection

When our son, Lenny, first began speaking about the Ivy League Connection, it was very difficult to believe that the program he described actually existed. We had lived through all the financial difficulties of our school district since Lenny’s older sister, Sierra, started kindergarten in 1995 when we lived in Richmond. We saw essential programs get cut and class sizes increase. When school-funding bond issues were on the ballot, they could and would be defeated even with a super-majority of 65% because of the two thirds majority required to pass. How could such a program as ILC actually exist for West Contra Costa high school students?

My wife, Melissa, and I are strong believers in public school. We believe that social and ethnic diversity is at the top of the list of characteristics that make a school system a quality learning environment. That’s why we both chose to live in the Bay Area. So, as programs in schools were cut, we’d supplement our kids’ education as well as we could.

I don’t think I was convinced that ILC actually existed even after Lenny was accepted and I started reading emails from Don Gosney. I still wondered how such a program as ILC could actually exist for our students?

I now know it’s thanks to the awesome, tireless efforts of Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg and the sponsors that they have been able to enlist in this terrific program. I also want to express my deepest gratitude to Don Gosney and Cheryl Lilhanand. If it weren’t for Don and Cheryl, I might have had concerns about sending Lenny to New York City, without us, for a month. I grew up and went to college in New York City. I even drove a cab there. I know how easy it is to get into serious trouble in New York. I’m a pretty strict and very observant parent. I felt totally at ease all month because Cheryl was Lenny’s chaperone.

The Ivy League Connection is the most amazing program. Imagine flying to New York on Monday, touring and meeting with admissions officials and alumni at the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, then visiting Sarah Lawrence College on Wednesday, Vassar College on Thursday, Yale on Friday, touring New York City as a group on Saturday, and then moving into the dorms on Sunday at Columbia University for three weeks of classes in Constitutional Law!

And, of course, there were all the cultural, culinary and entertainment extras! And all of this paid in full by the very generous sponsors!!!

Lenny, Melissa and I are forever grateful to the Ivy League Connection and it’s wonderful sponsors, who made this life-changing experience possible. Thank you!!!

Wayne Eisen