Friday, June 1, 2012

Hillary Step

Last night, the 42 ILCers from around WCCUSD gathered together in Pinole Middle School's multi-purpose room for an orientation about our trips, the final step before we board our flight at SFO on June 18th. 

The night began with speeches from Madeleine Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey regarding expectations of all of us over the summer; each of them emphasized some of the do's and do-not's such as always respecting your chaperons and always, always representing the West Contra Costa Unified School District with class and with the dignity that admissions officers, professors, chaperons and our families expect out of us. Ms. Kronenberg told us that this was not a prize, but a privilege that we earn on a day-by-day basis, much more like a job. We would be representing not just ourselves and our families, but the entire Ivy League Connection and the WCCUSD as well. Next, Don went over some of the tools and accessories we will most likely need during our time away and reminded us all that these would be "loaner" items, not gifts.

After their speeches, we were broken up into our cohorts, and Mrs. L, the six of us and our parents were sent to a room a few doors down the hall from the multi-purpose room. Mrs. L went over a lot of Columbia specific information, such as the fact that we will not need to bring pillows or bed sheets with us to New York (giving us more room in our luggage) and possible issues such as a high percentage of commuter students attending the program (some of these students might invite us to their houses, but we won't go). We were also given our trip itinerary, and I have to say, it felt fantastic to see on paper all the things we would be doing. The day after we arrive in New York, we'll be boarding a train to Philadelphia first thing in the morning, having lunch with a UPenn admissions officer(s?) and then taking a tour of University of Pennsylvania. Somewhere in that schedule, we'll also visit Independence Hall, and, to make a long story short, we'll have a packed schedule with tons to do.

Of course Mrs. L also reminded us, that, even though no one in the Ivy League Connection has anything to complain about, we do have it a little better off than the other groups, being in New York City. One new rule Mrs. L told us about was a new rule about cell phones - that you could not have your cell phone out at any ILC activities. She said it was disrespectful, and honestly, I could not agree more. I see far too often that people, myself included, are glued to screens when there are so many more things to see and so many more conversations to have.

While the orientation was simply a step to inform us, it meant so much more to us to have gotten past this final step and being only a few away from boarding a plane to New York. This may be a somewhat strange analogy, and I can't really explain why it just popped into my head a few minutes ago, but I compare the feeling of completing the orientation to the feeling of climbers on Mt. Everest having just climbed past the "Hillary Step," the final obstacle before the summit. Between the Hillary Step and the Summit lies a stretch of only a few hundred feet without any major obstacles, a comparatively easy distance to climb after having ascended 29-thousand-something feet. This is where I feel we're at right now. After applying more than 4 months ago in January, we are a mere 18 days away from boarding our flight to New York! Sorry for the random analogy, but however weird it may have been I find it is fitting.

Anyway, I cannot put into words how excited I am for this trip, and I know we are all counting down the days until we leave. And exactly 17 days from now, at 4:30 in the morning, we'll saying goodbyes and boarding the airport shuttle!

Also, I acknowledge that Mrs. L told us today we needed to work on improving our time management (so that we can eliminate the 4 AM blog posts), and today I can safely say that I handled my time well, I am simply overloaded with work. Thankfully, though, I have 5 days of school left, and after that, I can devote all of my time to the amazing opportunity I've given of going to New York this summer to study Constitutional Law.

"I Watch Them Blossom" -Mrs.Lilhanand

"I watch them blossom," Mrs.L said referring to how she watches us and realizes every single day how much we have grown academically, emotionally, built confidence, learned to deal with stress, perfected our time-management skills, and became an all around better person. "You will realize that you are just as good, if not better, than the other students you meet from different countries around the world and different schools in the United States," she said.

Today was the Ivy League Connection Orientation at Pinole Middle School's multi-purpose room. I actually have a white board in my room that I write down all important dates as well as all my goals, and I must say it has been an exciting journey accomplishing all the tasks and attending all the ILC events. Each time I crossed out one completed event, I felt closer and closer to feeling the fresh, warm, New york air swerve across my body as I walk across the legendary halls of Columbia University. I felt one step closer to sleeping in the dorms of my proper residence hall, and staying up late nights diligently finishing my work to perfection. Now, as of May 31st, I must say it has been the most brilliant day me to arrive at the final step of preparation in regards to our trip. It is truly unbelievable that in just about two weeks, I will be a student at Columbia University.
At our orientation, Mr.Ramsey, Don, and Mrs.Kronenberg presented detailed speeches reminding us of why we are there and what's expected of us. Mr.Ramsey said, "You all exhibited talent and responsibility to be part of the Ivy League Connection, and we trust you." They all reminded us that this is not an average scholarship program, we are both representatives for the program and the West Contra Costa Unified School District, as well as successful representatives for all the children in our community and district. "25,000 individuals were not selected to go, YOU were chosen," said Mr.Ramsey. "Everything you do reflects on them, you serve not only them but your entire school district as a whole." This is a really tough responsibility that must not be underestimated. Later however, Mr.Kronenberg continued by reminding us that we have earned the right to be in this program every day, and it doesn't just end there. This right is earned every day even when we come back home. Such a program is for individuals who care most about not only their school, but their district, and their entire community as a whole. With the great college exposure granted by the Ivy League Connection, one will come back with renewed spirit and enthusiasm with participation in a program that is for the world, not jut for the United States (approximately 33% of students at the Columbia program with be from a foreign country). Last but not least, however, Don ended the speeches by telling us about the items we will need in the east coast and provided us with a list of potential items he can loan out to us.

After being reminded of such expectations, responsibilities, and our progressive achievements, we headed to designated rooms prepared for each individual program (such as Columbia, Brown, and Cornell) and participated in an hour long special orientation. There our parents received more information about our trip and almost every one there learned something new. All our answered in regards to our trip we're answered. Nonetheless, we also had speakers from Vassar University and a former ILC student that attended the Presidential Powers course to provide us with more information and insight. The orientation ended promptly at 8:00PM, right about the time my excitement towards my college adventures had fully rekindled.

As of now, my countdown begins. 17 days, 4 hours, and 42 minutes left.
Columbia University here we come!