Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Glimpse Into My Future

Today, we had our group dinner at La Folie. We all met up at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station a bit before five o'clock and everyone ended up arriving early. On the ride to San Francisco, I sat with Mrs. Thrift and Don. We talked about a variety of topics such as the application statistics and different experiences we had in our classrooms (both college and high school). When our train ride ended, we walked up the gritty San Francisco stairs and called taxis in front of the San Francisco Public Library. I got into the taxi with my mom, Malcolm Carson, and Janis Lee, Emily's mother. Don put me in charge of giving the driver our destination, paying, and getting the receipt, all of which I did successfully. 

When we got to the restaurant, we were escorted into a private room. The staff opened the door to a small Mardi Gras themed setting with a pre-established seating chart along with our menus and programs for the night. I found my seat and saw that I'd be sitting next to Khadine Singh, a Columbia alumna and Google employee, and my mom, Kimberly Mahoney. Across from me was Reginald Terrell, a sponsor, the Ivy League Connection alumna and future doctor, Malcolm Carson, Monica and her mother, Donna Ramsey, and Ismael Ramsey.

Our servers started us off with a variety of finger foods while all of the attendees chatted with each other. It seems like everyone had so much to share with us! Khadine told us about moving from her home in Trinidad to New York so she could attend Columbia and then to San Francisco to work for Google. Reginald, a sponsor, made me really appreciate the hard work that goes into making this program possible. Malcolm expressed pride in being one of the first ILC students and being an El Cerrito High School graduate. We all discussed our future plans and aspirations. We also talked about what  to expect at Columbia, the different sights to see and places to eat the best cakes (according to Khadine, I'm going to have to visit Make My Cake).

Our servers started us off with an "amuse bouche" or mouth amuser composed of a potato chip and a sweet crouton with egg dip. After that, we were served a cream of asparagus soup with lobster and quail egg; this was my favorite dish of the night! We moved on to our main course and had the choice of a lobster dish or tenderloin. Although lobster is my favorite food, I chose the tenderloin because of the bone marrow custard which is something I've never tried. By the time that our desert came, I was stuffed. A rich chocolate ganache and brandied fruit were set in front of me, but I only had the stomach to eat half of it. We finished off our meal with petit fours some of which were better than others. The food was wonderful, but each dish had an aesthetic appeal that made us reluctant to destroy such artwork. 

After we all finished eating, we posed against the wall for our group photos and I struck my signature hand-on-the-hip pose. We said goodbye to all the people who came and caught taxis back to the BART and went home. This has been my favorite night so far because I got to meet such intriguing people and get a feel of the atmosphere that Columbia has in store. I can't wait to finally fly out there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Dinner Experience at La Folie

I had a great time last night when I got to venture out into San Francisco and eat at La Folie. Although the means of transportation were a bit extensive, it was well worth the wait. All the food was intricately configured and was also tasty and fulfilling even though the individual plates were small. The atmosphere and decor of the restaurant was astounding and it was such a pleasure to engage in such fine dining. (Which was all courtesy of the Ivy League Connection by the way :) )
Yummy Egg with French Fry
Tasty Truffles!
Even the decor of the bathroom was amazing and I couldn't resist taking a pic!
Most importantly, I had insightful conversations with Columbia alumni such as Malcolm Carson and Khadine Singh who told me about their experiences at Columbia. From listening to them I got a better idea of what the school has to offer and the type of school that it is. I also got to speak with Peter Chau and Hale Kronenberg about their transition into college and what it was like for them to attend an Ivy League school. The speeches that the Columbia alumni gave who were former ILCers made me even more excited for this opportunity that I'm about to embark on. 
Miguel speaking

The night really was one to remember besides the fact that I was under the weather. :( I'm so happy that this is just a preview of all the future fun I get to have and the hard work I will be doing in New York.

La Folie is French for Madness and English for Perfection

On my way to dinner, I was extremely nervous for my speech. I've given speeches before and I know I've gained a lot of experience since then, but the thought of it was still nerve-racking. I tried to run through some key points to talk about on the car ride to BART. I got to the BART station at around 4:40 and met with Don, Kendall, Emily, and Emily’s mom shortly after. Peter Chau, the first student to ever participate in the ILC, also met with us and talked to us about him and college. He is a PVHS alumni and he went on to study at Dartmouth College. When the whole group arrived, we rushed up to the train.

For the majority of the BART ride, us ILCers clumped together and asked Peter all of the college questions we had. He told us that personal statements should be started as early as possible, focused on one main idea, and ready to be drafted several times. I also spoke to Lisa’s dad, Mr.Romero, about my past experience with the ILC. With constant conversation going on, the BART ride was over in no time.

Getting out of the BART station, I talked to Mr. Kronenberg who was also one the interviewers for Columbia. He attended both Dartmouth and Columbia. After a short walk, the first few taxi groups were able to wave down a taxi almost instantly. Actually, all of the taxi groups except the last one were able to make their way over to La Folie with ease. Don, Mr. Blackmon, and I were stranded for another five or ten minutes before a taxi driver stopped for us. Don and Mr. Blackmon were talking about politicians and the taxi driver was really knowledgeable about the politicians too! I felt a little ashamed that I was going to study America’s presidents without knowing much about the local politicians. I’ll have to pay attention to the news more often!

By the time we arrived at La Folie, everybody else had already arrived. I went to find my seat which was near my father, Emily, Mary and Ilana. I spoke to Mary, one of the ILC sponsors. She’s actually a UC Berkeley graduate, but she was able to tell me a lot about her college experiences. Once, she took an Italian class and she liked it so much that she went to Italy for study abroad! It’s amazing how far one class can take you. I also spoke to Ilana who is a Columbia alumnus. She majored in environmental sciences and she told me a bunch of places to visit on and off Columbia’s campus! Both Mary and Ilana were so nice and we found ourselves talking to each other for the whole night. 
Ms. Kronenberg giving a closing speech.
Time went on and the feeling of having to give a speech sank in again. Justin went first and he spoke about his experience in applying for the ILC.  I was relieved to be the second speaker, but at the same time, Justin’s speech was great and he set a high bar for me to reach. When I went up to speak, words started to come out a lot easier than I remembered, but by the end of the speech, I realized that I barely said anything that I planned to. I just hope that that wasn’t too noticeable! Two Columbia alumni, Ms. Kronenberg, and Mr. Ramsey also gave speeches. They all spoke so eloquently.

Our courses started to come out one after another. I had the asparagus soup, pan seared beef tenderloin, and a chocolate fondant. All of the food was delicious! Dessert was definitely my favorite because the fondant was so soft and there was chocolate oozing out of the center. I loved the food, but being able to eat it with all of the amazing people around me was no doubt the highlight of my night. Every aspect of the night was perfect. Every event always builds up excitement for the upcoming trip and this dinner was no exception. 
"The Sunset" Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Fondant

Le bon diner (good dinner)

If your wondering why I'm speaking French here are the reasons: 1) I went to a French restaurant yesterday, 2) I took five years of French and I need to practice. So yesterday was a very long day but I would say it was very worth while. I had the big dinner I had to go to and I got to meet some sponsors and some cool alumni. to make it even more nerve racking I had to do a small speech and I was notified two days before. Now let me not tell you that my Dad backed out being a parent at the last minute, he was was supposed to be my parent accompanying me to my dinner. Instead I got my mother at the last minute which was very fortunate.

Mom came to the bart and met me their, and Don was telling us how to use clipper cards and making us feel like we needed a lot of direction to be able to get on BART to San Francisco Civic Center Plaza. Once we arrived he gave us money for a Taxi and really implored us to get a receipt. We were heading to La Folie and it was crazy because I don't usually take taxis and it was so expensive. I kid you not it was fifty cents a block, that's like fifty cents every time I walk to each of my class rooms at school! I mean kids should be getting payed to walk for such outrageous prices. But anyways back to business, when we got out of the taxi I gave the woman a tip and realized it wasn't worth it because it starts at $3.50 and she was driving like she was angry. She kept saying "I'm not worried I have more insurance then everyone". 

Once I got to my table I was excited and started immediately talking to the people around me. I talked to Scott Henry (sponsor) and Miguel Castro (graduate). Both of them really incredible people and I loved being able to say what I felt without having to censor or hold off on anything. Scott told me not to worry and said that it was good I was thinking about what I like instead of still exploring. He's been in the program for a long time and I thank him for his service and support. Now Miguel was extraordinary, I don't know how Charles Ramsey knew I had the same goals as Miguel but he did. It was a perfect set up. We shared the same aspirations and what was special about him was that he came from a similar background as myself. He made and with all his work he also won the Gates Millennium scholarship, a full scholarship for all the years of post high school studies.

I ended the night going back to BART buy first taking taxi. I was careful this time on how much I tipped the cab driver. Overall good day, speech went well, and the Heat won great.
Me and my mom

Good Things are Just Around the Corner

After last night's dinner at La Folie in San Francisco, I can honestly say that the feelings I have toward the ILC and my trip to Columbia this summer have intensified even more if that's possible. I woke up early in the morning excited for the long day for many reasons. Firstly, I was taking my driver license test and then heading to a fancy dinner after school! Unfortunately, I failed my test, but I think everything happens for a reason. 

I arrived at the BART station a few minutes before 5:10, rushing out of the car (thanks for putting all the clocks ahead four minutes, mom) and heading to the ticket area of the station with the sun on my back and a slight breeze on my face. Don gave us students explicit instructions on our short travels and once all the alums, parents, and students were together, we headed off to San Francisco. On the way over, I chatted with alums and parents like Peter, a '09 Dartmouth alum, Malcom a '13 alum of Columbia and 3-year student of the ILC, and Ms. Leung, Emily's mom. Each person I talked to was so friendly, insightful, and easy to talk to. I was treated like an adult by them, but it did not feel forced which was new for me to experience.
My dad and I

We took cabs to La Folie on Polk Street and were graciously directed to a beautiful banquet room. I was in good spirits and came with a good appetite, but that could not prepare me for the amazing time I would have at La Folie.

The lovely centerpiece I was lucky enough to take home.
During dinner, Mr. Ramsey, Michelle, Justin, Ms. Kronenberg, Malcom, and Miguel Castro ('00 Columbia alum) gave speeches on Columbia University, the ILC, and this opportunity overall. It was inspiring to listen to their personal experiences. Miguel even mentioned that his freshman orientation consisted of a yacht party and a masquerade! Also, the program's sponsors introduced themselves. They were all very genuine in congratulating us and I could tell that they have a lot of faith in the ILC as well as the Columbia program. Everyone spoke from their heart and it meant a lot to me that everyone in that room was happy that my opportunity in New York this summer is making a difference in the community. I was particularly inspired by Malcom because he comes from this area and is now going into med school! He was very humble and I feel that I could relate to him well since he was a WCCUSD graduate.

Beautiful decor in the room where we ate
At the restaurant, we were served a lot of AMAZING food, but the best part of dinner was talking to the alumni and benafactors. Everyone who was present was happy for the Columbia cohort and played a part in my scholarship. I spoke a lot with Mitch Flax, a class of '09 Columbia alum and current Googler, Ilana Somasunderam a class of '09 alumna and current Environmental Media Specialist in Golden Gate Park, and Mary Morris, an architect and sponsor for the program. I had a lot of questions and they were all happy to talk to me about Columbia and college-life. By the end of dinner I had  a lot of new friends and some pretty impressive business cards to put in my purse! 

On the ride back home, three emotions were going through my mind: tiredness, happiness, and fullness. I am excited for my trip this summer and I know everyone at the dinner is excited for the Columbia cohort as well. Although a crazy taxi driver is allowed to drive and I am not, I didn't mind so much at the end of the long day. I headed home with a heavy stomach and a light heart, grateful for new experiences, people, food, and memories.

Decadent French Cuisine, Not My Everyday Routine

Yesterday night was probably the most full I have ever stuffed myself with food. And it was all worth it.

Last night the Columbia cohort attended an amazing dinner in San Francisco that celebrated the program, its sponsors, Columbia alumni, and of course, the ILCers. The night started at an early five o'clock, where most of the dinner attendees met at the local train station. By five-thirty we were on the train and on our way to the city. During the train ride Lisa, Michelle, Justin, and I were talking to Peter (who was in the ILC program a few years back) about college and the whole application process and experience. He attended Dartmouth College, and really enjoyed his experience there. He said that initially, he didn't feel like he belonged at the school, but after a couple months, he began enjoying himself there. I've been hearing lots of college graduates' stories about the first time they stepped onto the campus of whatever college they attended, and how they immediately realized that they belonged at that college, so hearing Peter's story was refreshing. Finding my own niche in college, or even in life, is going to take some time. 

After getting of the train, we walked a couple blocks to a more populated area where it would be easier to flag down a taxi (which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be). I felt like I was in a video game with the way my taxi driver was driving, with the racecar accelerations and swerving. I just felt lucky I wasn't a poor pedestrian at that time. 

We arrived at the restaurant (thankfully all of us in one piece) and met the group of sponsors and alumni we would dine with that night. In his emails, Don was very clear that he wanted us to mingle with people we didn't usually talk to, so I dove right in! I immediately introduced myself to the first person I saw, which was a young alumnus named Illana. She was so nice and easy to talk to, I was glad we struck up conversation! 

Everyone was ushered into a private room of the restaurant that we would be eating in. It was a cute and cozy room lavishly decorated with art and colorful walls. Everyone had assigned seating, which further encouraged the interaction between the students and parents, alumni, and sponsors. I sat near my mom, Lisa, her dad, Michelle, her dad, Illana, Ms. Thrift, and a man named Mitchell, who was an alumnus. I felt nervous before the dinner because I thought that all the people at this dinner would be very formal and proper. But after meeting Illana and sitting down at my seat with all the wonderful people I was surrounded by, my anxiousness quickly faded away. Mitchell is a '09 graduate of Columbia who currently works at Google. Everyone grilled him on what working at Google was really like and if it was as great as everyone has made it out to be (he said it was by the way). 
My place setting at the table.
Michelle and I! 
I couldn't share my experience of the night without raving about the amazing food we ate. From the intricately constructed "palette cleansers" to the lobster risotto to the oozing molten lava cake for dessert, I was in heaven with each bite. It was a hard to pace myself with all the delicious food they served, but I was determined to taste everything, so I only took a few bites of each course. Needless to say, by the end of the meal, I felt like a turkey at Thanksgiving: I was stuffed.

My delicious dessert that was so pretty I didn't want to
eat it (but of course I did).

My lobster risotto entree.

The taxi ride back to the train station would have been more enjoyable if a) I wasn't as full as I was b) the roads were less bumpy and c) the taxi driver didn't feel the need to accelerate and slam on his brakes every block or two. Luckily the ride was only ten blocks or so, so it was over quickly. At this point it was around ten thirty, and it had been a very long day for me. I was ready to go home and sleep! The night was winding down the train ride back and so was my energy level, but I'm sure I can speak for a lot of other people coming home from that dinner too. 

One last thought to conclude this post is that I am very happy I attended this dinner. The food was just an added bonus to make the night even better, but really throwing myself out there and interacting with new people was the highlight of the night. I loved learning about how their experiences were at school, and even how their everyday lives are to this day: where they work, what its like working at their jobs, and how connected they are with their schoolmates from Columbia. I'm happy I met some wonderful people last evening, and hope to stay in touch with them (especially to get some pointers on how to survive in the Big Apple!)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Intriguing School Board Meeting

The School Board meeting was enlightening as I was able to see the sponsors, parents, supporters, and the other cohorts with their chaperones. After meeting with my cohort we took a picture together holding the Columbia flag which was of course, my favorite color, blue!
Watching the individual speeches for each cohort was engaging as well. The chaperones talked about the experience of their program, which colleges they will be visiting, and which program each student will be attending. The part that I enjoyed the most was hearing the students opinions on their program. I especially liked Kendal's speech for our program and was riveted by her directness and confidence in public speaking. I hope I will be able to do as well with my speech on Tuesday.

Overall, I thought the School Board meeting was informative and a clever way to broadcast the perks of the Ivy League Connection by giving parents information on the individual programs and the public a positive idea of the outcomes of the program.

There's a Whole World

A picture of the meeting's site
(Credit to Lisa for taking this picture)
Yesterday, all of the new members of the Ivy League Connection got together for a school board meeting. I came home from school early and got dressed for the upcoming event. My mom drove me to LoVonya Dejean Middle school and we got there around 5:30 as the first ILC family to arrive. When I got there,  Don was setting up the area that we'd be taking our group photos in. The meeting began with the Board members deciding on the order of the agenda and they decided that the ILC members should go first. 
Our cohort chaperon, Mrs. Thrift
The first two groups to speak at the podium were the Brown cohorts of sessions one and two. My Columbia cohort and I were up next. Our chaperon, Mrs. Thrift, introduced all of us, which grade of high school we're in, and the classes we'll be taking at Columbia. She then presented a list of schools we'd be visiting while we're there and asked me to give a short speech. 
Me at the podium
I got up to the podium extremely nervous and introduced myself to the board members and audience. I thanked everyone who had contributed to the program for allowing us this opportunity and choosing such a wonderful group of students. I went on to say that getting in to the program was extremely difficult but very rewarding and how excited we all are to go to New York. When I come back to my school, I want to show that there's a whole world outside of California and it's waiting for them to explore it. After my speech, everyone congratulated me and said that my speech was great. 

After each group finished the ritual, we went to Don's photo area with our parents and chaperons and we all took a group picture. It took quite a few flashes of the camera, but we were able to get enough shots to get a perfect picture. Around eight o'clock, we met with our chaperons to get our ILC certificates and then we returned home. I got home extremely tired so I decided to take an hour long nap before I posted my blog. Unfortunately, my alarm clock didn't go off. Thankfully, Angry Don hasn't noticed yet, but he'll probably be a little upset when he reads my post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Start of New Memories or a Walk Down Memory Lane?

Today was the first ILC wide event of the year. Many ILCers met each other during the tutorial, and most of the cohorts have held meet and greets, but this was our chance to meet every single member of the organization. When I first walked in, I met with Bryan Moran, Jesse Kaur, and Lisa Romero from my high school. We stood for a few moments and looked around in awe at all the students, parents, and community members who were present at the School Board meeting. I even ran into my chaperone last year, Mr. Chan-Law. Afterwards, we separated and joined our respective cohorts. Ms. Thrift also joined us and we got to take a sneak peek of the schools we're visiting. We were all so excited to hear that we were touring MIT, Tufts, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and UPenn. I can't even imagine a better group of schools to visit. We also stopped to take a few pictures with Columbia's flag!

After we all took our seats, the speeches and introductions began. Leonard Eisen, a senior from my high school, was one of the first to speak about how the ILC has impacted him. He also attended the Columbia program and he will be going on to UPenn for the next four years! Tamilyn Chen also spoke. I haven't seen her since the last day of our trip to Cornell last year and I was taken by surprise that Lenny and Tami were at the meeting! Tamilyn is going on to Harvard and it never ceases to amaze me that the ILC is able to produce such intelligent and aspiring students. Knowing these two on a personal level, I know that UPenn and Harvard are extremely lucky to have them. Their speeches and experiences reminded me why I applied to Cornell last year and made me think of the other ILC alumni that inspired me. 

Later on, the Brown cohorts started off and Columbia followed immediately after. Kendall did a great job with her speech and I'm amazed that she wasn't nervous! During one of the other cohort's speech, an ILCer said that he couldn't imagine a better cohort. Monica and I immediately turned to each other and expressed a look that said "he only says that because he hasn't met our cohort." We've only met three times, but I genuinely believe that my cohort has gotten very close during these events.

We went through all the cohorts and ended the speeches with a speech from one of the benefactors. It's a great feeling to know how many people support us and put countless amounts of efforts and monetary help to make this opportunity possible. The thank-yous seemed never ending, but I really don't know how many thank-yous would be enough to compensate for all the support. When we headed over to take our group picture, I saw my middle school principal, Ms. Von-Heusen, too! She expressed how proud she was and memories of middle school suddenly ran through my mind. I was shocked that she remembered me too!
Mr. Chan-Law, Tamilyn, and I
Everyone quickly rushed over to take the group picture, but it still took a while to rearrange everyone and make sure that the floor wasn't exposed. I ended the night by quickly chatting with Tami, Ms. Von-Heusen, and Mr. Chan-Law. Tami and I want to have a mini Cornell reunion sometime soon! The cohort hasn't gotten together yet and all of the seniors are going to be going off to college really soon. On top of the get together, I'm also looking forward to next week's dinner and continuing to represent the ILC during this journey. 

Representing Something Big

Once again I got a reminder of how amazing and terrific it is to be part of this wonderful program. When Charles Ramsey invited past Ivy League Connection alumni to speak, I was just really impressed when I heard that they loved the program and that they ended up going to one of the Ivy League Universities. Tamilyn Chen really surprised me when she said she got into Harvard. It was crazy how far she had gotten with that one summer. She said at first that she didn't even know that there were out-of-state universities. Well seems legit because California is the only state with so many universities.

We were there to be recognized but I felt that the West Contra Costa Unified School District should be acknowledged too. There was one guy who participated in the Gateway to College and said that at first he hated school but was given a second opportunity and was expressing his gratitude. I feel that a lot of times teachers and parents criticize the faults of the WCCUSD but never acknowledge the positive experiences that it produces. For example I believe that Ivy League Connection is the only program in California that sends students to the east coast to study in the summer for free; this is also part of the WCCUSD. I just have to tip my hat to the sponsors and to everyone who takes part in supporting and donating time to the program

In other news, as my group got to the podium I was anxious to hear my name be announced. I've never had this sort of fame and I finally felt that my hard work was paying off. When my name did get called I was super excited, I felt that I was finally someone important. Now it's just time to continue on in my journey and to stay humble and remember where I came from.
Check out my tie

Schoolboard Meeting and Thankfulness

It was such relief to walk into the semi-cool multi-purpose room of the beautiful LoVonya DeJean Middle School and escape the heat of the day. I walked in at ten to six and proceeded to look awkwardly around for anyone I knew, avoiding chairs and people who actually knew where to be. After spotting Don, Ms. Thrift, and the rest of the ILC scholars, I felt more comfortable and Don began to tell us what to expect for the evening. Each cohort would present itself to the School Board, announce its members, give a short speech, and we would take a group picture afterward.
Recently remodeled DeJean Middle School

At the meeting, there was the WCCUSD School Board, ILC benefactors, ILC alumni who will be attending Ivy League schools in the Fall, and a large crowd of proud parents. As each cohort introduced itself and thanked everyone who help us during this experience, I truly took into account how amazing this opportunity I have is. I want to thank Don Gosney, Ms. Kronenberg, Charles Ramsey, and all the benefactors who played a role in my scholarship. Sitting in that room, I felt part of something grand and it made me recognize how blessed I am and how excited I am to explore the possibilities are being offered to me. It is all thanks to the people who have invested in the talent that this community has.
Dani, my friend from elementary and middle school
After the speeches, the entire 2014 ILC group took a group picture. After giggles, body heat, and getting to know my neighbor, Don took a bunch of photos until everyone's cheeks hurt. It was a lot of fun, especially since I got to see some old friends who will be attending class as part of the ILC this summer. I got my certificate from Ms. Thrift and the meeting was over, but my spirits were so high that I was reluctant to leave. There are so many bright students I have gotten to know over the past few week that I see how many friends, opportunities, and connections this program offers. My ambitions are becoming realities all at once. I cannot express my thanks in words.
2014 ILCers!

The School Board Meeting and Cohort Greetings

Tonight was the School Board meeting where all cohorts of the ILC were required to attend. I arrived at a very timely 5:58 PM, two minutes before I needed to get there. Briefly after I got to the site of the School Board meeting, I spotted my cohort, and joined them to take an insane amount of pictures. Speaking on behalf of my cohort, I think we all felt a little famous with the paparazzi of parents swarming around us to get that refrigerator-worthy picture. 
One of the refrigerator worthy shots we got of the night.
After the pictures, the School Board meeting started and we sat down with our cohorts. During this time, the head of the ILC program spoke for a little and then introduced each chaperone, who introduced the students in their cohort. A lucky student from each group was selected to speak on behalf of their cohort about what the ILC meant to them, and all of the students who were selected were phenomenal. I'd especially like to give shout out to Kendal (who is in my cohort) for such an amazing speech. Her poise and eloquence represented our cohort very well and I am glad she spoke on behalf of the group! 

As my group and I were standing in front of the Board, I truly felt honored. To be recognized by the School Board and have such a big part of the meeting dedicated to acknowledging the efforts of the students and parents was so humbling. I was very proud of myself and my new-found friends for making it this far, and thankful towards everyone who made this whole ILC program possible for my fellow schoolmates and I.

To conclude the ILC portion of the School Board meeting, we all took a massive group photo, inclusive of the parents, chaperones, and ILCers. After a few minutes of gathering everyone into their places and adjusting (and adjusting and adjusting) everyone so that we would all fit, we finally took the picture. Or 30 to be more accurate. 

Just as I was about to head out of the meeting, I bumped into my old history teacher, who congratulated me on my acceptance into Columbia and the ILC program with a big hug. It was nice seeing her again; seeing a familiar face in a sea of many strangers was comforting. Listening to her talk about seeing how far we (being me and Justin who is also in the Columbia group) had come was so nice to hear. If you told me five years ago that I would be spending a summer away in New York for a month in the heart of Manhattan at the prestigious Columbia University, I would've asked what you were on. But this really just goes to show how hard work and dedication can truly get you places! 
Look at all those glorious ILCers and their supporters!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Great Start to the Day and a Journey

This morning I attended brunch at Ms. Thrift's home who will be the Columbia chaperone this summer. The first thing I thought when walking up to her home was how nice it was, but it could not compare to how nice Ms. Thrift, who teaches theater at Hercules Middle/High School, and her husband Charles, a tall photographer, were to me. For a while, all of the Columbia cohort sat in the living room making small talk, ranging from driver's licenses to how to do laundry until it was time for what we were all waiting for: FOOD.
Over the course of the yummy meal, Ms. Thrift and her husband told us about their lives and it was really nice to listen to them. They have three children who are all out of the house and a beautiful dog named Brandy. When they talked about their children, they spoke with so much pride it made me think of my parents (especially since it is Mother's Day in Guatemala). It was very sweet and it reminds me that no matter what, I will make my family proud in my life. 

Soon, everyone had finished eating, but the conversation continued. It was amazing how the time passed and no one took notice. Everyone at the table spoke about why they wanted to attend Columbia and what taking a class there means to them. We all spoke so passionately that it reminded me how much we have ahead of us this summer. For example, Kendall from Middle College mentioned how she wants to do so many things in life ranging from sociology to law and how going to Columbia is her first step to figuring it all out. The same went for all of us; we are all ready to take that step into adulthood and find out where we can go in life. The prospect is exciting and it was fun to share those feelings with my cohort. At one point, we stopped feeling like strangers and more like a group of friends.
Michelle (who is taking Presidential Powers) and I 
My favorite part of brunch was talking about all the things there are to do in New York. I look forward to meeting new people, going to Times Square, seeing a Broadway show (maybe see James Franco's debut in Of Mice and Men), riding the subway, eating authentic New York pizza, and to experience the Concrete Jungle overall. I am no longer nervous, but incredibly excited for the day that plane to Boston takes off and our journeys as ILC ambassadors begins.
The Columbia cohort!

The Big Apple

I finally got to meet all the members of the Columbia cohort! Today,  I went to the home of my old theater teacher and future chaperone, Mrs. Thrift. Mrs. Thrift, her dog Brandy, and her husband all welcomed my fellow cohort members into their cozy house with open arms.  There were five other people excluding myself--Emily, Justin, Michelle, Monica, and Lisa. I had already met Emily and Justin at our interviews and I'd seen Monica around my school since she goes to visit some of her friends there pretty often. Emily seemed so strong and independent and expressed her excitement to learn how life without parents would be. Justin, the only male in the group, was really charismatic and thoughtful. He shared some of his favorite books with us and seemed comfortable despite the surplus of estrogen in the room. Michelle and Lisa seemed to be very bonded. They shared a lot of the same interests and they both seemed like really sweet girls. Monica seemed a bit quiet, but nonetheless excited about the months to come.
We all sat down for a wonderful breakfast that our chaperone prepared and a coffee cake dessert that Lisa made. I wasn't very hungry, but I couldn't resist when I saw food right in front of me. After everyone's stomachs were satisfied, we got to talk about our plans. The conversation started off light with Lisa and I expressing our adoration for James Franco and our hopes to see him in "Of Mice and Men", his broadway debut, but as our conversations progressed, we abandoned trivial matters and assumed a more thought provoking tone. We shared our expectations for the upcoming events, Columbia,  and even our futures.
I got a few surprises at our get together: my plane for New York is scheduled on my birthday, I'll be speaking at the school board meeting, and Mrs. Thrift has a hard time telling Emily and Michelle apart.  With the unfortunate combination of my upcoming finals and this new information, my mom and I decided to opt for a bit of retail therapy before I went to my brother's baseball game. I'm so excited to give my speech, finish junior year, and go to the Big Apple! 

Brunch with the Bunch

Today was the day that I met all of my fellow Columbia attendees and our chaperone. We convened at the house of our chaperone, Ms. Thrift, for brunch. It was a lovely gathering; we began with small talk, but soon after we began to talk about our programs, what we wanted to do in the future, what our hobbies included, and what we were looking forward to in New York. I really have to tip my hat to Ms. Thrift for organizing such a nice brunch; on top of the amazing food, there was never a dull moment in conversation. Between her and her husband, we all learned lots about them and even ourselves.
We all devoured the frittata, fruit, ham, coffee cake, and bread that were at the table.

One thing that made today exceptional was how well we could all converse. This sounds like such a general thing to say; I mean how hard is it to hold a conversation? The thing about our group was that we could talk about anything. I mean everything. The conversation ranged from driver’s licenses to Dave Franco to how we feel about the Electoral College in this day in age. And I think that finding people who you can talk about anything with is rare. We are all so lucky to be in the same cohort! 
What a lovely looking group we got there! 
Talking with everyone about the trip and hearing concrete details about the trip excited me very much. We talked about what we want to do while we are in New York during our free time too. Word of going to a Broadway show, visiting Times Square, and going to Coney Island popped up. I've only been to New York once, and I was there briefly--less than a day to be exact. Getting the chance to study and explore around New York is quite the opportunity to have! As Alicia Keys sang in her song "Empire State of Mind", "These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York...." 

Joy to meet Joyce

Today I met my wonderful chaperone Joyce and I have to say I love her good spirits right off the bat.

She invited us to have brunch at her home, and made us an egg casserole baked to perfection, toasted cheese bread, tender cooked ham sliced perfectly thick enough to give you enough of the ham taste without making you chew for a while. At first I was being modest with what I served myself but right after I saw everybody else eating, what do you know my big boy eating habits took over. I ate the first small plate relatively fast and then to satisfy my appetite, I took double the amount of egg casserole I had previously taken and chowed down. Thank you Joyce--you cook with the hands of a chef.

So now that my stomach was in a better mood, we began to talk about our programs and our interests. I told Joyce and her husband Charles all about my interests in government and both of them brought up the book 1984 by George Orwell. I was really surprised that real people read those books because I only knew that book from my AP Literature class. We talked about how crazy Orwell was for making a book like that and we also admired his genius for thinking up a book that showed some resemblance to the society of today. I started releasing my feelings about the warning that's given by Orwell and I was glad to hear I can say what I wanted to say in the room without making an argument or being frowned upon for my opinion.

Joyce told us about our five day college tour trip, and I was just so amazed. I took a second to appreciate what the Ivy League Connection has offered me, and being able to be a part of the organization. I have to say I'm truly blessed and I will make sure to take full advantage of this opportunity and share the knowledge that I come back with.

The Savvy Seven

Today was the first time the whole cohort met each other and the chaperone. Lisa, Monica, Emily, Justin and I already met during the con law interview. Instead of going to a restaurant, we all met at Ms. Thrift's house. Her house was very unique and cozy, which made our bonding experience even better. At first, we sat in the living room and talked about miscellaneous topics. Ms. Thrift's husband joined us and added a lot to our discussions too. After everybody arrived, we moved to the dining table which was perfectly set up for eight people. 

Monica and Emily
While we ate lunch, we continued our conversations. We discussed different books and talked about what we looked forward to doing. Ms. Thrift brought up Freakonomics, a book about hidden aspects of economics. It sounds really interesting, so I made it my goal to read it sometime. We even talked about conspiracies, debate, and being away from home. Everybody contributed to the conversation and I felt like there were waves of intelligence radiating throughout the table. Everyone in the cohort is very well-read and opinionated. I'm not too familiar with the other cohorts, but if the ILC had some sort of team debate, I'm pretty sure we would win. By the end of our meal, we all knew a little more about each other and the fact that we'll be on the East Coast soon really sank in. We even learned that we'll possibly visit Harvard and Yale before going to Columbia!
Lisa, myself, Justin, Ms.Thrift, Monica, Emily, and Kendal in Ms. Thrift's backyard
We took a few more pictures before people started to slowly depart. Lisa, Monica, and I were still waiting for our parents so we waited in the living room. Monica and I will be speaking at the dinner in two weeks so we tried to coordinate our speeches to be different from each other. Ms. Thrift also spoke to us about being a teacher and how it can be difficult to stop students from walking over them. She seems really passionate about being a teacher and I'm glad that she's our chaperone! Overall, I'm just really excited for our upcoming trip and thankful for having such a cool and savvy cohort. 

Meeting My Chaperone and Other Group Members

I woke up this morning feeling so excited. I wanted to leave a good impression on everyone that I would be going to Columbia with and I was hoping that I'd like them as well. 

I had a great time today when I was introduced to my chaperone and the other members of my Columbia group. My chaperone, Joyce Thrift, welcomed us into her home and had a delicious meal prepared for us. I was the first to arrive and  I was introduced to her husband, Charles, and her father in-law. I also got to meet her cute dog Brandy. :)

I enjoyed the discussion we had at the table and I was happy to get to know her. I felt very comfortable in the inviting environment that she created in her household. Joyce and her husband were both very open and communicative, often being the ones to break the ice when no one else would. They also discussed the classes that we will be taking this summer and it really made me contemplate about the reasons that I'm taking this class and what I want to achieve while I'm in New York this summer. 

While I was there I also got to know Lisa, Emily, Michelle, Justin, and Kendal a bit better. They also discussed their academic goals and interests.  By listening and observing them I was able to get a better sense of the type of people that they are. They are each very individualistic and opinionated but highly motived and ambitious. I think that we will make a unique group together and find out that we share more interests than we may have expected. 

In summary, I think our meet and greet was a success. I definitely want to get to know them better at the dinner that we have but until then I'm happy that I got to do this meet and greet!