For as long as I can remember my mom has always told me, "It doesn't matter what other people do or where they come from because you are just as capable as them." Without my family's encouragement and support, I know I would not have gotten this opportunity of a lifetime. I still remember at the end of my first quarter as a sophomore, Don Gosney spoke to students at my school who would be eligible to get a scholarship to go to an Ivy League school over the summer for free. I had heard of this, but I was not sure if I could get in so I applied to Vanderbilt, got rejected, then applied to Columbia and got accepted (just remembering that moment is exciting all over again!). January 30th feels like a lifetime ago, but that was the day that my hard-work paid off, the day that I knew my parents were right, and the day that I no longer had to dream about opportunity, but look forward to the opportunity presented to me. That was the day that I got accepted into the Ivy League Connection to take Constitutional Law and became an ambassador for the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).
|Back when it all began!|
Thereafter, I thought my ILC experience would become a lot simpler. If only I could have known how wrong I was! Afterwards, things only got harder and getting in seemed like the easy part. Endless emails, staying on top of forms, attending meetings, and finding the energy to do it all was a large part of being a WCCUSD ambassador from February until June 16th when I left the West Coast. Still, I matured greatly in that time because I was given a lot of responsibility. That was the second indicator of the ILC shaping me into an adult, the first being the application process, the next being my experience on the East Coast.
|Yale is full of cool stuff like this!|
First, the college tour of the Ivy League schools got me thinking. For a long time, I had one plan for college. That plan was: go where the money is, not necessarily the school. This would mean working extra hard for a scholarship in the UC system most likely. After sitting in on the many college information sessions, I realized that I did not have to sacrifice my education for my financial situation. The Ivy League schools have amazing financial aid because they have very impressive endowments. This means, if I got into an Ivy League school, I would not have to put a very large financial burden on my parents compared to if I got accepted to a state school that does not have a lot of money to give to their students. I realize that I have set a pretty high bar for myself, but I think that with hard work, I can try my best to reach that bar. Even if, when the time comes, I do not get accepted to an Ivy League, the ILC will have rewarded me in other ways, like allowing me to make a difference in my community and giving me this opportunity of a lifetime.
|Batman when he stayed at our hotel in Philadelphia.|
I met a lot of inspiring people in New York and the East Coast in general. A lot of these people I met through class, but also by just putting myself out there. I think one of my favorite people to meet was a man named Kirk on a trip to the Philharmonic my first week at Columbia. He told me all about himself and I shared my recent experiences with him in return. He went to Brown and seemed to know more about schools on the New England Coast than a lot of college kids from that region did. Then again, he was an older man with a lot of experience. I think what made me remember him most was his genuineness when he spoke to me. He believed I could get into one of these schools with hard work and I had not even known him long. He told me he lived in the Columbia area and I was sad that I never saw him again, but the conversation I had with him will stay with me for a long time. He gave me confidence and I knew he was not being spiteful, but sharing his wisdom. Turns out, I would meet a lot of great people over the rest of my stay at Columbia.
|The fantastic Cyber Seniors crew!|
In New York, I changed. And, I don't mean I left and came back an entirely new person. I mean, it was as if a switch inside of me was flipped. Before this trip, I had no idea what I was looking for in a school, let alone a program to major in. Though I am still not sure about a major, I definitely have a better sense of where I want to go to school. I thought before this experience, "Psh, an Ivy League. Like I could even think of applying." Now, I think I have a legitimate shot at these schools and that feeling I got in my gut when I visited Harvard, Yale, and UPenn is my inspiration. It is a long way until I apply for colleges (a year and a half), and the prospect is equal parts terrifying and exciting. My first taste of the college experience was amazing and I am very eager for when I get that experience again in two years. This is all thanks to the multitude of experiences I had in New York. It ranged from my first Broadway show to meeting brilliant people from across the world to getting a little homesick to recognizing my flaws. The East Coast affected me significantly and I will miss it a lot.
|My second home on one of the first days of class.|
After the fact, I feel like I am finally in control of what is going on in my life. It's like everything is falling into place after a long and tedious process. I am rapidly becoming a young adult (which I am sure is scaring my parents more than it is scaring me). First, I got accepted into Columbia for the high school program, then I got my license, and pretty soon I will be taking my standardized tests for college applications and applying to college. Time is speeding by fast, but I feel like I am finally in the driver's seat. I know my goals, now I just need to reach them. I say it like it's easy, but I know it won't be. Lucky for me, I love a challenge. I promised myself at the start of the year that I WILL make it. At the time I was not even sure what "it" was. Now I know that "it" is the goal of getting accepted to one of my top, Ivy League schools.
From my entire journey thus far, I think the best things I have learned are things about myself. This is like learning to let go of the small things and staying true to myself. While attending Columbia, not everything was perfect, and I have had time to reflect on that. I have learned that not everything may be handed to me, but my hard-work will pay off one day. That day may not be soon, but it will come. I know that distant reward will come in different forms and can become what I want in life. I have started on a path to that distant success this summer. I love where it has taken me so far and I am excited to see where it will take me in the future.
|My mom motivates me.|
The Ivy League Connection is the best thing to ever happen to me. It has simultaneously been the most extensive learning experience I have had and the most tiring one I have had. I am so grateful for the experience I had in New York this summer as well as the schools I got to visit on the college tour beforehand. My ILC predecessors have told me that this program changes lives and it definitely affected mine. In New York, I did not realize that I was changing, but at the end of the program, sitting on the plane, I realized that I am a new person. I may look the same, smell the same, sound the same, but I am returning to Pinole a better and more mature version of myself. From the endless emails, blog-posts, dinners, new people, laughs, and struggles I have gone through, I left New York better than when I arrived and I will bring back new knowledge and a mindset to my community. I will try to inspire change for the better and for something bigger than myself. I would like to thank all of the ILC sponsors, Don Gosney, Madeleine Kronenberg, and Charles Ramsey for their continuous support for the ILC and all students in the WCCUSD looking to make a change. I would also like to thank my family who has always supported me, especially on this long and strenuous adventure. This journey has been wild, an enormous blessing, and every moment was worth it.