Thursday, May 31, 2012

Brown Goes to Boulevard

Once all the ILCers and their respective parents had arrived at the BART station, we shuffled through the gates and up the escalator to wait for our San Francisco bound train. Parents, chaperones, students and administrators, we took up a whole car! We sat in the loud car, chatting about upcoming finals and our growing excitement for summer, to pass the time. When we finally arrived at our stop, we filed off the train and up the escalator out on to the busy streets of San Francisco.

After a short walk, we arrived at Boulevard- our destination. The restaurant was beautiful with dim lighting and rustic decorations. We were guided by the lovely service to a private room downstairs. I was immediately greeted by the friendly faces of Brown alumni and the generous donors. Emily Cain and I instantly struck up a conversation with a recent graduate of Brown named Raquel Osorno. She was very friendly and easy to talk to. Any nervous energy I had, quickly melted away as we talked about everything from class sizes to traveling to prom. It also happened that she majored in cognitive neuroscience. My ears immediately perked up when she said so because I am very interested in studying neuroscience as well, so meeting a Brown grad who had done just that was so inspiring and a great start the evening. 

Soon, Mr. Ramsey told us to take our seats and I found my place card at a table with a lovely Brown alumni couple and Elizabeth Gonzales who graduated only 3 days before the dinner! In addition, I sat with my mom, Emily Groves and her dad, and Ms. Kronenberg. Emily and I had a wonderful time talking with Elizabeth. She was really honest and open about her college experience so it was easy to ask questions. Not only that, it turned out like Emily and I, she went to El Cerrito High School as well. Go Gauchos! 

After placing our orders and talking a bit more, the presentations began and we heard from everyone who was a part of making Ivy League Connection possible! Two of our own also spoke at the dinner about what they looked forward to this summer and their plans for bringing their new found knowledge back to the community. Abigail gave an inspirational speech and Nick's experience having been with Ivy League Connection before made for a humorous and informative speech too.

Now, I can't finish this blog post without mentioning the food. That's the most important part, right? Everything was delicious! The starter salad was refreshing and the pork I had as an entree was so flavorful. I had to be careful not fill up though, because dessert was just as good- so rich and creamy. 

It was a wonderful night from start to finish, and as always, it left me even more excited to get over to the East Coast and experience the Brown campus and faculty that everyone at the dinner was raving about. 

Are We There Yet?

I brought my mother to the very important ILC orientation. Since it was her first ILC event, I think that she was more nervous than I was. Actually, I was rather excited about the whole event. I made sure that I wasn’t going to arrive late, so I volunteered to drive to the location myself.  We quickly signed in before entering Pinole Middle School’s Multi Purpose room. My mom wanted to sit in the front of the room to have a better view of whoever is speaking.

After Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and the chaperones began with introductions of the program, Don talked about his loaner items. I’m pretty sure that I will be loaning most of his items. We then started with our break out sessions. The Brown II cohort quickly assembled a tight group on the left side of the room. Jackie and Kat, our chaperones, began with handing us a bunch of papers with a lot of information about what we will be doing the first week of our trip. They gave us a whole outline of which colleges we will be visiting, where we will be eating, and what we were to do at each event. The break out session gave us all a chance to have a more intimate discussion about the activities specifically for the Brown II program. This was really helpful not only for me, but also for my mom. It gave her the reassurance that she needed. I’m happy that she’s comfortable—proud even, about my participation in the Ivy League Connection.

I remember someone also reminded us that we will encounter a ton of other students from all over the world. I’m really intrigued by this fact because the thought of it reminds me of my first day here in the US. I wonder if I will be just as amazed by the different characteristics and cultures people have as I was 6 years ago. Once again, I will be facing the unknown. But this time, I will be without my family. I no longer find that intimidating because I really want to grow. I want to grow as an independent young woman, and this ILC program will be my tool. Instead of being a bystander, I want to be a part of the crazy world out there. I want to be able to come back to California and say that I made the most of my trip and I faced every adversity with courage and passion.

As Mr. Ramsey concluded the event with great enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but smile. Actually, I’m still smiling. We are officially on our way to Brown University. 

Almost There!

Today my mother and I arrived at Pinole Middle for our orientation. All of our trips are just around the corner and this was the last meeting for everyone to come together. As we arrived, there was a table outside for us to check in. I peaked inside the auditorium and the room as well as almost every seat was taken. We situated ourselves and sat down next to Maddie Pine.

Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg brought to our attention the importance of being on time and gave a brief explanation of what they expect from all us ILC'ers. Then, the chaperones introduced themselves and Don followed by telling us the necessities for our dorm rooms. Some objects included were personal fans, desk lamps, linens, and other various items. When he was done speaking, we were told to break up into our travel groups.

Ms. Timmes and Ms. Williams passed out forms including our airline information, a packing list, and our to do list once we arrive in the East Coast. We also went over the regulations of what is ok to pack and what isn't. I found out that we'll be visiting four other universities in one week (Wellesley, Dartmouth, Brandeis, and Harvard). Not only will we do this, but we'll celebrate the 4th of July too! There's only five more weeks till the Brown II trip and there's still so much to do. Better start packing soon!

Antsy Pants

I just got home from the orientation, and I cannot sit still. In the time it took me to write that sentence, I got up five times because I am too excited to be immobile... But now it's time to  focus.

After the dinner last night at Boulevard, I eventually got to bed around 2 AM. Four hours later, I was waking up to get to school. Needless to say, by the time I got home I was essentially brain dead. I took a quick power nap, then I made a sandwich for dinner and it was off to Pinole MIDDLE School (a close call). 

My mom, sister, sister's schoolmate, and I arrived safely on time at Pinole, but I only got one bite of my sandwich, probably one of the most disappointing things that's happened to me in a while- I make a mean PB&J. We all walked up the aisle, checked in, and then moseyed inside and found a table. 

During the actual orientation, the chaperones were reintroduced, and then Don got a hold of the microphone, and guided us through what some of the essentials were going to be needed. I've only been in humid weather once, during summer in Japan, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most uncomfortable periods of time I've ever lived through. Of course, the fact that I was in Japan, and am going to be at Brown, more than make up for the sticky weather. 

After splitting off into groups, we talked specifics. This is where my jitters began. There is literally less than two weeks until we leave! I've started to decide what to bring, but I already know that I'm going to have to limit how many pairs of shoes I bring.. 

Following the cohort discussions, we all merged together again. Don and Mr. Ramsey made a few comments about cell phone usage- which is not a problem for me because I have a 'dumb' phone, not a smart one- then Mr. Ramsey spoke again. Hearing him talk about how proud he was of all the students really made me so motivated. I can't wait to get to Brown, be the best ambassador I can, and try to help this program grow!

As I'm sitting here, finishing up my post, I keep getting distracted by the Brown website, or the itinerary. In less than two weeks, I'll have finished my junior year of high school, and will be at a college campus. And even though I'm tired, I know I'll need to have a dance party of one tonight to get rid of all my energy. As lonely as that sounds, I'll need to do it now, because in just a bit I'll have roommates- and I'm trying to make a good impression.

Down the Road

The sun was still out as I departed to Pinole Middle School for the last ILC milestone event: orientation. We walked towards the multi-purpose room and checked-in at the little "booth" outside of the door. I had half expected myself to be one of the first and most earliest people there since I live practically 5 minutes away by car. Instead, I was shocked to see many familiar faces who got there before me. 

The first things I saw walking in was an enlarged version of our annual ILC picture (that we took at the school board meeting) right next to the podium. The first table to the left was filled with all sorts of equipment that Don gave the privilege of lending to us. These equipment included mini-tripods, bed sheets, laundry bags, ethernet cables, USB card readers, and so much more. The walls were occupied by flags of our own respective Ivy League schools we would be attending this summer. It was really hard to believe that this would be the last event before we board our planes to the east coast. 

(left) Mr. Ramsey and (right) Ms. Kronenberg
After everyone was accounted for, Mr. Ramsey gave us a quick little speech about punctuality and responsibility, followed by Ms. Kronenberg who gave a quick summary of our expectations as ambassadors of WCCUSD. She told us about how we are expected to give back to our community and stressed the importance of blogging everyday while we're down in Providence, Rhode Island. After, the chaperones for every program briefly introduced themselves to us and our parents who came with us. The introductions quickly transitioned to logistics and packing discussions given by Don. 

The most productive part of the orientation was the breakout session between all the Brown Session I chaperones and cohorts. Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Crosby handed out a giant stack of paper to us which outlined the basic details of our trip. We would be touring four schools (Wesleyan, Yale, Dartmouth, and MIT) on our first three days down in the east coast. We also talked about packing methods. Mr. Crosby suggested that we leave more room in our suitcases and Ms. Kaplan recommended bringing food and a pillow on the plane. We finished with Mr. Ramsey's closing speeches and we were officially on our road to the ILC. 

A Spoonful of Jitters

May 30th was a night to remember. Yesterday was the annual Brown dinner that was held at Boulevard in San Francisco. My mother and I were very ecstatic and nervous to meet everyone. Not only did we have the jitters because we had to meet new faces, but we were dressed formal and had to take BART. 

Both of us arrived at the El Cerrito Plaza BART at 5:10, right on schedule. As we walked towards the large group of well dressed people (ILC'ers and parents), I felt more comfortable about what I wore. So I placed the stares of random strangers in the back of my mind. After all, our attire is to help us give a good first impression. At around 5:30, all us made our way up the stairs to the BART train.
What a Sight!
Although we had a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge outside the restaurant, it seemed so small from its exterior. I had no idea how more than forty of us were supposed to go in and sit around a table to eat. To my surprise, it turns out we had our own private room booked to ourselves downstairs Boulevard! For a brief moment I became intimidated from all the successful alums and sponsors, until Tayler Ward and I bumped into Adrienne Eng and her college roommate Nancy Schiff, alumni from Brown. They were very welcoming and told us about their experience and how much they loved it, including how high school life differs from college. After 15 minutes of chatting, we settled down and began to sit at our tables.

Mom and Daughter
(photo Cred to Don)
At my table sat my mother, Nancy Schiff (what a coincidence), Don, Mr. Crosby, Destiny, and her father. Ms. Kronenberg started the dinner off by doing icebreakers. Each person had to stand up and introduce themselves along with one interesting fact. My interesting fact is that I'm 4''11... in a half. Not even five feet! But tonight was different, thanks to the help of heels. Simon Hong and Andrew Gonzales spoke to all of us. Simon, a graduate of Brown in the year 2005, talked about the importance of mentorship and how all of us can receive a chance to participate with him. Andrew recently graduated from Pinole High and will be attending Brown this fall! This really amazes me that even though my school district isn't the best, we can all strive for our goals and make it big in this world. Andrew is just an excellent example! Next, Nick Shebek and Abigail Serrano gave speeches about what they're looking forward to and what they'll bring back after the trips. As speeches were getting to a close, the food arrived.

Lobster Bisque
Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream
My mother and I decided that teamwork was the way to tackle our menu. She chose what she wanted and I chose the exact opposite. That way, we'll be able to get a taste of everything. My favorite was the lobster bisque she ordered, a combination of sweet and tangy. Don and Mr. Crosby gave us tips on what to expect. One of the important things I remembered was to expect the unexpected. Both noted that one day can be sunny and out of nowhere rain will come out! I suppose it wouldn't hurt to pack an umbrella. Better safe than sorry. Dinner started to come towards an end with Mr. Ramsey making the last remarks. 

My first dinner with the ILC was fantastic. I've got a lot of in site of how college life will be like. That's such a relief for me to hear, I always thought being on my own and independent is such a scary thing. I'll definitely miss my family, but after hearing how much fun everyone had, I can't wait to go! 

A Milestone Event

This afternoon was the final orientation, the last time every participant of Ivy League Connection would come together before summer. When my mother and I arrived at Pinole Middle School at 5:20 PM, there was already a buzz of activity. We signed in and sat down at an available bench near the back of the room. A few volunteers passed out both a detailed packing list and sheet with pictures and descriptions of loner items.  After reviewing the basics of what was needed, everyone had arrived and it was time for the program to begin.

Mr. Ramsey started off by reminding us the importance of punctuality in a program such as ILC. The trip will only work if everyone is on time to everything.  Although we hear this a lot, it is the absolute truth. These words have prompted me to work on being punctual on a day-to-day basis in my own life. After Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg spoke about the impact ILC has on not only it participants, but the 25,000 others in our school district. With every privilege comes responsibility and we have a huge responsibility to both uphold and improve the positive reputation of our school district.

We then moved on to the logistics. Don spoke to us about nearly every item we would need. He went over the packing list with us and made sure everyone was on the same page about what to bring. Then the cohorts separated and moved into even more details. Thanks to Kat and Jackie, my family and I now have a packet laying out our itinerary on an almost hourly basis. I have an even better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for this summer. This event was the final step towards the reality of a summer at Brown. With each day I become more and more excited, it’s really happening: I’m going to Brown! 

"The Last Piece of the Pie"

As my father and I arrived at Pinole Middle School today, I was a ball of nerves. Not only was this the famed ILC orientation but it was our last event before being sent off to the East Coast. After checking ourselves in at the outside table, we found a seat and waited patiently for everyone to arrive. Eventually we got started with Mr. Ramsey welcoming us and reminding us of the importance of the ILC. After him, Ms. Kronenberg gave her opinion of the most important things. Next, the chaperones gave short introductions to the audience about themselves. Then, Don spoke about packing lists and loner items that would be available to us on our trip. He also told us about how early (or late) we will have to meet at El Cerrito High School on departure day. At first this wasn't something I was looking forward to but the more that I think about it, I'll probably be to excited to be tired (but we'll see).

Next, we had a break out session with our travel groups. Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Crosby gave us itineraries, packing lists, and more information about what to expect when we arrive to the East Coast. We are going to be visiting four universities and having plenty of dinners within our first week. We will have a very busy schedule but I can't wait for the experience. Brown seems just within arms reach but the anticipation is killing me. 

Let's All Get Initiated

Today is the day. The day of the Ivy League Connection orientation. The big day where going to Brown is now a reality. Today I saw the excitement Mr. Ramsey exuded to the ILCers and parents; I think we can all agree that the ILC puts a smile on his face. Don and my chaperones, Jackie Timmes and Kat Williams, gave me papers that concerned my trip. Things like; what to bring/pack, itinerary, a packing checklist, a list of loaner items, and the time we meet up the day we leave to Brown. Looking through the jam packed schedule of one week makes me cringe but in the end it will all pay off. I feel that the first week out East will be similar to the week I am having now; packed, no sleep, and constantly working at my education. As one person asked who our roommates would be I figured it would be with someone outside of the ILC. Why? Because if the Brown II Cohort were rooming together then we would already know by now! I think someone would have mentioned it by now. Some people tell me from past experiences that rooming at random can be intriguing due to the persons characteristics. The founder of College is Real, a college preparatory program, told me that his daughter actually hates her roommate because she comes home drunk at 3AM everyday. In essence, the experience will all work to shape our preparations towards college. Having a busy schedule will help you with time management. Rooming with someone at random will allow you to grow outside of your comfort zone. Meeting admissions officers to different universities will help with making a great first impression and learn what admissions officers look for when a student is applying to a college/university. On May 31st, I have taken one step closer to the future and possibly explore schools that have never crossed my eyes. I am truly thankful for this program, although I haven't even gone East yet I already see the changes it has and will make towards my college career. I am happy to be taken the Women and Leadership course even if it challenges me to work to the bone. 

Dinner is On My Mind

Yesterday I couldn't help but check my emails over and over again to reassure myself that today was the dinner. Even before leaving to BART I had to make sure I wasn't just imagining it. Now that I have already checked my emails about ten times, I finally depart the house. My Dad and I made our way to El Cerrito Plaza BART Station and there stood the Brownies and their parents. Once I got there Don showed me the group photo we had previously taken at the school board meeting. My Dad was really excited and actually wants to purchase a banner; hopefully Don mentions that tonight at the orientation. I remember my Dad asking me "Is that girls dad coming? If he isn't then I'm going to be alone." He was referring to Ynah's Dad, Allan. I've got to say they have started a great friendship. While I was waiting for  5:30 to approach, Emily Cain and Maddie Pine came up to me and we started to talk about our excitement for the summer, the ending school year of 12-13, and looking forward to our next year in school. During our talk Mr. Ramsey announces that it is finally time to board the train to San Francisco. 

As we approached the entry way I had to guide my Dad because he doesn't remember how BART works exactly. He hasn't rode BART since 1984. He was even surprised at how many times we had to use the BART ticket.

We exited at the Embarcadero BART station and walked a couple blocks to Boulevard. When we arrived at the restaurant we were directed to the basement. On a side note, I was a bit skeptical about that. Mr. Ramsey all encouraged us before hand to meet the Brown Alums because they are all here to talk to us; most importantly he told us to keep away our cell phones. After the meet and great everyone had to find their names; boy that was a mission! I was seated at a table with Iris Wong and her mother, Don, John Crosby, and a Brown Alum, Nancy Schiff. As I was able to sit with Nancy, she wanted to know the thing s that I do at school such as extracurricular activities. I told her I am the president of Richmond High KIWIN'S, Conflict Mediation, and the Vice President for the class of 2013. 

Salad anyone?
Finally the program begins. After everyone was recognized, people gave speeches. One person who gave a speech is actually attending Brown University this fall. These speeches really inspired me and open my eyes to a new perspective. Many people said that they have never looked at a school on the east cost before, rather, they have been seeking for instate schools. The funny thing is, the first school that I have ever considered applying to was Columbia.  After eating a three course meal, courtesy of the ILC, the ILCers and Brown Alums take a photo together. I remember muffling, "Make sure you suck in your stomach." I've got to say, I was extremely full by the time I walked out of that restaurant.

In retrospect, the 7th Annual Brown Dinner was a success and I grow even more excited to attend Brown this summer. But one thing that I need to change is the amount of people from my school that applies to this program.  I am the ONLY student at Richmond High that is apart of a wonderful program this year. When I return to school this fall I plan to tell people my experience at Brown in order to get people motivated and eager to apply to the ILC because I feel Richmond High is not represented well enough. 

A Bucket of Tears

I can’t believe that I arrived at my first ILC dinner event 10 minutes late! My father took too long getting ready and we didn’t get to leave the house until 5:15 PM. Every Brown ILCer was expected to be at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station by 5:30 PM. It took a while to get from my house to the BART station. It was probably the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me this year. Mr. Ramsey wasn’t very happy with me, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I ended up shedding a few tears because my dad wasn’t being very supportive. A mix of anger and embarrassment took over me. All I could think of was how to fix this and the solution was to just put it behind me and start over. Thanks to Don, Jackie, and Romina, I was able to compose myself before our train arrived at San Francisco.

The dinner was at Boulevard restaurant. We walked two blocks from the Embarcadero BART station. The ILC did a great job in selecting the restaurant. We had a private dining hall in the basement. For about 10-15 minutes, the Brown ILCers had a chance to mingle with Brown alums, incoming students, and other ILC supporters.

Me and my dad at dinner!
My dad and I were seated in a table with Molly, her dad, Emily Cain, her mom, and two Brown alums Anne and Peggy. I was seated right next to Peggy, and I really enjoyed her company. We talked so much that I was able to forget that I was crying on the way to the restaurant. She made college seem so fun! Well, she made Brown nothing less than amazing. I learned a whole lot about Brown. First, we talked about how much freedom college offers, especially in Brown, since it offers an open curriculum system. We also talked about the admissions process. It turns out that applying to Brown all depends on luck and where you fit in the institution. They aren’t too strict about an applicant’s academic achievements or SAT scores, since most that apply generally have really high grades or test scores. It all depends on the essays they read and who fits in the classes they offer. Of the 30,000 applicants each year, only about 1,400 students get a spot. I plan on taking this risk because Peggy really pumped me up for Brown University.

Madeline Kronenberg opened up the planned program for the evening. She had the ILCers and the alums introduce themselves to the guests and had them say an interesting fact. Just a few minutes before, though, Peggy and I were talking about my life back in the Philippines. I told her that I learned how to speak English by watching the Disney channel (True story!) so when it was my turn to introduce myself, I concluded that as my interesting fact. After everyone introduced themselves, Simon Hong talked about a wonderful mentorship program that we will have a chance to participate in. Next, Andrew Gonzales, an incoming freshman at Brown spoke about what the ILC meant to him. I was surprised by how eloquent and entertaining he was. Nick and Abigail then spoke about what they wish to give back to the community after their programs. Abigail touched my heart, she was very passionate about what she wants and I felt touched as she started off with a nervous tone and finished with a strong conclusion. Nick also inspired me as he made me realize that WCCUSD has a chance in the real world. We will make a huge impression to the rest of the world, and nothing can stop us.

Mr. Ramsey gave closing comments and we then focused on our food. I don’t think I mentioned how delicious everything I ate was. Everyone at my table chatted the whole time. I don’t remember a dull moment at all.

My very first ILC dinner was overall a bittersweet experience. I didn’t think I would be walking onto a BART train with tears in my eyes, but I knew that I was going to make the best of the night. Last night, I learned that I am responsible for my own success. I can’t blame anything on anybody because in the end, I will be making my own decisions. I’m more than happy that I was able to turn my emotions around because if I hadn’t, I would have missed such a huge opportunity that can potentially shape my future.

Now, I will be getting ready for the ILC’s orientation. I will not be tardy this time!

An Amazing Dinner Experience

From the moment I woke up yesterday morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the night ahead. I was both excited and nervous for the annual Brown dinner at Boulevard in San Francisco.  I couldn’t wait to meet Brown alumni and sponsors, and I hoped to make a good impression upon them.

Outside View of Boulevard
My mother and I left our house and headed to the El Cerrito Plaza BART station at 5:05 PM (I told her we had to arrive at the station at 5:15 PM, instead of 5:30 PM as Mr. Ramsey told us, in order to insure we would be on time). After successfully making it to the station, my mother and I walked over to the best-dressed group: the ILCers. Everyone bought tickets and, by 5:30, we boarded a direct train to San Francisco. 

We got off the train at Market Street and walked the remaining few blocks to San Francisco’s legendary Boulevard Restaurant. With a stunning view of the Bay Bridge and the building’s exterior complementing the landscape, Boulevard couldn’t have been set in a more beautiful location. Inside our own private room, the creative table arrangements and mural on the wall created a relaxed ambiance. We mingled with Brown alumni and sponsors before sitting down for dinner.

Inside Boulevard
Once I found my seat at a dinner table, I introduced myself to the people around me. I was very fortunate to sit at a table with two Brown alums, Anne and Peggy, and two girls attending the Women and Leadership program with me this summer, Molly and Ynah. After a quick conversation, the dinner presentations began. First Mrs. Kronenberg spoke, acknowledging everyone in the room and encouraging many to introduce themselves. Next, Simon Hung spoke about the Brown mentor program; a fantastic and fun way learn about anything related to college. The third speaker was Andrew Gonzales, an ILC student who attended a Brown summer program and, because of his amazing experience, decided to apply to Brown and is now planning to go there in the fall. Following Andrew, Nick and Abigail both gave articulate, impressive speeches about what they hope to gain from their experience this summer. Mr. Ramsey then gave closing statements and we all focused inward towards our delicious food and the people at our table.
My Scrumptious Dessert

Talking to both Anne and Peggy was really interesting. I learned a ton about their positive experiences at Brown. I had no idea what a supportive and truly innovative school Brown is. As Anne said, “they don’t say no to their students.” Professors listen to each and every one of their students and encourage independent thinking. By the end of the meal, I was even more excited to attend Brown this summer than before.

After everyone had finished dessert, Don positioned us, our sponsors, and Brown alumni for a group picture.  After saying our goodbyes, we headed outside and to the BART station. The first part of the ride was extremely crowded but after transferring trains most of us were able to sit down and reflect upon the evening.  The dinner yesterday night reminded me of what amazing privilege and honor it is to be part of The Ivy League Connection.  I can’t wait for summer! 

My Shell Is Slowly Cracking

The night of the Brown 2012 Dinner has finally arrived!  Because both Don and Mr. Ramsey constantly stressed the importance of punctuality, my dad and I left home at 5 and arrived the Plaza by 5:20.  Of all the different times I have ridden BART, I would have never imagined that someday I'd be riding the train to San Francisco dressed in formal clothing along with a handful of other people in formal clothing.  The stares that I've received from several strangers at the station made me feel quite peculiar, but I reminded myself that I will be in the midst of many important people tonight and they will not.  Trust me, it was a reassuring reminder.

Meet my incredibly supportive dad.
The Boulevard of San Francisco is where our dinner was held.  The location of our room took me by absolute surprise; a private room reserved just for us!  For about 15 minutes, we all had a chance to meet and mingle with the sponsors, alumni, and soon-to-be Brownies.  I found it difficult and intimidating to simply approach these insanely successful people, but I pushed myself to grasp this opportunity to spread my wings and engage myself to everybody.

After getting settled in our seats (and for the record, I absolutely loved the people in my table), Ms. Kronenberg started the program off by asking each person to stand up and introduce themselves.  Speeches were then delivered by Simon Hong, a Brown graduate, Andrew Gonzalez, a future Brown student, Abigail Serrano and Nick Shebek, two of our very own Brown ILCers, and of course Mr. Ramsey.  The message that stuck to me the most has to be Andrew's.  He mentioned that his original dream school was Stanford, until he found himself falling in love with Brown.  If his speech was able to strike my perspectives, what more will the trip to Brown itself do?

Let me take a moment to reminisce on the dishes that I had the privilege to savor.  The lobster bisque that I wish would last eternally on my taste buds... the halibut that never seized to amaze me after each bite... the chocolate wonder that graciously melted in my mouth... I'll end this here.  It hurts to think about it.

Brown ILCers and Brown Alums (this is why counting to 3 is important)
Did I mention that I loved my table?  Seated around me were my father, Mr. and Mrs. Curran, Beilul, Andrew, Mr. Jonathan Speed, and his lovely girlfriend Anna. These people were great company and were really easy to talk to.  I was immensely fond of Mr. and Mrs. Curran because of the life stories they've shared with both my father and I.  Jonathan was also enjoyable to listen to; he gave me a heads up of what to expect in college, especially in postgraduate school.  Anna talked to us about her passion for children and how she came to be as a professional nanny.  Beilul and Andrew shared their tips for the Brown trip, which made me pretty giddy inside because of the way they made Brown sound so enjoyable.  I'd elaborate on our conversations but I would end up going on and on and on about it. They are all extremely elite people and it is humbling to know that they are still able to reach out and talk to a mere high school student like myself.  As I've promised time and time again, I WILL be one of these people someday. As for now, though, I will post this blog, proceed with my stack of homework, and await the day of our departure to Brown.

"It's Worth It"

The classiest restaurant around. It
didn't get the James Beard for nothing!
When I woke up this morning, I knew it was going to be a big day. Yearbooks were being distributed, and then, of course, we had our fancy ILC dinner. 

After a hectic day of giving out yearbooks (and getting yelled at by people who couldn't get theirs) I got home around four o' clock. And because I had my outfit all laid out, I knew I had plenty of time. Of course, as soon as I put the clothes on, I absolutely hated how it looked. I ended up trying on every piece of 'fancy' clothing I own, so of course they are all lying in a heap on my floor. (I'll clean up later). By the time I finally decided, and gotten everything together, it was five o' clock and time to go. And after I really had everything together, it was five o' five and seriously time to go. 

As a debater, seeing people dressed in formal clothes isn't that unusual, but still feels rather out of place on people I see every day, who are always wearing khaki and an aloha shirt. Unfortunately, because the elevator was broken at Embarcadero, my dad couldn't go with the group, and instead went on a different train. We all made it there, and then walked the couple blocks to the restaurant. I'd never been before, but had only heard sterling reviews of both the food and the atmosphere. Walking in, I can honestly say I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to connect with the people at my table. 

Maddie and Elizabeth, bonding over mutual love of EC
math teachers. Go Huybrechts/O' Connor!
However, I sat next to Elizabeth Gonzales, who had only graduated three days ago! (Congrats, Elizabeth!) Sitting next to her was amazing, because both Maddie Pine, who was on Elizabeth's other side, and I, got to ask a whole lot of questions about campus life, and even the application process, and she was able to give us helpful, recent information. She also went to El Cerrito High, so we were also able to chat a lot about the teachers that we had in common, the ones we loved and the ones who were not so favorited. Across the table from me were the Champion's, who graduated a little bit earlier than Elizabeth. I wasn't able to talk to them as much, because we had to practically yell to be heard, but they did share a few anecdotes about their experience at Brown, and even about 'empty nest syndrome'. As well as the Champion's, Elizabeth, and Maddie, Maddie's mom, my dad, and Mrs. Kronenberg made up our table. 

Of course, I have to blog about the food. Every dish was incredible. Even though I'm not really big on vegetables, I have to admit that the salad was delicious. The pork chop was even more tasty, and so artfully displayed! And as someone who loves to bake, I have a huge spot in my heart for dessert. My lemon curd was amazing, and so was the thyme ice cream. How Boulevard managed to get so many plates out in such a short amount of time was amazing to me. 

As soon as Mrs. Kronenberg announced that we were all going to go around and give an interesting fact about ourselves, I immediately thought piano; Molly stole my thunder. So on the spot, I thought of what I've been doing (besides studying, of course) these last couple weeks, and my mind went directly to Grey's Anatomy. Though I'm not completely caught up, during winter break, I did watch two seasons in one week. In hindsight, that's a more embarrassing than interesting fact, but hey, I love that show. I was really pleased that they introduced all of the sponsors as well, because we're all so indebted to them. Hearing how much faith they have in us and what we can do was both motivational and humbling. 
One of the triplets, you can decide. 
Andrew Gonzales, who is attending Brown this next year also spoke about the ILC. Even though he wanted to go to Stanford (or is that a misquote?) going to the East Coast completely changed his perspective. I'm already pretty sure that I'm going to the East Coast, even if I don't know where, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity to see all of the options I have (to apply to, getting accepted is a whole other story).

Both Nick and Abigail did an awesome job at speaking. Nick's speech, which he may or may not have been practicing on BART, was fluent and fun. Abigail had a more personalized, passionate speech that really reenforced the purpose of the ILC. Though we may come from an under-recognized district, WCCUSD students can, and will, make a difference.

After Mr. Ramsey made the closing remarks, the alums and ILCers moseyed over to the back and obeyed Don's instructions. Magically, all thirty people fit, all in a very small space. The only problem I had with the photo is that it was taken after I stuffed myself with dessert... Thank goodness for Photoshop, right? 
Simon Hong speaking on
the Brown Mentor program.

I was so happy to be able to meet Simon Hong. After the dinner, and introduced myself to him, wanting to know more about the Brown Mentor program. He told me that after graduation, he worked for Morgan Stanley, and is now a hedge fund manager. Those are essentially my dream jobs, so I was really happy to know that we were going to continue to be in touch. 

This dinner gave me a chance to talk to people that I, in no way, would have ever been able to meet otherwise. People who go, are going, or have went to the school that I'm dreaming about, I got to sit down and have dinner with.  As Abigail said in her speech, "It's worth it." Any amount of work would be worth this chance to get to new places and meet new people.

An Unforgettable Night

Left column: main dishes; middle column: (top) table settings
(bottom) wall art; right column: desserts
This evening, I attended the Brown dinner at Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco with all the Brown Session I and II cohorts, chaperones, sponsors, alumni, and future alumni. It was an amazing experience for me, and truly an honor to be able to be around all those successful people and converse with them. The restaurant was very fancy (not to mention the extremely appetizing food that they served.) At least one, ILCer, alumni, and future alumni gave a speech tonight. Overall, it was a great opportunity for everyone to test their social skills and get more acquainted to the school and the program.

Besides Don, I was the first to arrive at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. After digging through the wallet to find a crispy bill that the machine would accept, my mom and I finally got our two tickets. After another half hour or so, the station was full of guys in suits and girls in dresses. We all got off at the Embarcadero station and took in some fresh air before we started walking to the restaurant. The walk was very short, and before we knew it, we were standing in front of the doors of Boulevard Restaurant. 

We walked into the restaurant and were led to a room downstairs where we would hold our privately reserved dinner. As I walked into the room, the whole idea of talking to all the sponsors and alumni was extremely intimidating. I shook hands with a few of the sponsors and regrettably "retreated" to a corner. It wasn't until Mrs. Kaplan encouraged me to speak with two of the alumni that I came out of my comfort zone. It actually turned out to a great conversation. They told us about what Brown is like and gave us some interesting tour spots that we should visit while we're there. During this, Mr. Ramsey was frantically trying to scatter our seating arrangement for the dinner so we would be able to talk with more new people. 

(Left to right) Kelly Xi, Blake Gurfein, Ying-An Wang, and me

We finally got seated, we made a quick exchange of introductions. I sat with Kelly Xi, Ying-An Wang (both who are going to take the DNA Biotech. course), and their parents. We were also accompanied by Simon Hong and Blake Gurfein who were both Brown alumni. They both graduated together as the class of 2005. After table introductions, we started expanding. Ms. Kronenberg decided to do a breakout session where each person would stand up and provide a brief introduction of themselves. Surprisingly, you can learn a lot from a one minute introduction. 

Simon and I
After the break out session, we started to chat around the dinner table. I was more engaged with Simon during the dinner than with Blake, because he sat next to me. Simon majored in economics while he was in Brown. He is currently a senior research analyst at Ironwood Capital Management here in San Francisco. Simon was really great. He told me about all these amazingly great opportunities that were out there for me, and some tips that I could take with me down my academic road. He shared some of his college experiences in Brown to us and towards the end of the dinner, we talked about financial aid and even about our favorite sports teams. 

Top to Bottom-Left to Right: Andrew Gonzales, Simon Hong, Charles
Ramsey, Nick Shebek, Abigail Serrano
During the dinner, we also had speeches among the alumni, soon-to-be alumni, ILC cohorts, and Mr. Ramsey. Simon spoke on behalf of the Brown alumni, Andrew Gonzales represented as a future graduate of Brown University, and Nick Shebek and Abigail Serrano spoke on behalf of the Brown cohorts. They all gave amazing speeches that really just contributed to the whole theme of the dinner. The dinner concluded with Don's usual dozen snapshots of our beautiful faces. It truly was, and will remain to be, an unforgettable night. 

In reflection, I think that this dinner has been the most diverse and interesting milestone event out of the rest. I was able to get out of my social shell and actually talk to a lot of new people. Everyone was very open and friendly, and it just made it really comfortable for me to talk to them. I learned so much about the importance of connections, a proper education, learning from mistakes and experience, taking advantage of opportunities, and just taking on challenges. Though my actual journey hasn't yet begun, I still feel myself taking progressive steps up the stairs of growth, one by one. By the end of this experience, I know I'll be able to reach the top of these stairs and discover the true potential of my abilities. But until then, I will walk down this freshly paved road that the ILC has created for me and make the best of it. 

Awesome Alumni and Delicious Dining

To be honest, in anticipation of today, I was generally stressed out rather than excited about the Brown University dinner; this was because I met up with the rest of the Brown University ILC students as the BART train passed through Downtown Berkeley, two stops after they had gotten on, and I was worried that I was going to accidentally catch the wrong train or somehow not be able to find everyone. However, everything ended up working smoothly in terms of transportation, and as my dad and I entered the train car where everyone was sitting, I began to relax and look forward to the opportunity to talk to Brown alumni.

As my dad and I were waiting for the BART train, we had been discussing what types of questions would be good ones to ask an alumni of Brown, and I realized that I was quite curious to hear what people had to say about Brown and their experiences as undergrads of the university. While on the train, Don told my dad and I that alumni from varying graduating classes of Brown would be at the dinner, including new grads as well as older, experienced alumni. Don also told us a little bit about the restaurant - apparently it was ranked number one in the country just last week! With that information and my dad's claims that the restaurant had delicious food, I was excited to see what the restaurant had to offer, especially because I am generally a huge foodie.

We walked a few short blocks from BART to Boulevard, the restaurant where the dinner was to take place. As soon as we entered, we were all led down a flight of stairs into a separate room, where several alumni were already congregated and chatting over hors d'oeuvres and drinks. As soon as we arrived, everyone began to mingle with the alumni; Kelly, Emily, Nick, Ying-An and I talked with Blake about his experience at Brown. I learned that he studied neuroscience at Brown, and currently has a job at UCSF as a neuroscientist.  

Soon, everyone sat down at assigned seats, and the dinner officially began. I sat at a table with Anne, Emily Cain, Emily's mom, Peggy, Ynah, her dad, and my own dad. Everyone chatted and ordered dinner; I ordered the romaine salad, the halibut, and the sundae (all of which were delicious).

The program began with a few words from Madeline Kronenberg. She had nearly everyone in the room stand up and introduce themselves, and then moved on to the scheduled speakers. First, Simon Hong, a Brown alum, spoke about the Brown mentor program, which sounds like a great experience. This program gives high school students the opportunity to talk to alumni of Brown about high school, college, applications, and life in general. My friend Mariko participates in this program, and from what she has told me about it, the program is an excellent way to learn about college and talk to someone who has a lot of great advice to give. The second speaker was Andrew Gonzales, a former ILC student who is going to be attending Brown in the fall. I enjoyed hearing everything he said about ILC, and it sounds like his experience was really positive. After Andrew, Nick and Abby spoke about what they hoped to gain from doing ILC this year. Mr. Ramsey gave closing remarks while the entrees were being served, and everyone focused on their food and talking to the people at their table. 

At my own table, we discussed the benefits of Brown's open curriculum, the different academic programs offered at Brown, and what the "shopping period" for classes is, among other topics. I enjoyed talking to Peggy and Anne, who are both alumni of Brown and had a lot of interesting things to say about the school. 

After dessert and a tasty mint tea, Don gathered the alumni and the ILC students together for a group picture. 

Soon after the picture, everyone said farewells to the people they had met at the dinner. I walked out of the restaurant and strolled back to BART with my dad and Anne, who had to catch a train back to Livermore, and we talked a bit more about the ILC program. As I got on the train and returned home, I was happy with how the evening had turned out; I got to talk to several different people about Brown, and heard nothing but positive feedback about the school. From what I heard, it seems like Brown has a huge supportive community atmosphere as well, which is powerful in that it really allows students to work together and pursue their interests freely. I am looking forward to the summer, when I will be able to have my own experiences there. 

Public Speaking: All You Need Is a Little Bit of Luck

Tonight was the Brown cohort's dinner with alumni and sponsors for the Ivy League Connection. Last year's Cornell dinner was a great experience, and getting to meet with all the alumni who still wished they could go back really got me excited about the wonderful opportunity I would have. This year, even though I expected this dinner to go just as well as last year's, I came into the dinner as nervous as possible, thanks to one aspect of the dinner that I didn't have to deal with last year: giving a speech. I have never really had to do any public speaking, and was not looking forward to speaking in front of a room full of people with massive expectations of me. I had been working on the speech all week, but try as I might (and believe me I tried); I wasn't able to make it through a single speech without stumbling over my words. My nervousness definitely didn't go away when Mr. Ramsey stated that this dinner would have a hundred and something people, and was the biggest dinner they had before. I was able to stop worrying about the speech for a little while, when I had the chance to mingle with some of the Brown alumni. Almost instantly though, we were told to find our seats, and Mrs. Kronenberg started off the program. I looked down the list of people who would be speaking and just my luck, I got to speak right after Andrew Gonzalez, the future Brown alumni who will be President at some point in time, his public speaking is that good. His speech went over great of course, and it was my turn to hopefully not butcher my speech too much (I had told my mom in the car ride over that I would consider the speech a success if I didn't open with "Hi Nick Shebek, I'm everyone," my practice speeches were that bad.)

Shockingly, for the first time in fifty something attempts at a coherent speech, I was actually able to go through the entire thing with next to no mishaps, although as some of Don's pictures showed, I may or may not have looked like an angry conductor for half of the speech, I really tend to talk with my hands. This surprising success made me feel like the dinner could only get better from then on, and it did not disappoint.
The only time during the speech that I wasn't flapping my arms around
Despite what you might end up hearing from all the other Brownies, I had hands down the best seat in the house. I was seated in between 2 Brown alumni, Libby Heimark, who has one son who will transfer to Brown next year, and another who already graduated from Brown last year, and Paul Sednaoui, who graduated class of '05.
I really enjoyed talking to both Paul and Libby, and Paul was really able to help me get a better idea of how to narrow down the list of colleges I plan on applying to, with location and class size being some of the main criteria. The fact that Paul was able to stay in contact with 2 of his friends from Brown (both also attended the dinner) really gave me a sense of the community of Brown. I personally was amazed by Libby, who might be one of the most interesting Brown alumni in history. She, her husband, and both sons went to Brown (the one transferring is leaving Yale to go to Brown, so for those of you keeping track that's four for four on family members going to Brown, and one who went to Yale for two years. Not too shabby.) I was most amazed with the fact that she is family friends with Andrew Luck, and he is basically a godson to her. For those of you who don't know who Andrew Luck is, he was only the star Stanford quarterback drafter number 1 overall in this year's NFL draft, so you could say he's a pretty decent football player. All in all, this dinner was a huge success, from me actually being able to calm down for two minutes to make a speech, to all the great advice regarding colleges Paul gave me, to all of the great Andrew Luck growing up stories I heard from Libby.

The Boulevard to Brown

Tonight I experienced a momentous occasion, the annual Brown dinner. After everyone arrived to the El Cerrito Plaza BART station and bought their tickets, we all boarded the train dressed to impress. It was a short ride to San Francisco but by the time we got there everyone was yearning in anticipation of what the night would bring. 

When we arrived at the historical Boulevard restaurant we were led down to the bottom floor where we had our own private room where many alums and sponsors were waiting for us. For about twenty minutes we had a chance to mingle with the various alums and sponsors. I , along with Iris Wong, chatted with two alums who had actually been roommates at Brown. They told us of their experiences with teachers, classes, and the campus itself. They gave us advice that not only applied to Brown University but to all colleges in general. After twenty minutes everyone began to find their seats and introduce themselves to people at their table. I sat next to Adrienne Eng and Libby Heimark, both Brown Alums.

Soon enough the waiters came around and took our orders. I order the Lobster Bisque, the Pork chop, and the Lemon Tart. All three were delicious and will continue to have my mouth watering for the next couple of days. 

The program started with Madeline Kronenberg introducing everyone and then having us all go around the room introduce ourselves and telling the room an interesting fact. After many laughs, the first speaker, Simon Hong, who is a Brown graduate of 2005, spoke about the importance of mentorships. After him Andrew Gonzales, a senior at PVHS who will be attending Brown in the fall and graduating in 2016, spoke about what he was looking forward to as he heads of to Brown. He is a two time ILCer who attended both Cornell and Brown with the ILC. He is a prime example that the ILC really does work. Next, Nick Shebeck and Abigail Serrano spoke on what they want to bring back from their experiences at Brown this summer. Lastly, Charles Ramsey gave the evenings closing remarks.

We then turned all of our attention to the delicious food in front of us and the magnificent company around us. Speaking to both Adrienne and Libby really open my eyes to what life is really like on the Brown Campus. Libby told me about several of the best food trucks to keep an eye on while at Brown this summer. Herself, her husband, and two sons have all attended or are attending Brown. Adrienne gave me advice on how to transition from high school life to college life and how big of a change it will be. Both of these women were really inspiring and I'm glad I got a chance to meet them both. All of the Brown Alums were really proud of their school and really excited that we would get a chance to experience it. 

Adrienne Eng and I

Libby Heimark and I
I can't believe the Brown Dinner has already come and gone. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting at El Cerrito High School nervous for my interview. This experience already has opened my eyes to the possibility of attending an East Coast school. I can't wait to get to Brown, a super cool school.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Momentous Milestones

An auditorium packed with community members and supporters greeted us Wednesday night. We were the first act to follow the emotional appeals by adult education advocates which had started off this memorable evening. Our cohort stood together before the  WCCUSD School Board. A corner of our Brown banner in hand, I smiled, feeling the tremendous energy of community support and pride.

There was no reason to be nervous, when I was familiar with the fact that everyone present wished us success. Our community was here to help and to share personally with us on this collective journey. With the ILC, it has always been just as much about this community's involvement as our own individual perseverance to bring us here today. Our support system, from our families and friends, to the active citizens whose hard work makes our community what it is, to the innovators and sponsors of our award-winning Ivy League Connection program, made it all possible.We are very much the products of this backbone's unwavering dedication.

It reiterated the sentiments I experienced at the Hercules City Council meeting the previous night. As our Hercules representatives lined up to express our gratitude, I found myself continually amazed by the people the ILC involves. We all spoke about bringing an impact back to the community, but it was also right there in the room. The ILC's impact was evident in Jobel's meaningful speech, the return of Teri and Beilul, the joy and pride on our audience's faces, and the council's exhortation that we return to become the future leaders of our city.

Perhaps the best examples were in the alumni's speeches at the school board meeting. Austin and Terilyn were just two of many whose lives were profoundly changed by the ILC. The passion in Austin's delivery was beyond inpiring. Then there was Teri.

This was the same girl who'd, just a year before, stood next to me nervously as we faced our first school board meeting and were recognized by the city council together, who'd rapped Nicki Minaj with me on the plane, who'd explored Lake Beebe with me in Cornell, who'd shared my enthusiasm for the Ithaca Farmer's Markets and froyo. That night my Harvard-bound Bananagrams partner's magnetism, charisma, insight, and shining personality radiated. When she reaffirmed that the ILC "really does work," I imagined all the possibilities which this community has made possible for my future.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Better To See You With

The night of the school board meeting (yes, THE school board meeting) had to be one of the most nerve-wrecking experiences of my life.  Spring season finally hit me and decided to hit me on a very important day.  My eyes were extremely inflamed and it was quite difficult for me to see anything clearly.  Regardless of this unanticipated dilemma, I was determined to show up.
As my dad and I drove into the parking lot, billions of thoughts began scrambling in my head: "Am I too overdressed?" "This is going on television!" "Allergies, please cooperate with me." 
Upon our arrival, however, my anxieties gradually eased.  Once I found my cohorts seated together, I knew that everything wouldn't be as bad as I had imagined.  Very patiently, we waited for our turn to go forth and present ourselves.  When our time finally came, we lined up as Ms. Timmes introduced us as the 2012 Brown II Cohort.  One by one, our names were called.  One by one, we received applause and recognition.  It was an amazing feeling to be honored in such a way.
After each cohort was presented, Austin Long and Terilyn Chen delivered speeches that were nothing but absolute motivation to me.  Two ordinary students from this ordinary community rising up to do the extraordinary.  Then came the ILC sponsors whom I cannot thank enough for making this privileged experience possible for students like us.  I soon realized that our community does have the capability of coming together with a common goal -- to help create a brighter future for the next generation.  I promise myself that someday,  I will be a part of that rising community.  Or maybe I already am. 
Taking the group photo felt surreal to me as I daydreamed about the near future.  It's only down to a month now before we take off to Brown University.  A bit overwhelming of a thought it may seem, but it is the reality that I must face. 
One more month. 

Picture Perfect

I've only been to one other School Board Meeting, with my father. And to be honest, I only ended up at that one on accident. However, this meeting was a whole other experience. 

First walking into the multi-purpose room, the most major difference I noticed from the prior meeting, was the amount of people. The (excitingly) huge number of ILCers, combined with active supporters of adult education, made for a very crowded room. I am very much convinced, though, that this is a positive sign about our community. In any case, after we were told what to do, we all sat together and listened to the asylum on continuing funding for adult education. 

When it came time for us to walk up, I started to get butterflies. Anyone who gets to know me will find that physical coordination is not one of my strong suits; needless to say, I was extremely nervous about walking up the mile long aisle, in front of cameras, in my heels. Thankfully, I made it with no major stumbles. It was also a little bit stressful being first. Ms. Kaplan told us right before the meeting started that the first group sets the standard for the rest, so we needed to show everyone up. No showing up of anyone would have occurred had I fell on my face, so I'm very thankful I didn't. 

Listening to the student speakers, Austin Long and Terilyn Chen, got me really pumped for this summer. The past few months, I've been focussing mostly on the academic part of the trip, and keeping up with current events; when I heard Terilyn give her easy-going speech, it reminded me that I am going to have fun this summer. Austin's speech kept the academics in my mind, however, and for that I am appreciative. 

While standing off to the side while the other cohorts were being presented, I listened to all of the comments about how exciting the ILC is, and what an awesome reputation it gives WCCUSD, I realized just how excited I was about being an ambassador to the East Coast. 

After the presentation, we all filed over to take the group photo, where I was lucky enough to grab a seat. As a yearbooker, I take a lot of team photos, so I didn't mind at all when Don was positioning and taking the photos. I was happy though, to get home and start preparing for my college interviews by watching some Nikelodeon.