Sunday, July 15, 2012

Look Backward, Angels

Yes, every person who has ever gone to an Ivy League Connection dinner, every person who has supported and encouraged one of these students -- and, for that matter, those who were not selected for this program but attempted it --- you are all angels. Whether you did this through a donation, an encouraging word, or personal instruction, you deserve to take credit for their success. And every parent is truly an angel, as these exceptional young people are still teenagers with all the risks that that implies.

Before I attempt to detail the value of this program, let me just say that I was also one of those who might have wondered at the cost versus value. After this year, I really have to wonder why we can't do more of this. If you look at the cost (including everything) per student, this is absolutely no more than the average middle-class parent would spend (yes, even in these times) on his or her child over the summer. Yet time and again you read how this experience has transformed the lives of these young people. And I can personally attest to the fact that it does. My most cherished memories will be watching my six young people actually change before my very eyes. And, should you next question the value of this privilege among only 41 students this summer, I would remind everyone that each of them touches the lives of many of their peers as well as those of their immediate families. Every first-generation person who goes on to a four-year college inspires those around him or her with the notion that perhaps they too can do this.

This is my second time acting as a chaperone for the Ivy League Connection, and this summer was by far more educational for me. The week that we spent before the students began their summer program at Brown was unbelievably informative. I learned more about funding, the application process, the essay, and the interview. I also learned what to ask when you visit a college and came away with some idea of just how to gauge them. Most importantly, I learned that all of the schools that we visited -- and all of those that I visited on my own -- are excellent schools that offer first-class educations. The difference is largely in the school culture. Do you want urban or rural or suburban? Do you want a small school, a medium-sized one, or a large school? Each time I visited a school I thought of particular students and how they would fit in there.

The many dinners and lunches during that first week that we hosted were again valuable for our students. They met students and recent alums who could talk openly and honestly with them about the school. And then there was the final dinner at Mistral in Boston. This was the perfect party. With help from Charles Ramsey, we managed to have 41 of us, which included the 14 students. Students were placed at tables according to their interest in the school, and several were asked to "float" among the tables. Our students did this with ease, asking tour guests pertinent questions, gleaning information that is never going to appear on a college brochure -- nor in an information session. I was so proud of each of our students -- and you should be too.

Look backward, angels, and remember that you have made a big difference in the lives of these young people. And they make a difference in ours.


  1. You scare me, Sewellyn, when you write that what we spend on our ILCers approximates what a parent might otherwise spend on their own, it makes me wonder what kinds of families you hang with. Depending on the program, we spend in the neighborhood of $9-10,000 per ILCer.

    I guess this is why I was destined to never have children of my own. Being the cheapskate I am I probably wouldn't have spent more than $7-8,000 on my child over the summer.

    Or maybe I'd send them out to fend for themselves and get a job to pay their own way.

    I like Plan B instead.

  2. some parents will spend almost anything to have their teenagers gone for the summer!