Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Bright Beginning

The day began began bright and early, at seven o'clock Saturday morning. After a quick shower and breakfast a moment of panic ensued when the medical card which Don had requested "vanished." Luckily I was able to find the card (in the place I had unsuccessfully placed it so as not to lose it, my wallet), and dress in some of my  lightest clothes, and still be just on time for my ride. The small amount of nervousness which a had felt for the meeting vanished once I was greeted by the schoolmates I was carpooling with. I used my time in the car to ask all the questions I could think of to one of my fellow carpoolers, Nick (who did the Freedom and Justice Program at Cornell last year).

The Source of my Excitement, Cornell University

My first reaction upon entering the building was surprise at how few people were there. This lasted a brief time until I realized we had arrived thirty minutes early. After exchanging pleasantries with Don and scanning my medical card, I found a good spot and waited as more people trickled in. When the full group had arrived (a little after nine), the tutorial began. Don covered a wide range of topics throughout the tutorial, and set many of my concerns to rest. We discussed blogging, our upcoming events, what we needed for the actual trip, what was expected of us, and much more. This information was enhanced by Don's seemingly endless supply of bizarre, entertaining stories. When the tutorial ended my final thoughts were of how prepared I felt and how surprisingly enjoyable the tutorial was. 

As I realize that in less then two months I will be going to take a class at Cornell University, I cannot help but look back and see how long the process has already been. From the first introductory meeting, to the many essays, to the interview, to the Cornell Cohort Dinner, and finally to this, it has already been months. Months of checking my email once or even twice a day, months of praying that "Evil" Don doe not appear, and months of anticipation. It has been a long and stressful process, but I have no doubt that it is worth it, and I would not miss this opportunity for anything. The Ivy League Connection has given me the biggest opportunity of my life, and I could not be more excited. I eagerly await the next big milestone... the ILC Dinner!

Sneezing, Sweating, and Blogging

Sunny and hot: my kind of weather, except when it's springtime. I woke up bright and early on a beautiful-looking Saturday, not from my annoying alarm clock that plays the same guitar riff over and over again, but from the discomfort of my three sheets that seemed to be too heavy to get out of. Now I'm not going to lie and say I jumped out of bed ready to go to Don's Darned Tutorial, in fact for a few blissful seconds I thought I had the whole day to myself until I saw the writing on my hand: "Passport, ID, Health Card, Flashdrive." Now off to Hercules High we go!

I got to Hercules High and was greeted by a burning sun and hot and suffocating air. Now I would usually appreciate this weather, but hot days during springtime seems to transform my nose into a pollen magnet, making me sneeze uncontrollably. Somehow I got to the tutorial room still intact.

During the tutorial, Don went over the basic of blogging, the "do's and don'ts." Everything from what font the writing should be to how to insert pictures in the blog. After we learned all the technical aspects of blogging, it was time for the hard part: actually writing it. Don told us to write anything we wanted as a practice blog, but I couldn't think of anything (plus the fact that I somehow got distracted by the birds in a nest outside the window). 

Concentrating on Blogging
He then went on talking about taking and editing pictures (even about how to hold a camera!). Now I'm no expert at editing pictures but you would think that a tutorial would help you get better at it, but not in my case. I got more confused with new terms such as "dpi" and with concept concerning resolution and pixels. After rereading the handout Don gave us, I think I am now back to my original point of confusion. 

This tutorial made me even more excited for the trip to Cornell. Many of the alums of the program have told me how tedious and bring blogging can be, but I don't know, it seems pretty fun so far. Only time will tell.  

Cornell University

The First Steps

Hercules Middle High School Campus
Honestly, walking into Room 106 of Hercules High School, I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't say I was nervous, especially after having the comfort of arriving with another member of my Cornell cohort (and being 30 minutes early, might I add).  I could hear the echo of my father’s instructions to keep my passport and computer on my person at all times. I could feel the breeze and hear the blowing of the trees that provided the minimal comfort to endure the unusually hot weather we were experiencing that Saturday morning. 

As the tutorial began, Don introduced himself as we were introduced to each other. We commenced by covering the basics: the importance of checking our e-mails every day, how we shouldn’t take such a marvelous opportunity for granted, and the seriousness of presenting high levels of maturity to be a part of this program.  Hearing all of Don’s stories about the consequences of not following the rules would have been intimidating if it weren’t for his twists of humor he frequently included in these anecdotes.  Luckily, we had "Good Don" speaking to us that day, as opposed to "Evil Don."  We listened to instructions on how to format the blog, the importance of frequently saving your work, and how much Don loves the inclusion of pictures in the blog.  We read examples of good blogs, of bad blogs, and I was surprised to see the familiar face of a former classmate and now graduate of our school in the example of an outstanding reflective blog.  We proceeded by taking our own shot at writing and editing a blog of our own, which turned out to be fun, something different and hands-on, at least, and practiced saving our pictures to MediaFire, an online media storage service. 

Cornell University
After reviewing the essentials of the blog, we learned about the basics of photography, for the blog, and then discussed the “this and thats” of our trip: where to go, what to bring, and what our responsibilities are.  As Don was composing a verbal checklist of what to bring my thoughts always wandered to the dorm rooms and how anxious I am about living on campus and having a roommate! The college dorm room experience, though it seems somewhat daunting, is something nonetheless that I look forward to the most about this journey, along with the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.   

Just like the informational dinner with past Freedom & Justice students, the tutorial made me eager to start my journey. The lesson placed things in perspective and made me realize how quickly time is moving and how soon I will be on a plane destined for Ithaca.  Having the mentorship of Don, past alumni, and the ILC staff as well as the support of my cohort makes me feel confident that I will be prepared when the time comes to begin my trip to the East Coast!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Paris, right outside the Louvre (above)

Eiffel Tower during  a hazy afternoon (left)
This past summer I went on a family trip to Paris. Right outside The Louvre, the famous art museum that holds work such as the Mona Lisa, was a park that fed into an assembly square with a ferris wheel. Without a doubt the scenery was outstanding, however, this photograph does not present the sweat dripping down my forehead from the unbearable heat we experienced that day or the two men who were at a violent verbal joust (speaking in French however, which was good because it provided relief, especially for my younger sister, from all the profanity they were surely using) right near us. Don't get me wrong, my first day in France was breathtaking; being exposed to a different culture and an unfamiliar scenery was a life changing experience.

Later that day I had a taste of my first real French coffee and rode on the Metro (compare it to BART during commute hours, cramped, but also swarming with chatter and live music) and then made a visit to the Eiffel Tower, where you get the a magnificent view of the city, able to spot out the ferris wheel to the left, now decorated with an assortment of lights, and then turning around to be greeted by the famed Arc de Triomphe.

The rest of the five-day trip was spent touring the city, visiting the Sacred Heart and Notre Dame Cathedrals, visiting the French markets, where you can buy anything from clothing and fresh produce to pirated movies and other black market items. Evenings were spent near the hotel, a small two-room suite with an unbelievably heavy door (violation of fire codes, no?), watching television, especially soccer (the Women's World Cup was taking place during the time), and marveling at the view from the hotel balcony.

In the end, the day was a success, and again, being introduced to a different part of the world had been my favorite part of the day.  

And It Begins...

Freedom and Justice Pre-Essay

The “Ban the Box” movement proposes that an employer cannot question potential employees about criminal history until after the first interview. This brings up interesting arguments for both sides. Employers need to know their employees before they hire them, so they can make the best educated decision. If an employer is not allowed to know his potential employees he could put the company, those who work there, and those which the company serves at risk. An employer’s ability to know their employees is an important part of their rights.

What A Happy Guy!
On the other hand, criminals who have served their sentence and have been released have rights as well. The term “Innocent Until Proven Guilty,” which our country’s justice system supports, could be argued for either side. The felons who have served their time have, at one point, been proven guilty, but should this start over after they complete their jail time? I think it should. The purpose of jail is to repair damaged citizens and return them to normal society. If we don’t allow them to actually return to normal society after they complete their jail time, then jail has no purpose.

Only the first impression of a new employee is protected by the “Ban the Box” movement. This could promote rehabilitation of convicts, as many employers immediately reject those who check yes on the box, without looking deeper in to the person’s history, or meeting them. If felons are not given a chance to integrate back into society, it is much more likely they will return to the state of desperation that led them to crime in the first place. Around 60% of criminals return to jail after they are released, but is this caused by them not being changed, or them being put in a state of desperation when they cannot get a job to support themselves? I think both cases can be true. Some criminals do not find reparations for themselves during their time in jail, and are not capable of returning to a normal life. There are also many criminals who, after going to prison, see the error of their ways and are fully ready to start a new life. These people should have the rights to actually start that new life, but those who do not redeem themselves in jail ruin that chance.

Hard at Work
The “Ban the Box” movement is a good idea for reintegrating criminals in to society, but I do not think it will help much. Some employers do not base their hiring decisions around the yes or no answer in the box, but instead look deeper in to the crime and its history. In the other extreme, many employers are not willing to take the risk of hiring an ex criminal on the chance that they have not corrected their ways. “Ban the Box” would not help in that case, as these employers would just wait until after the first interview, when they could investigate criminal history, to make any final decisions about hiring a new employee. “Ban the Box” would not have a large effect on either of these types of employers. I think the “Ban the Box” movement has good values, but it needs further refining before it is ready to be put in to place.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great Journey Ahead

On a rainy Saturday morning, it was an aberration to be on the Hercules High School campus attending my first ILC tutorial as a chaperone.  There was a lot of pertinent information being presented and I had the chance to meet three outstanding ILCers from the Cornell program.  I saw a vast amount of anticipation on the eyes of the students participating on the various programs offered by the ILC.  Some parents showed up for support and they were engaged as well.  I look forward to the great and wonderful journey ahead us.