Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scallops, Speeches and Great Alums

It was just after 6:20 when my father and I, dressed in our finest formal wear, arrived at the El Cerrito BART station. After the group assembled and boarded the train, I could not get my mind off the speech I knew I would be making. When we arrived in San Francisco, my mind finally cleared and I prepared for what I knew would be a fun and educational night.

My Scallop Appetizer
The restaurant, Prospect, is probably the fanciest restaurants I have ever eaten at. The food and service was excellent. I had scallops for my starter, followed by a chicken dish, with a slice of chocolate cake for desert. I began the event very timid, and it was not until Don urged us students to reach out that I truly began socializing. The opportunity to meet and interact with so many Cornell alums, School Board members, and supporters of the Ivy League Connection was a wonderful experience. I really appreciated the chance to interact with adults as peers, and participate in mature, intelligent discussions.

In retrospect, being asked to make a speech in front of a room full of adults was more of an honor than a burden. Although I was quite intimidated, I think I managed to make my point and deliver a good speech. I talked about why I chose Cornell, why I chose the Freedom and Justice Program, and thanked all involved for giving me this chance. After my speech I was able to relax much more, and enjoy the dinner stress free.

All that remains before leaving for the East Coast is the School Board meeting tomorrow, and the ILC Orientation on the 31st. Only two more milestones until the departure date and I could not be more excited.

"Prospect"ive Cornellians

Today, May 21, we are one step closer to being true Cornellians.

After school, I rushed back home to get ready for the Cornell Dinner at Prospect in San Francisco with my mom. I arrived at the El Cerrito Plaza Bart Station, and to my surprise given that my track record for tardiness is substantially high, I was the first of the ILCers to get there. I was quickly greeted by the always lovely Don Gosney and Mrs. Kronenberg who were both posted by the entryway like guards of the Buckingham Palace. When the rest of the group was all accounted for, we took the BART to Embarcadero Station and walked to the restaurant.

Prospect was a hidden gem tucked in the outskirts of the Business District of San Francisco. We got a private room in the back of the restaurant and we started to mingle with some of the alums from Cornell. There was such a great variety of people from all over the US who have attended Cornell and were eager to share their experiences. Before dinner was served, we heard wonderful speeches from two of our cohorts: Rachael from Hercules and Eric from El Cerrito. To kick it up a notch, Mr. Ramsey gave this mind-blowing speech worthy of an Oscar Nomination.

At our dinner tables, I was sitting with alums Doug and Rachel, along with our Cornell chaperone Alfredo and three other members of the school district. I spent most of the time talking with Doug and absorbing the information he had about Cornell. It seemed that with each sentence he spoke, Cornell seemed to get progressively prettier and prettier. I was literally put into a virtual reality of Cornell by the descriptions given by Doug. One of the aspects that stuck out the most to me was when Doug told me that Cornell is a school that is big enough for a wide range of diversity, yet small enough that you will frequently bump into friends.

Now let's talk about the food! It was amazing! Everything, from the appetizer to the dessert, would've put Gordon Ramsey's cooking to shame. The service was excellent; they seemed to know exactly when we were running out of alcohol (or water in my case). The atmosphere of the restaurant combined with the conversations with my table-mates made it an unforgettable night.

Thank you Mr. Don Gosney, Mr. Charles Ramsey, Mrs. Madeline Kronenberg, and all the people affiliated with the ILC for giving me this amazing opportunity. I would also like to give a huge thanks to Doug and Rachel for sharing their experiences with us. I am looking forward to attend Cornell this summer more than ever.  

Step One of ILC Complete

The first major event of the Ivy League Connection has finally come on a breezy afternoon. Mostly everyone arrived by 6:30 PM at El Cerrito Plaza, getting ready for the big dinner at the restaurant Prospect. I stood in front of the BART entrance, converged with all the Cornell cohorts and chaperones, for the first time ever. We all exchanged greetings and set forth to the BART to San Francisco, where our destination awaited us.

Once we got off the 20 minute ride, we were one step closer to our dinner. Personally, I was quite nervous because I didn't know how the Cornell alumni who were waiting for us were going to be like. For some reason, I thought they would be somewhat old, with a stern face. Don't ask me why, but that's what I imagined in my head as we walked. When we arrived at the fancy Prospect, we were led up to a raised, secluded room, where we finally saw the alumni. They were different from what I thought they would look like, with all of them having smiles on their faces. There were some older graduates, as well as some that have graduated just a few years ago. After conversing for a while, we sat in our assigned seats.

When everyone was seated, Mrs. Kronenberg started the dinner with her speech. She encouraged everyone to stand up and introduce themselves one at a time. As the introductions passed, Rachael Redlo, from Hercules High, and Eric Wilson, from El Cerrito High, rose and gave superb speeches about what the program meant to them. Good thing it was they that got chosen to speak, because if it were me, I would be stuttering the whole time.

Afterwords, I got to talk to the alumni and eat. I sat next to two very nice people named Catrina and Samantha. They were both from the East and it was very fun talking about what it was like there. Everything they said about Cornell, like the Dairy Bar and the fun times they had, made me want to go even more now. It was very hard to talk to the others around me though, since the people around Mr. Ramsey were interested in mostly politics, which I found, of course, interesting, but also difficult to follow. The food we ate was great too. The dessert was probably my favorite, since I love to eat anything that tastes like strawberries.

What a great day it has been! It took a long time, but I'm not complaining. The service was excellent and the servers were very kind to us. The food was fantastic, and the people there were even better. Everyone was so welcoming to us students that it was like we were friends before this meeting. This was a great way to start out the Ivy League Connection, and I can't wait for summer to start!

Freedom and Justice, and Food!

The day kicked off as usual, going to school and then to baseball practice, but the whole time I was thinking about the dinner at Prospect.  After arriving in San Francisco where the cold and the wind accelerated my longing to finally be on the East Coast in the summertime, we were greeted by the warm and welcoming private backroom at Prospect.  The evening commenced with mingling amongst the ILCers as well as the alumni and sponsors, who were all so generous to spend their time with us that evening.  There I met my chaperone for the trip, Alfredo, as well as many former students of the school as waiters came around offering fancy finger foods and beverages, the crab and cheese mini-sandwiches being my favorite.  Hearing about opportunities available at Cornell through these graduates really opened my eyes to what lies in store for my trip this summer.

The evening progressed as we sat down and listened to the presentations by Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, and two ILC students.  It allowed me to understand what a unique and extraordinary opportunity we have been given to study at an Ivy League college.  I was encouraged by Peter and Alex’s emphasis on the strong unity the Cornell alumni possess, as well as Catherine’s insights into her engineering courses as well as her sharing her knowledge on the extra-curricular and off-campus life in Cornell (did I mention she was on the Varsity Diving Team!?). 

Then the food began to arrive.  I started with a delicious Greek salad (which unfortunately was demolished before a thought crossed my mind to take a picture of it), followed by a Petaluma chicken breast with smoked king trumpet mushrooms and an English pea puree, and strawberry sorbet for dessert.  Unfortunately my allergy to eggs limited my dining experience especially in the dessert portion as I enviously watched my colleagues and tablemates enjoy chocolate stout cakes and house-made strawberry cream biscuits - two baked goods, my weakness…..

The night was surely one to remember.  The first-hand experiences at Cornell that the alumni were able to share with me allowed me to simulate my own time there.  I additionally felt completed by becoming introduced to my entire Cornell cohort.  I am truly grateful to have this opportunity to visit the East Coast this summer!

A Night to Remember

On a cool Monday night, the Cornell cohort embarked on our first milestone even with the ILC, the dinner. We gathered at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. I thought it was neat because this was the first time that our whole cohort was together. It was nice to see everyone and I enjoyed talking to my fellow Cornelies as we rode the BART and walked to the restaurant Prospect.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted by some Cornell alumni and soon after we arrived, more and more alumni began to file into the restaurant. It was really awesome to get to meet and talk to these alumni about their experiences at Cornell and how what they studied at Cornell affected what they have done or are doing since graduating.

After everyone mingled for awhile, Mrs. Kronenberg allowed everyone to introduce themselves and spoke a little about the ILC. She was then followed by Rachael and Eric who eloquently spoke about why they wanted to join the ILC and what they're looking forward to. Both Rachael and Eric managed to infuse humor with their speeches and it seemed like both are comfortable with public speaking. Finally, Mr. Ramsey made closing remarks about how the ILC has made prestigious institutions such as Cornell household names and that the change that the ILC has made can be seen throughout our community.

 Following the speeches, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with the alumni at my table (Tony Bandanza and Maxime Domain known as Max), as well as the succulent food and great service. It was amazing to hear about what Tony and Max's experiences were like at Cornell and it was especially interesting because Tony did his undergraduate at Cornell while Max was fresh from France when he came to do get his graduate degree in computer science at Cornell. Based on the stories that I heard, I'm looking forward to going to Ithaca, New York more that I ever before!

I can't wait to make the walk from the dorms to my class, learn with students from around the world, explore Collegetown, and walk around the lake and cross over the gorges! Last night was truly a night to remember!