Wednesday, May 23, 2012

School Board, check. Giant picture, check. Sleep...not quite.

The School Board meeting has marked another milestone, and has me taught another lesson about ILC - it is exhausting. The meeting tonight went well; everyone went up with their respective schools when called, while their chaperones gave a short speech about what we would be doing while visiting the East Coast. I heard many of the statistics from the website repeated, but was still awed by the fame of this program, and more amazed that I was part of it. As I stood up there, though, listening to everyone speak, I also felt the weight of three events and long nights of homework weighing down on my eyelids. I am not used to doing so many special events in a row, so this is one more new experience I can add to my list of "Things I Have Accomplished" (sub-category, "Really Tiring Things I Have Accomplished").

Yet I still have no complaints. I know that there will be many long nights while I am at Cornell, in addition to adjusting my internal clock to a three-hour difference. To me, this is just a practice run; since I am still alive, and not behind on my blogs yet, I think I will survive after all.

I am worried about my eyesight, though. Don took about twenty consecutive pictures tonight of the entire ILC cohort, including all of the parents and chaperones, on top of the pictures he took while we were presenting ourselves to the School Board. I hope I did not blink for all of them. I swear it took two more minutes than last night to shake off the bright lights that were appearing over anything I tried to look at....

Day 3 of a Busy Week

To some, this would be the second (or even first) event of the week, but to the Hercules Cornell group, this would be the third. Following the dinner and a council meeting, the board meeting would be the final event until next week. It was the first event that I arrived a little late in, but I quickly found a seat. With the room nearly packed, the School board meeting started.

After about half an hour of discussions on the budget cuts toward adult education, it was finally our turn to talk. If my memory serves me correctly, my group was the fourth program to go up to the podium. I walked with Helen Naizghi and together, held the Cornell banner with pride. Sadly Alex Wing couldn't come due to a fever, but our chaperon, Mr. Chan-Law introduced the rest of us, and we moved aside to let the other programs introduce themselves.

Lastly came the guest speakers (Austin Long and Terilyn Chen), who both spoke about how great of a program the Ivy League Connection is, which I totally agree on, and how it prepared them for college. One thing that stuck to my head was the word "magical" Terilyn Chen used to describe her experience at Cornell, which I want to see even more now.

Now came the hard part. The introductions and speeches were over, but arguably the most challenging part of this entire meeting was the group picture at the end. I was thinking, "how on earth were they going to be able to fit all of us and the parents on the stands?!" Luckily, there was photographer Don to the rescue. He was able to position everyone to fit in the picture. 20 flashes later, we were finally done. One thing that I wish for though, is to have no one blink during the pictures so there won't be any excess shots taken to save my eyes the ordeal of an extra blinding flash or two.

Exiting the Board meeting, we were all finally one step closer to our summer in the East coast. School's almost out and Cornell is less than a month away. Time flies by fast!

The Second Step

This evening, my mother and I arrived at LaVonya DeJean Middle School for the School Board Meeting right on time at 6:15 PM, but I guess Don wasn't kidding when he said that "on time" didn't really mean "on time" but rather 15 minutes earlier since I missed the whole briefing session of when the ILCers were going to be announced.

I had never been to a school board meeting before and was surprised to find out that it was basically a publicized conference. The first part of the meeting was on the issue of funding on adult education. I thought it was neat how the public could just sign up to speak to the School Board to express their views, opinions, and suggestions without any prerequisites.

After that, it was our turn to be introduced to the audience. One by one, every cohort went up and the chaperon gave a brief speech. We also heard amazing speeches given by former ILCers that inspired us and taught us about the wonderful things to look forward to this summer. The speeches were phenomenal and really turned my level of excitement up a notch.

Once the speeches were over, it was time for the huge group picture. The whole process took about 15 minutes, and since I'm not that flexible, sitting on the floor cross-legged was excruciatingly painful. Added onto that was about 20 bright flashes from the camera that made me wonder if I had blinked in every shot or the flash just blinded me for a split second.

Overall, the School Board Meeting was a great experience and has cemented the fact that I am truly a part of the ILC.     

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept...

After a minor mishap involving confusion between the location of this and the ILC Orientation next week, my mother and I arrived at Lavonya Dejean Middle School. I rushed in, and after exchanging pleasantries with everyone I recognized, I went to sit with my cohort.
The meeting began with a discussion over the district's support of adult education. It was interesting to get the chance to see how the school board operates. After the school board decided to continue supporting adult education and the issue was resolved, the meeting moved on to recognizing the Ivy League Connection members. One by one the cohorts from various school were called up, and the chaperons made a short speech describing our programs and the schools we will be visiting, then introduced the students. After the speech we received a certificate of recognition and went to stand to the side. After the students and chaperons, the contributors were given certificates. Then two former ILCers made passionate speeches encouraging the continuation of the ILC. Finally we gathered for a group photo, and after many, seemingly insignificant adustments from Don, and blinding photo after blinding photo, I am sure that we got the perfect picture to showcase the ILC of 2012.
Seeing the level of dedication and support which the community has for the IlC program makes me extremely proud to be a part of it. Its an honor to be an ambassador to the West Contra Costa Unified School District. A program like this gives opportunities to the higher achieving students in our district for which we are all (I speak for everybody) extremely grateful. This meeting showed me how important and rare a porgram like the ILC is, and made me appreciate it all the more. My motivation to excel during my time on the East Coast has increased, since now I know that how I do reflects not only on my image, but on the image of the district as a whole. I am determined to represent the WCCUSD as best as I can, and I look forward to the chance to show all that we truly have to offer. I readily accept the mission to be the best ambassador for our district that I can.
Alexander Wing was unable to make the meeting due to illness, and I wish him the best and a fast recovery. Get well soon Alex!
Only the orientation left, then its off to Ithaca!

Live from the Hercules City Council

On Tuesday, May 22, there was a recommended appearance for all the ILCers of Hercules to attend the Hercules Council meeting. In total, there were about nine students which included: four from the Cornell program, two from the Yale program, and one from the Brown Program. Joining us were the chaperones, Dr. Zak, as well as Beilul Naizghi and Terrylin Chen, who are both former ILCers that are heading off to college. We all arrived by 6:30 PM, waiting for the meeting to begin, so we could say our speeches and take a group picture. It seemed that I was the only one that was extremely anxious about talking in front of the council members because everyone else seemed relaxed.

We sat down for a while, and after the pledge of allegiance, Don headed up to speak. I remember asking Eric and Rachel about what the general topics that I should mention when I was up there were. I felt a little bit of a relief once they gave me a brief picture of what to do. It felt that Don was talking for a very long time, but it was probably due to my nervousness because he only stood up there for a few minutes. Then, as he finished, we all slowly walked up forming a line next to the podium, awaiting to speak.

When I got up, I everything that was going on in my head went blank. I forgot what to say as I looked on to the crowd that was watching me. I had to pause for a while to just remember what I wanted to say. Though I didn't do so well on my speech, I was happy to be able to practice talking in front of an important crowd. Also, I have learned from my mistake. From now on, I will practice a little before going up for a speech, because I would be able to sound more like a professional instead of saying "ummm" in every other sentence.

After the ILCers finished, the seniors of Hercules High spoke, which they did excellently. Beilul and Terilyn both talked about what it was like in the Ivy League Connection. They described how the ILC helped them with their college applications and the experience they received from this program. This helped me get a better understanding of what it was like to be in this summer program and how it will effect me later on in life.

There was one more speech following the former ILCers', which was Mr. Litvin. It wasn't mandatory for a chaperone to speak, but he did so anyways. I always knew that English teachers were good talkers, but I didn't realize how good until he went up and expressed his opinions. I loved how he was able to grab the attention of the audience and added side jokes to his speech. He didn't read off of a piece of paper, and his genuine voice made the words so much better.

I learned a lot from this event. This council meeting helped me realize how intimidating it could be talking to important adults. I hope that there will be more opportunities to talk to these people because it would help me improve my public talking.

Public Speaking

Earlier tonight, all the Hercules ILCers ( Frank He, Helen Naizghi, Rachael Redlo, Jobel Vecino, Tanya Krishnakumar, Kelly Xi, and myself) met former ILCers Beilul Naizghi and Terilyn Chen as well as Mr. Chan-law, Mr. Litvin, Mr. Crosby, Mrs. Ishmael, Principal Zak, and Don at the Hercules City Hall for the May City Council meeting.

Each of us were expected to make a speech, and to be perfectly honest, I didn't write one out. Instead, I made a general outline of the topic I wanted to hit during my speech. I did my best to remain calm and relax because I knew that if I didn't allow my nerves to get the best of me, I would be fine when I had to step up to the podium.

Like my fellow ILCers, I thanked the City Council members for their support of Hercules education and expressed how honored I felt to serve as an ambassador of not only my school and school district, but of this "quintessential American town" as Mr. Litvin calls it. The one point I really wanted to emphasize in my speech was that schools of the caliber of Cornell, Columbia, and UPENN, aren't out of reach. I learned first hand at Columbia last year that my peers from Hercules High School are just as capable and just as smart, if not smarter, than some people who might be from a more affluent background. The ILC has opened my mind to options besides the UC and CSU systems and allowed me to aim high.

Following all of the current ILCers speeches, Terilyn and Beilul spoke about how the ILC affected their college applications. Finally, Mr. Litvin delivered a very eloquent speech and made the student who he had seem as if we're a lot better than him when in reality, we all look up to him.
The second milestone event is now over and it is time for the third of four milestone events - the school board meeting.

Less is More

Tonight was the second milestone event for the Hotel Management students - the Hercules City Council meeting. Unfortunately, all that self-confidence I bragged about in my last blog seemed to have left me as my nerves returned during the Pledge of Allegiance. My only consolation was that Frank He seemed to be even more nervous than I was (but he did great while speaking!).

After the formalities were over, Don Gosney went up to the podium to give his speech about what the Ivy League Connection is about, and why it is important for the City of Hercules specifically and for the district in general. As he spoke, I tried to decide what to say for my turn at the podium. How could I show my gratitude for the program and for the city's support without rambling about my entire Herculean life?

As Mrs. Ishmael called us up to speak, I made a final decision to keep my speech concise and contained. I knew everyone would be saying very similar things, and with seven of us, I figured I would not need to reiterate what was common knowledge - that I was a Hercules student and resident through and through, and was incredibly excited to represent that at Cornell. Sure enough, Kelly Xi, who went before me, took the words right out of my mouth (although more eloquently than I probably could have managed). When it was my turn, I stuck with my plan of short and sweet (which is what I am best at), and it seemed to work. My words of gratitude flowed effortlessly, without me having to think about exactly what I wanted to convey. I may not have shared that I have lived in Hercules for all of my life, or that this city has provided me with many opportunities, including a trip to Japan and the opportunity to go to an Ivy League school this summer, but I did not feel that my speech was lacking. I spoke from the heart, and said exactly what I wanted the Council and the audience to know, with no extra flourishes. It probably was not as impressive as Jobel's words representing all of us and the Ivy Leage Connection, or Mr. Litvin's praises of our Hercules "quintessential American dream." But I did give my own personal flair for what ILC should help me do - get things done accurately and consistently.

A Glimpse into the Prospects of Cornell

Nerve-racking. Fun. Tasty. Tiring.

These are all the words that describe my first Ivy League Connection dinner.

I did not really know what to expect when I got to the BART station exactly at the meeting time; but everything seemed to proceed smoothly as Mr. Ramsey and Don herded us all onto the trains, our suits and dresses appropriately branding us as the ILC Cattle. I sat next to Eric Wang on the way there, and we chatted about our final days of school while I thought about what I would say at the dinner tonight (as a high school student, it is tradition to not prepare too far in advance). We walked from the San Francisco station to the restaurant ("Prospect"), talking to each other and trying not to get lost. The closer we got, the more my stomach fluttered.

Several Cornell alumni were in our reserved room already by the time we arrived. We all shook hands, and at first the ILC group stuck together, not quite sure what to do. Don eventually came over and reminded us to socialize; so I began talking with Catrina Cartagena about her experiences with the Cornell law school as everyone grazed (I still felt somewhat herded) through small appetizers. Catrina told me a little bit about what she did before Cornell, and what to expect in Ithaca while we waited for Mr. Ramsey to finish our seating arrangements. I also enjoyed talking with her about my experiences with the mock trial competition before taking our seats. Now, sitting between Eric Wang and alumnus Maxime Domain (Max for short), my nerves truly started to kick in because I realized I would soon have to speak in front of everyone immediately after Ms. Kronenberg introduced the guests.

Yet everything seemed to work out fine. I didn't stutter out my words, trip over my own feet, forget what I wanted to say, or do any other mistake that I fretted over in the minutes before I went up. The evening progressed smoothly afterwards, as I enjoyed the excellent (and gluten-free!) food provided and was thoroughly entertained  by the conversations with Max - a computer science major who lived in France before coming to the United States to study at Cornell - and Tony Bandanza (the alumnus sitting next to Eric). I got my greatest impression of Cornell, though, as I listened to Max and Tony speak to each other. They graduated in different years, and with different majors,  but there was still that shared connection between them. They were part of the Cornell family - they had walked the same streets of Ithaca, met some of the same professors, experienced some of the best dining hall food, and left with the same tools for success. The same tools that I hope to at least partially obtain during my three weeks at Cornell this summer.

I realize now that we do not have to be herded cattle, being prodded and guided toward success; with the self-confidence I gained through that relaxing, family-like environment, I feel ready to take on Cornell like the wild bull I know I can be - strong, independent, and branded  only by the mark of future success (a true representation of what an ILCer should be).