Monday, August 27, 2012

From the Parents of Alysa Butler

We would classify the entire process as SIMPLY AMAZING.

I am the Father of Alysa Butler and I was reflecting on how this amazing opportunity began. I believe it was in the month of December, 2011 as we were all beginning our day. Alysa, mentioned that she would be attending an informational assembly to be held on campus given by the ILC Alysa, always has been very active on campus participating in different clubs and study groups—many of which I was familiar with but I had not heard of the Ivy League Connection. I asked, “What is the Ivy League Connection?” She said, “I will tell you later.”

When she returned home that evening. She was excited and told us that the Ivy League Connection is a group formed by the WCCUSD that selects students to tour some of the colleges on the East Coast and participate in a Summer Educational Program. The ILC is planning to send two people and depart on June 25th, 2012 and return on July 28th, 2012. I thought, WOW!, it must be expensive. Some of the colleges that they were planning to visit were Yale, Washington University (in St. Louis), Cornell, UPENN and others. The lucky few would get to experience living in a dorm room.

We encouraged her to submit an application and participate in the process. Part of the process was a meet and greet between the ILC and Parents. We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Charles Ramsey, Mrs. Madeline Kronenberg and Mr. Don Gosney at the meeting. Each ILC staff person gave an overview of their role in the program and assured each parent that their child would be safe. The dorms were staffed with security 24 hrs a day whose responsibility was to monitor the premises for the safety or the residents. All ILC participants would receive three meals per day and have supervision by a chaperone. This information eased the apprehension and eased the stress.

There had been a series of interviews of Alysa's instructors at school and recommendations and finally through the process of elimination there were eight students selected as finalists. However, only two lucky people would be able to represent the school at the Academy of Physics at UPENN. Alysa came home one day and said, we have to be at El Cerrito High School at 5 PM.  She announced that she had made it to the final interview. She seemed very calm but I was nervous enough for both of us.
We ate a little dinner and hurried off to the final interview. Upon our arrival as we searched for the room we were becoming anxious because we did not want to be late for the interview but some of the doors were locked. Finally we located the room. We were not the last to arrive. Then a familiar face, Don Gosney, he was brought refreshments and let us know that the interviewing staff was running a few minutes late. Don informed us of the process to be followed. He informed us that we would draw numbers from a cup to establish a numerical order for interviews.

Alysa drew number five. The interviews began number one, two, three, with each interview lasting longer than the first. Then number four which I though would never end. Finally, number five. I offered a few words of encouragement to Alysa and told her how much I love her and to do her best. I was a nervous wreck. Alysa, though, seemed very calm throughout the entire process. I began to realize that she was confident, that she would do well.

She returned after what seemed like an eternity. I asked how did you do? She said OK but did not want to talk about the process because there were still three prospective people to interview in the room. After all interviews were complete we all took a 10 minute break. After the break all participants and their parents were asked to go across the hall to the interview room We all met the interviewers which consisted of some professors, community business people and teachers

After all the introductions were complete they announced the two final people to become part of the Ivy League Connection. SIMPLY AMAZING! Alysa Butler was named as one of the two people selected. I was overjoyed for her. As we drove home I became more and more excited for her. Slowly I began to realize she had never been gone from home for such a long period of time nor had she been so far away.

The next meeting was with Don Gosney. There were consent forms to sign and packets of information that needed to be faxed to UPENN (that was the school Alysa was selected to attend). She would become part of the advanced Physics Academy. WOW! SIMPLY AMAZING.

We managed to get all the paperwork done and returned in a timely manner. We had a final meeting and met the Chaperone Mr. Ian Lawrence. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney and Mr. Lawrence for the care and concern given to my daughter throughout the entire process, THANK YOU

On the Morning of 06/25/12 at approx 3:30 AM they were off to catch their flight at San Francisco Airport to Philadelphia, PA. Throughout the next month I was in contact with my daughter regularly. I was never concerned about her safety and welfare because I was confident that the Ivy League Connection would watch over her. She met many diverse groups of people and got the opportunity to interact with them academically and socially. She experienced riding the trains of New York City and has been to some places that will enrich her personally.

Denise & Kerry Butler

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From Cameron Fulton's Aunt

The Ivy League Connection was very valuable for Cameron in so many ways. It has taught him that perseverance pays off with a feeling of great accomplishment. His uncle and I believe that he now realizes that it is so easy to give up on a goal or a dream. There are no regrets however, when you know that you have done all you know to do to reach your destination and it comes to reality. It has given Cameron a sense of pride and growth in so many areas. He is learning accountability and responsibility to a higher level. Being involved with the ILC has stirred some self motivation in him to manage his time more effectively, developing skills needed to succeed in life.

Before the ILC, Cameron had expressed that he did not want to leave California for college. Now he is very open to venture out. He enjoyed meeting students from other countries as well as other states. He learned time management with getting to class on time, understanding that the ritual he goes through with getting dressed for the day does not need to take so long. I laughed at his blog where he said, “I learned how to get to class from my bed in 30 minutes.”

His experiences with the different outings were unforgettable. The restaurants, the different types of food he was exposed to and the willingness to try them shows growth. Cameron, like myself, had issues with trying anything new, especially if it looks different from what we are used to (e.g. pig face). Now he is more adventuresome in that area.

His dorm life, and meeting new people was such a great experience for him that he now is willing to go out of state to school. He is very interested in Northwestern University, as it has everything that interests him. They have mechanical engineering, D1 sports as he plays baseball, and they have a great music department. He plays saxophone and loves jazz. He will be applying to UPenn, and NYU as well just to name a few of his choices.

We would like to sincerely thank Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney for this great opportunity for Cameron. It has given him the belief that he too can succeed in the environment of an Ivy League University, and this experience will last him a lifetime.

Thank you again, ILC
Karen Bolden

From the Mother of David Barba

I first heard about the Ivy League Connection when David came home one day from school and just started talking about it. I was amazed that there was a program like the Ivy League Connection right in our school district, helping our students go beyond their full capabilities. I had my doubts of the program being a full scholarship because it was an Ivy League program, but David took me straight to the ILC website to prove. I have always wanted my children to have a better life than me: to explore the world, to have no worries, and be happy. The only way for them to reach this was by education, so I pushed David to go for the program.

After our conversation about the ILC, I knew it in my heart he would get accepted because he stopped doing his regular activities during the winter break and was focused on the program. His face was so focused on getting in, that when I finally heard that he had made the interview, I was glad to see him smiling again. The interview process was really nerve racking having to wait for everyone to go up, and then an extra hour for the final decisions. While we waited, I can remember him being ready to jump out of his chair, thinking that he was not going to be accepted. I remained hopeful and told him that he still had a chance because he gives himself high standards, and from personal experience as being his mother, he almost always does very well. As the results were being announced, he was surprised to have been accepted. The night ended with excitement for the whole family.
As the months passed, along with each of the events, I could see David’s excitement towards the program. I was a bit nervous myself as a mother, because he has never been away from home for more than a one or two days. The physics program was a month, which made me worry once he was there. After talking with him for the first week, his voice sounded very excited and I could tell by the blogs that he was having lots of fun, which helped take away my worries.

The ILC has opened the world to David, which he was able to do because he always worked hard in school. My family would like to thank Mr. Ramsey, Don Gosney, and Ms. Kronenberg for giving David this wonderful opportunity and for their dedication to help the students of our community to go beyond California. I would also like to thank Ian Lawrence, his chaperone, for the excellent care of the students. David seems more ambitious than ever now, because the Ivy League Connection has shown him hard work does pay off. Once again, thank you to everyone from the Ivy League Connection.

Silvia Barba

From the Mother of Mariko Whitenack

I would first like to express appreciation for the extraordinary opportunities the ILC program provides WCCUSD students.  When Mariko first heard of the ILC program two years ago, I was impressed that a program of such vision and scope existed in the WCCUSD.  As a graduate of El Cerrito High School many years ago, I was one of many classmates who applied only to the University of California Berkeley and did not even consider applying to any universities outside of California.  The entire ILC process requires that students demonstrate maturity and personal responsibility, including time management and interpersonal skills.  The ILC application requires that applicants develop thoughtful written and verbal responses to challenging questions. The ILC dinners expose students to alumni from select schools who describe their experiences of undergraduate, postgraduate, and career choices. Through helping to develop the U Penn group blog site and arrange for college tour dinners, Mariko was required to deal with the challenging responsibility of meeting deadlines and arranging logistics.  The college tours and the mentorship programs allow the students to interact with admissions officers, current students, and alumni; to become familiar with expectations of the application and selection process; and to hear individual insights into the academic, cultural, and social environments of specific colleges.

I was excited when Mariko applied to and was accepted to the ILC program in experimental physics at the University of Pennsylvania.  Experimental physics seemed like an ideal subject for Mariko to apply the enthusiasm for math that she had gained from many exceptional math classes at ECHS to a field with so many real life applications.  Mariko’s experience attending the 4-week experimental physics course was phenomenal.  The curriculum, faculty, and lab facility were exceptional. The course enabled her to get a sense of the level of academic preparation and dedication experienced at selective universities.  The rigorous course provided Mariko an opportunity to process the strengths and challenges of her WCCUSD education.  She also experienced the gender composition of her class, which reflected that of a field marked by one of the lowest representations of women in the sciences. While she reported initial challenges, she emerged with an increased sense of confidence as well as perspective as to which sorts of colleges might provide the academic, physical, and social environment with the best fit. The visits to Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University enabled Mariko to consider opportunities in regions of the country she had never experienced. 

I appreciate the dedication and efforts of Charles, Don, and Madeline in developing, coordinating, and sustaining the ILC program for WCCUSD.  Many thanks also to Ian for taking excellent care of the U Penn group of students.  I hope that the returning ILC students take the opportunity to share with their fellow students their experiences of the opportunities that selective colleges offer, the academic rigor required, and intellectual rewards gained.  Mariko is extremely fortunate to have benefited from the life-changing experience the ILC has afforded her.  The WCCUSD ILC program serves as a model that many other school districts could seek to emulate to provide such invaluable experiences to their students.

Catherine Chin

Sunday, August 19, 2012

From the Father of Clara Lengacher

I wanted to share my perspectives about my daughter, Clara Lengacher’s experience at the ILC Experimental Physics Discovery at UPenn this summer.

To start, I feel that this program is creative, forward thinking and exactly the type of program that we should be seeing more of in the educational community. Partnerships with institutions of higher learning are vital to the articulation, matriculation and improved success of our students. The combination of social skills, networking, and the high quality of the educational experiences should be accessible to all and I feel this program opens doors for our young people to make connections, experience social interaction in a way that they might not be accustomed to, and pursue a specific subject of interest to them.

From my experience at the kick off dinner and discussions with various alumni of UPenn and major donors to ILC, I was encouraged about the state of education in our community and heartened to know that it extends across the country.

I Skyped with my daughter every week and was updated on the amazing things they were doing in class, the people she met within the program and during visits to the other schools besides UPenn, and about the new folks she met in her Physics program, not just from all over the United States, but the World.

My only constructive criticism of the entire process is that perhaps the interactions between the ILC staff and the students, in public forums, could be administered in a more respectful fashion. I witnessed an interaction at the dinner at La Folie that I felt was somewhat degrading and embarrassing to the individual. I realize the importance of developing their social skills in a short amount of time, but wonder if this could be done in a more mindful and respectful manner. I don’t think there is any benefit in dressing down a young person if front of their peers or adults that they may or may not know.

Thank you for your vision, time and energy in thinking outside the box, creating valuable opportunities for the students of this district, and for changing the lives of those individuals fortunate enough to participate.

Bruce Lengacher

Saturday, August 18, 2012

From the Mother of Chloe Alston

In Chloe’s sophomore year, I had heard about a program called the Ivy League Connection (ILC) and thought that Chloe should definitely be a part of it during her Junior year (I didn’t know it was offered to Sophomores). In the Winter Semester of her Junior year, Chloe came home one day and told me she had missed out on her opportunity to apply to the ILC program because she had not been invited to the informational meeting. Our hearts sank, as it was something she was really looking forward to. She tried gracefully and yet unsuccessfully to let it go, but then a new opportunity arose. I had spoken to Chloe’s 8th grade math teacher, Ms. Nakahara, who was one of the ILC interviewers about Chloe’s disappointment, she got in touch with Don Gosney and mentioned Chloe’s situation, and we learned that a new program – the Social Justice Program at the University of Pennsylvania – was being offered and that she could still apply. It was a stroke of luck!!! Chloe got right on it, wrote her essays, was interviewed and got in.

It sounds easy, but it wasn’t. There are some who believe that the students who apply and go through this process are subject to criticisms and held to expectations that are too high, however, I believe the strenuousness actually helped Chloe understand the brevity of this academic opportunity and what would be expected of her in a college-level atmosphere. She began to scrutinize her actions knowing that depending on them, doors to her future dreams could either open or close. The leaders of the ILC enabled Chloe to be exposed to and embrace possibilities for her future that she had not yet fully considered herself to be a part of. She realized she needed to work hard, stay focused, and be determined to be chosen and maintain her position. It is a program that opens the eyes of our students here in the WCCUSD beyond their everyday reality. It inspires kids to reach beyond their comfort zone and strive for something higher. The continued expectation by the ILC of the students to communicate the experience through blogging and to be representatives for the district also pushes our students to publically share and keep up the momentum of all that they have learned and gained from their experiences—to become a voice for opportunity.

Chloe’s experience in Professor Lamas’ Social Justice Program has expanded her way of thinking. It has furthered her ability to think critically about the world around her and to take an active role in changing herself and her environment for the better. She was in a class with 30 international students, studying under the guidance of teachers from all over the world. She was exposed to world-wide issues of poverty, racism, sexism, capitalism, amongst others and taught strategies by which to analyze these issues locally and communicate solutions. The strategies provided also encouraged her to question her own thinking and how she has viewed and now views herself and her place in the world. The Social Justice Program is an invaluable addition to the ILC as it enables our students to actively find their voice and learn to interact in the communities in which they and their families live.

I know a lot of hard work goes into the ILC, and I am so grateful to all those who participate in creating and maintaining this incredible opportunity for our students in the WCCUSD. Don, Charles, and Madeline for spearheading the program, all of the interviewers for taking the time out to care about our kids, Ian for being a fantastic chaperone, the University of Pennsylvania and donors for sponsoring Chloe, and Professor Lamas and Michael for providing incredible guidance and opening up your hearts! Thank you all!!!

Kai Weber (Chloe’s mom)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The PENNCAP Pre-Freshman Program (Part 1)

Note: I am currently an incoming freshman to the class of 2016 in the University of Pennsylvania. I've had the honor of representing Pinole Valley High School as a participant of the Ivy League Connection in both my sophomore year ("Freedom and Justice" at Cornell University, 2010) and my junior year ("Studies in Grand Strategy" at Yale University, 2011). This summer, I am taking part in Penn's Pre-Freshmen Program, PENNCAP (Pennsylvania College Achievement Program) One of it's many purposes includes preparing incoming students from low-income or first-generation backgrounds for their college years ahead - much like the ILC in it's continued mission of providing WCCUSD high school students with the opportunity to experience out-of state college life by studying at such institutions during a summer.
While it isn't always sunny in Philly during the summer seasons, one can often spot a rainbow shortly after the rain, and the view from the Harrison Residential Rooftop Lounge is one of the best spot to be for it.
Looking down at a part of Penn's campus from the Harrison High Rise.
A lesser-known side to the thrill of college acceptance is the summer incoming-freshmen spend getting ready for college. After all the “congratulations” and warm wishes, it’s almost as if the party’s finally died down, the guests have all left, and the celebrated host of the party is left awkwardly surveying the aftermath of what appears to be a pretty daunting task ahead.

Starting the year off on a good note can make all the difference in your first year – perhaps even your entire time – at college. The better prepared and more informed you are of what is to come not only saves a tremendous amount of time in trial-and-error lessons, but also serves as a great advantage. Like preparing notes the night before class or packing a day before travel, the more thought you put into ensuring your first few days in college runs as smoothly as possible, the less likely you will find yourself scrambling to get settled in and balancing your demanding schedule at the same time.

Throughout this stressful season, many students turn to their supportive parents or older college friends for advice, asking anything from, “How do I go about setting up my own bank account?” to “what do I need to buy for my dorm?” In time, things will start to come together and once you’ve made it on campus, you’re largely set.

But what of those first-generation students? What of those students who have parents who are just as confused – if not more so – than they are? What of those incredibly busy student athletes who have to balance both their athletic and academic expectations throughout their four years?

At the University of Pennsylvania, a Pre-Freshman Program known as PENNCAP offers similar type students an opportunity to transition as smoothly as possible to the college lifestyle. Participants are selected by the staff in May to essentially start college about four weeks in advance. While there is an academic component at the center of it – every student will be taking three college-level introductory courses with actual Penn faculty – this program includes social events to help students familiarize themselves with West Philadelphia, and it also exposes them to some of the most beneficial resources around campus. Students ultimately develop their own schedules according to the dining plan, course schedules, and planned social events already set by PENNCAP, and it is in their best interest to explore which studying style fits best along the way.

As an upcoming freshman that’s currently finishing up my first week with PENNCAP, it didn’t take long for me to immediately see some of the lasting benefits this opportunity has already given me. Though they may not be very obvious at first, I know they will be become the rare gift I’ll treasure throughout my next four years at Penn.

When school begins this September 5th, Nursing students and Division I Athletes will suddenly become rare species on campus, but I will have already made connections with some of them prior to the beginning of class. The much-anticipated Move-in Day for all freshmen will definitely be less stressful and confusing for me, thanks to the prior exposure I’ve had of both the campus and the surrounding areas. Having the chance to meet faculty members at mixers, sit in on classes taught by Penn professors, and chat with current Penn students, has definitely made me more comfortable in a new environment that I sometimes still feel is almost too intimidating to fully absorb.
Fellow PENNCAP students prepare for one of our first events: a trolley tour of the surrounding Penn area.
Independence Hall
Philadelphia Chinatown
One of the many beautiful murals in Philadelphia.
I love that there are so many museums and exhibits around me. The best part? Penn students get discounts!
But as I found myself getting through PENNCAP day by day with the same optimism and determination to do better than yesterday, I could feel my own rhythm connecting to that of Penn. I could feel myself becoming more confident by the sheer knowledge that I was now familiar with my surroundings and thus, gravitated myself to the next level of making my presence known. “This is your one shot,” Professor Robert Ghrist (he will be one of my professors this upcoming Fall) reminded all of us at the Plenary Session, “Academic Finesse”, and I find myself repeating it in my head everyday like a mantra because it’s truly how I see my next four years.

PENNCAP is giving me a preview of academic life at Penn and so far, I find all of them incredibly helpful. Because I am in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), I was enrolled in a class schedule that included Math, Writing, and Psychology courses (students of the College were also given the option to take Biology instead of Psychology if they had an interest to pursue a Pre-Health plan at Penn). Wharton students were enrolled in Math, Management & Communication, Writing, and Economics courses, and Nursing students were enrolled in Writing, Nursing Science, and Clinical Experience courses. Though the courses are challenging (every class will be graded though not transferred into our actual transcripts) the main objective is to prepare us for what is to come in our respective colleges within Penn.

Additionally, these classes mean so much more beyond their academic benefits. Thanks to PENNCAP, we are able to familiarize ourselves to the college classroom environment as well as practice approaching our Professors correctly – a very important, but tough, skill to master – all before school’s officially begun. We’re learning how to manage our time well, learning to make sacrifices where we see fit and learning that there truly is no one there to shadow you anymore with reminders and deadlines. Subconsciously, we’re learning to become adults but all while defining what it personally means for us along the way.

College is not high school, and one advice incoming-freshmen and freshmen should know and accept immediately is that, even though everything seems a lot harder than high school, you were admitted into your college because you possess the ability to excel there. This might mean you have to work harder than others, or it might mean you have to replace a lot of bad habits with new ones, but the point is, college is supposed to be challenging and being knocked down more times than you’re used to will only better you if you choose to learn from them every time it happens. Never doubt that you were somehow misplaced into the institution you worked so hard to get yourself in.

I admit that my first two days of PENNCAP classes was quite intimidating. I was still getting used to my environment, still double-checking my directions, and still solidifying my growing friendships. The uncertainty of what was to come and my tendency to put pressure on myself invited doubt. But thanks to the advice and support I’ve received from the PENNCAP staff – who always have their arms stretched out to us and our interests in mind – I was able to turn this natural discomfort into a source of personal strength.

One of my favorite aspects of PENNCAP thus far is being able to come so close to observe the true nature of Penn people. In addition to the warm and friendly PENNCAP staff, I’ve had the chance to meet librarians, advisors, professors, and more – all without the pressure typically embedded in the stressful Fall season. In the summer, there are less people and this offers a golden opportunity to get a head-start in networking. It helps too that Penn people, in general, care. Nearly every Penn faculty I’ve met so far has their heart already reserved for the interest of others and such support, I’ve realized, makes all the difference in one’s college experience. As Ms. Doris Cochran-Fikes, who helped welcome us on the first day with such memorable advice as to simply smile as often as possible, puts it: “Feel the love.”

Many of my friends, who are also starting college in the fall, have complained about how difficult it is to get in touch with their advisors. They seek assistance in their transition, but they seldom get enough attention by the time school begins. At Penn, help is always there as long as you’re willing to reach out and ask. College is not about having someone hold your hand throughout your four year; it’s about having someone take you under their wing until you’re ready to fly on your own.

I am so glad to be under PENNCAP’s “wings”. It’s straightening me out in time for college and getting me in touch with all the things that matter most to me. I was able to see both my Pre-Major Advisor and Peer Counselor – Dr. Molly McGlone and Melanie Young – for the first time in person. I’m learning how to make the most of my library resources and locate the various academic departments on campus. The wonderful PENNCAP Peer Counselors and Residential Managers are all great sources of advice, especially if they are pursuing a major similar to your interests. “Academic Finesse”, a Plenary Session, reminded us the importance of classroom etiquette and provided us with tips to making the most of our college experience. The other 99 PENNCAP students come from as far as Hawaii to as close as Philadelphia itself, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being in their inspiring presence (it’s especially so when it comes to the Nursing students and Athletes because it will be hard to see them once school begins on September 5th).

There’s still about three more weeks left of PENNCAP, so there’s still so much more to learn. Despite the pressure that will definitely kick in nearing my exams and papers, I’m taking each day with 100% effort.

I can already feel Quaker pride sinking in and I am starting to develop a list of communities I’d like to get more involved with for my first year at Penn (I attended a small open house night for the Kelly Writers House at Penn and I’m already very much interested in knowing more about this “club house” for writers and literary-enthusiasts).
For one our weekend events, PENNCAP Peer Counselors arranged an evening trip to South Street.

On the first day of PENNCAP, someone by the name of Reverend William Gibson came before all of us – and some of our parents who were invited to join in on opening session – to introduce the sort of adventure we are to embark on in the next four years. As a first-generation, incoming freshman (c/o 2016) from the small town of Pinole, CA, I am absolutely thrilled to begin my “great…grand…good….and grace-filled” adventure that is the University of Pennsylvania.

Hurrah for the Red and Blue!
Greetings from the Philadelphia Museum of Art!