Thursday, May 31, 2012

Philadelphia, Here We Come

The last Ivy League Connection event until we leave... 

That is all I could think about when I left school this afternoon. This was the last event. The final step! I was so excited to see everyone and learn the final details of our trip, but before all of that, I was very happy to see that the dress code was summer casual.  Don't get me wrong, I love dressing up, but it was nice to go to another one of these events in a more relaxed outfit.  

Actually getting to Pinole Middle School was just slightly more difficult than I had anticipated. The directions given by Google Maps were incorrect, but fortunately we were close enough to the school that my mom and I could figure out where to go. A bit early we were, but I suppose that we were just on time as we all know that it is always extremely important to arrive before the event begins. We initially sat at the next free table available, but since it was near the back, Don encouraged us to move closer to the speakers up in the front of the room. My mom decided to hurry over to a table further up and I ran over there right before Mr. Ramsey began his speech.

During the first portion of the orientation, Ms. Kronenberg mentioned how we should not think of this trip as a big prize but rather as a job that is demanding and challenging. While those words have scared off some potential ILC members, I hear them and feel even more excited to go on my trip to the University of Pennsylvania. I have realized that what I really want in life is not to be given passes to relax and do whatever I feel like, but rather I have grown to appreciate hard work and dedication. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get after completing a piece a work, whether it be school related or community related, and I am looking forward to accomplishing a great deal this summer. I thought it was really good that she put that out there, but I was even happier when I looked around the room and saw confident eyes. That really made me feel united with the group because I felt so strongly that we were all ready to go on this great adventure together.

When we broke up into our separate cohorts, I had a chance to see familiar faces of students and their parents whom I had already met, as well as a few new faces of my peers' parents. During this time, Ian mostly spoke and informed us on the specifics of the trip, handing out detailed itineraries and some permission slips. Many of us were curious about whether or not we had to bring our own blankets, but we all decided that they would be too heavy and that we could make a quick trip to Target once we arrived in Philadelphia.  However, as a current Penn student and former ILC student informed us, Target is quite a ways away from the school and the nearest store has terrible parking. So I guess there are still a few kinks in the plan that we need to work out after all...but we'll get there.

Once we returned to the multi-purpose room, Mr. Ramsey made his last remarks and I could feel how excited he was for us all. At first he spoke in a calm tone, but suddenly he was congratulating us with this ecstatic, booming voice that made me really feel like we were about to take off!  I loved the way he ended his speech and now I feel fully prepared to get out of here and fly to Philly!

Launch Pad

Ask any of my friends, and they’ll tell you that I have been looking forward to this opportunity since I was accepted to the ILC back in February. I remember last year’s orientation being the launch pad before sending us all off to the East Coast, so I was looking forward to the orientation this June as a final step before our highly-anticipated arrival at Penn. I wasn’t disappointed.

Mr. Ramsey congratulates us on getting
this far in the program
Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg both reminded us of the importance of good behavior while back east, as we are all ambassadors of the WCCUSD. I was struck with a renewed sense of responsibility when Ms. Kronenberg told us that we owed it to the thousands of other WCCUSD students who don’t get to participate in the ILC to do the very best we could in all aspects of our East Coast experience. Don also spoke, emphasizing the more practical portions of our trip, such as remembering to check our pockets before running the wash so as not to end up with large, colorful stains on all of our clothing. Of course, this might be perfect if navy blue tie-dye is your type of fashion statement, but otherwise this is less than ideal.

Mr. Kronenberg reminded us to represent our
district well while back east
A picture of Don taking pictures
We later dispersed into our breakout groups, walking through the halls of Pinole Middle School until we came to the door with a large Penn banner next to it. Our chaperone, Mr. Lawrence, passed out papers and briefly went over our itinerary. As I scanned down the sheet of college tours and weekend activities, it hit me that in less than a month, we will all be on the East Coast.
Mr. Lawrence introduces himself to the 2012 ILC cohort
Earlier in the evening, I had wondered whether my experience at Brown last summer would dampen my enthusiasm for the coming trip to Penn. I am pleased to report that I am every bit as excited this summer as I was last summer. I could see that same passion mirrored on the faces of my fellow ILCers as we regrouped for some closing remarks by Mr. Ramsey. Look out, East Coast, because WCCUSD’s very own 2012 ILC cohort is on its way!

Congratulations, You Made It!

"You're going to be late!" "Hurry!" "You're still not ready?" These were the only three phrases my parents could utter before rushing out of the front door, and into the car. It was 6:05 PM when we officially left the house, and made our way to the orientation. Once in the car they came up with a whole new set of phrases: "We should have left earlier!", "They're going to start without us!", and my favorite "You don't know where the school is?!" It was a hectic car ride.

Once inside (AND ON TIME!), I, along with my mother, made my way over to what seemed to be the Penn table. After the chaperones introduced themselves, we made our way to our school assigned classroom for more information on our trip. We filled out some papers, we were given detailed information about the trip, and we were able to ask questions. We discussed what items we should bring and what we should wait to buy once we're in the east coast, trips we would like to take as a group during our free time, the importance of being on time, and what is expected of us.

At 7:45 PM, we were all back in the multipurpose room. When Mr. Ramsey said, "Congratulations, You made it!", I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with excitement, it had finally hit me. I'm actually going to the east coast for the summer, I'm really taking a class at The University of Pennsylvania! This was it, the final step. I made it, we all made it. Congratulations 2012 ILC participants!

The Last Step

While driving up to what used to be my middle school, it took me a while to get acquainted  with the new setup of the school. After finally figuring it out, I imagined all the old buildings in the exact same place along with all the old memories of being a middle school student.

As the orientation took, what I would call a "shaky" beginning, due to the tardiness of a few of my cohorts, I was yet to feel the excitement of which I would feel just minutes after we split off into groups. Receiving all the paperwork with the different utilities we would be needing made it seem like we would be gone for years, but  which was actually a month, just to make us as comfortable as possible.

When we split off into groups, I felt as if I were to pack and leave that very night. The excitement of traveling to the east coast finally hit me. I will be attending an Ivy league college for a month. which includes being on my own without parents, dorm life , and most of all meeting new people. Now that the stress is over and there's nothing left but to go and make a good representation of the WCCUSD, I feel obligated to those who made it possible for me, to do my very best.

The Final Step

I just got home from tonight's orientation, and I'm hoping that I didn't annoy my mom too much with my constant gushes of excitement in the car on the way back.  Not only was the evening helpful and informative, it also served as yet another tool to increase the excitement I feel for this summer.  Though, to be honest, it doesn't take much these days to set me off on a high-pitched ramble of enthusiasm. I think all my friends are anticipating my trip not only because of how amazing it will be, but also because I might finally stop talking about it.
A room full of amazing people
Orientation began with a welcome and a review of the expectations for all the ILC participants.  Although we had all heard this many times, it was nice to have a refresher and a reminder of how privileged we all are to have this opportunity.  Then, Ms. Kronenberg introduced the Chaperones and each one got to share some of their thoughts on the coming summer.  Each little speech was filled with smiles and words of excitement very similar to my own.  Don took over next to give us some more details on our trips, go over our packing list, and share with us some of the items he is willing to loan out over the summer.  After the frantic search for my camera cord this evening, I know a card reader will be on my list of requests.
Ms. Kronenberg introduces the chaperones

Did I mention that I'm really excited?
We then went into the breakout groups for each cohort.  We received more specifics on our itineraries and talked with Christina, a rising Junior at Penn.  I was happy to see that besides the course work, we will also get to do fun things on the weekends, like watch an MLS game and visit the art museum.  I was also glad to find out that the dorms at Penn are air conditioned and can get "meat locker cold."  I highly doubt growing up in the Bay Area has prepared me for the heat I will experience in Philadelphia so it is nice to know I will get a break at night.

With all the specifics covered, we reconvened in the multipurpose room for some final remarks and a large round of applause for all of us.  It feels amazing to have made it this far, and I can't believe we are leaving in less than a month. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Round of Applause for the ILC

As I prepared for what was to be a wonderful night , I suddenly remembered the year before, when I attended the very same event to support my friend Andrew Gonzales, The excitement my family shared seeing the ILC   in action. Now that I had came back to earth my uncle and checked each others ties and headed out the door as he handed me the keys saying" here you go chauffeur". 

When we arrived I saw the abundance of people and remembered that this wasn't all about the ILC , actual problems in the society concerning education were to be presented . Sitting there hearing the cry's from people who barely spoke english asking very dearly for the district to keep adult english classes just for a simple reason, so they could help their children made me very empathetic for them.

Now that it was the ILC's turn , it was time for me to put on my best smile , and put all the swagger that I had into my walk so that the school board knew that the IlC  is full of confident and excellent students. Holding the UPenn flag, and later receiving my award, gave me a sense of pride and appreciation , that of all the kids in the district I was one of the few to be attending one of these excellent schools.

The most stressful part of the night was  by far the group picture. Me being as tall as I am , a monstrous 6 feet 3 inches, all I had to do was stand in the middle and look pretty , but for all of the others there were a lot of intricate turns to be made that would set the picture off. When the flashings lights had all come to a stop and I was now able to see straight , I realized that picture would be very historical ... At least to me.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another Step Closer

I sat outside of El Cerrito High school on Wednesday afternoon anxiously waiting for my mom to arrive.  I had made sure to let her know way in advance the specifics of that evening and I was a little worried that she had gotten stuck with a project at school.  However, just as I contemplated this, she suddenly pulled up in her white pick up truck and we rushed home to get changed and ready for the WCCUSD School Board Meeting.  

I was relieved that we live less than three minutes away from LeVonya DeJean Middle school because we were running a bit late that evening.  Even so, we drove a bit faster than usual to ensure that I was not late.  As we entered the auditorium I eyed a member of the Brown cohort and quickly walked over to her, not entirely sure where I was supposed to be sitting.  Within moments however, I spotted the familiar faces of my own Penn cohort and took a seat next to Mariko.  

Seeing as this was my first School Board meeting I did not know what the agenda was, but I was excited to see that so many community members attended.  Some of them were holding signs supporting adult education and others I saw promoting Measure K.  When the meeting began, I noticed that the discussion was mostly among the school board members, as they were voting on numerous items, but I was interested in seeing some of the attendees speak out on their personal issues and opinions.  When that time came, the school board listened intently to each speaker as they gave a maximum two-minute speech regarding their opinions on how the district money should be distributed.  Overall, I think that the topic on funding adult education was the primary concern of the evening among a large number of the community members.  That evening I gained a great appreciation for these meetings because there were so many people that were given the opportunity to share their concerns, ideas, and simply express themselves in an accepting environment.  I know many people feel that they do not have a voice in their communities, but that is what these board meetings allow: a space for citizens to vocalize their concerns and really be listened to by those in charge.  

After community members spoke, the ILC cohorts went up one by one to receive recognition for their achievements and to let everyone know what this program is all about.  The Penn cohort was second to last and I was excited to go up to the stand with my fellow students and friends.  After every ILC introduction the room was filled with applause and it felt amazing to know that it was not just out family members or representatives that were proud of us, but that the entire community was supportive of this journey we are about to take.

When it was time to take the enormous group photo I was even more excited.  I have been talking to friends about the ILC program since the beginning of Sophomore year and I have seen the group picture so many times that I could not wait to be in one myself!  Although the arrangements were challenging, Don did an excellent job at directing all of the parents, students, and chaperones, so we all ended up being positioned very nicely. This picture, and meeting as a whole, truly made me feel more ready than ever to embark on this amazing journey.  I say journey because since this entire process with ILC has begun I have gained an enormous amount of motivation and have an incredible opportunity lying ahead to learn more about myself and begin to lay out a future that I can be proud of.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Round of Applause for the Ivy League Connection

"Yes! We're going to be perfectly on time",I said  as I checked my cell phone for the time while patiently waiting for the stoplight to change. After driving up and down the streets and around various corners surrounding LaVonya Dejean Middle School, my father and I made it just in time for the WCCUSD school Board Meeting. i was greeted by Ian who directed me to the rest of the cohort. I sat next to Cameron and made small talk in between speeches. The speeches given by teachers, students, and other members of the community all had one thing in common; they were fighting for the funding of adult ESL classes. After what seemed like ages, the exciting part arrived! It was time for all of the chaperones to introduce their cohort to the board!

"University of Pennsylvania" is the last thing I remember being said before I stood up and approached the front of the room with my cohort. We stood in front of the board members and audience as Don took pictures of us and Ian, our chaperon  introduced us. After our moment in the spotlight we stepped to the side to receive certificates. After all of the cohorts were called and recognized, the sponsors and donors were also recognized. The board broke for a "five minute break" and during this time the Ivy League Connection assembled in the back for a group photo. After what seemed like hundreds of flashes, we were dismissed from the meeting.
On my way out the multipurpose room, I was congratulated by what seemed like an endless crowd of people. It was such as joy to be appreciated and recognized by the community. I imagine this is only a small fraction of what celebrities are used to. 

I could definitely get used to this.

School Board, I Present To You The Future

I told my dad, “ Drive faster, we are going to be late.”  He took those words seriously.  We arrived at Lovonya DeJean Middle School at around 6:05, luckily on time.  As my parents and I walked into the multipurpose room where the meeting was going to take place, we were quickly separated.  Mr. Rea called us to a corner, gave a small overview of the schedule, and then told us to sit with our cohort.  “David Barba,” shouted Don Gosney, then gave my the UPenn flag, which was to be carried by us as we were presented to the School Board.

The meeting started off will the basics, attendance, and a brief summary of the night. Then it kicked off into full gear.  Multiple teachers and students of from different ESL programs spoke on behave of stopping budget cuts of there program and asking for funds. After listening to all of the speeches, I felt that the students gave better speeches than the teachers. In particular, there was one speech, in which, a six-year-old girl went up with her mother and talked about how it was because of ESL that her mother was able to help her with her homework.  I believe that anybody alive would become a supporter of adult school after seeing this.

The ILC cohorts were up next.  Each cohort went up and the chaperones introduced the students and what each one will be doing this coming summer.  I felt proud to be in front of the WCCUSD School Board.  After being presented to the school board, we each received a certificate to recognize my participation with ILC.  This is one of the many memories that I will have of the ILC, I have already framed and placed the certificate in my room.  We were followed by the sponsors, who deserve many thanks, and unfortunately, did not have an opportunity to speak. The last speakers were two former ILCers.  After listening to their speeches, they drastically increased my excitement for this summer.  Each speech had one thing in common, and that was that the ILC produces the leaders of the future.

The meeting was over, but the ILC kept going. Don stepped up to the plate when it came to the group picture. Knowing that photography is his forte, setting up was going to take awhile.  There was “you move to the right” and “you move to the left,” but alas, we were in position.  Don took almost an endless amount of photos.

The night was one of the four landmark events of the ILC.  As the next one gets close, so does the summer, which I just can’t wait for it to come already.

WCCUSD Ambassadors

I wasn't sure what to expect as I stepped into the Lovonya multipurpose room. There were people everywhere, but I found the ILC group in no time at all. They were the well dressed group off to the side. I quickly went over and joined them. I saw a few familiar faces along with many new ones. Mr. Rhea soon came over and gave us instructions. We were instructed to find our chaperone and cohort and sit together. I was glad to see the familiar faces of the people in my cohort.

The meeting began with the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance. After that, one by one speakers made their way to the podium to address the board with their concerns. I wasn't expecting to be so captivated by the speakers. When they spoke, you could clearly hear how devoted they were to their cause. It wasn't one boring monotone speech after the next. The speaker that stood out the most to me, and I'm sure to a lot of other people as well, was the six year old girl pleading the board to continue providing ESL classes for her mother.

The Ivy League came next. Cohort after cohort stood before the board, proudly holding up the flag to the school they would be attending. The chaperones introduced us one at a time, and they spoke in detail about the trips we'll be making. We were then given lovely certificates for our involvement in the ILC. After every cohort went up, it was the sponsor's turn to take the spotlight. The next two speakers were two former ILC participants. They spoke about how they benefited from their experience while on the east coast, how it has helped them now, and how much we would enjoy ours. The last speakers of the night were the members of the school board who wanted to add their input to what had been said about this year's participants.

Now it was Don's turn to step into the spotlight. He guided us over to the area where we would take our group picture. He first seated most of the girls and positioned the rest of them, then the boys (some seated, some stood up), chaperones next, and lastly the parents. It was a large group, but Don had everything under control. He took a step back, made a few changes, then the flashes began. After a couple million pictures were taken we were dismissed.

We were called the future, WCCUSD ambassadors, the best of the district. Why would anybody be unhappy after all of that? I see no reason why this summer shouldn't be the best I've had so far.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Opportunity of A Lifetime

“Sorry, excuse me!” I murmured as I rushed through the crowd in front of the doors of the LeVonya DeJean auditorium. I spotted the knot of ILC students and hurried over. It was 6:10 PM, 5 minutes before we were supposed to meet for the school board meeting, so obviously I felt as though I was 10 minutes late. After some instructions from Mr. Rhea, we were able to mingle briefly, which I enjoyed because there hadn’t yet been an event where all of the ILCers were together. Eventually we all seated ourselves, making sure that we were grouped by cohort.

Before we were introduced, the school board took care of some of its everyday business. I was fascinated to observe the many speakers who appealed to the school board to keep funding adult education. There were about 20 speakers, ordinary members of the community, who aired their views about the issue. The passion in their voices was obvious, and it was touching to hear students speak so plainly about their need to take ESL classes so they could help their children with homework, and to hear teachers speak with pride of their students’ accomplishments and the good that these programs do.

I also realized that the process that allowed those community members to speak in front of the school board is very valuable. Although I suspect it becomes exasperating at times for the board to hear so many people, I think that it’s vital for community members to have a place to make their views heard, as decisions made by the school board can have major impacts for the WCCUSD. Education is a valuable resource for everyone, so everyone should get to speak up on these important issues.

Once all the speakers had shared their opinions, we moved on to the Ivy League Connection. Each cohort was called up and the chaperones introduced all 42 of the ILC participants, except for my friend Alex Wing, who was too ill to attend. After we were presented to the community and the school board, Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Rhea recognized and thanked the sponsors for making the program possible. Finally, Austin Long and Terilyn Chen gave speeches about their experiences in the ILC and the benefits that it gives to the community. Their speeches really brought home the opportunity we’ve been given and the responsibilities we have as ambassadors of the WCCUSD.

Eventually Don was able to gather all the students and parents, more than 100 people in total, and arrange us all to take the hallmark ILC picture. This is a truly impressive demonstration of Don’s expertise, as he manages to make us all look presentable in the final product, despite the unavoidable cases of blinking.

The school board meeting was a great opportunity to meet the rest of the 2012 ILC group, and I was especially happy to see the rest of my Penn cohort. I know that the amazing experience of going to Penn will be made even more exciting because of my traveling companions. Everyone is very friendly and open, and I can tell we will have a wonderful time on the East Coast.

School Board Meeting: Check!

Tonight marked one of the major landmarks in my ILC journey- the School Board Meeting.   After arriving at Lovonya Dejean Middle school I quickly found the other ILC students, most definitely the snazziest dressers at the meeting.  I mingled a bit with everyone else and after some quick instructions, it was time to sit down.  

Both Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg were in their element on the stage with the school board, and President Ramsey promptly started the meeting.  Of course, Don also looked in his element perched in the corner of the stage taking pictures.  Never having been to a School Board meeting before, I was not quite prepared for what was to follow. The board members took roll and rapidly voted on different items.  I'm still not entirely sure what was going on, but it was a very exciting start to the meeting.  

The meeting included many attendees who wished to speak about adult education in our district.  Each speaker was very moving, and I couldn't help rooting  for them, especially the 6-year-old student who begged the board to continue allowing her mother to learn English at night school. 

The Ivy League Connection was next on the agenda.  The chaperones for each group introduced all the students and spoke about their  excitement for the coming summer. It was nice to put some names to faces I had seen around the blogs and e-mails.  We even received very nice certificates to acknowledge our participation in the program, and I know this is one of the first things I will keep forever to remind me of my summer at Penn.  The sponsors were then presented to the board and students, and a well deserved thank you was given to them all.

Next came our group photo, a monumental task during which Don got the students, parents, and chaperones arranged and took countless photos.  I am almost certain I blinked during each flash, but I hope one picture turned out okay.   Seeing all the ILC participants in one place for the first time made the prospect of my amazing summer even more real.  I wish it would just hurry up and get here already!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pinole City Council

On Tuesday May 15 , all student connected with the ILC in Pinole gathered at the Pinole city council meeting , to make a presentation and show the council the future that is coming from Pinole.

When I first arrived at the Pinole city council building, which is literally down the street from my house, I was Surprised at the setup of the room , which was actually like a court. All of the ILC'ers dressed up in our fancy clothes , prepared to make and impression on the council that would stick with them forever. Many of my cohorts had the speech's written out, but I like to practice my impromptu skills that I have acquired over my high school career of forensics. As the seats filled , I was very happy to see one of my dearest friends Andrew Gonzales , which is one of my main influences for being in the ILC. As each of my fellow students gave the speech and stated the different schools they would be attending along with the program , I could tell the council was getting overjoyed at the presence of us eager to learn students. One of the many things that I want to bring back from my trip , are the experiences of a lifetime so that my friends and fellow classmates can vicariously part and get a taste of what college and the ILC is all about.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

New People, New Food, and New Memories

The day at school hadn't been my best, and to add to that, I was really nervous about the arrival of our beginning. The first dinner was that day, May 1, and it was for PENN. I left school a half and hour early to make sure I had enough time to get ready. I was dressed and ready as was my father who was accompanying me. I suppose that due to the nerves I completely disregarded the Bart station we were supposed to meet at, and we ended up going to the wrong one. That, of course is no excuse, but everything worked out in the end after a phone call from Don. We got on Bart and we were all then on our way. Riding Bart is something new for me, so it was a bit fascinating. It took a couple of minutes, and then there we were four to a taxi on our way to the restaurant.

I was incredibly surprised when I stepped inside the restaurant. If you would have been driving past it, it might seem quite mundane. Inside it was very nice. We were greeted by a lady who offered to take our coats, then we were sent into our private dinning room. Once we were seated the night officially began. Every speaker had something different to say, yet it all had shared one theme. "You can do it."

The food was quite a surprise, a really good surprise. We were offered three different choices for our first meal, four for our second, and two for our dessert. I ordered the crab salad, the salmon, and the sorbet. Everything was wonderful, every appetizer, every meal, and the service.


                                                          The Crab Salad  
                                                         The Sorbet

I was having a a great time, but the night couldn't go on forever. Before I knew it I was back in my room, dreaming about my trip in the summer.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Night To Remeber

As school ended on Tuesday , May 1st , I found myself rushing home to get ready for my Penn dinner. As thoughts ran through my head I tried to visualize how the dinner would be , would there be a lot of pressure , would I have 30 eyes looking directly at me. This is where I began to become nervous , but there was more too come as I left the house and hour early just to make sure that I wasn't late , but I was indeed on time to the Bart station.

The Bart ride was what I would call  a foreign experience , seeing how I have only been on one  two times in my life. As My group headed to San Francisco we got to actually get too know each other a bit more and also to admire the two students actually admitted to Penn.  As we waited for cabs , Don presented us with a since of trust because we were the ones handling the money for the cab fees and  responsible for receiving a receipt afterwards.

Upon arriving at the restaurant with my cohorts , my jaw dropped at the sight of a coat check in . I had never experienced such a thing in my life. When we were seated I looked around the room and was anxious for what was in store. When I was able to introduce myself to the group I took advantage of  making the best impression I could .

When the food started to come , I suddenly Found myself struggling to figure out what exactly the names of the food were . Out of everything on the menu there was about 10 words that I actually understood to make my decisions on what I should eat that night , which was salmon. I soon realized this was a mistake and I should have gone with my gut feeling of the Pheasant. Overall I really enjoyed the dinner and  conversing with my cohorts and the alumni of Penn. I am really glad and fortunate to be able to be attending Penn this summer and I want to thank everyone that has contributed towards my scholarship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Motion Has Started...With A Dinner

The Penn Cohort reached the Civic Center Bart station at around 5:50PM. During the whole ride on BART, I was nervous about my speech. I reviewed my speech a numerous of times the day before and while I was on BART. As we got closer and closer to our destination, I felt that I mastered my speech, but was still nervous. Once we arrived to the streets of San Francisco, we still had to walk a bit more to get a taxi. We broke up into groups of four. I was in a group with my mom, Ivette, and Ivette’s father. 

When we entered the La Folie, my jaw dropped. On the outside was a cold, windy San Francisco. On the inside, was a warm, luxurious restaurant. There were various paintings on the wall and the staff was welcoming. We walked across the  La Folie to private roomful of sponsors of ILC and Alumni of Penn. Everybody was assigned seats by Madeline Kronenberg. I ended up seating next to Mariko and Ivette. 

Before the introductions and speeches, one of the waitresses went up and described each meal in enormous detail. After much thought, I decide to start with the crab salad as my appetizer. The main dish required no thought all once I saw that they had steak. Unfortunately, I had only two desserts to choose from, chocolate cake or seasonal sorbet. I decided that there will always be chocolate cake in my life, so I went with the sorbet.
Phil Schlein giving his speech.

The introductions and speeches started. I was surprised to see and meet everyone and get to know who they were. Out of everybody who was were, I was the most surprised with Phil Schlein. He was the CEO of Macy’s in the whole west coast. To see someone of that much success sponsoring the ILC gave me a rush of happiness and joy. It showed my that people do care, which made my confident to go on, to never give up. Then I started to think. This room can’t possibly hold each and every sponsor. It’s is not just my family and the ILC that want my to succeed, but its my whole country that stands behind me. The speeches continued with me going up afterwards. I had prepared a speech a few days ago when Charles Ramsey sent out the email saying that I would have to speak. This is were I believe I messed up. Before the dinner, I merely scratched the door of the ILC. Then after listening to everyone’s introduction, my views were changed completely, as I was shot full of pride knowing that I was one of the few. The few that get the opportunity. The few that are represented. The few, out of a whole nation, that get to be apart of the Ivy League Connection, and there is not a single program like the ILC out there.

The Alumni of Penn.

After all the speeches, we started to get our food. Although we had to wait a some time, time is what I wish I had more of. The food was exquisite. The people were, and still are, splendid. I got a chance to meet everybody’s character. One thing that that quickly popped out to me was that Charles Ramsey was a big sports fan, when he pulled out his phone to check the score of some game. The air was filled with laughter and happiness. Unfortunately, it couldn’t last for every, but luckily memories do. We had to take the same process we did to get back home: taxi to BART, BART to El Cerrito Plaza, and then home. While this was happening, I thought to myself, I can’t wait for PENN!

Crab Salad. Appetizing 

"La Boeuf" or the beef, either way mouthwatering.

The Sorbet.....tempting.

2012 UPENN Cohort.

The Appetizer Before My Summer at Penn

About a month ago, I told my dad we would be dining at La Folie in San Fransisco and his jaw dropped to the floor. Since then, I looked forward to this dinner with intense excitement.  We arrived at the Bart station 15 minutes early, or for Ivy League standards, right on time.  We were soon joined by the rest of our group, and I finally got the chance to meet the other students that will become my travel companions in two short months. After a harrowing train ride, where I learned that riding Bart in heels is not as easy as people make it look, a windy walk, and a short cab ride we arrived at the restaurant. 

My appetizer
I know this is not a blog for food reviews, but I must take a moment to relay that the meal I had last night  consisted of some of the best food I have ever eaten.  Every dish was plated spectacularly and the look of the food was only topped by its taste.  Before our meal, we enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, my favorite being the mini bacon and cheese tarts.  Then came the amuse bouche, two bite-sized starters that set the tone for the meal perfectly. I chose a goat cheese tatin for my appetizer, the squab and mushroom stuffed quail for my entree, and the chocolate cake for dessert.  My life-long love for chocolate reached a whole new level when I bit into the cake and the hot chocolate filling gushed out.  Even my father, who worked in restaurants for 17 years, was rendered speechless by everything he ate.

Ms. Kronenberg gives her opening remarks.

Food aside, the speakers and social aspects of dinner were also very enjoyable.  Ms. Kronenberg welcomed us and I learned a little bit about each of my dinner companions as we all stood to introduce ourselves.  The dining room contained many fascinating people, including Penn alums,   ILC sponsors, district members, future Penn students who also did the ILC, the other students in my cohort and their family members.  After our welcome, Mr. Schlein, a Penn alum, spoke about the amazing opportunity ahead of us and his thoughts on the Ivy League Connection.  Next up were the two student speakers, David Barba for Physics, and my fellow Gaucho Chloe Alston for Social Justice.  Both shared their excitement and thanks for the great summer the ILC has provided for us, and I agreed with every word they spoke.  Alex Elms, a two-time ILCer and member of Penn Class of 2016 talked about his journey with the ILC.  His speech was rich with passion and it reminded me how lucky and honored I feel to be a part of this wonderful program.  Finally, Mr. Ramsey gave his closing remarks and we started to eat and talk amongst ourselves. 

At my table, I spoke to Beth, a Penn alum.  She shared her experience at Penn, where she transferred after two years at UMass Amherst, my older brother's school.  We talked about the different aspects to consider in choosing a college and the many things that make Penn a great school.  I also spoke with Dyana So, a past ILC participant and future Penn student.  She talked about her high school experience and the decision of joining Penn's incoming freshman class.  Alysa and I compared our different high schools and discovered that we have several years of trumpet playing in common.  

Mariko, Chloe, and I outside the restaurant
The dinner was delicious, the people were amazing, and meeting the students I will soon spend a month with was great.  Even though I already know Chloe and Mariko from school, I know it wont be long before I am just as close with Alysa, Cameron, Ivette, and David.  If this dinner was just the appetizer, my summer at Penn will have to be the greatest summer of my life. 

There's A First Time For Everything

Me, Chloe, Clara, and Mariko at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station.

After leaving school an hour and a half early, driving home, hectically changing clothes, and rushing out the door with my mother, I finally arrived at the El Cerrito Plaza bart station at about 5:05 PM. I was really anxious because initially I had planned to arrive at 5 but the traffic on the freeway did not allow this. Upon exiting the car I felt a surge of nervousness. From the parking lot, I could see a group of young scholars that I assumed to be members of the Ivy League Connection. I walked up to the group and was surprised at how friendly everyone was. I had been waiting for this day since I was admitted into the Ivy League Connection, I would finally be meeting my cohort and chaperone! I engaged in conversation with the other girls who would be attending the University of Pennsylvania with me this summer while we waited for everyone to arrive.
 Once the last of the group arrived, we boarded the BART train headed towards San Francisco. The ride was a long one; it seemed longer than it should have, probably because I had been awake since 6:45 that morning and had no break in between. We got off the BART at the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco.We then walked a few blocks to the public library.  Once we reached the public library we broke into groups of four in order to take taxis to La Folie, the restaurant at which we'd be dining at. Watching people hailing cabs was one of the most fun occurences of the evening. After being passed up by a number of taxis, my group and I jumped into a taxi SUV and we were on our way! On our way to the restaurant, I learned that our chaperone coaches both football and baseball at a local high school.
My personalized menu!

When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted right away by a lovely woman asking for our coats. After taking coats, she led us to a small dining room off to the side. When I say small, I mean tiny. The room was vertically striped in purple and green and for some reason it reminded me of the Joker from Batman. We were all cramped in the room eating  hors d’ oeuvres. The were many options but I had the asparagus soup and a bacon and egg tart. After socializing for about ten minutes we were allowed to sit in the seats that had menus customized with our names on them. I was seated at the table closest to the door with Ms. Kronenberg to my left, Bruce Lengacher( Clara's dad) to my right, and my mother, Denise Butler directly across from me.
Delicious quail and squab wrapped in potato skins baked to perfection.
Dinner was a lovely experience. I had the quail and squab, which was much different from anything I've ever eaten. It was surprisingly delicious. The quail and squab were bundled together and then wrapped in crispy potato skins that reminded me very much of Lays Original potato chips. While eating dinner I had the chance to participate in some lovely conversations. I spoke with Clara and Dyana about the differences between a traditional high school and Middle College, which is considered an alternative school. I also spoke with Ms. Kronenberg and University of Pennsylvania Alumni about the food choices available to students on campus as well as off. Although conversing with these people over great food was fun, my overall favorite part of the night was desert. For desert I had strawberry sorbet, passionfruit sorbet in a cannoli, and chocolate sorbet. My favorites were the fruit sorbets as I'm not that big of a fan of frozen chocolate treats.
After taking group pictures and gathering our coats, we all hopped into separate cabs and headed to the BART station. Dinner at La Folie was an amazing experience and I look forward to seeing more of my cohort soon. Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who has made the Ivy league Connection what it is today.

Fine Dining and the Penn Cohort

When I stepped out of the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco, I began to seriously second-guess my decision to wear a short wool coat instead of a swim parka, Onesie, or similar garment that would have covered my entire body in cloth. The notorious SF winds were unpleasantly chilly as I walked the short blocks to catch a taxi with Clara, her dad, and my mom, but once I was inside I ended up being fine. Our destination was La Folie, chosen venue to host the Ivy League Connection dinner with alumni of UPenn and benefactors of the ILC. Dyana So and Alex Elms, ILC alumns and recent admits to the Penn Class of ’16 were also in attendance; as they are both past ILC participants they were happy to answer questions we might have.

As we arranged ourselves around the two long tables, I was happy to see that I was seated next to David, who will take physics at Penn with me this summer. David goes to Middle College, so I don’t know him as well as I know Clara or Chloe, and I was glad for the opportunity to talk with him. I was also able to get to know Ivette a little better during dinner, as we chatted about our expectations for the program and our different experiences during the interview process.

Mr. Schlein congratulates us and offers some words of wisdom
I also spoke with Louis, a Penn alumn of ’07 now at Stanford for grad school. He was friendly and open about his days at Penn. He also compared his different experiences in college and grad school, saying that Penn had lots of fun, quirky traditions that helped students bond, while Stanford had a stronger sports program that students could rally around.  I especially enjoyed hearing about the Penn tradition where the rising senior class marches through the entire campus to the president’s office wearing Styrofoam hats. After being recognized by the university president as the new senior class, friends take bites out of each other’s hats! Louis also recommended a couple of museums to check out while in Philadelphia, which I hope to do if I have enough time to explore the city.

Mr. Ramsey speaks about the unique opportunity we have been offered as a part of the ILC
Of course, all of these conversations were put on the back burner when the food arrived. Need I say it was amazing? We started off with hors d’ oeuvres like bacon and cheese tarts and artichoke soup. After taking our seats, we moved on to other treats, including delicious eggs flavored with herbs and served in their shells. My first course was a goat cheese tartin, which was beautifully plated in addition to being extremely tasty. The main course was a quail stuffed with squab and wrapped with potatoes, served with roasted vegetables. Although I later heard that it wasn’t what everyone expected, I found it quite satisfactory and was excited to try something new that I hadn’t had before. I feel as though my culinary gamble paid off nicely. Dessert was sumptuous, rich chocolate cake with brandied dried fruit. Although I wasn’t entirely sure that a 16 year old such as myself was supposed to eat the brandy-soaked fruit, I can quite truthfully say as a chocolate lover that the cake was amazing.

Goat cheese is one of my favorite foods, so naturally I had to order this dish
Quail dinner–mmmmmm, yummy
I was so excited to taste my chocolate cake that I didn't manage to get a photo of it before I started eating
Once again, the ILC put on a wonderful event that opened my eyes even more to the wonderful opportunities available to me at Penn. The food was wonderful, if that wasn’t already apparent from my long reminiscence earlier, the company was friendly and inspiring, and I even got home before 11 PM. I call that a success.

Tonight Was So Perfect

My afternoon started out fairly normal for a Tuesday and I was feeling a bit nervous about speaking in front of everyone at dinner tonight.  Even so, I kept calm and figured that there was absolutely no reason to be nervous because I knew that everyone who was attending dinner was on my side already.  Nonetheless, I had a jittery feeling throughout the day and was anxious for school to be over so that I could take BART over to San Francisco with the UPENN cohort.

Yesterday afternoon I bought an outfit that I felt would be appropriate for the ILC dinner and the fact that I felt comfortable in my ensemble gave me one less thing to fret over.  I told my mom that we needed to be at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station at 5:00 PM so that we would have 15 minutes of leeway time in case we needed it.  Turns out, we we arrived at the meeting site just after 5:00 PM and were greeted by Don and a few of the students and their parents. So far, the technicalities were settled smoothly.

While on BART, I had the chance to talk with Mariko's mom for a bit and listened to the conversation between she and my mom.  I was not sitting close to anyone else in the group besides the two of them so I was not able to mingle with the others but instead Clara and I made funny faces at each other from across the train car.  I was also trying to figure out what else I should say in my speech for, even though I tried not to be, I was still a little nervous.

After we had arrived at the Civic Center BART station and walked up a couple blocks, the slight challenge was to flag down enough taxis to drive us to the restaurant, La Folie.  We split up into groups of four and I rode with my mom, Cameron, and Alex.  Our cab driver was very entertaining with his great British accent and cab quizzes.  In that short little ride I learned that there are approximately 1500 cabs running in San Francisco and a whopping 16,000 in New York!  This made my home town of San Francisco seem relatively cozy and small.  When we arrived at Polk and Green, I paid with money given to us by Don, and all was right until I forgot to get a receipt from the cab driver!  This is something that Don had asked us specifically to do and I felt really bad about this silly mistake, but I promised never to do it again so Don nicely let me off this one time.

Crab Salad
The restaurant itself was an elegant French place with beautiful paintings and cordial staff.  Our large group assembled in a separate room for dinner, however we did not begin to eat for a little while.  As the waitress explained to us in further detail the items on the menu, I was not sure whether to be adventurous or safe.  I kept on feeling that I should order the most interesting dish because I knew I was not going to be back at La Folie any time soon.  In the end I decided to keep it safe and order the salmon plate, knowing that it would be delicious anyway.  When everyone's orders had finally arrived later on I had a feeling of regret for not ordering the quail, lamb, or beef dishes.  While my salmon was indeed satisfying, I got to try a bit of my mom's quail dish and it was absolutely scrumptious.  At that moment I really wished that I had ordered the same as her.  As for my appetizer, I ordered the crab salad which was a bit different than what I am used to.  My desert on the other hand was the strawberry and lemon-mint granite (I believe it was called), and this was an excellent way to finish off my courses.  The strawberry sorbet was the perfect sweetness and I savored every last drop.
Satisfied Customer

Despite the yummy food, I had a great time talking to the people at my table when I found a good place to jump into the conversation.  I was seated next to Cameron so we naturally conversed more but I tried to listen in on the entertaining conversations around us when there was not a main speaker up front.  

The speeches made were interesting and engaging and I appreciated the fact that some alums, sponsers, and future UPENN students took the time to come out to the dinner and speak to and with us.  Rather than writing up a speech myself I used some talking points that I had previously thought about and spoke from the heart.  I hope that my speech was as fun as I meant for it to be.  I wanted to convey my excitement and joy in regard to this entire process and hopefully I was able to do so.

Overall, I had a wonderful night and felt ready to snuggle up in my warm bed back home.  As we were taking the BART back to El Cerrito however, I caught sight of a friend of mine from school.  We were both playing this long-term game with a bunch of other students and basically he was my target so I had to spray him with water in order to get him out.  I just so happened to have a vase of flowers full of water so I tried to sneak towards him in the hope that he would not see me and try to run.  On the way, I tripped over the woman's bag and almost fell myself! But, I saved my fall and surprised him with a water attack.  Quite a fun way to end the night.