Wednesday, August 1, 2012

An Unforgettable Summer

I remember sitting quietly during Mr. Gosney's presentation of the Ivy League Connection at my high school. It feels as though it was just yesterday when I first heard about this program. I was amazed that there was a program like this available for my school district, and that I qualified! 

The application process seemed quite simple. You wrote an essay for the program you wanted following the essay prompt for that specific program  that was sent out by Mr. Gosney. If your essay was chosen,  you'd then go through an interview. If you made it past the interview, well then you made it.

I was so surprised when I got the email telling me I had made it to the interview for social justice at Penn. I had already gone through two interviews for two other programs. There was a huge difference between the Penn interview and the interviews for the other two programs. That difference being my confidence level. For the first two interviews I was extremely nervous, and I went in there already believing I would not get the spot. I don't know what made me change my state of mind for the third interview, but I'm so glad it did! I could tell the difference in the way I answered the questions, the way I positioned my body, and I had a huge smile across my face for the majority of my interview. I walked out of the interview room with my head held high. When it was time to announce which three out of the seven applicants were chosen, I still felt quite confident. During the past two times that I had gone through that part, I was sure I wasn't going to get it. I just couldn't imagine it, I was sure that there was no way that I would ever win something like that. That is why I found it so strange that I wasn't nervous that third time around. When my name was called, I didn't know how to react. Of course I was happy, but I wasn't sure what other feelings were there, shock maybe a bit of disbelief.

Three and a half months later we embarked on our journey together. Mariko, Clara, Chloe, Cameron, Alysa, David, and Mr. Lawrence, these were the people I'd be spending the next thirty-five days with. That first week together was one of the best weeks I've ever had. Every dinner, every campus tour, every plane ride, and every minute just brought the Penn team closer together. I had no idea how close we'd all be by the end of the trip, we became a family. Every dinner was an experience, and I mean that in the best way possible. Dinning with the college students and college administrators was very helpful. I am a rising junior, so before this trip I really hadn't given much thought to which college I'd like to attend. Thanks to that first week, not only am I really serious about college now, but I now know where I'd like to apply!

When the second week came around I was both sad and excited. The second week meant moving into our dorms and beginning our classes at Penn, but it also meant that we would no longer be spending as much time together.

The next four weeks cannot be described in just one word. My social justice class was mind blowing. There could not have been a more perfect class out there for me. I was so drawn in during every class session, every discussion, every field trip, and every presentation. We covered such a wide range of topics in the class, so no two days were ever the same. I think the reason why the class was so great was because of the people who were teaching it, Prof Lamas and Michael. This was the first year this class was offered at Penn, and I think Prof. Lamas did an amazing job when putting it together. He and Michael made sure that we, the students, were always involved. They created such a special classroom environment where it felt like there was no higher authority, we were all equal. From day one we were encouraged to speak up. We tried to create judgement-free environment where nobody was afraid to say what they thought. 

There were so many things to do outside of the classroom. Summer Discovery, the program that provided the classes, made sure there was always some fun activity going on. Every single day there was something different. Along with the activities available, every Friday was movie night, and every Saturday we went on a day trip. Those day trips include a visit to New York and Time's Square, Georgetown, and Ocean City, New Jersey. If you didn't want to participate in their daily activities, their five story gym was a two minute walk away and Center City (shopping) was also available.

The whole journey was incredible. Now that I'm home it feels as though it was all one amazing dream. The diverse group of people I met, perfect class, delicious food, and beautiful campus, it is all a part of an unforgettable experience. I learned so much in such little time. There is a whole world out there outside of my community, and I can be a part of it. It's possible for me to do whatever I want in life, to reach every goal , and accomplish every dream. I just have to keep working hard, to never feel like what I'm doing won't pay off in the future because it will.

I know this is the first year that the social justice program was offered by the ILC, and that they aren't sure yet if they should offer it again next year, so to all of those wondering whether to continue it or not, I say YES. A million times yes! The class really is life changing, and I'd hate for my group to be the only group of students to experience it. It is worth it.

I want to take time now to say thank you to everybody who made this summer possible. Thank you to Don Gosney, Charles Ramsey, and Madeline Kronenberg for such an amazing organization. The Ivy League Connection has really changed my life! The donors who made it all possible! Your money is doing something incredible for the lives of so many teenagers! You aren't just giving us a fun summer, you are opening doors for us. Prof. Lamas, Michael, and Nantina, you put together a great class! Thank you for treating me as an equal instead of a student, and thank you for providing the class that you did! Summer Discovery, Ed Healy, thank you for making my four weeks at Penn so much fun! And to everybody else who was involved in making it all possible, thank you so much!  I would have never had the chance to do what I did this summer if it weren't for you all!

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