Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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

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