To have this journey come to an end is a bit strange for me. I remember hearing about the ILC from my friend Ava Burnell during our Sophomore year, and I knew that this was a program I wanted to be a part of at the end of my Junior year. Well, things did not turn out as planned when this opportunity presented itself, and I almost missed out on one of the greatest experiences in my life.
I can recall sitting in Calculus one morning, when suddenly an office T.A comes into the room and hands out call slips to a number of students. All of those students were asked to leave for the theater immediately for some presentation, so they all filed out of the classroom. When I realized that literally all of the Juniors in the classroom, besides Ava Burnell and I had left, I was extremely confused; especially after I learning, much later, that the assembly was for an ILC presentation. Missing this event almost caused me to entirely miss out on the program, but thanks to my former math teacher from Portola, Ms. Nakahara, I was introduced to Don Gosney and learned that there was one more summer class available at the University of Pennsylvania: The Social Justice Research Academy.
I must say that I was a little nervous during the application process, primarily because of the interview. Don sent out a set of sample questions beforehand, which helped me out immensely. I had mock interviews with my mom and aunt using those questions as well as some additional ones they came up with; these prepared me for the real interview more than I imagined at first. When the day came to actually be interviewed, I was still extremely nervous, but I put on my best outfit, calmed myself down, and headed into the third floor classroom at El Cerrito High School, which was to be the waiting room. Already, I felt just a bit less nervous when I saw how they laid out all of these snacks for us, and even less when Don came in and I was able to meet him in person for the first time. He was very kind to us and told us not to worry because everyone in that other room was on our side. After a little while, most of my nerves had calmed, and I felt excited to get in there for the interview. I ended up being the first one to be interviewed, which made my nerves rise again, but I tried to walk into the room with confidence. The interview was very professional, but I still could tell that the 10 or so people in the room asking me questions were in fact on my side; they were just trying to get a sense of who I really was, and what I would be able to give back to the program. Once those 17 minutes were over, I felt a bit relieved, but I was anxious to hear what they thought of me. By the time every applicant had gone, I already felt more comfortable because everyone was so nice, despite the competition. When we were finally called into the other room to hear the results, I almost screamed out of joy because my name was the first one they announced! I remember how incredibly excited I was to hear that I had gotten this scholarship and it still makes me smile. Cameron Fulton and Ivette Alejandre were the other two students who had received a scholarship for the Social Justice class, and we were all smiling while Don went over the rules of the program. What made me super excited at the end of the night was when Ivette was getting ready to leave and then she said that we were going to be best friends. I am so happy to say that she ended up being right, because I have become incredibly close to her and Cameron, as well as the physics students: Clara, David, Alysa, and Mariko.
This program was absolutely perfect for me because I already focus on issues of Social Justice with my dance company, Destiny Arts, and I was interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me. Although I was nervous to begin the class when we first arrived in Philadelphia, I soon felt extremely comfortable because Prof. Lamas is such an incredible teacher. He and Michael truly widened my view of the world and got me thinking much more critically about events occurring all over the globe. Our field trips provided amazing insight into the local neighborhoods of Philadelphia. I began to understand how deeply rooted the problems of these areas are, and how they are connected to the larger issues people face all around the world today. This class has given me time to grow into myself in such unbelievable ways, and I cannot thank Prof. Lamas and our other teachers enough for that.
However, I would not even have had this opportunity if it had not been for the incredible hard work of Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg, and Charles Ramsey. Together they truly create life changing opportunities for us young students, and I am forever grateful. They set up a trip where not only do we students get to take amazing classes at Ivy League universities, but we have an entire week prior to those classes, during which we have very memorable dinners with current members of three other universities. On my trip, I was able to have one-on-one conversations with students and admissions officers from Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University. All of the people I met were kind and helped me understand why they love the school they attend. After that one week, I had a much more complete idea of what school I want to attend, which will definitely be one on the East Coast. I cannot thank Don, Madeline, and Charles enough for this life changing opportunity, and it is because of the Ivy League Connection that I now know exactly how to reach my college goals and, in turn, create a life for myself that will allow me to make a difference in this world. Thank you.