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!