Saturday, September 5, 2009

From Yohanna Pepa's Parents

For us parents, it was also a pretty intense two weeks of anticipation coupled with reading blogs and e-mails. We can probably now handle Facebook or MySpace chatting. Actually the magnitude of the intensity is more on becoming aware that our daughter, Yohanna is growing as a person, maturing and on her way to seek out her purpose.

It was a two-week crash course in being weaned from having her at home to that inevitable gone off to college far away. Parents want the best their child could be, and sometimes it requires letting go. With such scholarly lectures Matt, Jessica, Yohanna and Stephanie experienced from erudite professors lead by Dr. Luong, these four chosen to be at Yale will never be the same again. The positive experience even whets their appetites for more knowledge and kindles their enthusiasm to pursue excellence.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the Ivy League Connection for giving this immense opportunity. We cannot think of any greater venture at Yohanna’s age of 16. This could not be possible if not because of the caring, unrelenting commitment of Charles Ramsey, the dedication of Madeline Kronenberg, the support of the rest of the School Board, Principal Sue Kahn, Superintendent Bruce Harter and staff, the generous funding of the sponsors, and the indefatigable participation of Don Gosney.

As for Yohanna, she would not be what she is today if not for teachers like Mr. Nesmith, Ms. Lamons and Mr. Wilson doing their jobs more as a calling. They have inspired her so much so that the once shy girl is leading a 70 +member marching band as their drum major as well as co-charing the Pinole Valley High School debate team. Mr. Wilson engaging lectures piqued Yohanna’s interest in history and civilization that came in handy for Yale’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy. The course culminated with Marshall Brief Presentations, which consisted of giving briefings to the USA President and Vice-president, etc. role-played by Yale professors.

The Ivy League Connection not only opens new windows for West County families but it also gives a sense of community. It makes available the best in education that paves the way to brighter futures. Every aspect is well thought out that there is a fitting chaperone for each group and Ms. Sue Kim assisting with the college application process. The participants get their feet at the door at these northeastern institutions that have a perception of being only for the affluent. With people involved giving so generously of their time, knowledge and guidance, they are not so elusive anymore. We are deeply grateful and it is our hope for the Ivy League Connection to flourish and be blessed.

Eric and Youra Pepa

From Stephanie Ny's Parents

Dear Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, sponsors, supporters and members of the Ivy League Connection:

We would like to thank everyone for their hard work and for devoting valuable time into making this program a success. We are honored and grateful that our daughter Stephanie was chosen to go to Yale for the intense two-week program.

The Yale Ivy Scholars Program has made Stephanie more confident, mature and independent. We saw this confidence, this maturity, and this independence the moment she returned - and it's all thanks to the faith each and every one of the supporters, sponsors, professors, and instructors placed in our daughter.

After two avid weeks of following this blog, we've experienced what Stephanie, Jessica, Yohanna, and Matt have weathered: dorm life, cafeteria food, laundry and vigorous class demands. They have found and made many new friends from all around the world. They've created life-lasting memories with their classmates. Actually, it would be wrong to merely call these people "classmates." Stephanie, Jessica, Yohanna, and Matt have undoubtedly formed a family with their cohorts, instructors, and professors - a family which we're sure will last a lifetime.

One of the purposes of the Ivy League Connection is to have students give back to the community. As a start, we have scheduled a date for Stephanie to teach us all about etiquette! We have heard about Dr. Dr. Luong's etiquette session and have taken great interest in it. This is one of the many things our daughter will bring back to her community as a dawning leader.We're so thankful that the Ivy League Connection exposes our students to the East Coast.

Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg - the two kindhearted, dedicated people who began this program - have come to impact and forever change the lives of many, many WCCUSD students - changes that would have otherwise been near impossible. Because they believed our district could rise above adversity, plenty of WCCUSD scholars have been exposed to Ivy League schools. Through the ILC, these students have applied and gotten into Ivy Leagues.

Once again, our thanks goes out to Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, sponsors, supporters, professors, instructors, and participants. Congratulations to all. Your dedication and time have been well spent.

Forever grateful,

Eric Ny and Lien Chau

Monday, August 17, 2009

From Matt Arciniega's Parents

Many Thanks

Dear Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Supporters of the Ivy League Connection:

When we heard that our son, Matt Arciniega, was chosen as one of the students to attend Yale University with the Ivy League Connection program, we couldn’t have been more thrilled… or so we thought.

From the very beginning, we could see that this was something very special and our son was in good hands. We enjoyed watching the students introduce themselves to the School Board, we enjoyed a delicious meal in San Francisco with Yale alumni and a brand new Eli from WCCUSD, Lauren Croda. We enjoyed listening to Matt as he came home from a dinner in Berkeley with the Director of the program at Yale, Dr. Luong, and said “I’m going to be at this program with kids from the best schools from all over the world. I’m going to have to step up my game!” We watched as Mr. Gosney toted Matt around the East Bay and also made a special trip to our house just to make sure our son had all of the proper equipment and software for his new laptop AND knew how to use it! Everything was so well thought out, so well planned and executed! Dinner arrangements, travel arrangements, computer lessons…even the books were all provided by the ILC!

Now I will confess that it was difficult to watch Matt spend every waking moment of our family vacation at Lake Tahoe buried behind one of the MANY books of required reading. OK, he took a break each night for family dinner and a game, but that’s it! While this was not my ideal family vacation, we were truly amazed and impressed with Matt’s dedication to fulfilling the requirements of this program. He was maturing before our very eyes! If you read his early “Mount Knowledge” blog written just as he returned from Tahoe, you could see how his intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm was unquenchable. He was ready for Yale!

Once in New Haven, our four WCCUSD students hit the ground running; working and studying from sun up to way past sundown each and every day for two weeks. They would write papers, prepare and deliver speeches, work in peer groups on matters of international importance, and even defend their ideas and opinions before an intimidating group called a “murder board.” They learned that they could push themselves beyond what they thought were their limits and see that they had even more to give. We are so, so very proud of all of you!

The fact that the ILC sent Ms. Larson as their chaperone is further evidence of a thoughtful, thorough, well-oiled machine which is the ILC. But the ILC didn’t just keep Matt safe and prepared for a fun trip to Yale. The ILC provided our son with an amazing, life-changing experience that we could not have provided him with in our wildest dreams! I think it’s now safe to say we couldn’t be more thrilled!

Our deepest thanks,

Jesús and Melissa Arciniega

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From Jessica Ong's Parents

Dear Yale Ivy Scholars students:
On behalf of all the parents I am sure we share the same sentiments. We are all so proud of what you have accomplished and experienced in this short two week program. Your strenuous academic performance and the repeatedly challenging classes you took is your guide to a more successful future. It gives you an insight of how college life should be, and will become for all of you very soon.
I understand many of your friends have had a different Ivy League Experience, and perhaps one that is not as intense. But believe me, the amount of work you put in will be equivalent to what you will reap in the future. Always remember that life will balance everything out in the end.
With desire, I have followed all your blogs, waited for more scenic pictures of the popular Ivy League school (the infamous Yale University), and immersed myself into your stories that reminded me of my own college life and the opportunities that opened up for me and the ones that did not. I am so glad that you all had this chance.
Thanks so much to the sponsors, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg, Ms. Sarah Larson (the chaperone) and West Contra Costa School District. This means so much to us parents and to the kids as well. This program does not only tell our kids “yes we can” but with your generosity you imbedded in their thoughts, to keep in mind that “there is always a way” in whatever challenges they face. Of which without your patronage this path will not be lighted. I am sure that with the two awards they brought home to the district, they bring home the honor to share with you all.
Believe me, that the success this program brings is not the end; but just the beginning.
My congratulations again to all participants of the Ivy League Connection and a job well done.
Best wishes for the future,
John and Kelly Ong

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From Jessica Tran & Family

My family and I would like to thank you for helping me gain such a wonderful opportunity at both Columbia and Brown. You have helped open my eyes as well as theirs to new opportunities and possibilities.

Not only have I learned and grown so much from the experiences, but my family is also truly grateful that this district is able to give me a chance that I would never have dreamed possible. I have encountered new cultures, new locations, new colleges, and new people from all around the world. Everything I have learned is definitely being spread around my family as well as friends. Many are stunned to find out about such a wonderful program and I am proud to be a part of it all.

These words cannot truly express our gratitude, but we really hope that you and the Ivy League Connection may expand the hopes and horizons of many others. Thank you for all you have done!


Jessica Tran and Family

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From Rowena Mariano

I started to compose this email yesterday but work got in the way....

Hello Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg.

I can not thank you enough for the wonderful opportunity you've given Courtney these past 2 summers.

2 - 3 years ago, whenever someone asked Courtney what she's planning to take in college; her usual response was Nursing / UCLA; not a shabby choice, I thought.

Then she got invited to participate in ILC in the summer of 2008.

First the UPenn 2008 summer program opened her eyes to the biomedical field; a field I wanted her to explore.

Upon her return from Brown U this year, I hear her talking about applying at Brown, Columbia, UPenn, Stanford and UC and possibly taking Psychology as a minor/major.

Based on the ILC's blogs, Courtney's stories and numerous meetings with you, I have ascertained what a wonderful and safe (thank you chaperones!) program you have in ILC!

I hope you keep it going for years and years, so that other well-deserving WCCUSD kids get the chance:

  1. To visit numerous campuses and expose themselves to university/college options outside of our state
  2. To open their eyes to other fields of studies
  3. To experience what college life is (and perhaps minimize the anxieties when they actually go away to college).

Courtney comes home from the ILC summer programs tired but enriched with wonderful memories of the things she learned & experienced and people she met.

In the end, whatever Courtney ends up choosing to take in college and wherever she ends up going, I'm certain the ILC program played a huge part in her making that informed and wise choice.

Thank you again.
Rowena E. Mariano

From the Mother of Julie Liang

Thank you for giving a chance to Julie to go to Columbia University to learn things. She is very happy and likes it very much. She came back with successful face.
Thank you very much.
Julie’s mother

From Jennifer Locsin Taylor

When I share the news about the Ivy League Connection and how this program has transformed my son's life, people often ask me what private school he attends. People cannot believe that WCCUSD could offer such an opportunity to study at not just one Ivy League school, but five - Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, University of Pennsylvania. Without the dedication, motivation, and commitment of so many people in front of and behind the scenes of the ILC, my son, Zackery Taylor, a student at Pinole Valley High, would not be the confident and driven person he is today.

Zackery's attended Summer at Brown University to study a course entitled, "Leadership for Social Change" and it brought about an awareness, maturity, and independence that was always there and learned to take it to the next level. He met kids from all over the world (Canada, Korea, Sweden & the Congo), who share his passion for making a difference in the community and the world they live in. He brought his world to Brown and quickly adjusted to this new & exciting leadership and college experience. He made so many "connections" in just the two weeks there - alumni from African American & Latino organizations, guest lecturers, professors, teachers and residents assistants - not to mention even an interview with an admissions officer!

The Ivy League Connection helped shape my son's future and he has learned to share the blessings afforded him. Since being back from Brown he is coordinating local, private college tours for students from his high school to inspire them to pursue higher education post high school or even post junior college. He is sharing college brochures he obtained while attending college fairs on the East and West Coasts. He is reminding students about important registration, test, and application deadlines. In essence, he has become the leader you ALL helped cultivate. By using the tools, resources, personal attention, and exposure to -- a world some people only dream of -- he is helping make a difference in the WCCUSD - all because of the Ivy League Connection.

The personal gratifications are to the following:

Mr. Gosney: for capturing this wonderful journey in print and for debating with Zackery so that he can see there are always two sides to every story.

Ms. Sue Kim: for taking the overwhelming college application process to something more personal.

Ms. Sue Kahn: for a fresh start and words of wisdom on first impressions.

Ms. Lamons: for noticing and believing in Zack.

Mrs. Tammy Campbell: for your involvement in all things at the high school and in the community.

Mrs. Kronenberg & Mr. Ramsey: for starting the dream and nurturing, encouraging, and challenging Zackery to reach his TRUE potential.

To the sponsors, parents and community who help make the ILC possible: for making a difference to so many children's future.

It has been an honor to be a part of such a ground-breaking and dynamic program.

From Madeline and Florante Cuevas

We would like to express our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to the Ivy League Connection, especially to Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg and the sponsors for the rare opportunity given to our daughter, Jackie Cuevas, in joining and being a part of the 2009 Summer Scholarship Program held in Columbia University.

The program gave the chance to our daughter, during such period of time, to be independent in choosing her future career, to really understand and experience ahead of time what would be the college life.

These experiences lead her to explore more beyond the perimeter of Columbia University all the possibilities out there that add to her interests. At home we discussed her three weeks stay, like how she was able to cope with the early morning chores without the aid of the second hand wake up call, be able to do a lot of things by walking around the campus, and was able to refrain from TV for three weeks, and other topics.

But the most interesting part, beyond what she has learned on her subject Chemistry, is her interaction with her suitemates. She was able to meet new nice people from different countriesand knew first hand their background and interests in life. Overall, it was a good learning experience academically and socially that add to her determination on what course she will pursue in college.

All these experiences and opportunities would be hard to attain without the chances given and provided by the Ivy League Connection. The excitement she brought back home made it easy for us, as parents, to know and realize what course she is inclined to take and what adjustments we have to make so we can support her in fulfilling her dreams.

In our view, besides academic determination and pointing out the path to take, there's more to consider, and that is the three weeks growing up beyond expectation. A lot of changes for the betterment happened and those were precious: time and effort (her) that can never be taken for granted. Jackie did an excellent job and these experiences made her a better student and person.

Thank you very much for the chances and may The Lord always Bless the program so that more students in the futurewill have a chance to experience the summer scholarship program.

Sincerely yours,
Madeline Cuevas and Florante Cuevas

From Felix Pelayo

I would like to personally thank you and all the Ivy League persons involved in allowing my daughter, Cristina, to be able to travel to the East Coast. I appreciate the opportunity that she had to go and study at Columbia University.

Thank you for letting my daughter be aware and opening her eyes in what opportunities she has in her life, and what major(s) that she wants to study for her career. Also, thank you for the opportunity to meet with Ms. Kim.

Thank you so much for all your time and effort into this program.


Felix Pelayo

From Fred and Brenda Shephard

First of all, we cannot express our gratitude for this awesome opportunity the ILC afforded our daughter, Ramiah Davis-Shephard to be a part of. You are to be commended on the process and the level of professionalism from the interview to our child returning home from Cornell. The interview prepared our daughter for future interviews, she was given the opportunity to stand before professionals that judged her on her level of confidence, and her ability to express herself and to state why she should be chosen to be a part of the ILC and it's wonderful opportunities.

Next the rigorous, but very informative College Exploratory sessions. Transportation was never an issue, busses and or personal rides were made available. The information learned from those sessions opened our awareness to the opportunities that are available to everyone, as long as the students apply themselves and produce the grades. So often, we think of the Ivy League Schools as out of our range, due to the rumors one so often hear. For instance before those sessions, we were told (by a school official) that just applying to Harvard was not a possibility, that you must be invited to apply or be recruited.

We learned some history about the school, the strengths of each school, the dormitory system, classroom sizes, but most importantly we were informed about the varied curriculum and curriculum styles. In those sessions, we learned about the wide range of financial opportunities afforded to students, basically if the student gets accepted, based on the parents' income, the school will assure the financial resources. Because of those College Exploratory Excursions our daughter is looking to apply and hopefully attend a college that will propel her well into her future.

Next, Ms. Kim, the college counselor who has provided us with so much information, from realizing the importance of the second semester grades of her Junior year in high school (those are the last grades colleges will be able to look at) books to read, college guide book, so we can compare hundreds of schools at a glance, one on one counseling sessions in preparation for picking suitable colleges that will be a match to the student, writing the personal essay, ensuring the appropriate college entrance exams are taken, preparing for the college application, financial aide information, (how to get the most and the best of what is offered), even selecting classes for the final year of high school. She is absolutely invaluable.

Because of the ILC, Ramiah is being afforded a scholarship to attend study sessions to prepare her to retake the SAT to help boost her score to the highest level possible.

There was a dinner where students and families were able to meet some of the sponsors and get valuable first hand information about some of the colleges and also some encouragement to continue to do their absolute best. The words from the former Mayor of Richmond, Irma Anderson, to our daughter had a lasting impression.

In addition is the positive exposure that has been afforded the students, not many students will ever get an opportunity to speak before the City Council, or be recognized by the School Board, but because of the ILC our daughter was able to be a part of both of these events.

Now, the Cornell experience....Having a precursor to the college application and what goes along with it, for example, getting transcripts, letters of recommendation, meeting filing dates, and then an acceptance from a college, what an experience for a high school junior. The opportunity to not only visit but attend such a prestigious school and also visit some surrounding campuses. The opportunity to experience college life, being responsible for getting up on time, having breakfast and still make it to class on time (without a ride from your parents), doing your homework without any prodding from your parents, getting a good night's rest, meeting curfew, spending your money wisely, spreading your horizons (not being afraid to meet new people), spending 3 weeks with someone who started out as a total stranger but ends up being your friend, knowing how to live within your restraints and not pushing them to the limits, making wise choices - knowing you are accountable for them. The responsibility and maturity she portrayed has made us awfully proud.

Because of the ILC, she was given the opportunity to really show us what she could do, and we are so thankful and relieved to know that she was listening. The status alone of being an Ivy Leaguer, has catapulted her to another level.

This was all made possible due to inordinate amount of effort, time, hard work, emails, reminders, encouragement, phone calls, scheduling, hands-on hard work, and even making the textbooks available earlier so our students could be prepared and a step ahead of the other students, by Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, and Mr. Gosney.

From Victor and Teresita Maniquiz

Dear Mr. Ramsey, Ms Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, Board Members and generous sponsors and ILC supporters,

My daughter, Julia Maniquiz, attended Cornell University’s Summer College program for three weeks and partook in their Freedom and Justice course. She went with little knowledge about Cornell, little knowledge about life in the Ivy League schools, and little knowledge about college life in general. Her mind was all about California - California colleges and universities, friends in California, and life in general in California. But the Ivy League Connection changed all of that. It opened her eyes to the great opportunities outside of California. Colleges and universities are not all about where you are geographically. There are so many fantastic institutions outside one’s comfort zone.

During her time in Cornell University, Julia developed a sense of fulfillment, independence, a wealth of knowledge, new friends and, more importantly, it acquainted her with the great schools located outside of California. Even after her return to Hercules, all she can talk to us about is how lucky she is and how thankful she is for being accepted to the WCCUSD ILC program. The impact that that ILC program has made on Julia and to us in particular is so tremendous that Julia now wants to go to Cornell University. She has made it evident that Cornell is the best fit and most appropriate choice for her.

As a father of an ILC participant, I can tell you how successful this program is and how the participants are affected only in the most positive way. I immediately noticed a change in Julia when she returned. She is more sure of herself and of her goals. Her stay at Cornell continues to fuel her desire to perform her absolute best in all aspects of her academic life. We hope that the school district will continue to support this program and we’re hoping that it will continue to flourish for years to come so that more students will benefit from it the way my daughter Julia has.

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU to all those who have allowed the Ivy League Connection to continue onward in its success. Congratulations and a job well done!

Sincerely,Victor and Teresita Maniquiz
(Parents of Julia Maniquiz, Hercules High School Class of 2010 & Cornell Summer College alum)

P.S. Last Thursday, we went on a Stanford campus tour. It is a 2 hour tour of Stanford University which brought us to different buildings within the campus and provided us with crucial information about the university. Even after gaining such insight about this top tier school, Julia told us Stanford has nothing compared to Cornell. Even though Stanford is a quick hour long drive away (which means it would be a real easy adjustment for her) Cornell University is still her first choice. That goes to show how the ILC has positively impacted her school choice. It further demonstrates how successful the program is. Kudos to all of you and, once again, you have our unrelenting gratitude.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From the Wang Family

Many cultures have a wisdom along the line that people can achieve more than they can imagine once they set their mind on it. For high school students, setting their minds on the right things and having confidence to go for them are critical for any success in their life. The Ivy League Connection program (ILC) at our school district comes in at an important phase in our students' high school years. It encourages students to discover their strength, helps them focus, offers an opportunity to broaden their experience, and ultimately guides them to set their mind higher and achieve more.

We are absolutely grateful for the terrific opportunity our daughter, Yueming Wang, had through ILC. Generous financial support from donors demonstrates an impressive commitment they have in our community. Enthusiasm exemplified through numerous email messages, encouraging blog comments from Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney is simply astounding. Dedication and involvement of many people in our school from principal to teachers once again reminds us of what a great school we have in our community. For all of you, we would like to express our sincere appreciation. You show how much you care about our child’s education. Without doubt, this encourages us as parents and community members to try harder to do our part to make our school even better.

Our daughter attended the Cornell Hotel Operations Management program. Among all her great experiences, she ranks gaining more confidence as one of the most cherished experiences. As parents, we can only imagine what this might mean. Our school district is made of working class community members -- where most of us work hard to make a living. As much as we love our children, circumstances and hard reality sometime subconsciously influence our expectation of our children. “Elite college is beyond their reach either financially or academically” sneaks into our thinking in different forms and voices. As old wisdom says "you definitely cannot do it if you think you cannot." This all might just change for good through ILC.

My daughter was there in the same classroom with kids from rich schools or affluent families. Given the same opportunity, she found she is quite capable of taking on challenges, competing with some of the best students in the nation, and excelling in every way that is expected. With this new experience, we have no doubt she will rethink her plan on college.

For us, as parents, this is one of the reasons why the ILC stands out. Once students are inspired, there is no limit how far they can go.

Once again, we would like to thank you and board members for your oustanding leadership in this program.

Wang Family

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rowena E. Mariano

I can not thank you enough for the wonderful opportunity you've given Courtney these past 2 summers.

2 - 3 years ago, whenever someone asked Courtney what she's planning to take in college; her usual response was Nursing / UCLA; not a shabby choice, I thought.

Then she got invited to participate in ILC in the summer of 2008.
First the UPenn 2008 summer program opened her eyes to the biomedical field; a field I wanted her explore.
Upon her return from Brown U this year, I hear her talking about applying at Brown, Columbia, UPenn, Stanford and UC and possibly taking Psychology as a minor/major.

Based on the ILC's blogs, Courtney's stories and numerous meetings with you, I have ascertained what a wonderful and safe (thank you chaperones!) program you have in ILC!
I hope you keep it going for years and years, so that other well-deserving WCCUSD kids get the chance:
1. To visit numerous campuses and expose them to university/college options outside of our state
2. To open their eyes to other fields of studies
3. To experience what college life is (and perhaps minimize the anxieties when they actually go away to college).

Courtney comes home from the ILC summer programs tired but enriched with wonderful memories of the things she learned & experienced and people she met.

In the end, whatever Courtney ends up choosing to take in college and wherever she ends up going, I'm certain the ILC program played a huge part in her making that informed and wise choice.

Thank you again.

Rowena E. Mariano

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hercules High Parents - Fred & Brenda Shephard

With each event that we attend, I become more convinced that the Ivy League Connection is more valuable than I could have ever imagined. Our daughter, Ramiah, is a part of this prestigious organization and what it has done for her self confidence is beyond measure. Also, what it has done for us as parents is immeasurable.

I will begin with the college fairs, Exploring College Options. We have attended four, and the wealth of information that is given -- the question and answer sessions -- have been so informative. With each one, it prepares us for the next one. We are better equipped, because we now know what questions we are needing answers for, and also, we have found out that no college is out-of-reach for our daughter or our children in the Richmond School District. Before attending these college fairs, we thought that these prestigious Ivy League Schools, were out of our ballpark, mainly due to cost. Just the opposite. We now are aware of need based financial aid packages, and our students could actually leave college without a huge college loan hanging over their head. Even if you attend the same fair twice, you come away learning something new or better understanding some former information.

We attended the Duke, Harvard, Penn, Stanford and Georgetown College Fair twice. After attending the second time, I fully understand the difference between early decision and early action, but I also learned more about the study abroad programs. This program has given our children the opportunity of preparing for and then going through an interview process, completing a college application process, and proactively preparing for a college course.

Tonight, I was absolutely blown away at the Hercules City Council meeting, when I saw our students, especially my daughter, stand before that City Council and give their statements. They stood there with so much confidence and pride!!! We are looking forward with great anticipation for our daughter going to Cornell for those three weeks. I cannot begin to express the burden that has been lifted off my husband's and my shoulders about this upcoming college application process. It won't be so intimidating with the ILC guiding us through it. I have been out of college for over 25 years and the process is totally different.
Mr. Ramsey ad Mrs. Kronenberg are to be commended for founding this program, because without it, our children would not have this awesome opportunity. They have opened a door of opportunity that some would have not even dreamed about, but because of the ILC it has become a reality. I also want to thank the other Board Members for your continued support of it. I only hope that you will continue to support and encourage the growth of it.

We will be forever grateful!!!!!
Fred and Brenda Shephard

Friday, April 24, 2009

From a Benefactor - Wallace B. Gordon

My thoughts and impressions are simple.
I could not have succeeded in college and in life if it weren't for my mentors. I am indebted to my mentors in ways that can only be cured by assisting others with opportunities such as those provided by the ILC. For those now benefiting from ILC, remember this thought throughout your lives.
Wallace B. Gordon
Deems Lewis McKinley Architects

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ECHS Parents - Rhonda & Desmond Carson

We are writing to express how pleased we are about the Ivy League Connection program and what it is bringing to the WCCUSD. Our son, Malcolm Carson, has participated in the program over the last 3 summers (2 at Brown and 1 at Cornell). We are thrilled about the opportunity to participate in the program and very thankful that Charles and Madeline made the push to get the program off the ground and keep it growing in the district.

Malcolm (and parents) have decided that he will attend Columbia University in the Fall. Malcolm is a stellar student who was accepted to several top Colleges and Universities, and I'm sure would have done so even without participating in the Ivy League Connection. However, the benefit to him has been exposure to East Coast institutions that he probably would not have considered prior to his involvement with the program. That aspect has been invaluable and we would like to see as many students as possible benefit from the relationships that have been established by the Ivy League Connection. My husband and I being products of the UC system (Berkeley in specific) and participating in high school summer programs at Cal, strongly believe in the benefits of exposing students to college environments to reduce the intimidation factor and increase their confidence that they can compete and succeed at top ranked institutions.

The WCCUSD often gets negative press, so it's very exciting to see such a positive effort coming from the district and the outreach that Charles, Madeline and their team have done with the schools, students, alumni, business community and the corporate sponsors. Thank you again for putting this program together and offering this opportunity to our young people. Please pass on our appreciation particularly to the sponsors who have donated the funding to support the program activities.

Rhonda and Desmond Carson

Friday, April 17, 2009

El Cerrito High Parent -- Sasa T.

I always wanted to write to share with other people how thankful I am for the SEAD (Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth) program that the school district provided to my daughter. Because of my limited English, it took me a long time to get this done.

As a parent, I’ve always had a dream that my daughter will have a chance to go the top colleges she likes. So, when my friends told me there are no good high schools in WCCUSD and if I want my daughter to go to the top colleges, I should have my daughter move to Albany or Piedmont. What can I do? Are there any good schools in our district? Yes, a while after, I found the answers in El Cerrito High School and the SEAD program. There are very good and dedicated teachers in our district. My daughter was enrolled in El Cerrito High in 2005 and had the opportunity to join the SEAD program for three years since 2006. The program gave her a chance to go to one of the Ivy Leagues schools, Dartmouth College, for the last three years – she learns and xperiences what college is about, and has the opportunity to talk to the college faculty, staff, intern. She also had guidance on how to apply for colleges. This program is a totally new world to my daughter and opens up her eyes and mind, as well as changing her life. As a parent I can see the difference my daughter was before and is now. She has definitely benefited from the SEAD program and her result speaks for it. SEAD not only taught her academically, also helped her with her personal growth. Jennifer is a very strong person. She doesn’t easily show her emotions. She doesn’t feel any anything while I am sniffling when watching a sad movie together. However, she cries every time she returns from SEAD. She always misses the Dartmouth people very much. “You don’t understand how nice and helpful those people are, you don’t understand my feelings!” she always said.

My daughter was offered to an undergraduate admission from Wesleyan, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, UC L.A., UC Davis and Stanford... and now my daughter has a difficult time in deciding which school she will go to. Thank you very much for the Ivy League Connection for giving my daughter this opportunity of a lifetime. Here, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you
The Ivy League Connection has benefited my daughter greatly and made her dreams come true. I really want this program to be continued so that more and more of our district kids can get into the top schools.

I am here to thank many members of the Ivy League Connection, especially to Mrs. Kronenberg and Mr. Ramsey. They have given up their time, patience, and weekends to advise us when we needed their help with my daughter’s school applications. I would also like to thank El Cerrito High School teachers, counselors, and the other staff members. They have all dedicated their hard work. After the SEAD program, my daughter has become a more independent and mature individual. Before she was always afraid of everything, now she can ride a plane from west coast to east coast to visit colleges all by herself.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ivy League Connection Team Member

It has been my good fortune to be involved with the Ivy League Connection during the past few years. During the same period of time, I was helping my own two children as they applied to college, so I was able to see the process through the eyes of a parent of college-bound children as well as a District teacher, administrator, and Ivy League Connection supporter. As the parent of college-age children, the application process is a daunting one, even if one is a college graduate oneself. I can't imagine trying to adequately assist my child if there was the added financial, language, and/or experiential challenge that confounds the vast majority of our high school students' families. Perhaps this is the systemic change that we might all wish for, and work for -- assisting all of our college-bound students to adequately navigate the college admission process.

For a subset of this population, however, there is an additional challenge: how to make our highly motivated and talented students who may not have the necessary home support aware of the vast array of possibilities available to them. Charles, you mention the "shocking reminder that our students and families are unaware of the world that exists beyond their communities." I agree that many are unaware, but I also think there are those who are aware, but unable to imagine how to take advantage of the opportunities beyond their immediate vision. I believe that the Ivy League Connection creates those possibilities and broadens the view not only of its recipients but of the community of their peers.

A few months ago, as I sat at Parents' Weekend at Stanford University, I heard the President of the University cite the amazing statistic that 18% of the entering class of freshmen were the first in their families to attend college. Somehow, each of those students had found a path to Stanford -- certainly as prestigious a university as the Ivies. Most likely, they had found people outside of their immediate families to provide the vision and support they needed to help them forge a new path. This is what the ILC is providing for students in our district -- and I applaud the efforts of everyone involved.

The student and parent testimonials, I believe, speak for themselves. If only one life is changed as a result of our efforts, it will be significant. There is a saying in the Talmud, the Jewish commentary on ethical teachings, "It is not up to you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." These problems may seem too large for one person or even one group to solve, and yet when we, as a community, feel the responsibility to act even in small ways, then we realize that together we can make significant changes in the lives of the children in our community and in our school district.

Judy Sanders

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lucy Parada - Pinole Valley High School Parent

When I first heard about the Ivy League Connection, it was through the excited voice of my daughter Lucina, then a Junior at Pinole Valley High School. She came home and told me all about the program, including the rigorous selection process. There were seven candidates, and all had to submit a resume, and essay and letters of recommendation. They also had to be interviewed by a panel of respected professionals. Days later, I was thrilled when Lucina called me from the office of her principal to let me know she had been selected. Lucina attended Cornell University's Summer College, Freedom and Justice Program in June 2008. After three weeks in Cornell, Lucina came home, not only talking about Plato incessantly, but with a gained self confidence and a broadened view of her educational possibilities. She fell in love with Cornell and knew then that she would apply for fall admission in 2009.

The Ivy League Connection is a comprehensive program, from start to finish every detail is covered. Lucina and I have enjoyed the program's events where we had the opportunity to meet some of the programs sponsors and to thank them for their support. We were also introduced to some of Cornell's alumni who were very excited to share their love for their Alma Mater and to talk to us about what makes Cornell unique. They offered Lucina encouraging words and kudos for her choice.

The Ivy League Connection goes a step further and provides a College Counselor to help students maximize their experience. Our College counselor guided Lucina through the college selection process. When she offered her suggestions, she took into consideration Lucina's preferences, her personality and her interests. She also reviewed her essays and personal statement.

As parents, my husband and I have benefited immensely from the college counselor's services. She helped us with completing the Financial Aid forms -FAFSA, CSS profile- a task quite overwhelming, especially when you lack experience in these matters. She also made sure that we were following the necessary steps to submit college applications in a timely manner and without any paperwork missing.

We have come almost to the end of our daughter's high school experience. We are now at the final stretch of our journey. Lucina has received acceptance letters to Cornell and Cal Berkeley, her two top choices and we couldn't be happier.

I believe the Ivy League Connection has been instrumental in my daughter's accomplishments. I have nothing but praise for this wonderful program.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Victor Maniquiz and Teresita Mabbayad - Hercules High School

I am Victor Maniquiz, father of Julia Maniquiz, who fortunately was chosen to attend Cornell University this summer thru your wonderful and educational Ivy League Connection program. My daughter found out about this program at Hercules High School only last year, but from that time on she set her mind in applying for the program and wanting to attend the program.

The impacts of this program on her are all positive. It broadens her mind about what is out there as far as college education is concerned. She's so excited to attend a program in a college environment.

My worry is - think my little girl is ready for college. Initially she was set on attending colleges within the California borders but, upon learning about this great program, she's set on going beyond her home boundaries. She's now eyeing any of these prestigious Ivy League colleges for her college education. It may be hard, but opening her eyes about the great opportunities is something else.

As they always say, this program has a PRICELESS impact on the students as well as the parents. I now know that my daughter will be getting out of this program with a wealth of information and knowledge.

Saying thank yous will not be enough to compensate you for all the hard work you have put up and been putting up for this program and honestly we don't even know how to thank you for this GREAT program and for the opportunity that you have given my daughter, Julia. I am also pretty sure that she will work her butt off to make you all and Hercules High School proud in choosing her.

I just hope that this Ivy League Connection will continue for years to come for the betterment of the students. Let us know if there is anything we can do to make this program even more successful (although it is a great success as it is now). Again a million thanks for all your hard work, for the positive impact to my daughter, for the opportunities, and for everything else.........

victor maniquiz and teresita mabbayad

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hercules High School Dad

Charles -

I can't say enough to thank you for opening our eyes (me, my wife and Courtney's) about colleges and universities beyond the UC system and Stanford as options for Courtney to apply to due to the ILC program. Since Courtney's summer session in UPENN, she has received a ton of letters of invitations to visit different colleges and universities all over the country (This sure was a HUGE difference comparing it with her older sister - 90-95% of the college solicitations came from within California).

A major impact of this program to Courtney is that she has expanded her career options; for a long time she's been set on getting a nursing degree in UCLA without much hesitation from her when asked. Just three weeks ago, while we were having a father-daughter dinner at a Chinese restaurant, she asked me what's a good career combining biology, chemistry and math (I can only attribute this to the bio-medical class she took in UPENN last summer.) Because of my state of shock - the first thing that came to my mind was biochemistry which can lead her to multiple paths i.e. research (drugs), medicine and even nursing. I also told her that chemical engineering might be a good option for her. I told her to ask her school if they do office/plant/lab visits as part of their college career program - I sensed that she can't imagine what they do so she can't decide on whether she will like a certain career or not.

I still hope that she will consider attending an Ivy League school for college (crossing my fingers!) But, like I mentioned to you from past phone conversations, I will ask her to apply to the Ivy League schools even if she is not considering them at this time. (Not for her to know that she could go to an Ivy League school but for the Ivy League schools to be an option for her in case she changes her mind).

Joey Mariano

Friday, March 13, 2009

El Cerrito High School Dad


My name is Sean Ward. My daughter Kiana, a senior at ECHS, took part in the ILC program last year.

The ILC program paid for Kiana's plane ticket to go to Brown's summer program last July. She took the Women in Leadership program which Brown paid for through a full scholarship. The scholarship was of course requested by the ILC program leaders Ramsey and Kronenberg so in effect they were the ones who got Kiana the scholarship. Kiana loved everything about being at Brown; the campus, the students she met, the professors, the course material, and being able to meet people like Deans Rose and Takesue who ultimately played a significant role in getting Kiana into Brown. Dean Takesue wrote kiana a letter of recommendation.

Kiana also really appreciated all the attention she got from ILC members. The Brown dinner in San Francisco really drove home that this is a serious program for future leaders.


The ILC program is in my personal experience a very effective program. I say this because my daughter Kiana was not even considering applying to an IL school, and now she has been accepted early decision to Brown University. Kiana has gained a lot confidence being in the ILC program.. She had the opportunity to speak in public at the Brown dinner in SF, and even though that was her first real "speech" and she was nervous, she did well and I think that made her very happy and confident. Getting to know the other kids at Brown was a little intimidating at first because, unlike the majority of students there who are quite well off, Kiana comes from a low income single parent household and lives in the flats of Richmond. By the end of the two weeks at Brown she knew she could compete academically with these students and came back with a completely changed attitude about applying to Ivy League schools. And now she is one of our district's sucess story. She is very excited about going to Brown and very thankful for the ILC program. As her father, I am ecstatic about the program and the fact that she is going to Brown.

One of the main reason I belive that Kiana got in to Brown was the personal recommendation she got from Brown dean Takesue. And she never would have gotten that without having participated in the ILC program.

I can't speak to the overall effectiveness of the program because I am not aware of how many students actually get into IL or other top colleges and universities as a result of the program. I do believe that we must be careful not to put all of our resources into our lower performing students because we just assume the top students can take care of themselves. Many of the top WCCSD students don't aspire to the very top shcools in the country. My eldest daughter Kalina is going to UCLA and that was her first choice. We were and are very happy for her. However, she had the same grades, scores and activities as her sister Kiana. Could he have been accepted to Brown, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, etc.? We will never know because she never applied, or even thought of applying. I think most of our top students feel the same way: aspire to UC Berk and UCLA and that's the highest your aspirations should be because that's the school district we come from. They think Yale is only for students from rich private schools or wealthy public school districts out in Walnut Creek or Pleasanton.

The main effect of this program is very simple: our students are starting to realize that they can aspire to be the Barack and Michele Obama's of the world. They are starting to realize that they are excellent students, who like the Obamas, can come from humble backgrounds and graduate from Columbia or Harvard.


It is hard to think of improvements to the ILC because it seems to be working so well and because I am not that familiar with the inner workings of the program.

One improvement would be to make the program more well known to students and parents. When Kiana was plucked out of class and told she should apply to the program, neither she nor I had ever heard of it in spite of the fact that it was a few years old at that point. Two of Kiana's friends were in the program and had done two summers at Brown and yet they never mentioned it to Kiana. I think the program leaders need to harangue the ILC kids to talk up the program. They should be required to tell all the students they meet about it. And there has to be a way for interested students to find out more and to apply for the program. At this point I have no idea how students are picked, or how and why Kiana was picked. I think she was a very good selection for the program, but the question comes up, why wasn't she picked sooner like her friends were?

We should promote the program to the community as much as possible. We may already be doing that, I don't know. But we should be making community leaders, real estate agents, teachers, other school districts, etc. aware of our successes with this program.

Kiana's only recommendation for improvement is to let students pick the programs they will attend. For instance she would have been more interested in Brown's program called she thinks Global Engagement since she is interested in the Watson Institute and its international studies program.


Thank you so much for this program. It is exactly what is needed in our district. It raises the expectations of our best students. The strong relationship the ILC leaders have forged with these prestigious schools is tremendously beneficial to our students, and to our school district. Our school district desperately needs some great successes that we can point to so that when people are thinking about moving into the district we can have something very positive to point to. In closing, I urge you to fully support, and even expand, this very beneficial program.


Sean Ward
Proud WCCUSD Parent of an Ivy League Student

Hercules Mom

Dear Mr. Ramsey:

Attached is a rather belated "thank-you" message to the ILC - "What the ILC Means to Us." Many thanks - we were quite busy these last three months, with appointments w/Ms. Kim and preparing our taxes for financial aid.

The application process was quite a process! Thank you all for providing Ms. Kim's services for us. We cannot imagine being able to go through this process without her. She always responded promptly to our questions about the financial aid forms, etc. She is extremely knowledgeable and we were impressed with how well she "connected" with Janna. A tremendous help.


Julie Lee

(please see below about the ILC).

What the Ivy League Connection Means to Us…

We have many reasons to be grateful for Janna’s experience through the Ivy League Connection:

• The very generous ILC donors made it possible for a student such as Janna to gain a broader vision and perspective of the opportunities available.

• Janna’s grandparents, who were not able to finish high school, by necessity, had to quickly become self-sufficient as teens, working several jobs. They dreamed of their children and grandchildren going to college, and made great sacrifices for them. This would have made them very proud and happy (as well as this mom—a junior college “night school-er”).

• The ILC provided chaperones for all the groups. Janna’s chaperone, Ms. Lilhanand provided great peace of mind for the parents. Her guidance and encouragement, balanced with just enough wise restraint, let the students have the freedom to grow. The daily student blogs were a great “plus”!

• We are gratefully indebted for the professionalism and kindness of Ms. Sue Kim, who helped our family navigate through the formidable application and financial aid process. She definitely knows the universities and colleges well, having personally visited many, many campuses, and she provided excellent guidance and recommendations. There is a ton of information to wade through, and Ms. Kim is incredibly knowledgeable about the details--such as tax tips, college atmosphere, and the academic specialties each college has to offer. With her help, Janna felt confident about her choices for application.

• Thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, and all of the members/donors who gave hours of hard work, organized parent informational meetings, personal calls/emails, and gave a tremendous boost to make all of this possible.

• We now feel confident about Janna going out of state for college, after her experience at Columbia. Only one of five gals in her Physics class, she enthusiastically embraced the challenge. She handled the dorms, life in New York City, and class demands with maturity. She grew in many ways this past summer.

How will this whole experience impress upon Janna? This past summer coincided and culminated with the election of President Obama, whose single mother challenged him during his high school senior year to not be “casual about your future.” She spurred him on to go to the “mainland” to Occidental, which led to Columbia and Harvard… The applications are in, and our seniors are waiting to see where they will be accepted. Hopefully, Janna may end up at a college back east, or at a California university. Any high school senior should feel that he/she will significantly contribute to others around them, whether they go to trade school, an Ivy League university, state college, local community college, etc. The most important impressions are the character building-blocks that seniors will take along with them.

The “Summer 2008, Ivy League Connection” recipients were given the priceless example of “paying-it-forward” to the next generation of learners, as presented and modeled with excellence by the Ivy League Connection members. I hope students everywhere will remember that no matter where they go they can make a difference to others.
Thank you,

Mrs. Julie Lee

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hercules High Mom

My daughter Susan Lee from Hercules High spent four weeks at Penn’s summer Biomedical Research program last year. Although it was Susan's first time away from home and family, she enjoyed herself and learned a lot at the same time. During her study at Penn, she was not only able to gain more knowledge in science, but also meet people who could help her through the college applying process. This year during President's week, ILC sent Susan and I back to Penn for a college visit to help her get a feel of actual college life with students on campus and classes in session. Whether or not Susan is able to study at Penn in the future, by giving her all these positive new learning experiences, this program has changed Susan's life.

For more than a half year since Susan took part in ILC program, we have received a lot of information, guides, helps and encouragement from the ILC. Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney never hesitate to speak out their thoughts, or share their knowledge, experiences and resources with us. They have spent enormous amount of time on emails, phone calls, or personal meetings to help this program work effectively. From facing important benchmarks, comparing colleges, figuring out financial help, and private school interviews, we have never been alone. Because of their help, we chose colleges that fit her.

Susan is our only child, so we never before wanted her to go far away from home for college. We thought bay area schools were the best option for her; either we thought the east coast schools were out of Susan's reach, or too far for her to go. Without ILC's generous offer, we would never budget her to visit other schools out of CA. After Susan was back from Penn, she told us a lot of
wonderful things about her stay, and that she feels the life at Penn is exactly what she is looking for. After our second visit, Susan told me she liked the school even more. Although we still don't know which school will accept her and which school we will finally chose, we have our minds open and know what Susan wants.

I feel that is very fortunate for students in our district to be able to gain ambition and confidence through being in the ILC program. Our students deserve to have someone guide them to places where they can succeed academically. For teenagers, their environment influences them more than parents do. That's why I think the ILC program is so important. What the program offers is a lifetime gift to our kids, so they can catch an important chance and be lead to their future success.

As I know, many students in this school district are from low income families. Since most parents are busy making a living, they might not care about Ivy League schools, or are not even know what they are. Also, a lot of parents like me don't want to send their kids out of state, either because they didn't have the chance to explore opportunities out there or because they think it is too expensive. Because of these circumstances, a lot of excellent students miss their chances to see a much bigger world, study in one of the nation's best schools, and gain powerful knowledge in their field of interest. That's why, in this school district, we need good programs like ILC program. Just like we have special programs for underachieving students, we need programs for our outstanding students as well. Even though they are already outstanding, they still need help to reach their goals.

As we know, the schools in the Ivy League are all tough schools. Since they only pick the top students, just getting to know these schools and wanting to apply for them is not enough. Kids also need to prepare and work for their goals throughout high school. Thus, the earlier students know about this program, the better. I would be happy to see this program known by more and more young kids, who will be able to prepare to apply to this program, and be further prepared for college as well.

We would like to thank the ILC program members, especially Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg, for making this wonderful program and for inputting their time, energy and love on our kids. Without their passion, hard work, and tremendous efforts, this program would not have gone anywhere. We would also like to thank the sponsors, whose generous gifts make the program possible, and help our kids build and work for their dreams. The ILC has truly helped make our district even better, and continues to provide our students with life changing opportunities.

Frances Yang