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

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