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