Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some Thoughts from Adrianne Ramsey's Mom

Whew, the essays, interviews, civic presentations, group photos, dress-up dinners, orientations, packing, shuttle rides, college campus tours, city strolls, souvenir hunting, dorm life, T.A. critiques, challenging reading and scripted assignments, mandatory blogging, cafeteria food, budgeted spending, chaperoned activities, academic and social bonding, long flights, tearful farewells, and questionnaires for those lucky ILC 2011 participants are just about finished.

In previous years, descriptive, rousing, and often humorous blogs, photo jpg's, and emails from ILC participants made it possible for me to enjoy their scholarly adventures, while my husband and his associates worked tirelessly to insure this complex, academic, multi-site program ran smoothly. Whenever, I would be fortunate to meet ILC'ers, I would be able to congratulate, commiserate with, or encourage them, as they sought to make sense of their extraordinary experiences.

What a special year for me! Our daughter, Adrianne merited a spot with the Brown II group. Her hard work and good fortune caused my ILC experience to become far more personal. Moreover, I found myself pushing her to be more analytical about her writing and reading material, more insistent that she manage her Facebook time better, more serious about needing to "keep her guard up" in unfamiliar places, and more willing to sew a couple of items that would take her mind off shopping for any "short" shorts.

That said, I really enjoyed the academic observations, shared experiences, self revelations, and restless social inquiries contained in the blogs of the Brown II group, while they participated in the pre-college Women In Leadership course. A few of the participants shared some of the academic discourse that took place in the "Estroden".

Adrianne, her cohort, and fellow classmates analyzed the political, social and interpersonal relevance of women in our society, while accessing preconceived notions they may had held of themselves. She took part in a "ropes" course, conducted an interview on African American women and feminism with her aunt, a retired legislative aide, presented a speech at the Brown brunch about a Providence, RI mover and shaker named Annie Smith Peck, an advocate for the Nineteenth Amendment, presented a monologue on Amy Chua, and created an action plan with a time line her junior/senior year, and for Angaza, as well.

Adrianne relaxed by taking an excursion to Newport Beach, celebrated Josephine's birthday at Johnny Rocket and Mariko's birthday at Shanghai Restautant. She marvelled at the contradictory atmosphere of the Water Fire event with her chaperone LaDonna Williams, and her cohort. She thanked her lucky stars for Kaylyn from Ohio, the nicest dormmate ever! Visits by Ms Williams to Harkness House were treasured events for her.

She wore her Brown sweatshirt when she met Jessica Tran, a former ILC Brown participant yesterday.

And yet, the hardest part of the covenant of the ILC participants and the Ivy League Connection has arrived! Although it is a fundamental courtesy to thank all the sponsors, organizers, interviewers, chaperones, counselors, school board members, teachers, cohorts, newly made friends, and parents and extended family, it is time to make sense of your profound academic and social experiences, accept the need for adjustment of personal expectations, and set forth a workable plan of positive action to share with your chosen community, and then, carry it to completion.

Madeline, Charles, and Don, Superintendent Harter, generous sponsors, caring educators, flexible chaperones, supportive parents, engaged ILC participants, college financial advisors, ILC organizers, and all elected officials and personnel involved with this wonderful program, I give you my deepest gratitude.

Take care.


From the Parents of Joe Arcineiga

The only way to begin this letter is to say Wow!! And, of course, Thank You!! My husband and I were tremendously grateful two years ago when the ILC sent our older son, Matt, to Yale. We were so impressed with how smoothly the program ran, its attention to detail, its demand for excellence, and its utter generosity!  When Joe was accepted into the ILC program this year, heading for Cornell, we were absolutely thrilled.

We knew we could expect the same quality program and were excited to see how it would affect Joe’s development as a student and as a person. We were off to a very good start when the ILC bought all the books and arranged a dinner with past Cornellians to discuss strategy…what worked well and what to avoid. Knowledge is power and this ILC dinner was invaluable in teaching Joe what to expect and providing him with the tools and the charge to be well prepared academically. Of course, the elegant dinner in San Francisco was a beautiful and informative evening which set the tone for the whole program…this is an Ivy League program and expectations are higher in every way possible.

What we didn’t expect was three days in Chicago, on the way to New York.  Matt’s group was able to tour Wesleyan and another school close to Yale the day before his program began, which was a wonderful bonus. In two years’ time, we are happy to see how the ILC program has grown to sending out thirty-five students in all and including such a fantastic trip to Chicago to tour Northwestern and the University of Chicago.  These tours and the opportunity to enjoy fine dining with students and Admissions personnel from each school taught Joe very much about what he likes and does not like in a college.

The truth is Joe wasn’t sure he wanted to spend four weeks of his summer attending lectures, staying up late reading and writing papers, never mind the weeks of reading in preparation for the program.  He’d worked incredibly hard every single day of his junior year with school and activities and was warming to the idea of a more carefree summer.  Matt is the one who impressed upon him that (1) hard work always pays off and (2) this program will change your life!

Indeed, Joe’s life was changed!  He has experienced new places and climates and students from 20+ countries.  He’s become even better at expressing his thoughts and feelings via the daily blog. He’s developed his conversational and interviewing skills. He’s experienced what it’s like to “go to college,”… living and making friends with an unknown roommate, doing his own laundry J, balancing and prioritizing schedules, accepting criticism from a TA as a positive thing, and yes, making time for relaxation and fun at places like Buttermilk Falls and Cooperstown or playing soccer or basketball. Yesterday, Joe received his first college course grade, an A-. This taught him he really could compete with all of the prep school students at one of the best universities in the world…hard work always pays off.

We will forever be thankful for all the hard work each of you puts into this program and for the way it has truly changed so many lives.  You may rest assured that these students will go on to do great things and the world will be a better place because of you and the ILC.

Most Sincerely,
Melissa Arciniega

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taylor Doty's Parents

 The Cornell Freedom and Justice program, and the ILC program more broadly, provided an amazing educational experience for Taylor. The experience has bolstered her confidence not only to attend college, but also that she can be successful at one of the top universities in the country.

From the beginning, the ILC program rightfully sets realistic "admissions" requirements: essay writing  and interviewing. Students begin to get the sense of the seriousness of college applications. Then came the admissions requirements to get into the specific Cornell Summer School program itself: asking a teacher for a recommendation and writing a personal essay. Again, having Taylor go through this "real" college application process was invaluable as it gave her an early start to framing her personal essay for her college applications.

The stopover in Chicago gave the Cornell students some great exposure to two outstanding universities and the personal dinners/meetings with the admissions staff were priceless. I'm so glad the students are required to blog because we got to travel with them and see their development/maturity along the way.

The pure educational aspect of Taylor's trip was exceptional. From all accounts, Prof. Kramnick is a gem of a professor...the kind idealized in movies, except he's the real thing. He imbued his passion for his subject matter on Taylor as I'm sure he did on all of his students. I'm actually worried that she believes ALL professors are like him. The TA seemed to go out of his way to help with writing assignments; a big help as frankly, I think this sort of teaching has been lacking at ECHS. And while we don't know the final grade, all of the Freedom & Justice kids seemed to do well on their mid-term which only serves to boost their confidence about their ability to master college material at a high standard level.
And then there's the positive experience of living the college life. The students had to manage their time to complete assignments which is a big deal especially when the final is scheduled the day of the midnight premier of Harry Potter's last stand! And while our kids are attending a fairly diverse school here at ECHS, having classmates and roommates from all over the country and world was a good introduction to life outside the "left coast."

In sum, the Cornell Freedom & Justice program provided an outstanding opportunity to test the college "waters" for a group of kids that can and will contribute to their community. What the ILC provides is quite a gift to both students and parents! Thank you so much!!!

A point of constructive feedback: The process for how one gets nominated for any of the ILC programs could be made more apparent to the ECHS community. I remember asking around a little Taylor's sophomore year, and being told her 2nd semester by her AP World History teacher that he was the one (or one of the ones) who was involved, but I never got any more details. So, a little more information at ECHS on how and when students are identified would be helpful.

Thanks again,

Eric and Yueming Wang's Parents

Our two children participated in the Ivy League Connection program. For our daughter, this program and experience she had will stay with her for many years to come as she will be attending Cornell University which is also the university she went to as a sophomore through the Ivy League Connection program.

Our son, a sophomore at Hercules High, just came back from the New York with fun memories and a refreshing outlook on what college means after attending the Constitutional Law class at Columbia University. Looking back, I clearly see the Ivy League Connection program had positive influences on their lives, widened their perspectives not just on which college to attend, but more importantly on their appreciation of expectations, responsibilities, and tremendous supports we have in our community and the school district.  Here are our perspectives I would like to share with all parents and sponsors:

1.  Applying for and interviewing with a panel were such great experiences for our children. It’s uncomfortable and hard at the beginning. Naturally, they did not know what to say and what to expect. After going through the process, they came away with much better appreciation why they need to be good students in and out of their school, and be good member of their community. More importantly, they heard of these from others, not just fom their parents.

2.  College is much more real than they thought.  It’s understandable that college is a daunting and uncomfortable subject for many 2nd or 3rd year high school students. This program offered our children the first-hand experiences of living on a college campus and in a classroom with students from very different backgrounds. After a rather intensive class at Cornell, it dawned on my daughter that she not only can do it but also can compete with students from any place. That experience that comes from a real classroom went a long way in building her confidence while she contemplates her study in college and life beyond.

3.  Expectations and responsibilities are brand new experiences. The Ivy League Connection program does a superb job of laying out clear expectations and leaves no doubt where responsibilities reside. For our children, this program required them to engage with people outside their immediate family members in a way they did not have before, and that was a new experience. By striving to meet those expectations and owning up to their share of responsibilities because they like the program so much, they learned some powerful lessons of life.

4.  Support and dedication from the school district all way down to teachers and staff from their school are amazing.  The emails that came in late in the evening from Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Don Gonsey, or their chaperones speak volume of their dedication.  Details went into their trip planning demonstrated that this program adheres to very high standards. They learned from those examples that many people care about them, and would make extra efforts to help them be successful. Not to mention the encouragements our children received from the many individuals who interviewed or met them in the program.

There are much more. Our daughter’s experiences living on the Cornell campus for over three weeks, and the encouragements she received from Cornell alumni through the Ivy League Connection program , and supports this program gave to her made all the differences when it came for her to make her college decision. We are very happy for her, and are grateful for the opportunities the ILC provided.  For a program as good as the ILC, my only wish is that more students are able to participate.


Eric and Yueming Wang's Parents

From Jobel Vecino's Parents

When I learned the good news that my son made it into the program, I was very proud but at the same time, it made me a little bit worried. At 15 years old, my only child will be away from home for a month! But after checking the internet about the Ivy League Connection, reading the blogs of the past students and most of all knowing that there will be a chaperone with them, it made me calm down.
One question we asked him though was, do you really want to do this? And since the answer was yes, we gave him all the support he needs.

The ILC has been very hands-on from informing the students and parents, helping the kids with their requirements and on following-up on them from day one till they got back from the program.

In reference to the Hotel and Restaurant Operations Mgt Program, I could say that he liked the course he was in. Even if it was truly a rigorous course, he was able to manage till the end (learning he only had 4 hrs of sleep each day) . He said, he learned a lot from the hotel industry as well as Power Point, Microsoft Word and the CHESS Simulation.

We could say that the ILC made him experience how college life is. He made a lot of friends and was exposed to different individuals, learned to balance his time from school loads to his daily routine. All these experiences, together with the upcoming experiences in the future, will make him a better person. And for this, we are very grateful.

The program is already perfect itself. We're just hoping that Hercules High School will be given more chances, in terms of more students to be chosen to be in the different schools since they have a lot to offer.

Lastly, we would like to thank the ILC, Mr. Ramsey, Don Gosney, Ms. Kronenberg, Ms Neal, the donors, the teachers and everyone who made this program possible. It was truly a great experience for our son.

We will never hesitate to inform and recommend this program to the other parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Vecino

From Kelly Xi's Parents

I am writing this letter to thank you, the school district, the ILC, and all the teachers and volunteers  involved to make this program possible and successful.

It is the first time we let our daughter go somewhere alone in a long time. She learned how to take care of herself, and interact with friends, how college life is supposed to be, and more importantly she learned how the hotel was managed through such an intense course in such an excellent academic setting. I am very pround of my daughter who was selected, went through all the events, learned lots about hotel management and college life and safely returned. I am also very pround that our school district worked so hard to establish such a nationwide-only program for our kids. When I told my friends and colleagues, they all told me that your school district is great!

The kids were selected because of their excellent performance in school, but I keep telling my daughter that she has to appreciate how much work everybody else has done, to appreciate where we are because only our school district has made this. I told her that you went through this, enjoyed and learn lots, and you have to think how much you owe to the ILC, the school district and local community. We all have to appreciate the ILC and all the sponsors for their generosity especially during these hard times of our economy. I believe that all the parents share my thoughts.

I participated in most of the events prior to their departure, I was very impressed about how well this program was organized. It was not just the financial cost, it was the time and effort cost. Kids and parents were well informed with so much details. As parents, I could never prepare my daughter to go so far away and for so long without such very hands-on information.

Let me take this chance to thank Ms. Tiffani Neal for her wonderful baby-sitting job. As a pediatrician, I know well about the hormonal fluctuation and attitude of teenagers and how hard it is to handle. I know my daughter and I had to tell Ms. Neal several times to watch her closely. I thought I would have to call Ms. Neal to check how she was doing but I decided not to do so because I feel that Ms. Neal was a very nice, caring, and accountable lady. Obviously she did very well  and was able to handle these smart but very hyperactive or unorganized teenagers (if not all, at least my daughter is). Think how much work it is to babysit 8 kids, and how boring it must have been to stay in a hotel (where she has been previously) while the kids were on their own. She kept in touch with us frequently and brought all the kids home safe.

I also thank Mr. Don Gosney for his generous volunteer works. When I said generous, it is not just because how much time he gave, look how much stuff he provided free. He had to spend lots money and so much time to shop, and organize. As parents, I feel guilty for not thinking and doing enough as Mr. Gosney. I think he did more than any of us, the parents.

We should feel lucky that we have a wonderful school district team led by Mr. Ramsey. I believe Mr. Ramsey is busier than any of us but he was always there for all the events and I can tell that Mr. Ramsey doesn't like somebody being late. I told my kid and also suggest to any kid, one more thing to learn from this process and from Mr Ramsey is being firm and on time. I am surprised that our school district attracted so many local businesses willing to sponsor. It is not just the generosity from all the sponsors, but also the excellent leadership to unite the local business community with our school system.

There are so many people to thank. I think the whole process is excellent and flawless. I wish it will continue every year with more universities included so more kids from our community have the chance to go. I want my daughter to remember everybody who was involved for their help, kindness and generosity, and more importantly to return and give back to our community the care and help she received.

Sincerely yours,
Kelly Xi's parents

From Erin Miller's Parents

Dear Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Mr. Gosney,

I am happy to provide our thoughts on Erin’s summer experience with the ILC.

Obviously, we were overjoyed to learn our daughter had been selected to attend Brown University’s summer program, and to tour east coast colleges.

We communicated with Erin daily either through a phone call or by reading her daily blog postings. Each time, we felt as if our child was opening her eyes to a new world. Before her experience with the ILC she was not considering college choices outside of California, let alone outside of the Bay Area. Erin’s ILC experience opened up new possibilities as she visited college after college and spoke with students, staff, and counselors. Often, she expressed her excitement as she learned what colleges, and college towns, had to offer.

The experience broadened her social and academic connections. Before her ILC experience Erin was not as confident about applying to colleges or asking a lot of questions about them. She limited her interests to California (so she would be closer to home). After meeting students from all over the country, and the world, her social comfort level grew tremendously. The boundaries were removed. Approaching faculty and staff and having discussions about her academic goals became easier – almost a necessity it seemed. Thanks to technology she has established connections with students from all over the world, and plans to stay in touch with Brown faculty and staff. The ILC experienced has truly changed her outlook and approach to colleges. She has better command over the questions she needs to ask so she can find the right fit for her. Being far away from home is no longer an issue.
College visits, absolutely, added value to the college summer program. After reading through the blogs it’s apparent students became more aware that college culture and environment is as important as academics. I feel the ILC experience opened up these additional considerations in Erin’s college search. Not only is she seeking the college that will offer the best program for her academic field, but she is also examining whether she fits into the culture of the college and vise versa. Equally important, it seemed, is seeking the college town that will suit her lifestyle. I feel the combination of these three aspects will provide her with a healthy learning and living experience.

For students who have never traveled away from home, and without their parent(s), a 4-week program is enough to give the students a sense of what a healthy and lengthy separation would be like. Time away from the comforts of home could be a determining factor when deciding where to attend school.

I asked Erin what she got out of the extravagant meals. I partly expected her to say something simple like “the food was fancy and delicious”. Surprisingly, she commented that “special” dining experiences made her feel she was in the company of “high society”, and that she was eating “high class meals”. She commented that it seemed that everyone dining at the restaurants had a “reason” for being there. And then she added, “the experience made me feel important”.

I think the ILC has, once again, afforded well deserving high school students an important and unique opportunity to experience and explore colleges. For our daughter, the experience created an enthusiastic desire to seek and explore her academic future, and claim and maintain ownership of that process. It was an opportunity we could have only dreamed for. We are extremely grateful for and humbled by the generosity of the ILC and its sponsors, and for the faith they have in our district’s students. I can only hope the tradition continues on.

With high regards and respect,

Joann Miller

Sunday, July 17, 2011

From Nick Shebek's Parents

From the parents of Nick Shebek:

To me, Ivy League Connection is achieving its objective in expanding the horizons of talented students in WCCUSD. Living in California these last 30 years, literally in Berkeley’s backyard, tends to make families and students complacent about college opportunities. With the state’s gridlock over increasing taxes versus cutting expenditures, California’s wonderful public colleges and universities are losing their luster. Stanford admission rates can intimidate the best and brightest, and the concept of four years with brutal winters can discourage the more adventurous WCCUSD students.

Having the opportunity to experience college life at an Ivy League campus is a life-changing event. Visiting universities like Northwestern en route to Ithaca made Nick appreciative of the appeal of being close to a metropolitan area and impressed by a quarter schedule that is so well suited to students still exploring their focus of study. After his brief visit at Northwestern, Nick wondered if college in a rural area would satisfy him. With three weeks at Cornell, he realized that campus life itself is rich and fulfilling.
The meals with admissions officers at the various colleges provided Nick with a perspective not available to students whose views are limited to an admissions presentation, or experiencing a tour given by an enthusiastic undergrad. It is the goal of admissions officers to attract students that will add to their university programs and environment, and to do it as efficiently as possible.  Identifying student groups that are well prepared to succeed at their school is a way to achieve that efficiency. Introducing top-rated universities to Ivy League Connection students makes admission officers understand the rigorous expectations of the program. Consequently, ILC alumni should over time, have higher admission rates to those universities. Moreover, those universities will want these talented students to consider their programs, so the dinners provide an opportunity for the admissions officers to understand our individual students’ concerns, and address them in an informal setting. With both Cornell and Northwestern, the admissions staff highlighted the areas where their programs suited Nick’s interests, skills and concerns.

People might not realize that the selection process for participation in ILC builds skills as well. The essay requirement for the ILC helped lay the foundation of what would lie ahead in their Cornell class. The formal interview assessed Nick’s ability to think on his feet, a skill that would be needed to be an efficient contributor to his discussion group. Don Gosney did a thorough job in making sure that students would be technologically and practically prepared. We got to observe Nick’s writing skill improve through his blogging; and appreciated knowing what he and his cohorts were going through. We came to understand that blogging and sleep were higher priority than checking in with us, and glad that Nick was making reasonable decisions about how to manage his time. For a parent, seeing a blog about a headache or stress elevated your concern; you were proud your student was taking it seriously and later impressed to know he was working through the stress on his own.
Nick would have never considered applying to Northwestern before his ILC summer, but now it is a university with tremendous and potentially realistic appeal.  Cornell sounds even better than before. We are so appreciative to the Ivy League Connection donors, the volunteers who interviewed, photographed and prepared the students, the teachers and counselors who encouraged Nick, the board members who had the vision and dedication to create and support the program, the district staff that managed the logistics of the trip, and the chaperones who gave their time, energy, and guidance to the cohorts.

Thank you,
Karen and Pete Shebek