Saturday, July 21, 2012

From the Parents of Nick Shebek

Our son, Nick heads to Brown: Insightful Rising Senior Returns
Junior year at El Cerrito High for Nick seemed to require better family communication skills than prior years; there were school and club sports practices that still required rides; college admission tests to schedule, classes to juggle, and Ivy League Connection deadlines to track. Things seemed to go relatively smoothly; and we were glad when Nick was selected for Brown's macroeconomics course; an area of study which we thought he might find to be a nice combination of practical knowledge and mathematics, located in the heart of New England, where Nick would love to attend college.

My husband and I both grew up on the East Coast, and the opportunity for Nick to become more familiar with the pace, the lifestyle and the humidity should serve him well. The Ivy League Connection deadlines were going by quickly--we had met with the chaperones and cohorts at a casual potluck dinner at the high school; we had carpooled to the blogging training session, we had a moment of anxiety when the School Board meeting might have conflicted with a post season varsity baseball game, but all was on track as we boarded BART for our dinner at Boulevard with Brown alumni, School Board members and ILC sponsors. Nick was going to be speaking that evening; and was very entertaining with his pre-dinner jitters en route to San Francisco. He did well; fit in a Boston Celtics reference and got a smile from many of the guests, and we enjoyed a great dinner. I sat between two recent Brown graduates; both of whom spent some of their professional career with investment houses; my experiences as a commodities trader when they were toddlers both dated me, and provided a bit of a common language.

As I learned about Brown that evening, I saw that it fostered creativity and a strong sense of community. Soon after the dinner there were finals and SAT subject tests; quick double checks of the items needed list, and before we knew it, Nick was on his way.

The college visits had a huge impact; Nick was impressed with Yale, intrigued by Dartmouth, and thought Wesleyan might be a good fit for his younger sister when the time came. The opportunities to mingle with recent alumni and admissions staff further rounded his impressions of the schools. I think it's fair to say that Nick was blown away by MIT; besides its well-earned reputation as a top engineering school, Nick was glad its students were well rounded; that its humanities offerings were stellar as well. Meeting with alumni, Nick enjoyed their sense of humor, and glad to learn that majors weren't declared until sophomore year. On top of all of that, it is in Boston, home of the Celtics and the Red Sox; Nick is descended from a long line of New England sports fans. The one issue is that it is nearly impossible to be accepted, but at this time, Nick wants to apply.

On his return home, he set up his "mymit" account, read through the college materials that had accumulated in his absence, and seemed to be more focused and reflective. Nick enjoyed the macroeconomics course; it made him realize that if doesn't find his passion in engineering, there are other areas that will interest him. The pace of the class was challenging and in retrospect, he realized that Mr. Coleman had covered an enormous amount of material in just over two weeks. At the dinner at Mistral I suspect he already knew this was getting to be the end of a wonderful journey, and he enjoyed interacting with his cohorts as well as Brown II students and the alumni from the local prestigious schools visited by the various Brown groups. There was such a change in our son; he called more frequently than on other trips wanting to share insights he had learned about himself; joke with his sister about blog titles, advising her on the 'errors' of his high school career, encouraging to stretch herself in many directions.

For me, I've realized that there is now a whole new network of folks that I wouldn't have met except for the Ivy League Connection; I've made "linkedin" connections with young traders in the investment arena from Brown; I realized that when I reached out to an attorney in Hercules for a district-wide parcel tax measure initiative that he may have known Terilyn Chen as a mock trial attorney coach. Sure enough he did; Terilyn heads off to Harvard, he shared, a fact that was known to the other parents at the School Board meeting where Terilyn shared her Harvard interview experiences with the new ILC students.

The Ivy League Connection can be about more than opening WCCUSD students' eyes to the opportunities across the country; it can be about making connections locally. Coming from the East Coast thirty years ago, we had been envious of students who could study at the UCs for a fraction of the price. We had looked forward to taking advantage of California's university system for our own children, and frankly hadn't thought much of sending our children to the East Coast before the Ivy League connection reminded us that things change; and that now, WCCUSD students can stand out as talented contributors to a college campus in the Ivy League. I really believe that Nick's experience with the ILC has put him in a position where he will make an informed, intelligent and socially aware decision about where he is most likely to succeed in college.

We are so grateful for the ILC sponsors and team with the vision to keep all doors open for our WCCUSD students.

Thanks again, Karen and Pete Shebek

From the Father of Kelly Xi

I might be the last one of all the parents to write, but not the least to appreciate the ILC program. It was Kelly's second time to go. I was a little bit disappointed to know that she was not even selected in the first round. When she was called for the interview, I did not have too much confidence if she could make it to the final. I tried to comfort her by telling her that it is fair to let other kids have the same opportunity. She surprised me again with her well rounded preparation and confident presentation in front of the board members. Since Kelly already had her experience from last year, I was not worried for her at all for her 4 weeks away from home. I tried not to call her and let her handle things independently.

By the way, kids were together with the two most wonderful chaperones. Why should I worry? To tell the truth, I did not have the time to read all she wrote everyday, but I tried to make sure that she wrote everyday. As she was always a last minute person, she managed to write and post except missing a few times for some reasons. It is fair to say that she is much better this year in terms of keep writing her blogs. She is obviously more mature and confident.

The ILC experience really prepared the kids well for college both academically and mentally. By reading her last long blog, I am very impressed and proud of her idea to plan mock interviews to prepare other students for the ILC. I noticed that she uses the word "community" more often these days since she's returned. In my mind, when the kids learn to appreciate or give back what they received to their community, they are getting mature. A few years ago, we moved to Hercules from Davis and I thought we made a mistake for the kid. For the past two years, I actually feel lucky to have moved down here to live in the West county. Our school district has done an excellent job to overcome the disadvantages financially and geographically. They have worked so hard to unite the local businesses and community, to create such a wonderful program for our kids. When I proudly talk about our school district to my colleagues, they showed their envy in their eyes. I have not heard any other school district with similar program.

When I talk about our school district, I always mean the strong leadership from Mr. Ramsey, Ms Kronenberg and other board members that I could not name them individually, the generous sponsors and Don and all the staff involved. I really admire Don so much for his dedicated works. Please don't forget that he is a volunteer for us. He has done more than any of parents did. Mr. Ramsey really set a good sample for the kids and the parents how to follow the rules. I like the chaperones because they acted like parents, babysitting my smart but hard-headed teenager.

The party was over especially for Kelly. She is going to college next year. I don't know where she will end up. But I want her to realize that she might be smart but somebody else created the chance for her. She has to appreciate all the help from others and to give back to the community some day. 

Finally, I wish more kids from our West county will benefit from this unique ILC program. No matter where you go, be proud of where you are from.

Million thanks again to the people that I mentioned above and not mentioned but involved. You all are great people!

Side Xi