Thursday, August 2, 2012

From the Mother of Morvarid Mehdizadeh

My daughter came to me one day telling me she wished to attend Columbia University over the summer and asked for my approval to apply to a program that might allow her this opportunity. I was jumbled with different thoughts, not sure exactly what to say in response. This would be the first time my daughter would leave us and go some where far away without us, the experience would be amazing, the challenge would be enriching, but how were we going to pay for everything? I had mixed feelings because I was proud of my daughter, her independent and confident attitude, and her willingness to step outside her comfort zone and constantly challenge herself in all ways. However, as a parent I was also scared.

I began learning more about the organization she told me about that day: “The Ivy League Connection.” I realized how important it is to be a part of the organization and the responsible, generous, and caring individuals behind the program. Slowly, I was no longer the scared parent that was thinking about allowing her youngest daughter to leave home for a month, but I was the supporting mother who encouraged her and told her she could do it.

Around December, I watched as she spent hours preparing essays to submit to the Ivy League Connection in hopes of acceptance into the interview phase of the program. I even watched as she screamed in excitement that she had only entered the interview portion of the application. After witnessing her passion and tremendous amount of time and care she put into the program from the start, I knew exactly how much this all meant to her. Finally, all her work paid off and I was proud to witness my daughter’s acceptance into the program of her choice; the Columbia University Presidential Powers course. She was one of the only two individuals chosen for the program and as her eyes sparkled in the room when she heard the news, as a parent I couldn’t be any happier as well.

I do not know how to thank the people that gave these opportunities to the students of our district enough to show how thankful I am to each and every one of them. I am really thankful of the people that provide these opportunities for bright students, like my own daughter, to have such experiences. I’m really happy of the experience my daughter had, to go to New York, to speak to students and alumni, to study at Columbia University, and to enjoy the development of a deeper understanding for different cultures in a different environment. Without this program, my daughter would have never had an opportunity equal to that of what the ILC provided.

My daughter was really happy about this program and every aspect of her experience was like a dream come true for her and it was the same for my family as well. After my daughter returned and told me about the restaurants she visited, the people she spoke to, I felt like I was actually there as she told me with excitement and enthusiasm. I felt just as happy to hear about the stories, her class, and her challenging curriculum as she was there to experience it. It was all a completely new experience for her and the amount of things she learned within a month was astonishing. My daughter grew both intellectually and as a person.

The Ivy League Connection provided an opportunity for students to develop independent skills and confidence. As a whole, this entire experience is very beneficial to our students, and I’m really thankful for such an organization.

The chaperone, Mrs. L also played a tremendous role as a part of the program. She was very patient and caring towards the students. The first time I saw her she seemed like such a lovable and caring person. I liked her a lot and I truly felt like my daughter was in good hands. Knowing Mrs. L was the chaperone, I was no longer worried even though this was the first time my daughter was going to be away from us. Overall, I strongly recommend this organization to future parents and students alike. Once again, there’s really no way for us to thank the caring sponsors, Don Gosney, Mrs. L, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg for giving my daughter such an opportunity and experience. My family is very thankful and we are all very proud of the ILC students’ accomplishments.

Thank you,
Maryam Yazdi

From the Parents of Leonard Eisen

A Parent’s Words of Appreciation for the Ivy League Connection 

When our son, Lenny, first began speaking about the Ivy League Connection, it was very difficult to believe that the program he described actually existed. We had lived through all the financial difficulties of our school district since Lenny’s older sister, Sierra, started kindergarten in 1995 when we lived in Richmond. We saw essential programs get cut and class sizes increase. When school-funding bond issues were on the ballot, they could and would be defeated even with a super-majority of 65% because of the two thirds majority required to pass. How could such a program as ILC actually exist for West Contra Costa high school students?

My wife, Melissa, and I are strong believers in public school. We believe that social and ethnic diversity is at the top of the list of characteristics that make a school system a quality learning environment. That’s why we both chose to live in the Bay Area. So, as programs in schools were cut, we’d supplement our kids’ education as well as we could.

I don’t think I was convinced that ILC actually existed even after Lenny was accepted and I started reading emails from Don Gosney. I still wondered how such a program as ILC could actually exist for our students?

I now know it’s thanks to the awesome, tireless efforts of Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg and the sponsors that they have been able to enlist in this terrific program. I also want to express my deepest gratitude to Don Gosney and Cheryl Lilhanand. If it weren’t for Don and Cheryl, I might have had concerns about sending Lenny to New York City, without us, for a month. I grew up and went to college in New York City. I even drove a cab there. I know how easy it is to get into serious trouble in New York. I’m a pretty strict and very observant parent. I felt totally at ease all month because Cheryl was Lenny’s chaperone.

The Ivy League Connection is the most amazing program. Imagine flying to New York on Monday, touring and meeting with admissions officials and alumni at the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, then visiting Sarah Lawrence College on Wednesday, Vassar College on Thursday, Yale on Friday, touring New York City as a group on Saturday, and then moving into the dorms on Sunday at Columbia University for three weeks of classes in Constitutional Law!

And, of course, there were all the cultural, culinary and entertainment extras! And all of this paid in full by the very generous sponsors!!!

Lenny, Melissa and I are forever grateful to the Ivy League Connection and it’s wonderful sponsors, who made this life-changing experience possible. Thank you!!!

Wayne Eisen