Monday, August 6, 2012

From the Mother of Chloe Alston

In Chloe’s sophomore year, I had heard about a program called the Ivy League Connection (ILC) and thought that Chloe should definitely be a part of it during her Junior year (I didn’t know it was offered to Sophomores). In the Winter Semester of her Junior year, Chloe came home one day and told me she had missed out on her opportunity to apply to the ILC program because she had not been invited to the informational meeting. Our hearts sank, as it was something she was really looking forward to. She tried gracefully and yet unsuccessfully to let it go, but then a new opportunity arose. I had spoken to Chloe’s 8th grade math teacher, Ms. Nakahara, who was one of the ILC interviewers about Chloe’s disappointment, she got in touch with Don Gosney and mentioned Chloe’s situation, and we learned that a new program – the Social Justice Program at the University of Pennsylvania – was being offered and that she could still apply. It was a stroke of luck!!! Chloe got right on it, wrote her essays, was interviewed and got in.

It sounds easy, but it wasn’t. There are some who believe that the students who apply and go through this process are subject to criticisms and held to expectations that are too high, however, I believe the strenuousness actually helped Chloe understand the brevity of this academic opportunity and what would be expected of her in a college-level atmosphere. She began to scrutinize her actions knowing that depending on them, doors to her future dreams could either open or close. The leaders of the ILC enabled Chloe to be exposed to and embrace possibilities for her future that she had not yet fully considered herself to be a part of. She realized she needed to work hard, stay focused, and be determined to be chosen and maintain her position. It is a program that opens the eyes of our students here in the WCCUSD beyond their everyday reality. It inspires kids to reach beyond their comfort zone and strive for something higher. The continued expectation by the ILC of the students to communicate the experience through blogging and to be representatives for the district also pushes our students to publically share and keep up the momentum of all that they have learned and gained from their experiences—to become a voice for opportunity.

Chloe’s experience in Professor Lamas’ Social Justice Program has expanded her way of thinking. It has furthered her ability to think critically about the world around her and to take an active role in changing herself and her environment for the better. She was in a class with 30 international students, studying under the guidance of teachers from all over the world. She was exposed to world-wide issues of poverty, racism, sexism, capitalism, amongst others and taught strategies by which to analyze these issues locally and communicate solutions. The strategies provided also encouraged her to question her own thinking and how she has viewed and now views herself and her place in the world. The Social Justice Program is an invaluable addition to the ILC as it enables our students to actively find their voice and learn to interact in the communities in which they and their families live.

I know a lot of hard work goes into the ILC, and I am so grateful to all those who participate in creating and maintaining this incredible opportunity for our students in the WCCUSD. Don, Charles, and Madeline for spearheading the program, all of the interviewers for taking the time out to care about our kids, Ian for being a fantastic chaperone, the University of Pennsylvania and donors for sponsoring Chloe, and Professor Lamas and Michael for providing incredible guidance and opening up your hearts! Thank you all!!!

Kai Weber (Chloe’s mom)