Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blogging From Home

Blogging tutorial at home
Today was my blogging tutorial. Since I go to church on Saturdays from 8 in the morning and stay there until 8 at night, if not longer, Don gave me the choice to have a Sunday tutorial. Of course, I cleaned the house (well, the parts that Don would see) and waited for Don to come over.

He came at around 10 AM, and we got straight to work. I was ready to go straight to blogging, but he surprised me by saying the majority of the tutorial would be talking. He took out a list of things we needed to talk about so I could follow along. Once I saw how many things he needed to tell me about (54 items), I braced myself for a very long talk.

It was long, like I’d expected, but it wasn’t boring. Don added in little jokes and stories like he usually does, which helped hold my interest from item 1 to 54 (I asked for no breaks—I wanted to get it all finished at once).

We talked about basic blogging, what he expects our blogs to include (they want to hear about people we meet, what experiences we go through, what we think about things that happen to us, etc), and when he expects us to blog. 

Don's headshot, taken by me
Finally, we opened up our laptops and practiced taking pictures, adding the pictures to our blogs, and blogging itself. It was definitely helpful, though seeing Austin Long’s blog about visiting Yale (titled “Bulldog Days”) makes me want to step up my blogging game.

After that, we talked about what they expect of us, as well as important things to pack. One of the things our Chicago cohort especially has to do is describe everything at the University of Chicago. Since the program is new, and we don't know much about it, it’s important for each of us to send detailed reports back home.

The tutorial ended kind of early, so we spent a good portion of an hour talking. He told me horror and success stories about Ivy League Connection students. One success story in particular really made me see how valuable the ILC truly is. I remember Don told me the Ivy League Connection takes students to the door of opportunity—unlocking, opening, at times building a door—and introduces them to people on the other side. I'm glad I'm lucky enough to be one of those students.

School Board Presentation

Wednesday evening at Lovonya Dejean Middle School, I attended a School Board meeting along with all the other students who were accepted into the Ivy League Connection. Also in attendance were the School Board members, our chaperons, and our families. This event was a great opportunity for us to meet all the kids who were accepted and to congratulate any familiar faces that we saw. More importantly, it also allowed us to thank those who helped in any way to make all of this possible for us.

At this meeting I was asked to say a few words about how excited I am to be going to Chicago and what I will bring back to my community when all of this is over. During the planning of this mini speech, I hit the worst writers block ever and couldn't think of anything to write. I began to panic because the meeting was only in a few days and there would be a lot of people listening to what I had to say. Messing up was something that I couldn't do. After reaching out to Don and being encouraged by my Chicago group, I decided to speak from the heart instead of going in with a speech already planned.

While waiting for the meeting to begin, I felt that the atmosphere of the room was relaxed and non-judgmental so this put me at ease. This, and seeing so many of my friends wish me luck, made me feel like I was on top of the world. When the time came to give my speech, my mind was clear and I'm glad to say that I was able to speak without passing out or throwing up. Of course it wasn't perfect and I stuttered a little bit but I was still able to do it and the response I got from my Chicago group made me forget about all of that.
Presenting Ourselves to the School Board
After the speech came picture time. The task of getting everyone organized and where they needed to be fell onto the ever capable hands of Don. Getting about 100 people to listen and pay attention to you while you tried and get them to be where they need to be so the picture comes out perfect sounds 100 times as difficult as it does. But, as usual, Don was able to get it done.

I'm really glad that I got to practice my public speaking. Since the Chicago group went last, I was able to take in what my peers did and from that, I could figure out the direction that I wanted my speech to go and the way in which I wanted to deliver it. Granted, maybe another time I'll have to go first but I believe that this practice that I got will only make me a better speaker.

A Great Day at the School Board Meeting

I’ve been waiting for the School Board Meeting for a while.

I did the typical girl routine in the 30 or so minutes I had to get ready before heading out to De Jean: I showered, brushed my teeth, did my hair, and overturned about half my closet looking for clothes to wear.

I arrived at De Jean and found my cohort. Before the meeting started, we gathered together and were told to sit with our cohort, walk to the podium when it was our turn, and smile (I didn’t have anything else to worry about—I wasn’t a speaker). Since the Chicago cohort went last, we had the privilege of watching everyone go before us. 

I thought I would be nervous being presented to the school board members, but I was strangely calm. I was extremely happy that I was given that opportunity, and tried to convey that by smiling a lot (my face hurt afterwards). If you had asked me to stand in front of a panel of obviously important people with several intelligent people behind my back a couple months ago, I would've been terribly nervous. Already, the Ivy League Connection's changing me.
Oyin speaking during the presentation of our cohort

Two students who took part of the ILC also spoke. I forgot their names, but I remember the guy took Constitutional Law and will attend UPenn this year. I also remember the second speaker, a girl, went to Hercules and will attend Harvard.

Harvard and UPenn! I think going to schools as great as those is every present ILC member’s dream.

After all the cohorts had gone, the sponsors were asked to go up. I distinctly remember one being a fabric/sewing company. Everyone gave them a standing ovation, of course.

After that, we took a group photo. Everyone kept fixing their hair or something (yes, Don yelled). I looked at the photo Don sent us and to my surprise, of all people, my dad stands out. He has his entire body in the picture! Of all people.
I counted, what, three girls fixing their hair? Barely anyone was ready at this point.

What definitely made my week (which I’ve needed, considering the stress I’ve had due to finals):

1.) People in my old interviews remember me!
2.) I saw people I don’t usually talk to in person today (like Carson, Michelle, and Lisa)
3.) I was able to watch a school board meeting for the first time
4.) I found out my cohort’s traveling for four days before landing in Chicago! I’m excited (I heard some other cohorts would be going to the same schools, too. That’d be the best if we all went at the same time)!

I found out today that my cohort’s visiting Georgetown University and Northwestern, among others. I never knew how prestigious those universities were until now. It still amazes me how ignorant I am about colleges and universities outside California, and how the ILC took their money and time to plan this. Thank you!!!!!!

First Hellos

On May 12, I had the opportunity to meet with the students who will be attending the University of Chicago with me over the summer and I also met our chaperon, Alie. We decided to go to Mountain Mike's Pizza in San Pablo at around 5:30 PM. I got there early and I waited for everyone to show up. About five minutes later, one of the participants showed up and our chaperon was close behind. Pretty soon everybody arrived and we got the semi-awkward first hellos out the way and we eventually got settled with each other.

From talking to the others, I learned that Dani doesn't have five fish, Victoria is a music kid (like I am), Jimmy doesn't skate (although he could potentially participate in a triathlon one day), and Alexa is a gymnast. I also learned that our chaperon hasn't been living in California all of her life and she is a vegetarian but a good burger is her weakness.

I enjoyed meeting everyone for the first time and I am looking forward to what else is going to come from this experience. I'm excited to do some of the activities we planned on doing when we got to Chicago like going out to eat, going to a museum, visiting a lake or a beach, and celebrating Alie and Dani's birthdays. I'm ready for what's next in my adventure with this group of people that I just met.


 Yesterday morning, I woke up much earlier than normal for a Saturday morning so that I could attend the blog tutorial at De Anza High School. Don picked me up at 7:40 so that he could have time to set up for the tutorial. Victoria and I were both there first since we got a ride with Don. We went into the computer lab where we would be working and soon after Jimmy and Oyin arrived. We got down to business right away. Don started by telling us the basic rules to follow to have a successful experience with the ILC, and then we started working on how to blog. This included how to format, what to focus on when writing, and then we looked at good and bad examples of blog posts. Another really important part of blogging is taking photos and figuring out how to put them in your blog. Don then let us borrow some of his cameras to practice taking pictures and posting them in blogs. 

The Chicago cohort, minus Dani, hard at work

This wasn't just a tutorial on blogs though, it also felt like an introduction to the orientation. We got the finalized dates of our departure and arrival from the trip. The more I hear about the exact dates and where we will be going, the more excited I feel, because it feels more realistic with exact dates put on these events. Overall, this blog tutorial taught me so much and I feel much more prepared to go back east, and will feel even more prepared, I'm sure, after the orientation and dinner.

A Celebration and a Presentation

Wednesday night, I arrived at Lavonya Dejean Middle School at about six to be presented to the school board. When I walked into the building I first saw my chaperone and one of the girls in my cohort, Oyin, so I went over to chat with them. At this point, the majority of the students were there, so it was definitely interesting to see who else would be participating in the program. I saw some students who looked familiar because they went to my school, and others who looked familiar because I had seen them previously at different interviews. 

Once all the members of my cohort arrived, we decided to take some pictures of all of us together. Then Alie, our chaperone, told us that she had recently found out what colleges we would be visiting before returning to Chicago for our classes. The universities we will be visiting include Georgetown, Northwestern, and UPENN. Soon, we all sat down with our respective cohorts and the school board meeting began. The members took roll, and then Charles Ramsey gave us an overview of the meeting, most of which would be the introduction of the ILC program and who would be participating in it, as well as the introduction of those that generously contributed to the program. 

Oyin presenting the Chicago cohort to the School Board Members
One by one, each cohort presented itself to the school board members, first with an introduction by the chaperone, and then an introduction and an expression of gratitude to all those who made the program possible by one of the students. After all of the cohorts had been presented, the students and parents were ushered into a corner of the building where we had our picture taken. This took a great deal of organization and I ended standing next to an invisible person who would be photoshopped in later. After about ten minutes and twenty or so photographs, we were done and each student got a congratulatory certificate. 

We ended earlier than expected, making it short and sweet. Soon after I headed home after a successful and exciting event.

Meeting at Mountain Mikes

The Chicago cohort and the chaperone for the trip, Alie, a teacher at Helms, gathered for a meet and greet at Mountain Mike's Pizza in San  Pablo, on a hot and dry day, May 12. When I arrived, all of the other students and Alie were just sitting down. 

We ordered cheese, pepperoni, veggie, and Hawaiian pizza. We introduced ourselves by stating our names, grades, and what schools we went to. Some of the other students I recognized, like Dani, who I had seen at previous interviews, and Oyin, who goes to my school and is in the grade above me. We also shared with each other what activities we participated in outside of school, and as it turns out all of us are very dedicated to athletics, playing instruments, or both. We also discussed which classes we would be taking at Chicago, and it turns out everyone is taking a different class, meaning we will all have very different experiences to bring back from Chicago. Alie told us she majored in psychology in college, and because I am taking the developmental psychology course, she might be able to help me if I need it. 

Then we played "two truths and a lie" just to learn a little more about each other, which was a fun way to open up to each other. As our pizza arrived and we started eating, Alie helped us brainstorm fun activities we could take part in while in Chicago, including visiting the piers and trying traditional deep-dish Chicago pizza. We finished up eating and put left overs into to-go boxes. We then took some pictures and said goodbye to each other, not for long though, with the school board meeting coming up in just two days.