Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ramiah Davis-Shephard - Hercules High School

I would like to start by saying that you cannot please everyone. No matter how hard anyone tries, everyone will not be pleased. Being a junior in high school, I know that it is very important for me to know about the different colleges and to start thinking about what exactly I am looking for; and subsequently where I want to go. To be honest, as humiliated as I am to say this, before I was selected to be a part of the ILC, I did not even know how many Ivy League schools there were. Other than Harvard and Stanford, I did not know which schools had good law programs into which I could look. I was pretty much lost, and although I know all I had to do was get on the Internet and start looking things up, I felt so overwhelmed and I was not doing as much as I should have been.

All of that changed, however, after I was selected to go to the college meetings in Modesto and Sacramento. I learned - amidst mounds of priceless information - that different schools have different curriculums and different methods for students to receive/design their personal curriculums. Then, in preparation for the interviews, as we were applying to the summer college programs, I learned so much. I had no idea that Princeton has the top law school in the country. I had never even thought about Princeton, much less considered applying there. I have realized that the very prestigious colleges and universities in America are in fact within my reach. Me, little 'ol Ramiah; and if I can do it, there are so many others who can.

No, ILC cannot send everyone to summer colleges, but they - you - do make the dreams of, well I know of six people at Hercules Middle High School, whose dream of an opportunity like this has come true. Students have been inspired on so many different levels. I know that having been accepted to Cornell, makes me feel like I actually do belong in the AP classes I am taking. I actually am Ivy League material; and people are watching me. Not just adults, but also peers.

No, the ILC may not be sending them to Cornell this summer, but watching someone that they know go through this process makes it more real. Prestigious schools no longer seem like such a far off fantasy. The ILC makes them obtainable. I know, that if it were not for the ILC (and I must say God, because if it were not for Him, I would not even be in touch with the ILC) I would still be sitting around, trying to get good grades, but not being really sure what I was going to do with them. Of course, I was planning - and was told by my parents - that I would be attending college; but I just did not know that much about it. I knew that I needed good grades to get accepted, but I had no idea about admittance rates.

The ILC provides guidance, for those of us who are rising above the standard: go to school, go to college, get a job. We are students who are excelling in high school, and will go on to colleges and universities that are a great fit for each of us individually; and then we will continue on to have our own businesses, law firms, labs, hotel chains, airlines, hospitals, ect.

Like I said, everyone will not be happy, but a few will go through this process, and be the better for it. Others will be inspired by those few, and the ILC will make a difference in the lives of many.

Ramiah Davis-Shephard - Hercules High School

I just wanted to comment on how this program allegedly only helps a few people in the district. Well, look at how many people have responded to this accusation. The many beautiful student testimonies have exemplified how much of an effect the ILC has on individuals, but I just wanted to point out how many individuals it has, in fact, helped.

This is one thing that I love about the Ivy League Connection. I know that as I get ready to go to Cornell this summer I have two peers to study with; but we also have Theresa Burger, Jeannie Wu, and all of the other previous Ivy Leaguers. The ILC is an alliance of exceptional students and adults who can, will, and are helping us to succeed. The ILC is an inspiration; a goal. It is indispensable in so many aspects and, I believe, based on the testimonies of the Ivy Leaguers, that we will stand together and support the Ivy League Connection. We will defend it from any false accusations, and we will do our best to continually enrich it, as it grows and touches the lives of students in the West Contra Costa Unified School District for years to come.

Stephanie Ny - Hercules High School

I am stunned by the looming opposition against the Ivy League Connection. As a newcomer to the ILC, I feel it has already made an impact on my life—and I have yet to travel to the East Coast! I hope my testimony will eliminate any doubts students may have about the program.

Like many typical Californian students, I initially felt no desire to travel out of my home state for college. Like many typical Californian students, I wanted to attend a UC. However, my acceptance into the ILC etched a new view on my future into my mind. I realized that I do have the potential to attend prestigious schools in the East Coast. I can achieve what these students find impossible.

I believe students are skeptical about the East Coast because of their insecurity—they question their ability to live away from the emotional support of their loved ones. What doubters of the program have been unable to realize is that the ILC completely exterminates this insecurity and extends the boundaries of college-bound scholars by providing them with an opportunity of new friendships, new colleges, and, most importantly, self-discovery. Although I have yet to attend my program on the East Coast, I am already opening myself up to colleges and universities outside of my state—something I would not have done half a year ago.

Some may say the Ivy League Connection is only beneficial to a select few; that the opportunities awaiting selected scholars are unavailable to the majority of students. I find this to be the furthest thing from the truth. While the ILC was established to provide rising scholars with educational instruction, it was designed to have those students bring something back their community; and, I must add, those students definitely accomplished this task. At Hercules High School, the alumni of these programs told their stories and proudly advocated the ILC. With more publicity, I believe that students will realize what the ILC has actually done—and will continue to do—to change the lives of many, and that the Ivy League Connection will receive the recognition it truly deserves.

Yueming Wang - Hercules High School

I am utterly astounded that some people have doubts about the significance of the Ivy League Connection program in the school district.

Like the fellow students who have already replied to this email, I believe the Ivy League Connection is an important part of our school’s academic reach-out program. Although I cannot speak for others, I can definitely offer my take. Since I immigrated to this country in third grade, I knew that my goal was to get into UC Berkeley. I tried to obtain as much knowledge as possible and worked diligently to maintain good grades. UC Berkeley would be my reward for the years of effort. I never really realized the other possible schools that I can strive for until I attended my first Ivy League Connection seminar in Modesto.

What truly inspired me was when I met two former Ivy-Leaguers from Pinole Valley High School who were granted the chance to attend Cornell University for a summer. They both had much positive feedback about how much they loved the program. To them, it wasn’t just the academic knowledge that they took along with them, it was the chance that they had to associate with other bright students from other areas of the country. Their success in the summer program not only boosted their self-esteem, but also gave them the incentive to go to an Ivy League College after high school.

For me, it was great to know that people like me could succeed at summer programs held at prestigious colleges. This allowed me to dream that one day, if I work hard enough, I can perhaps make it into an Ivy League school. After this seminar, I began to consider some colleges that I would like to attend on the East Coast. Not only do they have a better reputation than public universities, Ivy League Colleges are better academic choices in various ways. For one, the general class size at an Ivy League school is much smaller in comparison to ones at UC Berkeley. Not to mention, these prestigious private schools are generally more academic-oriented than state-run schools.

As soon as I had heard that sophomores were allowed to apply for the Ivy League Connection’s summer program at Cornell, my heart leaped. What is a better way to explore an Ivy than this? In addition to that, I was also interested in the offered program – Hotel Operations Management. I have planned to start a tutoring business with friends for a while and this was just the perfect opportunity to go and learn about business tactics.

I am so honored to be selected to represent Hercules High School at Cornell University this summer. Not only do I feel more self-confident, I am also glad to know that there are people out there who care about the academic education. It’s great to know that the community is willing to donate money to support students as they embark on their journey to well-known universities. I do not know a better way for anyone to reward students for their accomplishments and encourage others to remain focused on their studies. These are all great reasons why the Ivy League Connection is an important part of our school district.

Thank you for giving us the chance to have an experience like this. We all greatly appreciate it! We will all benefit from this and remember it for the rest of our lives! Thank you again!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jared Jawad -- El Cerrito High School

When I first heard about the Ivy League Connection I was apprehensive. But after looking through the course list that would be offered at Cornell Summer College, I became intrigued by the school, and the atmosphere.

It is impossible to fully explain what two summers across the country does to a personality, but I will say this: it gave me the confidence to apply to an Ivy League school when I didn't even apply to any UCs. It also gave me the insight to look at other schools back east when I had never heard of schools outside of California before that time.

To those people who question the need for a program such as this one, you only need to look at the records of where students applied, and you will see that there is a stark contrast in the amount of students that apply out of state before this graduating class, and the amount that applied out of state this year.

The Ivy League Connection is an eye opener for any student who participates. It shows them that truly anything is possible for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Before I traveled back east I never even slightly considered Cornell, or any other Ivy League for that matter, simply because I did not think I could afford it. But, in my time at the school , I was able to research the financial aid for the Ivy League, and came to the realization that I could do it, that I could afford to go to the top schools in our country.

We, the students of the ILC, have been given a chance, and we are spreading the word about the extraordinary chance that we have been given. The community is always pleasantly surprised, and in support of such a program.

If you need to ask if this is necessary, you only need to ask the people who voted you into office, and they will defend the Ivy League Connection with the students. They will deffend their students' right to learn and grow every time, and so will I, Jared Jawad.

Courtney Mariano - Hercules High School

I am amazed that some do not see the need for a program like Ivy League Connection. However, I hope my testimonial will open their eyes to how much it has helped me and all the other students involved.

Ever since my freshman year in high school, I started thinking more about college such as where I want to go and what I want to major in. I always pictured myself attending one of the Universities of California just because I have lived in Hercules for so long and never imagined living far from home. The thought of attending a school on the east coast never crossed my mind. However, ILC changed my entire perspective. Although the UC’s are great colleges, this program has inspired me to broaden my horizons and consider other prestigious schools, such as the Ivy League Universities.

Last year, I had the honor of being chosen to participate in the Biomedical Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania. I was given a taste of the college academics with morning lectures from our professor, afternoon labs, and projects. Not only was I exposed to the educational side, but I also experienced the freedom that comes with being a college student. I lived on my own in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for four weeks without relying on my parents. I was in charge of waking myself up on time, getting my own food, and balancing my time between school and leisure. Thus, I became more responsible and independent.

This summer, I am fortunate to go back to the east coast to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island to learn about psychology. I am excited to learn more about this subject, meet people from around the country and the world, and live independently for three weeks. To, those who only think this program helps a handful of students, it certainly does more. We who have the honor of going to one of the prestigious universities over the summer come home and tell others of our experiences. We do not simply keep the information we gain to ourselves, but we share it with students like us. Therefore, it helps everyone.

Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg for creating the program and providing WCCUSD students with once in a lifetime opportunities. Also, thank you to all of the ILC sponsors who see the need for a program such as this to expose young people to the different colleges. Hopefully, this testimonial will assure those who question ILC and show them that students greatly appreciate it.

Courtney Mariano

Adriana Ramirez - Richmond High School

I hope this and the testimonials of all the other students will help those who do not know much about the ILC's accomplishments within the community see that the ILC is neccesary.

I was a junior when I was offered a chance to be part of the ILC, as I was told about the summer program at Brown and decided I wanted to give it a chance. I had been part of other summer programs that took place in UCLA, UC Berkeley and even CCC. The ILC is way different than other programs. The ILC does not only take students to programs in prestigious schools but
teaches students confidence, confidence within one's self. As an ILC student I expanded my horizons, I left my comfort zone and challenged myself beyond what I thought I could. The experience was eye-opening! I learned that nothing can stop me, that even if I am from little old Richmond I am capable to stand and compete with those who have been exposed to Ivy League schools all their lives.

The main difference between the ILC and the other programs I have been part of is that the ILC is not a one time thing. After the summer program through the ILC I was given lots of help with SAT classes where Mr. Ramsey himself took time off to take me to my classes. This was a great help! I was also given help with my college application process with a professional, and my
parents and I are very thankful for that. But it did not end just there, I was also taken to college fairs where not just ILC students were taken but also other students who were not part of the ILC. Thus, this program DOES help other students. About a month ago I was also given the chance to visit NYU and Vassar with my mother, this did not only help me and my mother but
my school as well. I was able to show these schools that our district IS interested in them, and that they should pay more attention to us. When I came back I told all my friends about my experience and my newly gained knowledge from these schools, and again I informed other students of the opportunities that are outside of our "Richmond" bubble.

This program is essential to push the WCCCUSD onto the radar of the Ivy League schools as well as other private schools. Many students are seeing how important a college education is becoming and the ILC has been part of this new change. I truly believe that everyone who makes the ILC run as smooth as it does is an inspiration.

There is no reason to doubt what the ILC has done. There is so much that the ILC has done for me and other students and everyone's hard work is undermined when it is said that the ILC does not create a change. Even my little sister who is just in seventh grade is being inspired and pushing herself to get straight A's to be a future ILC participant.

I want to thank everyone who makes the ILC possible, without your help I would have not learned about my own strenghts.

Sincerity and Peace,

Adriana Ramirez

Gina Saechao -- Richmond High School

I believe that the Ivy League Connection is a very beneficial program to the school district. Without it, I wouldn't have gotten the chance to go to Brown University last summer. I feel that the only reasons most students choose UC's is because of the fact that they aren't exposed to schools in the East Coast, therefore they know nothing about those schools. The Ivy League Connection is giving students the chance to experience schools on the East Coast and giving them a perspective of the college life. I used to be one of those students who thought that I'd just go to a UC, but being able to go to Brown opened up my eyes to the fact that there are other colleges out there!

The ILC gave me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and explore my horizons. It is an important program to our community and district; the students who participate come back as leaders, ready to help students learn and achieve.

Cynthia Fong - El Cerrito High School

It is surprising that people feel the Ivy League Connection is not a necessity. I feel that it has shaped me as a student today and I would love to see the Ivy League Connection grow and expand into other school districts as well.

The Ivy League Connection helps students that try hard in our school district. Dedicated school counselors seek out these students and provide them with this opportunity. The students that get to go to the East Coast come back with the best stories and experiences, and they share them with their fellow classmates like I have done. We inspire our classmates to work hard and contact their counselors so that they will also have the opportunity to get into the Ivy League Connection.

The Ivy League Connection has showed me the possibilities available to students like me. Before going to the University of Pennsylvania last summer, I was only thinking about applying to UC's. I was one of those stereotypical California high school students that wanted to stay in California. No way was I going to go to the East Coast, where the schools are expensive and the weather is always changing. However, after going to the University of Pennsylvania and spending time on the campus, I got to explore the area for myself and I learned that I loved the hot weather. I loved the people and to be honest, I loved the distance. Being away from my family allowed me to learn more about myself and to meet more people. It was a great experience and it definitely would not have happened if it was not for the Ivy League Connection.

The Ivy League Connection is important to me because it has opened my eyes and the eyes of many of my classmates. It is true that I was only considering UC's, but after going to the University of Pennsylvania, I will definitely consider colleges on the East Coast. This summer, I was provided with the oppurtunity to go to Brown for three weeks and I am looking forward to it. I have already started counting down the days (83 days left!) and my excitement will only continue to grow thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg and all the sponsers that made this program possible for students like me.

Justine Betschart, Hercules Middle/High School

Regarding the Ivy League Connection's necessity in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, I cannot applaud the program enough, having experienced it from an ordinary student's perspective and one of an Ivy League Connection participant.

Unlike many of my peers, the Ivy League Connection entered my academic life as a sophomore. I was asked to attend the University of Pennsylvania with my fellow students, Courtney Mariano and Susan Lee. Honestly, I was in disbelief. I had not felt that my academic background stood out or that I was capable of representing my school, let alone the entire district. Although I was unable to attend UPENN during the summer of 2008, I still benefited from the program. I believe the moment I was asked to participate, my academic work had finally gone noticed, and my confidence as a student had been established. I could only focus on applying the following year, hoping to receive the chance yet again.

Luckily, the time came, along with essays, applications, and interviews. This time I had to work for my position as an Ivy Leaguer, and had I not been asked to do the program the previous year, I would not have felt comfortable applying with my fellow scholars.

To answer the question whether or not ILC is a necessity, I can say, from experience, that it is more than needed in my district. Not only did my spur of the moment invitation provide me with comfort in my academics, but it also stimulated my peers. I quickly let all of my close friends know that opportunities such as the one's provided by the Ivy League Connection were within reach. This led not only myself working hard for my current program, but it allowed my fellow students to strive for something that we all believed was far beyond us.

Overall, this program is beneficial to everyone in the district. With students jetsetting off to the East Coast, our district receives the prestige and recognition that is has lacked over the decades. With the idea of attending an Ivy League school spreading around the district, all students will be given a more obtainable goal. Had I known of this program a few years back, I would have been prepping up until this very moment! In response to students focused on only attending UC's, I can gladly say that this untrue. While the University of California system is a stellar one that we Californians are proud of, the Ivy League Program has provided not only trips of a lifetime, but also college informational meetings presented by prestigious colleges from around the nation. These beneficial presentations allow all to enjoy the gracious help of ILC, rather than just a select few. They let students know that college experiences aren't limited to your town, country, or even state.

Without the help of the Ivy League Connection, I may have settled on attending a school a mere 20 minutes from my hometown. Now, with confidence and exposure, I feel more than comfortable broadening my college horizons and seeking more than the UC in my backyard. Thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Ms.Kronenberg, and the more than generous sponsors, I have benefitted from this program from every perspective possible, and I can't wait to see where my participation in this program can take me.

From Mercedes Montelongo - Richmond High

It is astonishing to believe that people really think the Ivy League Connection has no impact whatsoever on students and our families. If it were not for this wonderful program, I would never have gotten to visit top universities on the east coast and not to mention get to spend part of my summer studying there. I would never have even considered applying to a school outside of California. A year ago I would have pushed these East Coast schools to the curb, but after my trip last summer to Brown where I stepped out of my suffocating bubble, I now am definitely applying to other schools besides the UC's and CSU's.

This program, which Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg started, is an excellent opportunity for students to do as I did and step out of their comfort zone and look at what is out there waiting to be taken advantage of. I am grateful for this program and would be greatly affected if I found out that it would not be kept for my fellow underclassmen.


Mercedes Montelongo

From Nick Ortega - Hercules High School

The Ivy League Connection provides a one-of-a-kind experience. What it gives is not available from many other places, and definitely not available at their price. While there, I learned many valuable lessons, most of which had nothing to do with the subject matter I was studying. The Ivy League Connection sent me to Columbia University in the heart of New York City for three weeks last summer. I was enrolled in the Investigations in Theoretical and Experimental Physics course. What I learned there, I will use through college and my life.

Being on the east coast (in Manhattan!), I experienced a part of American culture that I never had seen before. I was able to see many sites that have served or currently serve a great part in the United States' history, including the U.N. building, the statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and more. Additionally, I saw the different lifestyles of Americans in New York. I found out that while the pace of life is much faster there, we are still united through the ideals of American society and patriotism.

While I saw this part of national culture, I also was placed in a melting pot of international culture, as the other students I met came from several foreign nations, including Egypt, Brazil, Hong Kong, Cuba, Greece, and England. Through our conversations, I learned new, outside views about the U.S. I also learned how to always get along with anyone, despite cultural differences.

Inside the classroom, I learned more than just physics. I learned how to cope in a college environment. While the workload was strenuous, I was able to keep up with the lectures given and I learned more than I had in any three weeks at high school. Knowing how to work with groups when needed and how to buckle down to get the work done, I can go to college with confidence that I will succeed.

The most important thing I learned, however, was how to be independent. This experience, like no other, has taught me to rely on myself. I learned that I am able get myself up on time for class (even if my parents can't believe me) and that I can look after my own needs. I had to make sure I knew my schedule and had to get myself where I needed to be every day. I learned to keep track of what I needed for myself, and was able to schedule my time appropriately to maximize all I could learn.

In all, this opportunity gave me the skills I needed to enter college with confidence. I will always remember the good times I had, the people I met, and the lessons I learned.

Stacy Chan -- ILC '09 -- Speaks

I enjoyed reading Bertha Romo's testimony. It was well said and inspirational on many levels. Her success story deserves a second look, especially the fact that she is accepted to UPENN.

I am strongly convinced that the people who had initial doubts will no longer be disbelieving after they read all the testimonies written by ILC students.

Thank You,
Stacy Chan

From a Richmond High School Student Meuy Saephan

I am extremely astonished that people actually doubt the success of the Ivy League Connection. Personally, I really love what the ILC have done for me. I have never thought about applying to any other colleges outside of UC system until I was able to experience first hand the campus life at Brown University. I even walked on Harvard’s campus! This is something I never thought possible! However, I was proven wrong once I was informed about this wonderful program that has instilled in me a whole new perspective on college and my future.

Truthfully, I was first informed about the summer program at Brown through an e-mail. However, I did not even give it a chance due to financial issues. A few days later, I was pulled out of class and was offered an opportunity to go to Brown University, all expenses paid. I could not believe what I was hearing. Are there really generous people who are funding this program to get me and other students in the WCCUSD to experience life in the Ivy League? Yes. Of course, I was not going to turn down such and offer and I can happily agree that it was one of the best experiences in my life.

Before I was exposed to life in the Ivy League, I only thought about applying in the UC system. As for other students, the main reason for this theory is that we are not exposed to other schools. We do not have the resources nor the money to explore other college options so we choose to stay close to home and attend the schools we do know about. However, after my experience at Brown, and attending multiple workshops through the ILC program, I am now thinking of applying to various colleges in the East Coast.

Although the ILC is mainly beneficial to a select group of students, I believe that with more funding and publicity, it will continue to prosper and expand its horizon of students. What this program needs is support; not put downs from people. I truly hope that the ILC will continue to do what it is doing now, assisting students as they gradually approach the college life.

- Meuy Saephan
Richmond High Student

From Bertha Romo, Richmond High School, UPENN '12

It is upsetting that people doubt the success of the Ivy League Connection. It feels as if they doubt the ability students have to step out of their comfort zone and reach higher standards. Yes, it is difficult, but in no way is it impossible. I was one of those students who, like many other students in our district, never considered the Ivy League universities as a college option. I refused to leave my family and my home even after I was notified that I was accepted into UPenn. I understand the fear many students have of the "unknown"- living alone, far away, and in completely foreign environnment. But I did it; I am about to complete my first year at UPenn,an Ivy institution, and it was great! Sure, I had a difficult time adjusting, but I have been pushed and challenged more than I thought possible and the best part about it is that I'm still standing-standing right up there with all the other bright students from across the nation and across the world. And quite frankly, if it weren't for the Ivy League Connection- Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Ms. Alaniz, I would have rejected this amazing oppurtunity.

While I understand people's concern that the Ivy League Connection only caters to a select group of students, I feel that this is only the start, and the number of students taking advantage of the program can/will grow if the program continues to be supported financially. There is already evedence of this-

The interest for the program has grown significantly over the last year. As I was telling a group of students at RHS; when ILC first came to RHS, over a hundred students were invited to participate and only 5 students took the initiative to apply. However, last year and this year the number has tripled. I am convinced that if ILC continues its work, the number of interested students will continue to rise. As these numbers rise, the popularity of the program will rise with it and soon more an more students will be knocking on Ms. Alaniz's door saying, 'How can I go join the program.' This is what RHS needs- an incentive. If students see that there are great opportunities out there if only they excel in their academics, then more students will want to do well in school.

As for the argument that students are not benefiting from the program, that is not true in my perspective. Sure, some students that participate in ILC will still choose a UC or CSU, but that is only one side of it. (And in no way should this be looked down upon- more students are going to college and that matters more. We also need to appreciate the fact that there are more students in the district interested, applying to, and even attending Ivy League institutions. This says GREAT things about our district, our school, and our students.

Let me end with one more point. As I was looking at my transcript, I noticed that my high school is not listed on my transcript, meaning Richmond High School is not in UPenn's system of US high schools. Why? Perhaps I am the first student from Richmond High School to attend UPenn. How do I feel about this? Angry. I think it is about time WCCUSD schools were recognized and the only way this is ever going to happen-the only way Richmond High will actually appear on my transcript- is if the ILC continues its oustanding work to send students to these premiere schools. This is our only way in.