Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yoline Banerjee - Class of 2009

When I first entered El Cerrito High as a freshman, college was nowhere near my mind. I was barely thinking about the courses that I would take my sophomore year! Yet that was soon to change. I first heard about the Ivy League program when I received a note asking me to go to the Principal’s office. This ushered in a wave of worry. I have never spoken to the principal before!! Only those who get sent to the principal are in serious trouble…right?

I went to the meeting despite such thoughts, and that’s when probably the greatest event occurred in my High School years. I was told about the Ivy League Connection program, about being sent to Ivy League colleges over the summer. An Ivy League college was where all the genius people go, not people who are like me! For this to happen to me was something unimaginable, not only because of where these summer programs were being held, but also the cost of such things.

Yet not only was I able to go summer of 2006, but the summer of 2007 and the summer of 2008. Through all these years I have met people who are sincerely devoted to helping students truly reach their fullest potential, a place where I would not have achieved if it were not for the ILC. Seeing the Ivy League Connection growing more and more each year is simply…straight up awesome! Not only does it help those who are directly in the ILC it helps the friends of those as well, and in turn, they help those friends.

From my personal experience, I have been able to go to different elementary schools, as well as Portola Middle School, and help spread the word that college is the way to go. I have been approached by students that were wondering if they should join the ILC, and have always told them that they definitely should (after giving them a little bit of a hard time for even questioning if they should go).

Thanks to all who supported the Ivy League Connection, I was able to learn not only about such schools (specifically Brown and Cornell), but also about myself. Because I attended a challenging course at Cornell University, I now know that I can handle what UC Berkeley will throw at me. I can speak out when before I would keep everything in. I met people that I would never have meet before, even fellow students! Coming from a district where many hard obstacles are trying to be overthrown, the Ivy League Connection is a bright light that should continuously be shining.

Thank you to everyone who made this possible, for helping me shape who I am today, and for shaping those who will be there in the future.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Theresa Berger - Pinole Valley High School

Last summer, I was given the chance of a lifetime when the ILC sent me all the way across the country to study at one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation, Cornell University.

Although I was in Ithaca for only three weeks, I learned more not just about the foundations and theories of western philosophy but also about myself as a person, than I had in the past three years of high school. I came back more matured, confident, and excited about learning. I came back eager to give back, and I also came back wanting to go back.

It was my experience at Cornell that inspired me to look beyond the UC System here at home, and to strive for acceptance at other private schools on the east coast and for another taste of the intellectual stimulation I so desperately craved. And with help from sponsors such as Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg, along with college counselor Sue Kim and others involved with the ILC, I have been fortunate enough to be able to do just that.

Exactly a year ago, I was begining to prepare myself to go off to Cornell. Now, I am beginning to prepare myself to return back East, only this time to Washington D.C. instead of Ithaca. I have recently been accepted to The George Washington University and, thanks especially to college counselor and financial aid wiz, Sue Kim, have received an amazing financial aid package. I am literally days away from solidifying one of the most important decisions of my life, a decision that opportunity has provided solely because of my being a part of the Ivy League Connection.

I pity any person who feels that the ILC is a waste, for they could not be any more wrong. The ILC has truly changed my life, and that of many others. The fact that our students are given the chance to attend such programs, that they have the opportunity to succesfully learn with and compete against students from some of the top schools in the country, and that they are now recognized by such prestigious universities is an amazing example of the talent we have here in the WCCUSD. The fact that students have been inspired by the ILC to take a chance and look beyond the UC system, and the fact that students have been inspired to even become a part of the ILC are even greater examples of the impact the program is making in our schools, and are more importantly, the strongest indicators of its future success and potential.

I feel as if I can do nothing but echo my fellow ILC'ers when I say that words truly cannot express my thanks and gratitude for the program and what it has done for me. I can also do nothing but urge that all who have any sort of reservations or issues against it take the time to rethink their positions and the role that the Ivy League Connection has played, and will continue to play, in our community.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jessica Tran -- El Cerrito High School

I must say that this program is one of the most amazing opportunities that I have witnessed and experienced. I must admit that I had no clue colleges existed beyond California until last summer. I had been given the chance to attend a Women and Leadership Institute at Brown University. I gained a first hand experience of not only the college life at an Ivy League school, not only the exploring of a new location, but also a chance to work independently and gain new confidence. By attending Brown once in the summer and later in early November, I feel that I have definitely become a better speaker, worker, and leader.

I was not the only one who was able to benefit though. Many of my peers did not know about Ivy League colleges, or, if they did, they believed that it wasn't the right place for them. When I was able to share my insights, they have now begun to consider colleges outside of California. I have seen many people nominated to attend summer courses at Ivy League schools and I feel that the attempt itself is a great success. ILC has spurred the thoughts of individuals so that they can take the initiative to prepare themselves for college. It really helps one realize that there are unlimited possibilities!

Another great accomplishment of the Ivy League Connection would be Senior Kiana Ward of El Cerrito High. For those who don't know her, she was another ILC student given the chance to go to Brown with me last summer. Her thoughts were strictly UCLA; however now she is going to attend Brown University after graduating this summer. At this I must say that even the most dedicated UC pursuing student can be persuaded if only given the chance.

This summer I was able to apply to a Leadership In the Business World program at the University of Pennsylvania. To me this is a big step because it is definitely a rigorous course in which I know I would not have even considered if it were not for the ILC. Others who applied also were given a second chance. I was able to sign-up for a Physics class at Columbia, just in case the UPENN application does not work out. I feel that this really proves the ILC's dedication to our future. Not only are they providing the opportunity to sign-up for great programs, but they are trying to ensure we get the chance to witness a life changing experience.

I truly thank Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don Gosney, Ms.O'Brian, and ALL the Ivy League Connection supporters. The dedication and time put into this program is outstanding and inspirational. I believe there is a unanimous agreement when I say that everything coming from the ILC is beneficial to all who have heard, experienced, or encountered them.

Kiana Ward -- El Cerrito High School '09

Last summer I attended Brown University's summer program through the Ivy League Connection. Before leaving, my heart was set on UCLA. Although I saw what a great opportunity this trip was and was excited to be taught by a real Ivy League professor, I really only considered it as something that I could put on my application to help me get into UCLA.

When I first arrived, the campus was nice and the people were fine but it wasn't "love at first sight." It was exactly how I saw it on the school's website; a place with elegant old buildings that didn't really mean anything to me. But as time progressed and I got to know the other students and I got to explore the campus, I began to love it and the environment more and more. Before I knew it, it was time to leave. My point is, although some students may be able to look at a college website and instantly fall in love, most people need to experience something firsthand to really make a connection with it. And that was what the Ivy League Connection did for me. I come from a single parent household and qualify for the free lunch program. Money is spent carefully in my family and Ivy League summer camps are definitely not in our budget.

I applied to Brown University in the beginning of this year, early decision. Although early decision is binding, I knew that I was making the right choice after having spent time there. I was able to ask Professor Takesue to write me a letter of recommendation and wrote an essay about my interest in the Watson Institute for International Relations (a program that I would have been unaware of if I hadn't been taking my classes in that building last summer). I was accepted in December and I can't say that I didn't cry a little bit when I found out. Never had I thought that I could ever get into an Ivy League school and now, I will be attending Brown next Fall.

I understand the arguments against the ILC and I even wondered about them myself last summer. I had my doubts about the program; why should they spend so much money to send me to a prestigious summer camp on the East coast when all I really wanted to do was to go to UCLA? But now I see why the ILC is such a priceless program. It may cost a lot to send students to Ivy League camps but it is a worthwhile investment. I will get a spectacular education and then come back to my hometown and help students like me get into amazing schools. And they say that it is not just the education that is so important at a school like Brown, it is the connections and networking that you can do while you are there. Who's to say that I won't be able to spread the word about the ILC to other students while I'm at Brown and have other programs just like it spring up across the country. It is a cycle that cannot go on without the ILC.

My final point is that although it is virtually impossible that every student that goes through the ILC will get into an Ivy League, why isn't it worth it to still send them to these camps? Isn't the whole point of this program to get us great educations and aren't the UC's ranked as some of the top schools in the nation? Being able to write that you were chosen to be sent on an all-expenses paid trip to an Ivy League university stands out on a UC application. I think the fact that this program will help all of us get into a top UC much more easily is reason enough to keep this program going.