Monday, December 26, 2011

Words of Wisdom from ILC Alums

Some of our ILC alums have been kind enough to provide their insight on how their participation has affected them as they've matriculated to some of our country's finer educational institutions. These are students who participated in The Ivy League Connection and are telling us about their experiences in a world unlike what they left here in the WCCUSD.

From Jackie Lares
UC Santa Barbara

I believe congratulations are in order to the Ivy League Connection. Honestly, you all deserve the recognition for the effort you put into ensuring the success of all of the ambassadors throughout the Ivy League process as well as the general college application, financial aid, and admissions process. I know I wouldn’t have felt nearly as confident throughout the process if I didn’t have the Ivy League Connection experience behind me.

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Jacqueline Lares. I graduated from Hercules High School, class of 2011. I attended Cornell University for the Hotel Operations and Management Program in the summer of 2010. Currently, I’m undeclared, but taking prerequisites in order to major in Economics.

The experience I obtained through the Ivy League Connection helped me excel during my summer internship with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County. While attending Cornell I became familiar with programs like Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. All those skills became vital to the success of my internship. For the chamber I was able to make flyers, presentations, and keep track of chamber members through the use of these programs. Had I not obtained the opportunity to attend Cornell I wouldn’t have those essential skills I needed for my internship. I will forever be grateful to the Ivy League Connection for allowing me that opportunity.

I’m currently in my third week of my second quarter at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My first quarter was a huge adjustment period. I feel as if everyone says almost the same thing, but it really is true. No matter how independent you are, no matter how prepared you feel, how ready you think you are to leave home, at the end of the day, once you get the distance you wanted from your parents, you will realize there is nothing like sleeping in your comfy bed at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love being at school, but I’ve also developed a new appreciation for being at home with my family. After about three weeks into the school year, you feel pretty settled in. I made new friends, was comfortable with my schedule, knew about on-campus tutoring and attended regularly, and I joined the Latino Business Association, an on campus organization meant to help develop your professional business skills and give you networking opportunities.

UCSB runs on the quarter system, and although I knew the time was going to go by quickly I had no idea just how fast everything would fly by! During my first quarter, by week three I was already sitting in a desk taking my first college midterm. Honestly I didn’t do well, at all. We won’t go into all the details, but it was a wake-up call. I was already aware the college system was different and much more difficult than high school, but I thought if I did my homework, went to lecture and paid attention, I would learn just like I did in high school. I was wrong. There’s a lot of individual effort that you must put into understanding all the material covered during lectures. Chances are, you’re not going to automatically understand everything your professor is talking about, and unlike high school you’re professor isn’t going to spend a week on a chapter. He might spend two lectures on it, at most. It is incredibly easy not to understand a lecture, then go to the next lecture and be completely lost. It takes a little bit of learning, but after you know what you have to do in order to succeed in your classes, all you have to do is stay motivated and continue working towards your goals.

You have all had a great opportunity already, just by being a part of the Ivy League Connection. Your experience with them will not go to waste. They’re a stepping stone, because you will notice, by the time you’re actually in front of professionals, you won’t be as nervous because you feel confident. That confidence comes from the practice that the Ivy League Connection gives you when they have you dress professionally and attend dinners, or meetings, or present yourself at hall council meetings, all of those experiences help to shape you and give you an upper hand over your peers.

At this point I already feel like I’ve been in college for years, even though it’s only my second quarter. I definitely feel like it’s much easier to come back your second quarter after you have the first one under your belt. College is a great experience. Not just within the classroom, but it really helps you grow and mature as a person. You have to worry about yourself because your parents aren’t around to do it for you. There is nobody there to hold your hand anymore. And, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from it all, it’s a feeling that nothing else can give you, and nobody can take away from you. Your education is yours forever.


Jacqueline Lares
University of California, Santa Barbara 15'
Hercules High School, 11'
Cornell University, Hotel Operations & Management, 10'
From Matt Arciniega
Columbia University

Last time I checked in I gave a quick synopsis of the lessons I had learned in college. With another semester in the books I have learned a whole new set of lessons that I would be more than happy to talk about. However, for time’s sake, I would like to focus on the lesson I found most influential this past fall.

That lesson is: Get the heck off campus.

Last year I chose to keep my extra-curricular activities limited. By that I mean I didn’t do anything except study. I don’t regret this decision. I resisted the urge to jump into every club that caught my eye and I ended up doing pretty well.

Most students who enter selective colleges did at least two large extra curricular activities in high school (in my experience, many have done more), and this brings diversity to our campuses, but it becomes a problem when students come to college and expect to work with the same amount of clubs and organizations they did in high school. Clubs are much more time consuming in college. You can’t just come in and become president of 4 student organizations. It will consume you. I recommend you come into college and take a semester to really work on academics and grades and researching one or two groups that really interest you. This may be difficult because extra curricular activities are more fun than school, but no one said college was going to be easy. Put your head down and work for the first semester.

However, once you have put in your time and had a chance to ground yourself academically, you should get out there and involve yourself in something. I know this is typical college advice but choosing the activity you want to devote time to can be tricky and my recommendation is to look away from campus for at least one of your activities.

Don’t get me wrong, student groups are great and it is important to do something fun like sports, dance, journalism or music. However, it is also important to begin gaining experience and cementing relationships outside your campus. This past semester I worked for an organization called 50CAN. It is a non-profit organization that focuses on advocating education reform policies across the nation. I work 15 hours per week as the research intern for the expansion team at 50CAN. The organization is headquartered in downtown NYC and I have absolutely loved the opportunity to leave campus three days a week. It gives you a much-needed change of scenery and allows you to interact with people that are concerned with more than the scores of the last biology quiz. Also, it gives you a great opportunity to network with future employers and get a first-hand look at the careers you might be interested in pursuing.

As far as my personal check-in, I have been well. I really enjoyed the last semester despite the crazy schedule. I have toned it down to four classes this semester, but I also picked up another internship at different non-profit downtown. I’ll let you know how that goes in the summer.

As always, I am available by email ( or phone ((510) 334-6367) for anyone who would like to hear about Columbia or college in general.

All my best,
Matt Arciniega
CC '14---
From Lucero Perez
Santa Clara University

First off, I would like to thank the Ivy League Connection for expanding my horizons in high school. This program greatly helped me make the best decision when it came down to choosing the right college. I am currently attending Santa Clara University. SCU has proven to be a great match for me. I really enjoy being in such an amiable community, but even with all the positive atmosphere I still had some minor problems the first quarter.

I started off the first quarter excited and ready to learn. I did not know what exactly to expect from SCU, but I knew that I would overcome anything that came my way. I still remember the very first day of my fall quarter. I was assigned a great load of homework, but I was not intimated by it. I walked into college knowing that I would have a greater load of work than I had in high school, so I was not worried about this. All I knew was that I had to make sure I got my homework assignments completed. The first few weeks of college were my experimental weeks. I needed to find out more about myself and learn what were the best learning techniques for me.

I came to realize that I really enjoy socializing with others, but this was taking up a great amount of my time. There were times in where I would go to sleep really late because I was up with friends. I managed to meet a lot of new people at SCU and I love it. I never stayed in one place, so everywhere I went I made a friend. This made me feel more comfortable with the school. I felt like I belonged here. I have not had any problems with making friends because I have always been a very sociable person. This made my transition from high school to college very smoothly. I really liked it. However, when the first midterm season came along things started to get a bit tougher for me.

I assumed that I knew most of the material, so I did not spend too much time studying for my first midterms. I looked over some of my notes and went to a couple study sessions with some friends, but now that I look back I realize that I didn't do too much to prepare myself. Even though I went to study sessions, I felt like they were somewhat useless. I pretty much talked a lot with some of my friends there, so I realized that I am not the type of studier that can study with other students. I am easily distracted by conversations and it can be hard for me to get on track once I am engaged in another topic. This was a great learning experience though. When the first set of my midterms came along, I felt pretty confident...except for one: my Business 70 class. I failed my first midterm miserably. I received one of the lowest scores in the classroom (and we had a curve!). But this did not discourage me. I knew that I just had to work better next time.

I did not score so well in my first set of midterms. The only midterm I scored well on was my Math midterm. This gave me confidence because I knew that if I could score well in one test, then I can score well in the rest of the exams. When my second set of midterms came along I knew exactly what areas to focus more on. Since I didn't have too much of a problem in my Math and English class, I decided to focus my attention more on the classes that I felt I needed additional help. I made sure that I reviewed more for these exams than I did before. All of this proved to be very helpful because I managed to get my grades up. Although I did not have the best grades, I never stressed over any of my classes. I did not see the need to panic over my work. I just made sure I got it done on time and I understood the meaning behind the assignment.

Even though I had managed to get my grades up in the middle of my first quarter, I realized that I was not passionate about school at all. This was a time period in where I can honestly say I didn't mind too much about my work. I still got it done on time, but I was not stressing too much over it. I was just not passionate about school period. Some of the classes were interesting, but I still did not really find the purpose to certain lectures. When I realized my lack of interest, I decided to change this mentality but I realized that I could not change what I felt. I talked with some of my older friends at SCU and told them what I was feeling. They all told me to just stick through it and get my grades up. What many didn't understand was that my grades were good, but I just didn't find too much of an interest in what I was doing. However, I still made sure all my tasks were done.

In one of my assignments for my class it asked me to reflect on my quarter so far. I was completely honest with myself in that paper. I admitted that I was not giving my best in my classrooms, but that was because I was not too interested in what I was doing. After my teacher read it, she decided to talk to me after class. She asked me if everything was okay and I said that everything was fine. I just didn't really enjoy how my classes were at that moment. She did her best to try to help me and that made me feel a bit better. I realized that the professors at SCU truly do care for their students. This reminded me of why I chose SCU. I decided to give my classes another shot. Even though I did that, I still wasn't too interested in them as I hoped but I managed to finish my first quarter with a 3.4 GPA. I did not stress for those grades, but I decided to do better my second quarter.

It has always been my goal to finish college, so I will do so but I also realized that I honestly have to do something that I enjoy. I am currently an undeclared business student, but I might change my intended major. I want to be able to get a degree in something that actually captures my interest. I am very passionate person in the sense that if something doesn't captivate my interest, then I will listen to my gut feeling and do something I love. I am extremely passionate about Art and Health, so I might change my major to one of those fields. Through my first quarter I realized I just need to find something that makes me want to continue learning that subject. I know that this quarter will be better.

My biggest advice would be to follow your interest, but also make sure that you are responsible with your work. I made sure all my assignments were completed and even though I wasn't too interested in what I was reading I still made sure I learned something from it. I strongly believe in keeping my options open, so I realized that I will explore my freshman year and see what major/degree is the best for me. There isn't a rush to find the right one yet, so I am still in the process. That is what makes college life such a beauty. It is all about learning new things and learning more about yourself. With that said, I can honestly say SCU is a great fit for me. I know I will be able to find something that interests me.

Lucero Perez
Richmond High School '11
Santa Clara University '15---
From Yohanna Pepa
Yale University

Congratulations once again on winning the Golden Bell Award. It’s really great to see that innovative and effective programs such as the ILC are being recognized for the positive change they bring to the community. The ILC opened my eyes to the wonderful academic opportunities that lie not only in Northern California, but also further away from home.

I just finished my fall semester of sophomore year. Honestly at times I still pinch myself to double-check that I am indeed a student at Yale University. For the past few months, however, I have found this test to be unnecessary, because I have been subject to a much more piercing one, the test of an unbearable amount of academic work. Just a few disclaimers here for those not yet in college: yes, it was largely self-induced, because I selected my classes and decided to have a full workload and yes, it was not wholly unbearable because I did manage to stay highly involved in extracurricular activities and not become a social hermit. However, this past semester has been hard enough that I have sworn to myself to not take more than 4 credits next semester (which is the normal amount of credits Yale students take each semester, but I have never taken less than 4.5 credits).  The five classes I took were Intro Microeconomics, Intro Statistics, An Issues Approach to Biology, Contemporary Italian Culture, and Democracy & Peacekeeping 1916-1919. With this intense schedule, I have learned many lessons not only on topics from the syllabi but just as importantly on how to strategize one’s collegiate workload.

You must remember that college is not high school. You do not need to take an ungodly amount of classes to boost your GPA with extra AP credits. Furthermore, you do not need to strive to have the highest possible GPA in your college—it’s impossible. Well it’s possible for some, but those are laudable outliers. What is crucial to remember not only when picking classes but also when struggling with midterms, papers, and finals is that your only competition in college is yourself. Are you achieving as much as you personally could be achieving?

This does not mean that you should not abandon your grandiose visions of the future because you’re not completely sure that you will ever reach them. Rather, you should practice “realistic idealism,” a concept I taught this past summer at the Yale Ivy Scholars Program during my “Everyday Machiavellianism” seminar. This entails dreaming big, but then reconciling these dreams with the present by understanding and undertaking the gradual, specific steps that must be completed to achieve them.

With this in mind, construct your schedule so that it is challenging, yet something that you personally can achieve. If you know that the classes you are taking will cause you to become to even copious amounts of Starbucks double-shot mochas (I’m speaking from subjective experience), rethink them before it’s too late. It’s college, not high school, so there’s no stigma from dropping a class before the final drop date and it won’t go on your permanent record. However, if you don’t drop a class you can’t handle, you may find your sleeping schedule permanently damaged.

This underestimation of workload derives from many causes. One, for me, was that when you’re picking your classes, you falsely think that your first two weeks are reflective of the rest of the semester to follow. This. Is. Not. True. The rest of your semester will have papers and tests from different classes, sometimes at the same time, and you will face hurdles not only in the classroom, but perhaps in groups you are involved in or maybe even from an illness (I was sick all semester—it was far from pleasant). Another thing to remember is that the rigor of your workload comes also from the type of classes you are taking and not simply the number of credits. My schedule initially seemed more-than-manageable for me, since I had Fridays off and two of my classes began with the word “Intro.” Friday actually turned out to be a much-needed day for work instead of sleep and those two classes actually turned out to be my most difficult classes. This was so mainly because both Microeconomics and Statistics were quantitative reasoning courses, and I had not formally done anything quantitative for over a year. It was humbling to realize that even basic algebra was not intuitive for me anymore. Additionally, these math-based courses had problem sets. Most students had at least one class with problem sets each semester, but this was the first time I had them since last year I had had a disproportionately large amount of papers. It was a tough adjustment for me to tackle two problem sets each week. Moreover, they were due back-to-back, on Monday and Tuesday, which is why it soon seemed that I did not actually have Fridays off since I would spend them all working in coffee shops and libraries.

You might be wondering why I took those classes if I did not really enjoy them. I’ll spare the euphemisms: I hated Statistics. Don’t get me wrong, I understand how statistics are necessary for all fields of study that deal with concrete information. However, I am not exaggerating when I say that every lecture was painfully dry and incomprehensible and those times I spent doing statistics problem sets were some of the lowest points of my college experience so far. I didn’t hate Microeconomics. I really do love the concepts of economics, I just had a professor who lectured very poorly yet assigned tough homework assignments that required students to use concepts he often didn’t teach us and were not elucidated in the textbook, thus Intro Micro was not the most joyful experience for me. Issues Approach to Biology was not that hard, but for a class marketed as a science class for students into the humanities, it had tedious lectures and tests that were oppressively technical and thus contrary to the title of the course itself.

So why did I take these classes? I did have a fundamental interest in each of them, but honestly the main reasons are distributional requirements and intended major required courses. At Yale, we have to take a certain number of classes listed as humanities/arts, social sciences, sciences, quantitative reasoning, foreign language, and writing to fulfill the distributional requirements. This requirement is lenient when compared to the general ed requirements of UCs, but it still is a burden for many students. Needless to say, I took An Issues Approach to Biology to fulfill half of the science requirement. Intro Microeconomics and Intro Statistics fulfill quantitative reasoning for me, but I took these specific quantitative classes because they are required courses for the major that I intended to declare (I will address this later). The overarching lesson I have learned from all of this is: take classes that you intrinsically enjoy. I took 5.5 credits spring semester of freshman year, so I objectively had more work and obligations then, but it felt like less because I was so intrigued by all the material I learned in all of those classes. The classes you take primarily and inevitably shape your semester. Your eight semesters in college are your college life. After undergraduate education, it’s the “real world,” whether it be a full-time job or graduate school. As Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” Moreover, your semester will just be intolerable if you take courses in which you are not actually interested. I can’t wait for next semester because the syllabi of each class I plan to take make me want to already start ordering my books from Amazon so I can begin reading them—I can assure you that that was not the case with Statistics or Biology.

I’ve been talking mostly about how hard of a semester this was for me, and while it was the hardest, it did have its incredible, rewarding moments. The highlight of this fall was definitely being accepted into the major that I have been lusting over for a year, Ethics, Politics, & Economics. It’s an interdisciplinary major centered around applying classical and modern knowledge to present problems in public policy. The reason that I was not able declare EP&E as my major until two weeks ago is that it’s a selective (perhaps one of the most selective Yale majors) major due to its format in which all of its courses are taught as seminars (small classes with one professor and around 15 students). To declare as an EP&E major, one must apply as a sophomore in December and must subsequently be accepted. The application consists of a printed transcript, a sample work of writing from a previous relevant class, and a one thousand word statement of purpose. My transcript was not flawless, but it showed a great deal of interest in the major through the classes I had taken and improved progress in terms of grades. I submitted a paper I had written for my Directed Studies History/Politics class last spring entitled “An Assessment of Smith’s and Marx’s Assessments of Capitalism.” I spent many hours transposing my personal love for EP&E into words in the form of my statement of purpose (I’ve attached that in case anyone is interested in learning more specifically about the EP&E major). These three elements are a great example of how I apply that concept of “realistic idealism” to reach my often ambitious goals. I had no idea if I’d ultimately be accepted, but I had consistently and determinedly worked towards small steps (i.e. taken classes in philosophy, history/politics, and economics) that made my acceptance a possibility. I still believe that I am more than fortunate to have been accepted into the major I was interested in, but I firmly believe that the luck I had in getting in would not have even existed if I did not, through much perseverance, create the conditions for it to exist.

On that note, if anyone wants to ask me any questions about my college experience at Yale, feel free to (and please do) give me a call—I’d love to talk.

Best wishes to everyone in the ILC for the upcoming year—students, remember whatever happens, it’s up to you to make the most of it.

Yohanna D. Pepa
Yale University, BK’14
Major in Ethics, Politics, & Economics
(510) 965-7088
From Selene Calderon
UC Berkeley

Congratulations on earning the Golden Bell Award. It definitely could not have been awarded to a better program.

I graduated from Richmond High School (RHS) this past June and started school at the University of California in Berkeley the following week through Cal’s Summer Bridge program. I was allowed to take two courses plus a seminar class that were meant to introduce me to academics at Cal as well as live in the dorms. It was a terrific experience that helped me get more accustomed to the campus, learn about the available resources, and meet new people. Summer Bridge really helped make me feel less lost in the first days of the Fall Semester and helped me meet people with similar backgrounds from all over the nation and worldwide as well.

Even with my experiences during summer fall semester was unlike anything I had experienced. Academically, I felt a great freedom being able to pick my own classes, but at the same time a bit worried about whether I was making the right choices. As the 2011 Incentives Awards Program (IAP) Scholarship recipient from RHS I got help from academic counselors concerning what classes I should take and what combinations would be okay. Even though I got this help I still felt the responsibility was completely on me. I chose to take Psychology 1, Molecular and Cell Biology: Drugs and the Brain, Ethnic Studies, Chicano Studies Seminar, Chemistry P, Decal course on Sexual Health, and Education Seminar, which is required by the IAP for the first semester. I thought I would be okay seeing my unit load was only 15.5 but I learned that the number of units does not really matter what really mattered was the amount of time each of the classes was going to take. So my advice for any incoming college student is to really consider your course load not based on the number of units or classes but on the amount of time you know you will have to dedicate to it. Having seven classes first semester was okay but during midterm season and finals it got very hectic. I did more studying for tests then I ever had. I think another very important thing especially when you are living in the dorms is to find places other than your own room where you can study because not everyone has the same study schedule as you and things can get disruptive. My main suggestions are the libraries where you not only have resources like books and internet but also quiet spaces to really concentrate.

Many times I have gotten asked whether RHS prepared me for college and I can say that it greatly did. Even though college courses are much more difficult all the lessons that my teachers from the WCCUSD taught me have come in handy. Not only academic lessons but the life lessons that each of them taught me greatly shaped my performance my first semester in college and I know they will continue to do so. Something that my teachers at RHS taught me was the diverse forms of teaching that you can encounter and how to better adapt yourself to each. College professors just like high school teachers are all different from their grading to their teaching styles, so it is handy to learn which teach in ways that coincide with your own learning styles or ways to adapt yourself to their style to help increase your academic success.

Socially, I began the semester with the intention of becoming a member of several clubs but because of the time I had to spend in class and out of class doing work I was unable to. I hope to however join a Latina organization called, Hermanas Unidas (HAU), in hopes of getting more in touch with the Latino/a community at Cal and also learning more about my own heritage. Coming from Richmond I hadn’t ever really experienced being a minority and it is so sad that the only times I have been able to take classes with a great amount of Latinos at Cal are those corresponding to the Chicano Studies department. I hope that through HAU I am able to network more and also help out in bringing awareness to the issues affecting minority groups. Cal has a wide variety of organizations that you can easily find one or more that interest you. In the case you can’t find one, all you need are five other people and you can start your own organization.

Homesickness wasn’t really a problem for me seeing I am only fifteen minutes from home. Nevertheless, it was a change to be on my own for the most part and have to be away. I think it is important to maintain contact with your family even if you do not go too far from home. College is stressful and especially in the first semester when you are still getting to know people it might be hard to open up and talk about what’s going on. I found that my relationship with my parents has become much better now. I feel that our communication has increased and it has helped me deal with my own personal struggles. The counselors from the IAP have greatly helped by supporting along the way and I know I can count on them for the rest of my academic career at Cal.

Well, if anyone has any questions about Cal, Summer Bridge, or the IAP feel free to contact me at

Hope everyone has a good holiday break and GO BEARS!
From Jennifer Kuang
Stanford University

First off, I want to say congratulations to the ILC on the Golden Bell Award. As an alum of the program, I can say that it is certainly well deserved. This quarter, I participated in Stanford's overseas studies program in Beijing, and it has unexpectedly been one of the best experiences of my college career so far. I know that many of those students who have written are a bit younger than me, so I want to take this time to talk up studying abroad in college.

I was not at all excited to go to Beijing - I am Chinese, I have been to China multiple times, what can I possibly learn there? A LOT, it turns out. Living in a foreign country for an extended period of time is so completely different than anything else you experience in college. Although there is a lot of English around in China, you really do need to start speaking and listening to the native language to understand what is going on. There were 20 of us in the program, so it was a small, intimate group, and all of us became good friends very quickly. We studied at the prestigious Peking University (or Beida in Chinese), taking courses related to U.S.-China relations, Chinese Criminal Law, Chinese culture, the Chinese media system, and film, as well as the language itself.

Over the course of this quarter, I became more aware of myself as a Chinese person and what it means to be Chinese American. The change in myself is hard to describe so I will not try it for you here. I was lucky in that I can speak Chinese fairly well, but some of my friends can't at all, yet they had a great time. We ate the local street food, visited all of Beijing's cultural and historical attractions, and experienced local Chinese pastimes with our Beida language partners. We had cooking classes in the homes of Beijing families, learning how to make traditional dishes like changshoumian - long life noodles, which are meant to be eaten during one's birthday.

The shopping in particular is amazing, due to the 6 yuan to 1 U.S. dollar exchange rate. During the weekends, we would go travel around China on our own, to Shanghai, Xi'an, Guilin and Hong Kong, etc. There is something very satisfying in knowing that you can get around in a foreign country on your own successfully, navigating transportation, hostel and living arrangements, sightseeing, and much more. You gain a new self confidence, and because it's in a foreign country, you gain a new perspective on culture and community.

I am writing this now from an Apple store in the Sanlitun district (one of the few real stores among many many fake ones), famous for its robust bar scene in the midst of the foreign embassy buildings. I don't know if I was able to articulate fully how great this study abroad trip was for me. I thought that because I had traveled to China before, I knew everything. But studying here for 3 months, though not long, was enough for me to understand how wrong I was. I am not saying that everything was perfect; I will be going back to the U.S. tomorrow with still many confused questions about why China is the way it is right now, in terms of governmental control and human justice issues, but that is another conversation altogether.

All I know is that studying abroad IS the great, wonderful experience that almost all college students claim it to be. I encourage everyone to try it if you have the time in your busy schedules. I guarantee that you will learn more than you would in your home campus. I know I did.
From Dennis Shem
UC Berkeley

As I look back on my experience in the ILC, I realize that I am starting to recognize fewer and fewer names of individuals as they go through the program. Even then, it's good to hear and share in the successes of the program.

With that, though many of you receiving this email may not have a clue who I am, I hope that I can share some knowledge that might be useful further along in your college career.

My name is Dennis Shem, a Sophomore at UC Berkeley majoring in Psychology intending to go to medical school; I might minor in Toxicology, but that's still up in the air. I say "intending" because well, medical school is a little bit up in the air as well. It is one of those already defined paths that I see myself going down until I'm able to fully process what it is I want to do personally.

This article itself has challenged me to really think about the choices I am making in college. My big takeaway from the article and this past semester that I also want to pass on, is to make **intentional** decisions. Take time to set goals and to reevaluate them every now and then. Activities you choose to be involved in, whether school related, career related, or for pleasure, be sure to have clear picture in your head of why you're a part of it.

I hope that you all have an opportunity to read it at some point during the process of continuing your education. Good luck!

Dennis Shem
From Gabriel Sanchez

Congratulations on the award, I'm glad to see that your hard work and dedication into the Ivy League Connection has received the attention it deserves.

This Fall at UCLA has been my most difficult quarter yet, but the most rewarding as well. As each quarter progresses, my involvement and responsibility on campus continues to grow, and will only continue to do so until I graduate. Reflecting on the past ten weeks, everything that I am doing on campus is helping me develop into a person critical of the society we live in today, as well as providing me the skills I need to be successful in the future.

As I stated in my post last year, I accepted the position to be an administrator for Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE), the Pilipino Organization's access project. Little did I know that this position would UCLA, known for its philanthropic efforts in LA, provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in community. The Community Programs Office (CPO) is dedicated towards the retention of college students of color as well as access of students living in underserved parts of Los Angeles. As the oldest of its kind in the UC system, the CPO is not only the strongest within the Universities of California, but has also gained national recognition for being one of the best student-initiated and student-run office. The CPO is composed of several organizations that have demonstrated specific needs for these services to exist for their communities. These organizations are the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/Chicana de Aztlán (MEChA). Afrikan Student Union (ASU), Pacific Islanders Student Association (PISA), American Indian Student Association (AISA), Vietnamese Student Union (VSU), Muslim Students Association (MSA), and my organization, Samahang Pilipino. Each organization, funded under the CPO which its receives its funding from student fees, hosts a retention project, access project or both.

To provide a little background information, the Student-Initiated Access Center (SIAC), the access portion of the CPO, was founded as a direct result of California's Proposition 209 enacted in 1996. Proposition 209 prohibits public institutions to consider race, gender, and ethnicity in the admissions process. Since then there has been a dramatic decrease of students of color in the UC system. The projects these organizations host are intended to combat Proposition 209's devastating effects on our communities and provide the support these students need. As a member of SPACE, I go to Belmont High School located in the heart of Historic Filipinotown every Thursday to provide academic counseling to students. Belmont High School is a small secondary school, under LA standards, with 1300 students that is home to many immigrant, working class families. Statistics show that a majority of the student body learned English as a second language. These numbers are evident in my caseload, as I have had several sessions in Tagalog (the Philippines' main dialect) and have had to talk to student's parents in Spanish. My time thus far at the high school has been nothing short of extraordinary. I have learned a lot from my students in the ten weeks of having sessions with them and have developed genuine relationships with them.

Holding the administrator title of Parent Investment Coordinator, however, I also have the responsibility dealing with the project's administrative tasks. My job began over the summer, where I had to draft the parent portion of our project's Academic Year Budget Proposal and list out the component's mission statement, along with its set objectives for the year and the methodologies I will use. Doing this was difficult, because over the summer I was in the Bay Area and had to attend meetings via webcam and make deadlines while balancing an internship and summer class. The work only became harder when the school year began, as I had the bigger responsibility of investing my staff in the importance of parents and having them do the necessary work to fulfill my objectives. I had to facilitate portions of our staff meetings and workgroup meetings, research relevant readings for my workgroup's development, and keep them accountable of their tasks and reprimand them when necessary. My duties will only become harder next year as our project underwent hiring this past quarter and is now strong with 30 members.

As stressful as things can be, looking back at everything I've done, I can honestly say that I love the work I do. SPACE has provided me an opportunity to no only develop my professional skills, but also continue my understanding of what it means to be a Pilipino-American and a person of color in the U.S. Expanding on what I learned as an intern in this project, I continue to become more conscious of all societal injustices, of the people's struggle, and most importantly, of my own personal endeavors and history. The work I do in SPACE is in sync with what I want to do in the future, that is work in the educational field helping students from underprivileged backgrounds. Although I still am uncertain as to what profession I specifically want to hold, I know for a fact that it will be in education and it will be in the form of service for the community - my community.

In addition to SPACE, I have also become involved in other spaces that provide me with relevant development towards my future aspirations. This quarter, I was a staff member for the External Vice President's office, part of the thirteen-member Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC). I specifically worked in the State-Affairs component, where we strived to raise issues regarding the state of the UC. I know Mr. Ramsey that you've asked us how we feel about the tuition hikes, and in my opinion, I am in disgust that the UC Regents have continued to make cuts to higher education. But my emotions are useless if I keep them to myself. Therefore, by being part of the State-Affairs committee, I am taking an active role in representing the student voice. As a student of UCLA, I have so much pride and respect for the vision UC system, which is to provide all California residents a free education (which was written in the original Master Plan). However, as tuition continues to increase, and our system continues to accept more students out of state, we are going farther away from this environment which once existed decades ago. Although our occupy rally was short in numbers compared to Berkeley or Davis, and we did not have a UC Regent commending the sale of cupcakes as a response to repealing Proposition 209, the State-Affairs committee has done well foster activism to the greater student body. One of the things we supported was the Repeal Proposition 209 Rally, an issue in UCLA history that has had significant student reactions dating back to Kandea Mosley's "Days of Defiance."

While only a couple of days of my break remain, I await the beginning of the new quarter with absolute excitement. The biggest reason is because this Fall I was selected as a cohort for the Junior Scholars Program. Under the Academic Achievement Program (AAP), I applied to be in this program as a means to prepare myself for graduate school, specifically a PhD. This Winter, as a cohort, I, along with nineteen other second-years, will take a weekly class that will educate us on the fundamentals of writing a research proposal. We will have weekly readings as well as assignments that will prepare us for writing a proposal of our own by the end of the quarter. In the Spring, a professor will either adopt our proposal or have us work on the research that he or she is already doing. This experience is the preparation I need if I choose to pursue a profession in the field of research.

Though this might sound like a lot, being SPACE has definitely taught me the essentials of time management and prioritizing. Although I am balancing all of this, I am proud to say that I still have a GPA over a 3.5. As stressful as all of this sounds, I would not have it any other way. I do everything in college with conviction, passion, and love and it is these three things that will guide for the rest of my undergraduate career and after college.

Happy New Years!

Yours truly,
Gabriel Augusto Jomdos Sanchez
UCLA Undergraduate | Class of 2014
Political Science Major, Education Minor
Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE)
Parent Investment Coordinator, Peer Advisor
From Jessica Tran
UC Berkeley

Congratulations on receiving the Golden Bell Award! I am really glad to hear that the ILC is growing and staying strong.

As a sophomore this year at Cal, I thought that I would be prepared for the coming fall semester, but I must say that it has been a great challenge for me. I originally jumped into architecture as my major, and I had planned all four years revolving around it. When I decided to take a computer science course this past semester, I realized how much more passionate I was to the introduction course. I became really conflicted in changing majors because I had already taken quite a few classes for architecture, and if I were to switch then many of them would be considered "useless." I am now realizing that there is no such thing as a pointless class because there is always some new experience whether it be knowledge, friends, or a change of perspective. I encourage all incoming first year students to try out the classes they are curious about because you never know if something will strike your interest. Also, do not be discouraged if you cannot find the right major in your first year. There are many students in the same position and I would recommend to talk with advisors, family, and friends for advice. Just know that in the end, everything will work out for the better.

In addition to academics, I have become more involved in clubs and sports. I am currently applying for a director position for BCEC (Berkeley Careers in the Entertainment Club) as well as planning to help facilitate a decal and a past class. Do not be afraid to take leadership roles; I believe that you can learn so much more about your college as well as the students that build the campus atmosphere. College offers so many different activities and managing your time among everything is essential. Be aware of how much commitment is needed in the activities you sign up for so that you can get the full experience. As a commuter, staying on campus from 9am to 11pm can be tiring; however if you are passionate about whatever you do, then it will be worthwhile. Overall, the college experience is shaped by your decisions. Be proud of the choices you make and push forward with confidence.

Jessica Tran
From Justine Betschart
UCLA ‘14
Hello ILC!

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Justine Betschart, and I am a Hercules High School alumna and current sophomore at UCLA. As most have stated in previous testimonials, my second year of college has not changed much compared to my first year. As I stated in a missive last spring, I switched majors (and schools within UCLA) to Chemical Engineering within the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Now that I no longer have to stress about what I want to pursue during my 4 years at UCLA, I am now diving into engineering coursework, which is no cakewalk whatsoever. I took on a rigorous course load this past quarter, which in hindsight, may have not been a great judgment call. However, college is no time to laze around and take the lightest course load possible. Having a Friday off may seem nice throughout the quarter, but finishing school in 4 years with a professional degree is much sweeter.

In addition to truly being introduced to chemical engineering with my first upper division course, I focused on achieving more of an academic and extracurricular balance than I had last year. This quarter I joined the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, as well as the Society of Women Engineers. These professional clubs have provided me with a lot of exposure into the world of engineering that I am very new to. Additionally, I made it a point to make sure I joined a group that wasn't so professionally based.

To my own disbelief, I rushed a sorority. Most students focused on their academics have the negative stereotype of Greek life that I also had when I entered UCLA. However, doing a little research and stepping outside of my comfort zone were the best things I did this past quarter. I joined Phi Sigma Rho, an engineering and engineering technologies based sorority that provided me with the academic and social balance I needed so badly. I got the best of both worlds with my sorority, so don't discount this aspect of college life. College is a time to try out new things, so make sure to step out of your bubble and meet new people, whether it be by going Greek or joining the Scrabble Club!

If anyone has absolutely any questions for me regarding UCLA or anything college related, feel free to shoot me an email! [ ]
From Cristina Pelayo
University of Pennsylvania
Congratulations on winning the Golden Bell Award.

My third semester at Penn was about trying to decide what I would major in. I decided to take a bunch of introductory classes in different areas of the humanities to see what area I would ultimately major in. I'm glad that Penn allows you the option of declaring your major later on down the road, although I'm advised to do it by February. At the beginning of the semester, my pre-major advisor left, but I was immediately assigned to a new one who answered all my questions and was equally helpful.

My old advisor even keeps in touch with me still by asking about what classes I'm taking next semester. I was really surprised that she did, because she really didn't need to, but it’s Penn, I really should not have been surprised. I met with undergraduate advisors for the major and minor I am planning on declaring, and they were extremely helpful with their advice on what classes to take next semester. I love how they have walk-in hours almost every day to answer any questions you may have, and that I don't need to schedule an appointment.

Overall, Penn is great for someone who is as undecided as I was because there are so many people willing to help you and talk to you about your future. I haven't declared my major yet, but I'm planning on doing it sometime when I get back for the upcoming semester. This semester I've decided to join the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project and be a Big Sister in order to learn more about public schools, in the case that I stick with my idea of doing something with education at some point. Visiting different public schools just gets me out of the college bubble for a while and has allowed me to learn more about Philadelphia as a city.

This year, I'm doing community living on campus. It's basically like a suite, with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. I prefer living this way because I can eat when I want (no starving late at night when the dining halls are closed) and I can shower without waiting for the housekeepers to finish cleaning the bathroom. This has definitely made me feel even more independent because I have to plan my own meals and clean, and overall I really like it. Even though I consider myself more independent, living like this has also made me dependent on my other three roommates to do their share of the work. Luckily, they're fabulous and very considerate, and sometimes we cook together and even argue over who doesn't have to do the dishes.

Homesickness is still something I struggle with, especially since I go home only twice a year. I'm not going to lie, but moving in and moving out by yourself is terrible (as is lugging your baggage to train stations and airports). Being about a six hour plane ride away with your family and friends in a different time zone is hard, especially if you love home as much as I do. It's especially hard when you have a final on the very last day and all your friends are home weeks earlier than you and you're locked up in the library getting distracted while trying to study for it (yup, it happened to me this semester).

Being on the East Coast does make you experience a somewhat different culture, but I think it's important to remember that the country is a lot bigger, and it's not all going to be like the Bay Area. It's made me aware of how different the world is, and it's made me grateful to have been born and raised in the Bay Area. It's also fun spreading some of that culture to my friends at Penn. I think it is necessary at some point to be far from home in order to appreciate what you really have.

If anyone has questions about Penn or college in general, feel free to email me!

Cristina Pelayo
From Winston Long
UC Berkeley ‘15
Hello to Mr. Ramsey and the rest of the ILC organization and students! I'd like to add my congratulations to ILC for being awarded the Golden Bell Award. I know that for me and many other students, the ILC programs have not only been a highlight of our high school careers, but also have significantly influenced us to realize all that we were capable of, and I'm glad to see the ILC receive it's well-deserved recognition for it's effects on our scholastic lives.

As a freshman at UC Berkeley majoring in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR), my first semester has been a completely new experience for me. Even though my time at Columbia University as an ILC student made me feel more confidant moving into the college environment, the transition is definitely something that is very hard to prepare for. As you've probably heard from reading many of the other reflections, one of the biggest changes is the independence that you get when you move out into college. (That's the reason why everyone writes about it.) It's easy to quickly forget that you're at a university with the purpose of studying, especially since many students around you probably will forget why they are there as well. For me, I found that if I needed to rigorously plan out what I needed to do every day and schedule out all of my work in order to remain on top of all of the assignments. It was a real eye-opener when I realized that I couldn't glide my way to the finish as I did so often in high school, but that I actually needed to consistently study and force myself to put forth effort just to be on par with everyone else.

That being said, UCB has really been a fantastic place to live and study at. Even though it is true that class sizes are hideously large, and tuition is being raised to astronomical heights, don't let that stop you from considering UCB as a college. (I was kidding about the class sizes and tuition, it's not that bad. Really!)

The community at Berkeley is probably the most diverse you'll ever find at a college, and the large student population almost guarantees that you'll be able to find other people that you share interests with.

Additionally, the opportunities at Cal to reach out and develop professionally are limitless. For example, in the last semester, I was able to contact City CarShare, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, and help them develop a case competition to solve their expansion issues. (Another former ILC student at Cal, Jeannie Wu, was part of the winning team.) It was a great experience for me to be able to work with real-world organizations and know that the work that I do actually has an impact on their organization.

Also, Cal offers experiences that would be hard to find at any other school. For example, in my IEOR freshman seminar, we had the opportunity to visit a nearby sandwich shop owned by an IEOR graduate which was reputed to have "extremely efficient sandwiches." (No word on how they taste, though.) We also visited Meyer Sound, a local company that produces the best high-end sound systems commercially available, and went on a factory tour (unavailable to the public) to see how they optimized their production processes.

Next semester, I'm joining the Pioneers in Engineering club as a mentor for high school students in a robotics competition sponsored and co-ordinated by the PiE staff. I had the good fortune to be involved in the competition as a high school student last year (3rd place, PV!), and it was such a phenomenal experience that I wanted to be able to part of the experience again, even if as a college mentor this time.

In short, this semester has passed by amazingly fast. As cliche as it sounds, college really is a whirlwind ride, and even now I'm trying to figure out how to cram the most I can into the four short years I have at Cal.  Don't be afraid, high school seniors! College is spectacularly exciting, and you're going to have a great time! (But for now, enjoy your last high school semester!)

Go Blue and Gold!

Winston Long
Industrial Engineering and Operations Research | 2015
University of California, Berkeley
(510) 508 1050
From Austin Long
Yale University ‘15
Hello to all of you prospective college students!

My name is Austin Long, and I am a freshman at Yale University. I am a proud graduate of Pinole Valley High School, and I took the Techniques in DNA Biotechnology class at Brown University during the summer of 2010.

I know that for a lot of you, the college application season is almost over, but I'm here to tell you that there is still so much more to do! College is difficult, much more so than high school, but it's not impossible. Although a lot of other people have said this already, college is an amazing experience. You'll be surrounded by the most talented and the most incredible people from all across the world. Your teachers and faculty will be fantastic. Don't waste this opportunity.

When I first started this semester, I was lonely and homesick a lot. I felt for a long time that I didn't belong at Yale, and that I was only admitted through a series of terrible mistakes at the Admissions Office. I wasn't very confident in myself or my abilities. I didn't try very hard, because I felt so out of my league, and I felt too socially awkward and shy to really commit myself to extracurricular activities. I was very much not at all the person I was in high school.

Don't do that.

College is indeed about self discovery, but you can't let yourself be crippled by self doubt or fears. You have to be who you are. Don't be afraid to show it. It was only at the end of this semester, when I started studying and working harder, that I realized this.

Another big problem for me: Procrastination. Don't do that either. Get rid of bad habits, fast. Otherwise, you'll spend all semester trying to catch up. There is no greater feeling in the world than being on top of all of your work. You can't get by in college with the same study habits as in high school. You actually have to study, as opposed to cramming at the last minute. Surprisingly, there is a difference between the two.

If that was too long and you didn't read it, just be confident and work hard. I was stupid my first semester for being lazy and scared. Hopefully, it won't happen to you.

Aside from that, college is great! Especially at Yale.

This semester, I took five classes: Writing the Modern Non-Fiction Essay, Chinese Level 1, Freshman Organic Chemistry and the corresponding Lab, and a freshman seminar on Social Control and Criminal Justice. All of these classes were fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed each one, not just because of the material we were learning, but also because of how the class dynamics were different from that of high school. There's a lot less raising hands, and a lot more conversation and discussion.

Aside from classes, I also was a part of the Yale Concert Band, the Yale Precision Marching Band, Yale Progressive Principles, Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, DEMOS, as well as STARS. Yale Progressive Principles is a new organization aiming towards organizing a conference for students to learn more about Progressivism, and to get to know other progressive leaders. For the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, we are currently working on a weather balloon, which we will be launching early next semester. In DEMOS, every week we go to a classroom and do science projects with elementary school students, which is very similar to something which I started at Pinole Valley High School. And STARS is an organization dedicated to helping minority students at Yale do better in STEM fields.

Socially, I'm only semi-social at Yale. I don't go to parties or to dances very often. During my free time, I hang out with my friends or study. But if you're into partying or dancing, you're in luck, because Yale has a lot of those. Yale University focuses a lot on giving underclassmen the freedom to explore and to experiment with their lifestyles, and that's something that a lot of people chose to take advantage of. I spend a lot of time with my suitemates, as I was lucky enough to be put in a suite (of 7) where my suitemates weren't like me, but rather, were similar enough that we complemented each other but yet still different enough where we all learn from each other and are able to bond over our experiences. However, I do know that not all students were as lucky as I was, so it's really a matter of luck. And of how you fill out your rooming request form. Spend extra time on that. You don't want to live with someone you can't stand.

I strongly encourage everyone to apply to Yale University, because more so than any other university, we focus a lot on the undergraduate experience. We have freshmen counselors, classes only for freshmen, residential college siblings, peer counselors, faculty advisers, housing for freshmen only, study breaks for freshmen, and so much more. The food here is good, our rooms are spacious, the campus is beautiful, and New Haven (as long as you stay in the downtown area) is fantastic.

If you have any questions at all about college or Yale, feel free to contact me! I'm always eager to hear from others, and I'd love to answer any questions you may have. You can email me at, or call me at 510-260-7730.

Good luck to all of you in your future endeavors, and I wish you all the best.

Boola Boola!
From Courtney Mariano
I have just finished my fall quarter as a second year at UCLA. Last year, I wrote a couple reflections regarding my experiences in college as a first year. I feel that those reflections still apply to my current experience at school. College is a completely different atmosphere compared to high school. The classes are much harder and the material is more difficult. In college, you are more independent in making educational choices, so it is up to you to seek more help if needed and you must find your balance between work and leisure. And with the quarter system, finding this balance of time is even more important because you must stay on top of your work and never be behind on your studies. Because once you are, it is difficult to catch up because those 10 weeks will fly by.

But one difference between this quarter and last year is my level of involvement in school. Last year, I focused more on making a smooth transition from high school to college school wise, so I did not focus much on extra curricular activities. Thus, I was only involved in a summer camp which took up time in my spring quarter. But this quarter, I have become increasingly more involved in the clubs at school. I joined a Filipino a cappella group with practices twice a week, which was a significant change in my schedule because I had to fit in two hour practices in the evening. But I felt that it was fairly easy for me to integrate this singing group into my school schedule. And I recently decided to participate in my school's Pilipino Culture Night, which will be a huge time commitment in the following quarters of the year, so I must be sure stay on top of my studies. Although at times I do wonder what it would have been like if I started these extra curricular activities sooner in my college career, ultimately I do not regret my decision to wait until my second year to really get involved. I would recommend that the first years think carefully about what they want to be involved in and do not try to take on too much along with school. The transition to college will not be a piece of cake, so just be careful that you will have a good balance. I am not discouraging first years from joining clubs, but just think about what you want to join and do not take on too much in the beginning.

I also started a two-quarter internship last quarter. It is with a nonprofit organization called Sydney Cooper Senior Smiles. This is the first internship I have ever had, and it has been a great experience so far. I am given a lot of independence with this internship, which can be a bit scary. But at the same time, I have learned so much more because of how independent I must be; I've learned that if I want to get a lot out of this internship I must put an equal effort into my work. Last quarter was mainly about visiting the seniors at the senior home and planning events for them. But next quarter will be more about the marketing side of nonprofits, which is what I am more interested in and applies more to what I want to do in the future. Initially I didn't think this internship would be of much help to my career, but I now think differently of it. So I encourage all students to apply for internships at some point in college, whether it be during school if you think you can handle it along with classes or during summer. But make sure that some aspect of this internship will apply to what you are interested in and what career you want in the future.

Lastly, I just want to encourage all future college students to explore what truly interests you in college. You may go in to your university thinking you have a certain plan that you must follow, but don't fear a change in that plan. I came in and thought I would be a math major, but I recently realized that the subject no longer interests me as it used to, and I would rather take up a major that I have a genuine interest in learning about. After I took a communications course last quarter, I am now planning to apply to the communications major at UCLA. So don't be scared to take classes completely outside your major and take time to explore different interests. However, I would recommend that you figure out which direction you want to head in by the end of your second year.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time at UCLA, difficulties and all. College is definitely a time of exploration and growth, and I wish you all the best in your college careers. Cherish  these next few years of schooling, and seriously make the most of them. And if anyone has specific questions for me, like about UCLA, don't hesitate to email me. 
From Guadalupe Morales
Brown University
Well, like everyone else, congratulations to the ILC for winning the Golden Bell award! I know that this means a lot to the program and through more recognition, we can expand this program so much more to help more students out in the WCCUSD (who knows, maybe even inspire other districts like ours to create something similar?).

First, in short words, my first semester at Brown was amazing in so many ways! I never anticipated feeling sad leaving the campus last week. I thought I would be too excited to even study for my finals! However, it dawned on me that I was finally able to call Brown my home. At least, for the next four years. I made such great friends, I love the community and I feel at peace there. That is not to say I didn't miss my family and friends here, I love them to death. Each day that passed before I left to Providence, I grew more nervous about leaving home. I mean, I was happy to be going to Brown but I couldn't fathom the idea of leaving my home for so long. I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully, I had Elizabeth Gonzalez recommend participating in the Third World Transition Program (TWTP) as my pre-orientation program to better adjust to the campus. That made such an impact for the rest of the semester and will do so for the rest of my four years in Rhode Island.

Well, to explain the TWTP, it welcomes new students to Brown and it shows students potential resources and opportunities they have on campus, along with meeting new people interesting in participating in workshops on racism, sexism, classism, etc. It helped better understand how our society was constructed and the impact these issues have today. My experience with the program was that it was the best way for me to adjust to a lifestyle. I remember the first day I was herded into that room with tons of new faces I did not recognizeI didn't know what to do! There was a ton of handshaking, lots of smiles, lots of questions and get the point. Even though it kept us busy all day (and I mean, ALL DAY) it kept our mind off of home and more on building new networks and relationships there on campus. Everyone was so open to talk with, the MPCs (Minority Peer Counselors) were extremely helpful and supportive and the whole atmosphere was one you couldn't find elsewhere. I very happy that I participated in the program. Even though it was only for three days, by the end of the program, everyone seemed to have developed a common bond that surpassed the three days that the program lasted. It turned out to be a fantastic time! I strongly recommend participating in a pre-orientation program for those of you heading off to college soon and for those coming into Brown next fall, I highly recommend the TWTP! Some of my closest friends also did the program and those who didn't, well, they wish they did :-) I still keep in touch with a lot of people from the program.

Academics at Brown: I chose a good mix of classes for my first semester. I ended up with 2 of my original choices: Introduction to Neuroscience and Studio Foundation (basic art class). I took advantage of Brown's famous (or infamous, depends who you talk with) shopping period. That basically means that because of Brown's open curriculum, you are allowed to take nearly any class your heart desires. So I had two weeks to decide two more classes (I decided I didn't want to deal with derivatives and integration right away...that could wait) and finally, I ended up choosing a sociology class that was based on gender and sexuality and an introduction to ethnic studies class. I loved my classes and I learned what I wanted to learn. I admit, once you start joining clubs and participate in social events, that's when you really need time management skills!

For finals: I have never done so much studying in my life! Neuroscience, especially, was my most difficult classthere was even a point that I thought I would fail the class. It's not the same like high school where your teacher can easily give you an extra credit assignment or an extension. So I told myself, well if I fail, then oh well...I'll just make up for it in an upcoming semester. But then I realized not only was I letting myself down and not utilizing my time correctly, I was letting my family, friends and community down. I couldn't let myself do that. I changed my mentality. There's a reason why my parents and a lot of other people told me to not give up and I didn't. So I studied even morestaying up late, reviewing flash cards, going to review sessions at nightin order to pass my class and I did. Once I set my mind to it and really focused on it, all was well.

Lesson here was that if I want something done in college, then you have to make it happen. It doesn't mean you do it alone, there are tons of resources and people out there to help YOU. All for you! It's just a matter of going out and finding them. I admit, I only made use of office hours once this semester, I wish I had done it more often, since the one time I did I was able to get an A on my ethnic studies midterm paper. Obviously, no regret there. A lot of people told me to go to office hours, but I didn't listen. I admit, I can be hardheaded, it's something I'm always working on. Thankfully, I have seven more semesters to explore and use the resources available to me. So again, my advice for classes, use your resources (just try it even once!) and find out how to get things done.

Aside from academics, I joined several student groups on campus: MEChA (a latino student group), MEZCLA (dance troupe), and Taekwondo. Out of these, I love MEChA and Taekwondo the most. Having MEChA provides me with a close group of people dedicated mostly to making a safe space for students on campus. Anyone can join and though it is not as politically active as the West Coast chapters, I feel like it's a big family to me that I enjoy being a part of. As for Taekwondo, I actually was not expecting to do martial arts in college. However, at the student activities fair, I ran into My (pronounced "me") who was our TA for our summer@Brown program for the Women and Leadership class. What a coincidence! She was at the Taekwondo table and told me to come to their info session. I did, and I loved it so much that I joined (come on, seeing all those awesome spinning kicks and the master punching through 5 cement blocks would convince a lot of people!). Balancing it with my classes and social life was difficult, but planning things out for the week and sticking to it at the beginning of each week helped a lot. Plan, plan, plan.

I'm sorry for such a long email! How do you fit 4 months into a few words? But overall, my experience at Brown has been one of a kind. I made the right choice in applying here and even visiting for the summer years ago. I think that going away has made me grow a lot as an individual with new responsibilities and new opportunities as well. If anyone has more questions, comments, advice, etc. feel free to contact me.  
From Kiana Ward
Brown University
Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award! It was well deserved.

I just returned from my first semester of junior year. I am in a house with seven other people and I have to say, this is the first year that I have actually felt like a college student and that things have fallen into place. Preparing meals together with my housemates and getting off college hill made me feel like a real person, not just a student. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the bubble that is college and it is important to remember that there is a whole world outside of midterms and finals. Pretty obvious right? But it is surprising how completely students can begin to think that grades are everything. Yes, of course grades are important, but as Mr. Ramsey said the year I attended the Brown Women in Leadership seminar, it is the contacts you make that will really make the difference.

If you are starting college, if you are just getting used to it or if you are sick of it and ready to quit, please remember how hard you worked to get there and realize that you are truly doing the best you can. Realize that while you might not have gone to a private high school and had personal tutors, you are in all probability much more prepared for the “real world’ than most of your peers because of your educational experience and you should be proud of that. I know that this sounds corny but the members of the ILC that I have had direct contact with are some of the brightest and most promising bunch of students that I have met and it is extremely disheartening to see how much of a toll college can take. Sometimes during finals you have to remind yourself that you are a human and not a machine and that you need to sleep and eat and rest. It is grueling and by the end of it, all I ever want to do is go home and sleep for a week straight. But I also think that we all enjoy that intellectual sprint for some reason. Ultimately, we go to college because it feels good to learn and to realize how much you can accomplish in the course of a year. It is not about the grades; it is about learning topics that truly interest you that you would want to discuss outside of school. It’s about discovering yourself, your passions, your own limits and your niche in the world. College is a miniature universe. You find your place in that setting and when you graduate, you try to find that role in the real, much more complicated world. So pick subjects that interest you. When you do, it is surprising how easily good grades will follow. The easiest way to do well in school is to actually care about and be invested in what you are learning. Finding out what you like is the biggest hurdle in college, but it will happen.

From Wendy Espinoza
St. Mary’s University
My journey with The Ivy League Connection Program began in the summer of 2007. I attended summer programs at Brown University as a high school Sophomore in 2007 and the following year I attended Cornell University. Although it is only my third year at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas I am currently a Senior.

I was originally expected to graduate in May 2013 but with college credit I earned from Cornell and my score of 5 on the AP Spanish exam I came into St. Mary’s with 15 hours of college credit and therefore I can graduate in Fall 2012. I never took any summer classes while in college but have consistently taken moderate loads of classes which also led me to finish my undergraduate degree faster.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time at St. Mary’s University. I am the society events chair for the National Society of Leadership and Success chapter at my school. I am a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society for my high GPA and have been continually on the Dean’s List. I am a sister in the Alpha Phi Sorority, of which there are many chapters in California≠including UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

This year I learned the accurate use of time management. I was able to study, work out, attend sorority events, work at school, have fun and go to bed around 10 PM every night. I am a strong believer in the need for sleep. I absolutely do not advise all-nighters to anyone. Some view all-nighters as a college expectation but honestly not everyone does them. Once you hone down on using your time wisely, all-nighters will only be a thing of leisure to have fun nights out.

Many studies have shown strong correlations between the amount of sleep a person gets and their in-class performance. These studies have shown a positive relationship between sleep and performance. That is to say, the more sleep a student gets the better the class performance and the less sleep a person gets, class performance decreases.

Once I graduate in December 2012 I will apply to Graduate school in Texas and possibly in California to earn a Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. I originally wanted a Ph.D but then discovered that in the field of work I am looking to have a career in, a Ph.D will only be needed if I decided to become a college professor one day and won’t significantly increase my pay.

Wendy Espinoza
Pinole Valley High School Class of 2009
St. Mary’s University Class of 2012
From Yueming Wang
Cornell University
My name is Yueming Wang and I am a freshman at Cornell University’s College of Engineering and a proud graduate of Hercules High. Right now, I have the intention of going Pre-Med, majoring in Operations Research Engineering and minoring in Computer Science.

Before I begin writing about my experience from this past semester, I’d like to offer my congratulations to the ILC for winning the Golden Bell Award. The California School Boards Association couldn’t have given this award to a more deserving recipient.

My first semester at Cornell has been nothing but exhilarating. Over the course of four short months, I’ve made many new friends, explored the city of Ithaca and its offerings, and gained quite a bit of knowledge about the subjects I took classes on and about myself. I’ve joined many student organizations ranging from Chinese Student Association and the Cornell Daily Sun (Cornell’s biggest student-run newspaper) to ballroom dancing and Rotaract (part of Rotary International’s college chapter). There were, of course, also some low points — experiencing for the first time the pressure and stress of midterms and finals, getting sick and not having my parents take care of me, etc. However, all in all, I don’t think I could have had a better first semester!

I decided to take four core courses in addition to two supplemental courses and a dance course for my graduation requirement, totaling 19 credit units. Although a lot of my friends from high school thought that I was insane for taking such a heavy load, I assure you all that it is perfectly manageable. By that, I do not mean to understate the rigorousness of the academics. College is definitely in a different league than high school, but even with the added rigor and pressure, I thoroughly enjoyed the classes I took at Cornell more than those from high school. One of the main reasons why I feel this way is due to the academic environment. At Cornell, I can comfortably say that everyone — even the varsity athletes, “party animals”, and everyone that appears to us as not the studious type — genuinely enjoys learning. Similarly, the professors are there because they are passionate about certain subjects and are eager to share that passion with students. When you find yourself in that kind atmosphere (which is by no means unique to Cornell), it takes an active effort to not enjoy learning.

As much as I have enjoyed even the toughest classes, it took a lot of hard work to keep up with the fast-paced curricula. One of the hard truths about college is that no one will “baby” you. However, it is equally true that there are many portals where you can find help, just as long as you take the initiative to find them. For me, the portals were group studying and office hours. I completely understand why some students are intimidated and decide not to go to office hours even when they need help, mostly because I felt that way myself. In the first few weeks of school, I observed and listened to my peers and thought that I might actually be the “dumbest” person in my classes. Even when I didn’t understand the concepts in lectures, I convinced myself that I would only embarrass myself if I went to my professors’ office hours. The solution that came to mind was to form study groups. After pooling my friends together, I realized that I did understand some concepts better than they did and vice versa. Thus, we all benefitted by studying together.

Having done quite well on my first wave of prelims (midterms), I finally mustered the courage to attend a few office hours. I realized then that I had nothing to be afraid about in the first place, and that the only “dumb” students are the ones who don’t understand the concepts and refuse to seek help. Most times, professors do not have many, if any, students at office hours and are actually thrilled to have visitors! Not only do you clear up some misunderstanding about the concepts you’re learning, but you also establish a much more personal relationship with your professors. This is especially true of my relationship with my Operations Research professor; because I went to some of his office hours, he now knows me by name and has offered to help me find undergraduate research that I can start on as early as next semester.

There is still so much about college that I would like to say but I do realize that this is running a lot longer than I had intended. Therefore I will summarize into bullet points some things I think is helpful:
  • Don’t freak out if you don’t know exactly what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. You’ll have plenty of time to figure it out!! It is perfectly acceptable to be undeclared!
  • If you’re having a hard time deciding which college you want to attend, take a breath and honestly ask yourself which college would allow you to be happier. It’s okay to not know the answer and to feel stressed because it is a big decision. Talk to other people, especially your family, but make sure you make what you think is the best decision for you! As long as you’ve thought about your options, you will not be making a bad decision!
  • Time management is very important. You can’t emphasize this enough. From what I observe, academic success and the amount of fun you have are directly related to how you manage your waking hours. Although there’s no right way to manage your time, experiment with different ways and hopefully you’ll find something that works for you!
  • Do not be afraid to go to a school that is far away from home, especially if you consider yourself fairly independent. Honestly, my schoolwork and other activities kept me so busy that I didn’t have any time to even miss being home. Also, I met many people from California (even from the East Bay) who are away from home for the first time, so you don’t ever have to feel like you’re the only one going through such a big change. It is also very amusing and refreshing to be around people from out-of-state and out of the country! And which teenager honestly doesn’t want more freedom? ;)
  • Take advantage of your AP classes and really try to do your best! Taking AP credit can help you in many ways — have a less rigorous schedule, increase your probability of studying abroad without taking a load of summer classes or adding an extra year or semester, etc. It’s also really great to have a good foundation for later classes and even for introductory classes if you decide not to take credit for it.
  • Be open-minded about classes, people, student organizations, etc. There are plenty of surprises out there for everyone!
Although I did not really write much about Cornell specifically, I would be more than happy to communicate with anyone who has special interests in Cornell University, being an engineering major, or going to an out-of-state college. To ensure that I reply in a timely fashion, please email me at

I want to leave everyone with one parting thought: The past four months have been, hands-down, the fastest four months! And while many of my friends were joyously celebrating the end of semester one, I found that I could only join them half-heartedly. Somewhere mixed in with the relief that finals ended lingered the thought that one-eighth of my college experience is already over — an idea that genuinely scares me because I don’t think four years at Cornell will be enough for me. This is perhaps the best way for me to succinctly express my love for my school.

Go Big Red! Happy holidays everyone and I wish all seniors the best of luck in the college admission process!
Yueming Wang
Cornell University
College of Engineering, Class of 2015
From Andrew Woo
UC Berkeley
I’d like to congratulate the ILC on earning the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association, which is reflective of the profound impact Mr. Ramsey, contributing members including sponsors, and its prospective college students have had on exemplifying the drive to enrich the college experience for us students in the public education system. Being one of the members of the 2009 ILC Cornell Group, I am proud to acknowledge that the experience has benefitted me here at UC Berkeley greatly in terms of broadening my views. So far the journey at UC Berkeley is certainly too broad to be necessarily categorized and captured in three paragraphs, but then I did so accordingly into these three groups: academics, political activism, and the Cal Marching Band.

After completing my first semester at UC Berkeley, I felt this inexpressible, liberating feeling unparalleled to anything before, a moment in which as Kant puts it my “nonage” or inability to understand was replaced with this boldness to learn more and further enlighten myself. I am more ambitious than ever to learn and grapple as many other UC Berkeley students do with the issues we face. With a semester down, I’ve completed four courses which were comparative politics, economics, European history, and social welfare which ultimately all tied together to help understand what’s been happening both domestically and abroad, and to analyze them to a depth unfathomable to me before. In the following spring, I am enrolled in more related courses in addition to Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s popular course Wealth and Poverty, which surveys the public issues that has grown to the shocking magnitude of social unrest seen across America, and even on the steps of our Sproul Plaza.

One of the things Berkeley has truly embodied that I love and support is Berkeley’s political activism, and the need for us to be the agents for progressive change, whether it be contending public policies such as SB 185 with the UC Republican’s Diversity Bake Sale to publicly rejecting “81% Fee Hikes” with Occupy Cal (Cal’s Day of Action). These social movements and the public outcries are created by the very students I see and pass by everyday, not the politicians from Sacramento or professionals who do this for a living. The students here carefully observe the current events around us and translate the very divisive issues into forums for public discourse, which materialize in the small discussion sections to the halls all over campus.

With the fee hikes, UC Berkeley’s students launched themselves onto national news, even luring in the political pundits such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, while collectively fighting for what students vied for as affordable education, social equality, and a reformed society. When thousands of students at Sproul Plaza listened to Professor Robert Reich during Occupy Cal (Cal’s Day of Action), I realized that this mission of UC Berkeley is truly what it stands for, and that indeed the words of Mario Savio as Professor Reich referenced to has certainly continued to live on here.

[R. Reich@Occupy Cal]

Lastly, the best experience thus far has been the Cal Marching Band. As a trumpet player among a band of 250 strong, we, as bandsmen, take pride that we represent the university, and accept the motto that whenever we take the fieldhighstepping through the rugged mud or frigid rainwe always represent who we are and what this institution is. I am proud after every game to watch our performances and know that the band is one of the best in the West. Over the break, we’re heading down to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl in a great opportunity to represent the school against the Texas Longhorns, so the band, as well as the football team, has exceeded my expectations.

[Teen Angst Show@AT&T]

So I hope that wherever the current students in the ILC program decide to go, make it your new home and embrace all the opportunities it offers. In choosing UC Berkeley, I have certainly through only one semester found my second home not far from the first, and look forward to the next several semesters working here in the Bay Area in the years to come.

Once again, thank you to Mr. Ramsey and the ILC Program for giving me the opportunity as well as to many others, and hope to hear more success from the program in the coming years.

From Carla Ramirez
Denison University
My name is Carla Ramirez, and I graduated from Richmond High School in 2010. I am a Biology major and a sophomore at Denison University.

Congratulations on the award, I couldn't think of another program more deserving of the award.

I just finished my first semester as a sophomore at Denison University, and I can honestly say that it has been one of the toughest yet. I definitely took classes that were too difficult for me to handle all at once. Even with the opportunities that Denison had to offer it was very difficult. Overall I am still happy with my choice to go to Denison, I have never been academically challenged like this before and to juggle Calculus, Chemistry, and Biology along with a job on campus was too much to handle for me. It has been a tough lesson but I think its something everyone learns one way or another. Like my sister Adriana wrote, sometimes we think that we can do things but when it comes to it, things don't always go as we expected.

Balancing out your schedule between hard and easier classes along with time management is something that I still have yet to master but I hope to improve in this upcoming semester. Apart from the hardships I had this semester, I love all the opportunities that have been given to me at Denison. Opportunities like working as a TA for Biology 150, which I doubt I would have gotten at a larger university and hopefully I get the opportunity to do research this summer with the Biology Department at Denison University.
From Stephanie Chan
UC Davis
First off, I want to congratulate the ILC for earning the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association. The countless hours and great amount of dedication that has been put in from everyone is recognized and greatly appreciated. I know that the ILC will only continue to flourish as the years go by and am thankful for my very own experience through the International Financial Marketing and Investments course during my Brown 2010 opportunity.

Business and Economics has always interested me. Although I am currently undeclared at UC Davis as a freshman, I do have plans to declare Managerial Economics as my major (and possibly minor in Psychology). It seems as if yesterday I was applying to colleges. It's amazing to say that I have already completed my first quarter at UCD. Despite budget cuts, I can say that my experience thus far has been a rewarding one. This quarter, I didn't choose to jump right into major courses. Instead, I chose to explore around and balance two pre-requisites with two GEs. One of the GE's I took was a course called Introduction to Winemaking. Already, the title sounds very interesting and indeed it was. I learned about the fermentation process for different types of wine at various geographic locations, how to determine what type of wine it is based on the label, and the types of fungus that grow on grapes. Ever since then, I have been curious to read wine labels on bottles sitting in my kitchen. With that said, balancing your classes with a few core classes and at least one class that you are personally interested in is not a bad idea. You don't want to overwhelm yourself with strictly calculating numbers or strictly writing pages and pages of essays. Key thing is to find your balance, especially during your first year when you are still learning about your new environment and available resources.

As an active volunteer throughout high school, I immediately explored various volunteer clubs during Welcome Week. I'm part of Circle K, a volunteer and service club that sets up holiday parties for children, serves at food banks, and much more. I'm also part of Na Keiki 'O Hawai'i (Hawaii Club), a club that promotes the Hawaiian culture and weekly lessons on Hula and Tahitian dancing. It's a very fun and active way to de-stress throughout the week from homework and studying. In addition, I have been applying to on-campus jobs, but have not been hired yet. However, I am still on the lookout for more job offerings and internships. Nonetheless, I believe that one should focus on their studies before adding more to their plate. If anyone has questions about UCD or any general questions, feel free to shoot me an email! Once again, congratulations to the ILC.
From Stacy Chan
UC Berkeley
It is certainly rewarding to be part of a team that has taken giant leaps since its inauguration. The program is continuously thriving and I can see a bright future for our local youth who now have the academic edge with the launch of ILC.

I am now a second-year at Cal. Thus far, I find it incredibly fulfilling to meet people who bring different expertise to the table. To say that I am constantly amazed by the skill sets people possess is quite an understatement. Everyone's journey is individual. Needless to say, many students who attend Cal are undoubtedly talented and accomplished. With headlining news of the Occupy Cal movements and the "Diversity Bake Sale," I am amazed by the amount of activism in the air. This goes to show that while education is of great importance, it is equally imperative to transfer that passion and energy to a club, an organization, or in this case, a movement that has garnered national and global media attention. While its success is debatable, there is no denying that there are many students and professors alike who are strong-willed and passionate enough to make some kind of demonstration.

Similarly to many second-year students, I am now delving into courses that are more honed towards my major. The classes are more inclusive than general, lecture hall courses per se. Still, I find the value of tapping into other classes that are outside of my study. Fulfilling my last breadth, I took a global poverty class last semester with a distinguished professor, and one of the guest speakers was Robert Reich. Seeing Reich double as a key member of the recent Occupy Cal movements gives him legitimacy and credibility. I'd say this is one of the examples that provides diversity in my learning experience.

To keep this email succinct, my advice to college newcomers is to have the willingness to learn and meet other people and take classes that are outside of your study. Time at college is what you make of it. As trite as this idea is, it holds a great deal of truth.
From Irene Rojas-Carroll
Brown University
Congratulations to you all for earning the Golden Bell Award! You are doing great work. Thank you for introducing me to Brown through the Women & Leadership course (summer 2010); it’s amazing to me that I’ve just finished my first semester here. I apologize for the length of my email (I got excited!). For those of you pressed for time, I’ve starred the most important paragraphs.

Even though I’m excited to see friends and family this winter break, I also can’t wait to get back to Providence. I feel at home there, as much as one can feel at home in their first semester of college, especially because of activities like music and a pre-orientation program that gave me a core group of people to get to know. I had times when I was homesick or stressed because of bad planning, but overall, it’s been great. Brown students are serious about their studies but not so intense that they don't find time to chill and do things just for fun, which I like. Having so many smart and passionate people in one place means lots of friendship and organizing potential.

I also like being in Rhode Island as an activist because I think making change is more doable due to the smallness of the state (it's actually possible to make a personal appointment with a legislator, etc., things that would be a lot more difficult in a large state like California). Being in Providence (the capital of RI) means that we can actually walk to the State House and deliver petitions or legislative report cards (which one of the Queer Alliance subgroups is working on).

Among the groups I’m involved in are the Queer Alliance (QA) and several of its subgroups, BOMBS (Brown Organization for Multiracial and Biracial Students), Yarmulkazi (klezmer band), and the Brown Band.

’ve been able to jump right in and challenge myself with new activities and leadership. My role as BOMBS Advocacy Chair is new to me because I haven’t done a lot of activist work focused on race; as Advocacy Chair and Community Committee leader for the QA I need to have confidence in my facilitation abilities and take into account many diverse opinions; I’m trying to get a figure skating club officially approved, which requires patient negotiation with Athletics and the club approval system; and, even with klezmer, I’m experimenting with new styles of playing music. I’ve had dinner with Mara Keisling (the director of the National Center for Transgender Equality) and I’ve led a workshop with around 50 students in attendance. When I finished that workshop, I felt like I had really arrived at Brown: I could be a leader among leaders and hold my own with all these brilliant and articulate people. It was immensely rewarding.

**Some other ILC alumni have advised you all not to join too many clubs – I say it can be done, as long as you’re disciplined and know your priorities. I made sure I always had enough time to do the academic work I needed to do: for example, I skipped going to football games with the band if I hadn’t finished most of my reading for the week. As the semester progressed, I dropped some of my activities (like breakdancing and Zumba, which I was trying for a while) because I realized that it would take me longer to read articles and write papers than I originally thought.

**Although I’ve mostly felt prepared for the academic side of life at Brown, I do feel like my writing and discussion skills could be much stronger to keep up with this level of work. They’ve improved a lot already, but next semester I want to take even better advantage of the support available to me through Writing Center tutors and class-specific Writing Fellows. My RCs, my advisor (linked with my potential concentration and my pre-orientation program), and my peer advisor (Meiklejohn) have been awesome. I think I was secretly yearning for the plenty-of-support-if-you-ever-need-it idea, coming from a system where that was harder to seek out.

**I especially enjoyed having the freedom to choose my own classes (Punishment and Inequality in America [econ dept.], Brown vs. Board of Education, Tales of Vampirism and the Uncanny, a Latin American lit course in Spanish, and chamber music) and especially enjoyed BvBoE; it was a first-year seminar with 10 other students and the perfect introduction to my tentative concentration of Education History/Policy (I might also double-concentrate with Gender and Sexuality Studies, Urban Studies, or PoliSci). Just recently, the professor offered me a summer research position on urban/suburban school inequalities that I’ll probably take because it’s a wonderful opportunity and a subject that I’m passionate about. In fact, one of the most important things I’ve learned this semester is to plan in a more long-term way and take advantage of tangible opportunities and resources to make those plans reality.

Looking ahead, I’ll be returning to Providence a week early for a peer-led winter break project with the community service center where my optional pre-orientation program was also based. My group will be learning about youth-driven Providence education reform initiatives. Next semester’s classes aren’t totally cemented but as of now I’m taking HIV/AIDS: Politics and Culture, Intro to Gender and Sexuality Studies, Intro to Political Thought, a 21st century Latin American lit class, and a class on Asian American urban spaces. I’m trying to switch 2 of them to 1) Campaigns and Elections which is only offered every 4 years with the election cycle and 2) The History of American School Reform, which is one of the best classes in the education department. I didn’t take a work-study job this past semester partly because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, and now that I’m more familiar with the rhythm of college life and know how much to get involved with clubs, I’m going to try and find a job or internship for the spring semester.

Happy holidays and good luck to seniors with college applications! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Brown, college, or anything else (really!!)!

Irene Rojas-Carroll
Brown University 2015
Irene Rojas-Carroll Brown University 2015
(510) 439-6648
Just added: I also forgot to mention in my message that one of the ILC's most important accomplishments is the establishment of a continuous stream of admittances to Ivy League universities like Brown: I was able to reach out to WCCUSD graduates in every class year (Lupe 2015, Cynthia 2014, Kiana 2013, Elizabeth 2012, Donna Chung 2012, and even a fifth-year - Jonathan Yanagawa-Kuo). We even had a potluck where we shared advice on classes, concentrations, time management, and life away from the Bay Area. Having WCCUSD alumni at Brown was infinitely helpful in making me feel comfortable during my first semester.
From Stephanie Ny
Northwestern University
Hello ILC students!

I have written to you all in the past, but for those who do not know me, my name is Stephanie Ny. I’m currently a sophomore at Northwestern University. My college experience hasn’t changed much since I last wrote, other than the fact that I am now balancing a work-study job with school.

After several job rejections and already-taken work-study positions last year, I finally received a work-study job at the school library in September. Since I spent most of my freshman year in the library focusing solely on my grades, I had the opportunity to manage my time more effectively. This definitely came in handy when I was hired at the library, as I was easily able to create a study schedule around my work schedule. The tip I have for all of you, which has already been mentioned by other students and which I learned over time, is this: do not overwhelm yourself. Don’t expect to join a sorority/fraternity, receive impeccable grades, get a job, and participate in countless extracurricular activities all at once. While all of you are perfectly capable of achieving all of these, you should ease into them, one at a time. It’s definitely the healthier path towards an amazing college experience.

Aside from now being employed, there isn’t much else that has been going on in college. I’m still fulfilling all of my distribution requirements and still have not decided on a major, although I have very, very, very few possible majors in mind. I have two more quarters before I have to decide, so hopefully I’ll be able to narrow it down by then.

Also, as many have already said, congratulations on the Golden Bell Award! I’m quite pleased and unsurprised that the Ivy League Connection won this, given the countless opportunities it has provided and continues to provide to alumni and high school students. I’m beyond grateful for how much this organization has changed my life, and I hope it continues to change the lives of others.
From Adriana Ramirez
Hello fellow ILC students,

My name is Adriana Ramirez, and I graduated from Richmond High School in 2009. I am now currently a junior at UCLA studying psychology and political science.

 am very thankful for all the opportunities that the Ivy League Connection has provided for me and many more students, and thus the program is very deserving of the award.

I just finished my 7th quarter at UCLA and I can give some pieces of advice I didn't get from other people but had to learn on my own. College is VERY different than High School, looking back at my High School years I can say that not much effort had to be put into my work to get good grades, and now in college I feel like I have to give more effort than ever. Reading hundreds of pages a week, and keeping up with papers, homework, work and social life is very difficult. There are many decisions to be made and in College no one is there to tell you what decisions are best and which aren't, you're on your own.

his past quarter was one of my hardest quarters, I decided to take more work than I could handle. I work part-time at school, 20 hours a week, I am part of a student organization, did community service, and took 3 of the most difficult classes in both of my majors. I ended up having to drop a class to focus on my other two classes, had a family emergency the day before my midterms and ended up failing both of my midterms.  I cried a lot after seeing I was failing but what got me through was knowing that I have worked so hard all my life to be where I am, I couldn't give up so easily, and I hope that none of you are ever in this type of situation, but if you are, you should know that it's okay to not be perfect but rising from your failures is what matters the most. I had to work ten times harder than ever to raise those F's... and I did it. I passed my two classes and I am still maintaining above a 3.0 GPA.

In high school I was a 4.3 GPA student and it was heart aching to see myself failing, but you know things happen and we have to pull through. So my piece of advice for anyone who is college bound is, take a work load that works for you, do not over work yourself. We tend to believe we can do everything but we are human and we make mistakes, but what counts is what you do to rise from your falls.

This quarter what I've learned the most is to grow up, and suck it up if I am ever in an unpleasant predicament. College is not just about studying but also about growing up, no one will be there to baby you, cook for you, take care of you, you have to do this on your own and keep up with your responsibilities.. and that's something I thought I had already learned but I really experienced it this past quarter. I am glad that ILC gives students a taste of the college lifestyle in its summer programs, because it does get your ready for what living far away from home and taking care of yourself is like, If I had not experienced that early on I don't think I would have succeeded this past quarter.

Final advice: Keep your head up when the going is tough, and don't ever give up, things do work out.

P.S. sorry that my response is more of a depressing one but I feel like it's a side of college that I feel is important to share... It's not always perfect but it's also not terrible, its a process of learning not just academic but also personal learning.
From Jessica Ong
UC Berkeley
Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award — the ILC definitely deserved it!

I am amazed that my third semester at Cal is already over.  In fact, it hadn't hit me until recently that I am now a sophomore in COLLEGE; it really goes to show you how time flies...

Overall, this semester was quite a change for me.  For one, I am no longer living on campus at Clark Kerr.  I, like Julie and Jessica Tran, now commute from home.  Most of the time, I take the BART which is much faster than taking AC Transit and probably cheaper than driving and paying for parking/gas.  Indeed, living at home has had its benefits, especially financially; nonetheless, it definitely takes much more time for me to get to and from campus which can be a hassle.

As I mentioned previously, I am going to be a Molecular and Cellular Biology major.  Though a lot of students under this major are pre-med, I am aiming to be a researcher and will probably look into going to graduate school.  With this in mind, over this past summer, I found myself a research position in the He Lab at UC Berkeley.  Luckily, I was able to continue working for them throughout this past semester and will hopefully stay until I graduate. The lab focuses on the functions of microRNAs and their role in tumorigenesis so a lot of the research is cancer and immunology based.  I have learned a lot of different techniques from my peers and the graduate students/post-docs in the lab and aim to start my own project soon.  I spend more than 15 hours a week in lab so balancing school and lab work has been quite tough for me this semester; but I am sure everything I am doing is worth the effort.

For those who are interested in doing research, I recommend that you not only look into the research programs offered on your campus (like the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program at UC Berkeley) but also get to know some of the science professors who might be able to recommend you to some labs!  (That's how I got into the He Lab).

I am hoping that this upcoming semester will be easier now that I know how to manage my time better with commuting, taking classes, and going into lab.  It has been one crazy semester but it has been a blast.  I cannot wait for more to come.
From Christopher Habash
UC Berkeley
First of all congratulations for the ILC program for being awarded the Golden Bell Award and for continuing to broaden high school students’ college perspectives. I remember getting emails just a while ago from former ILC alumni and I am happy to do the same and share my experiences so far this semester!

Before I get into details I’d like to take a moment to just congratulate all the current ILC participants for finishing their first semesters in high school and if you’re a senior, for finishing (hopefully?) college applications, because I know what a stressful process that was. Writing all those essays and getting all the information for the applications while balancing homework is awful. But just take a breather and don’t stress out when answers come in a few months. Still being in high school, I know this email is not as relevant right now and that you just want to know what schools you’re going to get into first. So I think the most helpful thing for me to do is talk about the differences between high school and college and also to specifically give you examples from my semester so you’ll get an idea of what college is like.

My name is Chris Habash and I attended the Hotel Operations and Management course in Cornell University over the summer of 2010, and I am a Hercules High School alumnus (that feels so cool to say …) I just finished my first semester at UC Berkeley and all the intense and enjoyable moments that came with it. After my last final on Dec. 15 at 9 pm (yep, you’ll get used to weird schedules) I felt like a ton of pressure was lifted from my shoulders and I was ready to go home and celebrate the holidays. Granted, I live 25 minutes away from home, so it was definitely not the first time in the semester I saw my family.

Dorming - Just first off, I’m sad/happy to say that Cornell probably gave me my only opportunity to dorm, unless dorming prices go way down in Cal. I am currently renting an apartment for the entire year off campus because it ends up being much more financially pleasing than dorming. Unfortunately, this had major drawbacks and some advantages too. In Cornell I met and interacted with dozens of students and made friends every day on the floor and in the building. My apartment in Berkeley means that I see practically no one unless I go to the dorming units or on campus, which is about a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. Additionally, it means I get no cafeteria privileges/meal points :( On a good note though, I have a bathroom, kitchen and a living room to share with 3 people. You can guess how annoying a roommate can be to deal with everyday, but I guess you just learn to accept them and their behavior. I highly suggest dorming your first year in college because it was such an awesome experience in Cornell and I am really thankful for that.

Classes and grades – The structure of the classes makes it extremely intimidating, because it constantly seems like there are few chances to get a good grade when every class is strictly divided (in general) with a final that’s worth 30-40% of your grade, two midterms that are 20%, 10% quizzes and so on, whereas in high school you feel like you have a million chances to get an A, especially with extra credit. But not to worry. Definitely be prepared to not do as well as you expect to do, because college exams are very different from those in high school and will take time adjusting to. To give an example, my molecular cell biology class had two midterms and one final, with the midterms being 20% of my overall grade. I completely stressed out for the first midterm and studied for it nonstop for a whole week, probably making 30 note cards. So when I discovered I got a C- I went into panic, thought I blew it and that there was no way for me to get an A in the class. The kind of effort I put into studying would most likely have gotten me an A in high school, but I was not used to the test format. But you know what? All you can do is just keep working harder and get accustomed to the class structure. I was proud to get a high B on the second midterm and even more so to discover I got an A- in the class. No doubt a curve in the class helped, so definitely don’t give up from the start. There’s really no other way around it. People here in college keep wondering what kind of score they have to get to do well in the class and some even switch the class to Pass/No Pass (which I was tempted to do, but stuck it out). But I just kept studying even more and going to the review sessions and even to office hours to talk to the professor about what I could do to improve. This is the most important thing you can do to get a good grade.

Office Hours/Intimidation – I learned from the ILC program how important Office Hours are. They are probably the greatest advantage your professors can give you. Aside from learning not to beat myself up for not doing my best, I realized how crucial office hours can be. My English professor was the most intimidating teacher I have ever met. She went to Columbia University after high school, then to Oxford for graduate school and was now teaching in Cal. For me, it seemed like she requested so many different things that it seemed impossible to please her. Consequently, I was literally intimidated into writing “bad” essays and got Bs on both my first two essays. I forced myself to go to office hours for them, without anything to show my professor. This resulted in an awkward conversation in which I didn’t have much to say because I didn’t have anything prepared. I realized I just needed to calm down, go back to my normal writing methods and listen to the many comments she left on my essays. I came in to office hours with a draft of what I wanted to write for the final essay and left feeling so accomplished that I finally had a direction for the essay and wouldn’t spend countless hours figuring out how to go about it. All I needed to do was engage with the teacher, because in class it can be intimidating with so many students. I was surprised to get an A on the final essay but happy I stopped being intimidated and had a productive time at office hours. We even started at some point to talk about horror movies, probably because the focus of the class was ghosts in literature.

Time Management – What can I say? Everyone is right about managing your time. You come to learn that everything is on you to do. You have to wake yourself up in the mornings and make sure to leave enough time to get to class/office hours. Unfortunately, I overslept for some classes because I didn’t have someone to force me to wake up. I had a lot of gaps in my schedule, which meant like 3 hours from my 10 am class to my 1 pm class. This was nice, as it gave me some time to walk around campus and catch something to eat. But you learn that you have to make a mental schedule. If you want to go downtown with friends, you have to make sure to be back for your classes, which can be anytime from 8 am to 8 pm.

Extracurriculars – In addition to my three classes, I joined a journal on campus through an email my teacher sent me, which ended up being a cool thing. I looked into it, thought “what the heck,” and applied for a position on UC Berkeley’s Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal. And while I’m at it, please check it out at ( haha! I have a blog on there, and it was hard but also fun to make. The cool thing is that I also got 2 units of credit for being an editor for the journal xD You might be tempted to try to join a million clubs/activities, especially with the club fairs they have in the beginning of the semester. While this is a great idea, I honestly don’t even recommend joining so many things your first semester. Definitely don’t overwhelm yourself right off the bat. Leave plenty of time to get comfortable in your classes first and establish yourself academically. Hey, you have 4 years to do stuff. I thought about this when I was freaking out about which classes I have to take my senior year for a major that I wasn’t even ready to declare and then realized I’ve only been here 3 months. Again, don’t be intimidated and scared about having to join this and that, because there’s plenty of time.

All in all, I came to Berkeley all the more confident because of my ILC experience. I had an idea of what a refined institution expects from its students and I also got credit for the Cornell class! I sincerely say that I wouldn’t trade my ILC experience for anything and that it was one of the most memorable summers of my life. The experience still applies now.
From Julie Liang
UC Berkeley
Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award; it is definitely well deserved.

My third semester at UC Berkeley was definitely a busy one. I moved back home in order to save money, and now I commute by car every day to get to class. I also started working a part-time job on top of working for my parents one day a week. I switched my major to Chemistry from Chemical Engineering, and I joined a biofuel research group on campus. This entire semester has been a battle to efficiently manage my time.

Moving back home after spending a year in the dorms was a challenge. I added about 45 minutes to my commute every day, and I was cut off from most campus activities. But the experience helped me become more organized with my time; and surprisingly, I actually got more done than I did while living in the dorms, which just goes to show that living at home is not necessarily limiting my experience.

I took my first chemical engineering class this semester and I learned that chem eng is definitely not for me. Switching my major was a difficult decision because a chemical engineer is virtually guaranteed a job right out of college. Not having the same kind of job security was a worry I considered before switching to chemistry. But I realized that I would rather do something I loved than waste four years of my life and my future doing something I did not find exciting.

I remember mentioning in one of my previous e-mails that going to office hours for your professor is a very good idea. This actually paid off this semester because when I e-mailed my previous professor to ask about working in his lab, he remembered me from his class! I'm not sure I would've gotten the position if I had not gone to his office hours. I look forward to next semester and will definitely share my experiences working for a research lab.
From Cynthia Fong
Brown University
Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award, I'm glad to see that the Ivy League Connection is flourishing.

My third semester has been amazing. Freshmen year, I was still adjusting and getting use to the environment, the teachers, the way that they expected us to learn, etc. But this semester, I felt like I had the opportunity to really experience and explore the environment.

The extracurricular activity that I learned the most from was my position in Health Leads, an organization that puts volunteers in hospitals to connect clients to resources. It taught me many lessons about our health care system, the flaws, people skills, and the social determinants of health. It also taught me about time management. Some weeks, we spent as much as 10 hours on this job working with clients, which is tough to juggle with school work and other extracurriculars.

At the same time, I feel like I've accepted that A's on my transcript will not be the most important part of my college experience. I have not decided what my major will be (though I'm leaning towards the Human Biology or Community Health direction) but there are so many other things to enjoy and experience at Brown. I'm still trying my best to get good grades but I've learned about opportunity costs.

If any students have any questions about Brown, feel free to send them my way!
From Megan Robb
Denison University
Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award.  My first semester of college was amazing.  I loved all of my classes and my professors were amazing.  I learned so much in so little time.  It took me a week or two to adjust academically, but I adjusted quickly.  I learned that college takes a lot more studying than high school and that there is no such thing as a day off.  Despite a minor bump at the very beginning, I have had a great semester.

Living away from home has had its good and bad points.  I have become more independent and have grown as a person because I was on my own.  I did not miss home except for the fall break and Thanksgiving break.

Student life at Denison was quite different than what I am used to.  I was surrounded by students with different political opinions, religious beliefs, and academic backgrounds.  Everyone was very willing to share their thoughts about politics and religion, which is traditionally not talked about.  It was interesting to hear people’s thoughts on a variety of issues.  Although Denison is very different from home, I feel as though the differences have allowed me to grow as a person and I am grateful for that.

If it were not for the Ivy League Connection I would have never thought of going out of state for college.  Thank you again for this and I am very happy that the California School Board Association has recognized the importance of this program.

Go Big Red!
From Beulah Agbabiaka
Columbia University
Congratulations on being awarded the Golden Bell Award! You all truly deserve it for the fantastic work you do in our community. I have officially just completed my first semester at Columbia University and I am beyond excited and relieved. It has been very difficult at times, but that makes my victory all the sweeter. Being at school 3000 miles from home (or 2901.34 miles via I-80 East according to is definitely a roller coasterenough of a roller coaster to make one want to figure out that it would take them about 43 hours driving non-stop to get them homebut it's completely worth it. Being in New York makes me feel like I'm at the center of the world and there is always something amazing going on. I've seen a board member on the Federal Reserve give a lecture about our current economic state, I've seen jazz greats Jimmy Heath and Bobby Sanabria give lectures for the Jazz Studies Department, I've been to the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Natural History as well as to every borough in the city besides Staten Island, I've been to the Jazz Standard twice (a famous jazz club) and I learn so much in class every single day.

Being a Political Science and Jazz Studies Major is amazing at Columbia University. There are so many opportunities!  In the Poli-Sci Department there are guest lectures from world leaders all the time, the Political Science Student Association hosts "Pizza with Professors" so there are small get-togethers (capped at 15 people) with professors to talk politics outside of class, and some of the great minds in politics teach our courses. In the Jazz Studies Department, we have world renowned faculty, private instruction in our instrument, we're placed in performing ensembles, and there are opportunities to "gig" in the city once you are advanced enough. I literally feel myself getting smarter every day and I know that the opportunities afforded me at an Ivy League university in a major city are contributing to that. Unlike my classmates from Middle College High School, my AA degree in Math and Science and my Certificate of California in Forensic Criminalistics don't do anything here in terms of helping me finish faster, but I took that into account when I applied and I think I made the right choice despite that fact. My advisers (one is my general adviser and one is specifically for jazz studies) have been really helpful in making sure I understand what I need to graduate in four years with everything I want to do and still study abroad. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but my education at MCHS and my summer study here in the 2010 Presidential Powers course help me feel sure that I can handle it.

While Columbia College and the engineering school of Columbia University are much smaller than the UCs, finding a niche is extremely important to maintain sanity while here. It was definitely a struggle for me at first, but extra curricular activities really helped me find my place. I volunteer for the Double Discovery Center tutoring program for high school students in Harlem and Washington Heights, I'm on the Multicultural Recruitment Committee and the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee (so if you ever come to Columbia for a tour I might be your guide!), and I'm in the Black Student Organization and I'm on the planning committee for Black History Month at Columbia. I try to participate in anything fun on campus like playing the bass for this years Christmas musical and a really great extra curricular poetry class offered by the MFA program in Creative Writing. For me, fun things include student activism and while I didn't get to participate in Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Columbia this semester, I plan on getting involved next semester and being part of the change I want to see (while maintaining my good grades of course).

This semester I focused on music for all of my classes outside of the Core Curriculum and PE and my schedule was University Writing, Iyengar Yoga, Literature Humanities, Jazz History, Music Fundamentals, Ear Training I, Jazz Bass Instruction, Jazz Ensemble, and Poetry Writing Through Radical Revision. I never expected to be graded on my private  bass lessons in college, but it was definitely great motivation to practice regularly! My schedule was difficult, but I'm glad I chose to focus on music this semester to get my feet wet in the department as well as study subject matter I was familiar with to boost morale when it started getting really hard around midterms. Next semester my schedule will be a bit more difficult since I'm adding Political Science to the mix, and I won't have an easy PE class to fill up space. I'll be taking Frontiers of Science, Literature Humanities, Race and Ethnicity in American Politics, Salsa Soca and Reggae-Music of the Caribbean, Diatonic Harmony and Counterpoint, Ear Training II, Jazz Bass Instruction, Jazz Ensemble, and hopefully another extracurricular writing class. Next semester will be extremely difficult, but I'm confident I'll do welleven if that means spending every weekend in the library!

While every school has flaws, I can't be enough of a cheerleader for Columbia or enough of an advocate for higher education in general. The opportunities I've been blessed to have here thanks to the support of my family and my ILC family help illustrate for me how important it is for all people to have access to these opportunities, and exactly what change I want to help affect in my future career in politics. Getting a taste of world class education this semester and seeing what I have and haven't been prepared for is helping show me what type of education policy we need in all places to make sure all students are ready for college, which is one of the areas of politics that I'm most passionate about.

I'm definitely rooting for some future lions from the WCCUSD!

Roar Lions Roar!!!
From Julia Maniquiz
UC Berkeley
Hello Mr. Ramsey and fellow ILCers,

I just completed the first semester of my sophomore year at UC Berkeley. The previous e-mails I have written in regards to my college education still accurately reflect my current experience. Attending college is definitely an entirely different experience than high school; it is far more challenging, requires a much greater deal of effort and time, and is a much richer experience. The only thing that has changed between this year and last is that I am now balancing school with a job.

Over the summer, I was offered an internship at the Bar Association of San Francisco. As a pre-law student, I jumped at the opportunity. I was very fortunate, because my summertime internship was able to transition into a part-time job throughout the year. I think it is very important to give yourself time to adjust to the college environment. Do not be too hasty during your first year and try to do everything at once. You need to give yourself the opportunity to get used to all the new that comes with college.

After completing my first year at Cal, I felt as though I was ready and comfortable to take on more, aside from on-campus extracurriculars, which is why I pursued this internship and accepted the job offer. As you progress in your college career, naturally, your education becomes much more focused as you begin taking classes for your major. I am actually in the process of declaring a major and minor (or possibly a double major). For me, this semester was definitely more challenging than any previous semesters, but I believe that is a result of having completed all my breadth requirements and moving onto major requirements. College definitely gets more difficult as you progress, but you also get more and more comfortable with the environment, so it kind of balances out.

Although things are getting harder at Cal, I'm definitely enjoying myself way more now that I'm taking classes directed towards my major and my specific interests. College is a great time to explore and try and different things, as well as to find what it is you are truly passionate about. I wish you all the best of luck in your education and in your futures.
From Michelle Saechao
After finishing my first quarter at UCLA, the first word that comes to mind is relief. I'm so relieved that I've survived the most intense 10 weeks where I was incredibly busy getting lost on campus, reading hundreds of pages for my classes (procrastinating the readings a little too), making new friends and adjusting to being away from home. One thing that I'm sure just about everyone starting college would say is important is time management. To be a good student, and person in general, you have to be able to balance academics, clubs and other school affairs and your social life—and you need a social life to maintain your sanity.

Something I'm happy to have done this quarter is arrange an appointment with an academic counselor. Together we decided which classes would be best for me to take in the upcoming quarter, figure out which classes I've taken at Contra Costa College that qualify as a General Education—or GE—requirement, and discuss my potential major. As of now, I'm considering double majoring in International Development Studies and Economics. Because I attended Middle College High School, most of my GEs are already completed, so taking just three classes each quarter without counting summers, I can still graduate in four years. Without the direction and motivating words from my counselor, I don't think I would be as confident as I am to continue with my UCLA education.

Even though I go to a university where large classes with notable professors comes are common, I've been blessed to have very caring, humble professors who regularly invited students to office hours. Like Brandon said, it's possible to make a big school feel small, you just have to be assertive. And having family, friends, and community members, like those from the ILC, behind you is a big motivator.

No matter what the school, you can't expect to just automatically belong. You have to work at it by networking, persisting and being involved. However, UCLA is a pretty cool place to do those things.

From Jennifer Kuang
Stanford University
First off, I want to say Congratulations on the Golden Bell Award. As an alum of the program, I can say that it was certainly well deserved. Secondly, I am still in Asia and will be for the next couple of weeks. My laptop is hopelessly broken and I am only able to write to you via the free computer/Internet service in the Hong Kong subway station. I only have a limited time left, so I want you to know that I have received your email and I will write my response as soon as I get back to the U.S, I promise!

Thanks for keeping me in the loop, I appreciate it.

From Elizabeth Gonzales
Brown University
Congratulations on the award. It is great to see all the hard work pay off. I am truly happy for the blessings that the program has been for many students. As an outgoing senior, the advice I am about to give will probably seem contradictory, however that is not my intention. I would rather focus on brainstorming ways in which students will feel well-supported at the schools once they decide to attend. I had a very rough fall and it is my hope that this will not occur to more students. You do not have to forward this, however I am hoping that this will serve a purpose.

I will never deny that I indeed received a phenomenal education at Brown University. I do not regret my decision, however it has been challenging beyond my imagination. The amount of pressure we students place on ourselves is not normal, especially when one comes from an educational background that may not be up to par with my fellow Brunonians. There are so many obstacles one encounters in the Ivy League and I have felt that the culture within the institution has had some detrimental effects on me. Of course, I feel stronger for getting over those obstacles, however my health has paid a heavy cost. While my self-esteem has greatly improved from the point where I was considering leaving Brown, it is in my hope that WCCUSD students do not repeat my mistakes and do no go through what I went through. I am not victimizing myself for I have been greatly blessed, however students must know that this is indeed a challenge and we must support them in the transition.

It is essential that students develop a strong safety net and learn how to maneuver through this schools. This is not to say that other universities are not as rigorous, however being thousands of miles away from home and away from the community for the first time is another experience in itself. I guess what I am proposing is perhaps setting up a counseling program for incoming and current WCCUSD students to help them transition into these schools. Many resources are provided by these schools, however just speaking on behalf of my experience, often I did not feel entitled to them. Something must change. This issue does not have to be addressed by the ILC, however one must have these conversations in the best interest of the students.

I would be happy to elaborate on anything that I have mentioned.

Thank you very much for your dedication. It has not gone unnoticed.
From Brandon Amargo
UC Berkeley
First and foremost I’d like to congratulate the ILC for earning the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association. I actually viewed the board meeting on television where Board President Ramsey made the announcement. What a proud moment for our school district!

I’ve just finished my first semester at UC Berkeley and all I can say is how grateful I am for experiencing the Yale Ivy Scholars Program (YISP). It has definitely prepared me for my courses at UC Berkeley. I’ve just completed a comparative politics course, quantitative analysis and methodology (Political Science) course, American History course and an internship with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG). These classes are prereqs for my major in Political Science. Thanks to my education at Middle College High School I will be graduating with the class of 2013. Next semester I'm enrolled in  a religious studies course on Hinduism, a public policy course taught by former labor secretary (Clinton) Dr. Robert Reich, a political science seminar in which local politicians speak and a political theory course. On top of these four courses, I was offered a job at the Vice Chancellor for Research Office at Cal and will be working there next semester as an administrative assistant. 

I advise everyone in ILC to highly consider Cal when applying to universities. Despite budget cuts, it truly is an amazing place that provides an unbelievable amount of services and resources to its students. Remember, you can make a big school small, but you can't make a small school big. Here at Cal, every student finds their niche whether it be a club, organization or association. Another myth is about financial aid at Cal. We see in the news rising UC tuition, but just last week Chancellor Birgeneau announced that UC Berkeley will be the first public university to provide its middle class students a financial aid plan. Below is a press conference video.

This leads me to our Occupy Movement at Cal. UC Berkeley is obviously notorious for it’s student activism. On November 15th, Dr. Robert Reich came to speak to an astonishing 5,000 people at Sproul Plaza on the dramatic economic inequality that now exists in the United States. If your interested in student activism there is absolutely the place for you! Below is a video of the Occupy Cal movement that my friend actually created. He’s an intern for NBC Bay Area and sure knows how to work the camera.

Best of luck to the ILC.

Go Bears!