Sunday, October 11, 2009

Northwestern University

“The sky is the limit.” Once I read this promising message inscribed on Northwestern’s Rock, I felt an immediate, unbreakable connection to the school. And when my two day stay in Evanston ended, several distinct factors helped me assuredly conclude Northwestern was something different—something mere rankings could not unveil.

Northwestern’s avant-garde traditions define its student body. The mischievous freshmen the school oversaw in the 1950s had daring motives. They layered the school’s frozen fountain—now known as the Rock—with distasteful messages and paid their expenses in toothbrush labor. But Northwestern guided those freshmen; it refined them into decorous seniors who returned to the Rock, and who ornamented it with a fresh series of encouraging words. Northwestern allowed this act to evolve into a tradition that has come to illustrate its students—and I love the school because of this sense of spirit and optimism it has instilled in its community. As a maturing young adult, I want a taste of energy and positivism, and Northwestern is the only school who can provide that for me.

I fell even more in love with the school when I saw the ground flyering. At Northwestern, I must “look down to see what’s up,” as many say. And while the advertisements are eventually washed away or removed, the tape remains to showcase the university’s novel feature. Such creativity mirrors the personality of the community—an innovative, imaginative, and animated family of scholars. At Northwestern, I’m courageous. I have no need to fear the possibility of being judged for my own outrageous ideas because the school instructs a diverse set of creative minds. At Northwestern, stereotypes do not exist; they are lost in the pot of diversity.

I appreciate Northwestern’s flexible schedule system as well as its devotion to undergraduate education. Through its policy of no core curriculum, I am given the freedom to choose my classes and am guaranteed the largest variety of courses possible. I admire that the school realizes how important it is for students to explore their options before making a commitment to a major; the school wants students to discover who they are and what they want to be before making a choice. I’ve been convinced to enter college with an undeclared major because of such emphasis on freedom and flexibility.

The flexible schedules that Northwestern provides are incomplete without proper teaching. Almost all of the classes are taught by professors, and the student to faculty ratio is a small seven-to-one. Northwestern also emphasizes the importance of undergraduate research and experience: while students work out of the textbook, a great deal of the learning is done by experience. The McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, for example, begins engineering classes immediately. Other schools do not have this feature. Similarly, the Medill School of Journalism sends its students into Chicago for interviews almost immediately after beginning the course. Seeing as I learn much better through experience rather than textbooks, I find that Northwestern’s focus on experience-based education fits me very well.

Northwestern’s environment is one other colleges should envy. Residing along the glorious Lake Michigan, the school features several garden-like paths, with trees, bushes, and flowers at every corner. Friendly squirrels may be found along these walkways as well as small birds and, on occasion, bunnies. These creatures and gardens sublimely complement Northwestern’s buildings and community.

When my two days came to an end, I already thought Northwestern was my home. I didn’t want to leave; I wanted to stay forever. I’m now applying to the institution using the Early Decision option—and I can only hope that Northwestern will accept my passion and commitment.

Other pictures:

Chicago deep-dish pizza!

Katie Kim - she spent two hours with me. Thanks to her, I was able to see some dorms and eat in the dining hall.

Medill's broadcasting room! Amazing!

Rotary International World Headquarters! I love Interact Club - this was a huge plus for me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Forever Grateful

Dear Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, sponsors, supporters and members of the Ivy League Connection.

We would like to thank everyone for their hard work and for devoting valuable time into making this program a success. We are honored and grateful that our daughter Stephanie was chosen to go to Yale for the intense two-week program.

The Yale Ivy Scholars Program has made Stephanie more confident, mature and independent. We saw this confidence, this maturity, and this independence the moment she returned - and it's all thanks to the faith each and every one of the supporters, sponsors, professors, and instructors placed in our daughter.

After two avid weeks of following this blog, we've experienced what Stephanie, Jessica, Yohanna, and Matt have weathered: dorm life, cafeteria food, laundry and vigorous class demands. They have found and made many new friends from all around the world. They've created life-lasting memories with their classmates. Actually, it would be wrong to merely call these people "classmates." Stephanie, Jessica, Yohanna, and Matt have undoubtedly formed a family with their cohorts, instructors, and professors - a family which we're sure will last a lifetime.

One of the purposes of the Ivy League Connection is to have students give back to the community. As a start, we have scheduled a date for Stephanie to teach us all about etiquette! We have heard about Dr. Dr. Luong's etiquette session and have taken great interest in it. This is one of the many things our daughter will bring back to her community as a dawning leader.

We're so thankful that the Ivy League Connection exposes our students to the East Coast. Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg - the two kindhearted, dedicated people who began this program - have come to impact and forever change the lives of many, many WCCUSD students - changes that would have otherwise been near impossible. Because they believed our district could rise above adversity, plenty WCCUSD scholars have been exposed to Ivy League schools. Through the ILC, these students have applied and gotten into Ivy Leagues.

Once again, our thanks goes out to Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Gosney, sponsors, supporters, professors, instructors, and participants.

Congratulations to all. Your dedication and time have been well spent.

Forever grateful,

Eric Ny and Lien Chau

Grateful Reflection

For us parents, it was also a pretty intense two weeks of anticipation coupled with reading blogs and e-mails. We can probably now handle Facebook or MySpace chatting. Actually the magnitude of the intensity is more on becoming aware that our daughter, Yohanna is growing as a person, maturing and on her way to seek out her purpose. It was a two-week crash course in being weaned from having her at home to that inevitable gone off to college far away. Parents want the best their child could be, and sometimes it requires letting go.

With such scholarly lectures Matt, Jessica, Yohanna and Stephanie experienced from erudite professors lead by Dr. Luong, these four chosen to be at Yale will never be the same again. The positive experience even whets their appetites for more knowledge and kindles their enthusiasm to pursue excellence.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the Ivy League Connection for giving this immense opportunity. We cannot think of any greater venture at Yohanna’s age of 16. This could not be possible if not because of the caring, unrelenting commitment of Charles Ramsey, the dedication of Madeleine Kronenberg, the support of the rest of the School Board, Principal Sue Kahn, Superintendent Bruce Harter and staff, the generous funding of the sponsors, and the indefatigable participation of Don Gosney.

As for Yohanna, she would not be what she is today if not for teachers like Mr. Nesmith, Ms. Lamons and Mr. Wilson doing their jobs more as a calling. They have inspired her so much so that the once shy girl is leading a 70 +member marching band as their drum major as well as co-charing the Pinole Valley High School debate team. Mr. Wilson engaging lectures piqued Yohanna’s interest in history and civilization that came in handy for Yale’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy. The course culminated with Marshall Brief Presentations, which consisted of giving briefings to the USA President and Vice-president, etc. role-played by Yale professors.

The Ivy League Connection not only opens new windows for West County families but it also gives a sense of community. It makes available the best in education that paves the way to brighter futures. Every aspect is well thought out that there is a fitting chaperone for each group and Ms. Sue Kim assisting with the college application process. The participants get their feet at the door at these northeastern institutions that have a perception of only for the affluent. With people involved giving so generously of their time, knowledge and guidance, they are not so elusive anymore. We are deeply grateful and it is our hope for the Ivy League Connection to flourish and be blessed.

Eric and Youra Pepa

The Last Two Days of Ivy Scholars

There is an uncountable number of things that I could talk about in great detail from Yale's Ivy Scholars Program. However, I shall focus on two events that truly represent the essence of this amazing experience, Marshall Brief presentations and graduation dinner.

Nearly every night of our fortnight spent at Yale consisted of working for many hours with the four other members of our Marshall Brief group. Earlier in the week, we had turned in the final copy of our written brief--12pages of a proposed U.S. policy that was simultaneously detailed and concise. Friday would be spent presenting our plan through a powerpoint and our newly-refined public speaking skills to our fellow peers and a "murder" board. The murder board would consist of 2-3 judges who role-played the positions of government officials who our brief would concern in real-life. Also, the president and vice president could each walk in on our presentations at any given moment. At Ivy Scholars, Prrofessor Luong was Barack Obama and Dean Coburn-Palo was Joe Biden.

Our presentations took place from 1pm until 8:45pm. Unfortunately, my group was scheduled for 6:30pm, the second to last time slot. Looking back, however, we were lucky to have the chance to observe groups that presented before us, but we had to wear our professional outfits and control our nerves for a longer period of time. Finally, 6:30 arrived and it was my group's turn to present our brief, Preventing Afghanistan from Becoming a Failed State. Our murder board consisted of a general played by YISP mentor Ben Elkins and the Undersecretary of State played by Professor Hennigan. We gave ourselves titles as well: our group was called "The Independent Commission to Review U.S. Policy in Afghanistan" and I was the Chief Intelligence Officer.

Our presentation began and I proceeded to elaborate on my sections: the overview, the definition of a failed state, and the implications of Afghanistan becoming a failed state. Needless to say, it was extremely nerve wrecking, especially since the vice president was in the audience and the general was constantly interrupting with questions. Additionally, in the middle of my section, the classroom door opened and President Obama walked in. Everyone in the room followed presidential etiquette and stood up until the president uttered the words "as you were". I explained to him where we were in the presentation and offered him a summary of what we had already covered, but our considerate president told me that he had read our brief thoroughly and that he wanted me to proceed with the presentation. I did, then soon after I handed it over to my fellow colleagues, who elaborated n security, government, economy, infrastructure, and education. The murder board, especially the general, grilled us with many questions, but my group handled most of them like true policy experts. Finally, after an hour of standing in front of a classroom full of dignitaries and colleagues, our presentation was finished. Handshakes, high-fives, and hugs were exchanged and at that moment I felt more relaxed than ever before.

The feeling of completing the hardest part of the intense program was only equaled the next day by the excitement of graduation. All sixty-nine of us were dressed up considerably more than our usual business-casual attire. We took a myriad of pictures, for posterity and for facebook. After that, we congregated in an elegant Yale building and were served mocktails and appetizers. Before Ivy Scholars, most of us teenagers would have been ravenous at the sight of food, however Professor Luong's lecture on etiquette had trained us too proceed with caution instead. Greasy food would ruin our ability to administer acceptable handshakes and carbonated drinks would incite burps during important conversations. Instead, we exercised our Keith Ferazzi-esque skills and took part in many conversations. Soon after, dinner began. My steak was delicious and the people at my table were wonderful and entertaining. However, I think the part of our dinner that was the epitome of Ivy Scholars' effect on all of us came from the spilling of drinks. Water and juice were both accidentally spilled on our tablecloth and all eight of us watched eagerly as the spills expanded towards each other. Instead of searching for napkins, we compared the "battle" in fro went of our eyes to the Cold War and words such as "detente" were mentioned. On a more serious note, however, we were presented our graduation certificates and awards. I was ecstatic when my Marshall Brief group received the award for best overall Marshall brief. We received signed copies of Professor Kennedy's book Parliament of Man and a feeling of immense satisfaction. Lastly, Dean Nick-Coburn Palo and Professor Luong shared some closing remarks with us.

I'll share videos of these speeches and pictures from these events as soon as I remove the malware or virus on my computer that is preventing me from doing so. Also, I'll make another post of my reflections of the entire program soon. I need to go to sleep right now, however, because I have Marching Band camp in a few hours. Thank you for reading this!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Many Thanks

Dear Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Supporters of the Ivy League Connection:

When we heard that our son, Matt Arciniega, was chosen as one of the students to attend Yale University with the Ivy League Connection program, we couldn’t have been more thrilled… or so we thought.

From the very beginning, we could see that this was something very special and our son was in good hands. We enjoyed watching the students introduce themselves to the School Board, we enjoyed a delicious meal in San Francisco with Yale alumni and a brand new Eli from WCCUSD, Lauren Croda. We enjoyed listening to Matt as he came home from a dinner in Berkeley with the Director of the program at Yale, Dr. Luong, and said “I’m going to be at this program with kids from the best schools from all over the world. I’m going to have to step up my game!” We watched as Mr. Gosney toted Matt around the East Bay and also made a special trip to our house just to make sure our son had all of the proper equipment and software for his new laptop AND knew how to use it! Everything was so well thought out, so well planned and executed! Dinner arrangements, travel arrangements, computer lessons…even the books were all provided by the ILC!

Now I will confess that it was difficult to watch Matt spend every waking moment of our family vacation at Lake Tahoe buried behind one of the MANY books of required reading. OK, he took a break each night for family dinner and a game, but that’s it! While this was not my ideal family vacation, we were truly amazed and impressed with Matt’s dedication to fulfilling the requirements of this program. He was maturing before our very eyes! If you read his early “Mount Knowledge” blog written just as he returned from Tahoe, you could see how his intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm was unquenchable. He was ready for Yale!

Once in New Haven, our four WCCUSD students hit the ground running; working and studying from sun up to way past sundown each and every day for two weeks. They would write papers, prepare and deliver speeches, work in peer groups on matters of international importance, and even defend their ideas and opinions before an intimidating group called a “murder board.” They learned that they could push themselves beyond what they thought were their limits and see that they had even more to give. We are so, so very proud of all of you!

The fact that the ILC sent Ms. Larson as their chaperone is further evidence of a thoughtful, thorough, well-oiled machine which is the ILC. But the ILC didn’t just keep Matt safe and prepared for a fun trip to Yale. The ILC provided our son with an amazing, life-changing experience that we could not have provided him with in our wildest dreams! I think it’s now safe to say we couldn’t be more thrilled!

Our deepest thanks,

Jesús and Melissa Arciniega

Monday, August 10, 2009

Welcome Back

Dear Yale Ivy Scholars students:

On behalf of all the parents I am sure we share the same sentiments. We are all so proud of what you have accomplished and experienced in this short two week program. Your strenuous academic performance and the repeatedly challenging classes you took is your guide to a more successful future. It gives you an insight of how college life should be, and will become for all of you very soon.

I understand many of your friends have had a different Ivy League Experience, and perhaps one that is not as intense. But believe me, the amount of work you put in will be equivalent to what you will reap in the future. Always remember that life will balance everything out in the end.

With desire, I have followed all your blogs, waited for more scenic pictures of the popular Ivy League school (the infamous Yale University), and immersed myself into your stories that reminded me of my own college life and the opportunities that opened up for me and the ones that did not. I am so glad that you all had this chance.

Thanks so much to the sponsors, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg, Ms. Sarah Larson (the chaperone) and West Contra Costa School District. This means so much to us parents and to the kids as well. This program does not only tell our kids “yes we can” but with your generosity you imbedded in their thoughts, to keep in mind that “there is always a way” in whatever challenges they face. Of which without your patronage this path will not be lighted. I am sure that with the two awards they brought home to the district, they bring home the honor to share with you all.

Believe me, that the success this program brings is not the end; but just the beginning.

My congratulations again to all participants of the Ivy League Connection and a job well done.

Best wishes for the future,
John and Kelly Ong