Wednesday, August 12, 2009
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.
Eric Ny and Lien Chau
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
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
Monday, August 10, 2009
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
Before the program started, I only knew Matt, Stephanie, and Yohanna. However, that quickly changed. My shy and timid personality felt like it was overshadowed by a whole new me; one that was more outgoing towards others. As my other blogs and pictures have shown, I have met plenty of intellectual students from all over the world, including Vietnam, Bulgaria, England, and even Hong Kong. What made us even closer was our constant interaction with each other --from the bright and early morning to the dark hours of the night. What began as a group of strangers gradually changed to a group of friends, and as we left on Sunday, we were just one big family.
Meeting new friends was only one of the benefits of this program. Before attending the Ivy Scholars program, I didn’t know what I was capable of doing. This was my chance to challenge myself and show that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Of course, I also wanted to improve my self-confidence. My unceasing doubts about how I would “look” in front of others always roamed around in my mind. I knew that being nervous in almost everything I did was not the way to live but I did not know how to change. At least…not until I was introduced to the Ivy Scholars program.
It is true that work was inevitable. Having to read 120 pages on the first night we arrived gave me quite a scare for what was to come. Yet as the days passed by, I actually got used to the schedule. Waking up at 6:00 AM, eating breakfast, attending a 2 ½ hour lecture from a professor, heading out to eat lunch, etc. – the day seemed to never end; and when I did not want it to, it ultimately did.
I have learned so much in such a short amount of time – not only from professors, but also from my fellow students. Their courage and confidence that shines from within them has given me more hope and strength. And as I have mentioned before, these students are very intelligent. Yet as I sat amongst a room of 70 students, I began to realize that each and every one of us were different. We all had a different talent, a different personality, a different weakness; but most importantly, we all had different strengths. We were all there because we had something to contribute.
As many of you know, during the graduation ceremony, several students won awards, including Yohanna and Matt; and I must say they deserved it. Yohanna’s group won a special award for their great work on their Marshall Brief, and Matt won the Walter Russell Mead Leadership Award for showing the best overall performance in the class. Not only will the four of us be coming back with more knowledge and sharing it with all of you, but we are also leaving a great impression about our district of public schools.
Yet even though only some students were recognized, I believe that we were all winners. We are all leaders, ready to face the world and guide others to success.
I conclude by saying thanks. Thank you to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Ms. O’Brian, Mr. Gosney, and the West Contra Costa School District for all of your support and for making the Ivy League Connection possible. In addition, thanks to all the sponsors and to Ms. Larson, our wonderful chaperone. I would also like to recognize Dr. Luong, who started the Ivy Scholars program, and the caring Ivy Scholars staff. Without each and every one of you, students from our district would not have been able to experience such a life-changing opportunity. You have not only transformed my life, but also those around me. I hope that the Ivy League Connection program will be able to continue to touch the lives of future generations; just like it has done for me.
Once and for all, thanks again for reading.
Unfortunately, it would be impossible to touch on everything that I have learned or experienced at Ivy Scholars. Therefore I’m just going to reflect on the overall effect it has had on my life so far.
Something I learned at Yale in these past two weeks was never to say the word “Um.” This advice was meant to be taken in terms of public speaking but I have found that it can be applied to more aspects of my life than just speech.
During our time, many people tried vigorously to implement this advice but those with less speaking experience, such as myself, had a difficult time to say the least.
However, the more I tried the more I began to think about whether this advice never to say “um” was valid or not. I started to think that, although it may sound unprofessional, taking time to say “um” allows you time to think. I thought about how it gives you a sort of short prep time that would ultimately allow you to better convey your message.
This idea made me begin to think that I may need to take some prep time from my own hectic schedule and step back to say “um.” However, as we continued further into the program and watched more and more people speak, I realized that the advice I had received before was indeed valid. I realized that those who said “um” too frequently lost valuable time that could have been spent conveying their message. More importantly, I realized that those who never said “um” were more confident, better respected and in the end, much more successful.
I know now that I can’t take a break to say “um.” I know that if I want to be successful in life and make the greatest impact on the world I have to be dynamic and keep moving.
Ivy Scholars has given me the motivation to carry on in an impossible effort to help all those in need. Through this opportunity to have conversations with extremely intelligent, successful, and genuine people, I have learned that I cannot waste any breath by saying “um.” It has shown me that if I want to be successful and have the greatest impact possible on the world, I need to be dynamic and always keep moving.
The staff has shown us many ways to accomplish this almost impossible task of always being dynamic and in motion. However, the best answer I found was to rely on other’s help. We learned numerous times about how difficult it is to be successful without a strong network of friends. However, the message was not that you could rely on these people to do your work for you. It was about understanding that you will never be able to do everything you want to do by yourself. We need to understand that even if you do the best you can do as an individual, you could always have done even better if other’s had invested in you.
I am extremely grateful and humbled to feel that the truly amazing people of the Ivy Scholars Staff and the Ivy League Connection have invested in me in some way.
At the end of the camp I was awarded the Walter Russell Mead Leadership Award for overall performance. After this was announced it was painfully obvious that I had an involuntary "um" moment. I couldn’t really walk, or talk, or think correctly. This award means to me something so much larger than I could ever express. I could not believe that some of the people I respect the most in this world had chosen to invest in me and allow me to receive this honor that I otherwise really would never have dreamed of obtaining. I still can’t believe it. However, instead of saying “um” and trying to figure out how and why I obtained this honor, I’ve decided to spend the rest of my life attempting to prove that I deserve it.
Now I’m going back to my hometown of Richmond California; a place where 85% of students belong to minorities; a place where 60% of kids receive free or reduced lunches; a place with a school district that was hit hard by the economic crisis; a place where the residents will have to make some extremely difficult decisions in the near future; but most importantly, a place where I know I can make a difference. It means so much to me that people at the highest level of education have believed in someone from this community. This has given me energy to keep going and to try to make a difference at all costs.
I could not have had this opportunity were it not for the gratuity of the WCCUSD Ivy League Connection program. This, combined with the generosity of the Ivy Scholars Staff, has shown me that anyone from a place like our district can achieve, all they have to do is try. It has shown me that anyone can create opportunity in their own community, no matter how economically disadvantaged, they simply have to support a program like the Ivy League Connection. Programs like these have the capability to change lives, like mine.
In the future we will have to rely on the generosity of amazing and intelligent people, such as the ones that have helped me these past two weeks, in order to change this world. However, for now I just want to thank these people for all their support by doing all that I can to become more like them and maybe one day, by contributing to that change that I know their going to bring.
As always, thanks for reading.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Hey everyone! It's currently 6:27 am. I've decided not to sleep. Today I leave New Haven, Connecticut to return back home and I still have yet to process that fact. I've already bade several of my friends farewell. Before going into evaluation of the program, it's necessary to recount the events of the past few days.
Friday followed a schedule that was rather different from our usual one: it was Marshall Brief Presentation Day. Our day began with breakfast, a morning lecture, and lunch. At 1 pm each presenting group was to report to their respective room. Those not presenting could roam around to watch other presentations. My group was last, presenting [about education policy] at 7:45 pm-8:45 pm. We nervously waited through four other presentations before our own. We nervously watched four other successful presentations before our own.
My knees and hands began to shake as the fourth presentation concluded. And, for the first time in my life, I stood in front of an audience for an hour. I gave it my best shot, but I still stuttered and trembled--I hope it's my honest effort that mattered. I felt we were asked way more questions than previous briefs we saw (the first, second, and third in particular) but perhaps our brief was vague. We all tried our best to present well and sufficiently answer all of the asked questions.
Overall, although my group agrees that we did get "murdered" in a sense, it was the experience and the effort that made the Marshall Brief project memorable. We endured together, worked together, suffered together, and laughed together. I will never forget it.
After our Marshall Brief, we headed to the lecture hall to watch a college parliamentary debate. I've actually never seen a high school debate, let alone a college-level one. In this debate, government team "Nick N' Rick" went again opposition team "Yale A+" (Grant and Pam) on affirmative action. There are six parts to this debate; however, the names of each part has slipped my mind and my notes are already packed. I was completely engaged the entire time and in the end, team "Yale A+" won.
Monday August 10, 2009
Sorry for the late blog! I never finished my post and must finish this one before I begin my final evaluation and reflection of my past two weeks in New Haven.
Saturday was our last whole day at Yale University. The morning was kicked off by a lecture from Ambassador Charles Hill on "Where Are We Now," touching on topics from the recent release of the two arrested journalists in Korea, to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia.
We were supposed to have our final brunch at Branford, but the dining hall was mysteriously closed. Instead, we were directed to go to Saybrook, which--I'm sure Dr. Dr. Luong will be very please with this!--had BACON! After so many mornings of Dr. Dr. Luong questioning us about bacon, we finally got some!
Next, I attended a final seminar by Dr. Dr. Luong on "The Future of Warfare Weapons of the 21st Century." Simply by listening and watching the professor, I could tell this was something he's very passionate about. Following this lecture with his explanation of various future weapons and aircrafts, he showed us a video/simulation. I found it interesting to see what warfare may be dominated by in the coming years.
The video had to stop halfway through so we could all begin our 19-page evaluation sheets. I had so much to say, but had to cut much of it short due to the 1-hour time period. I quickly walked back to the TD to get dressed for the graduation dinner. Everybody was rushing because we only had 30 minutes to get ready--a time one normally takes to get ready for class, not a formal event! Nevertheless, we all finished within the given time, if not earlier.
After a 5-10 minute walk, we arrived in front of the World War I memorial, where we spent a decent about of time taking pictures and complimenting each other. I must say that everybody looked well-groomed and well-dressed!
We entered the President's building, waiting outside the dining room as pre-mocktail drinks were served. After about half an hour of "mingling," we sat ourselves at tables. I actually sat with some scholars I had previously not chatted with: Jimmy, Van, Hannah D., Marissa M., Raychel, Yohanna, and Jessica. At one point, we had two liquid spills: one clear, and one red. As the liquids spread, Jimmy likened them to the Cold War and the spread of communism. We were all hilariously engaged in the action, making comments and gasping along the way.
After dessert, Professor Luong commenced the graduation ceremony with a speech. Then the staff proceeded to hand out certificates. The Bay Area group (me, Matt, Jessica, Yohanna) were the first to be called up, and I was caught by surprise because I was expecting to be called in alphabetical order. It wasn't until I returned to my seat that I realized I didn't shake anybody's hand!! I apologize to the Dean, Dr. Luong, Drew, and every one else whose hand I did not shake.
I'd like to congratulate our very own members for their accomplishments. Matt A. received an award for his overall leadership performance, and Yohanna and her group received an award for the overall best Marshall Brief presentation. These two honors are of the highest degree and I'm very proud of them for doing so well. This, again, shows that one need not be attending a private school or highly acclaimed public school to be part of the best of the best. Despite awards being given out to specific scholars, I know each and every one of us did our best and I know each and every one of us are the best of the best.
At 10 pm we began our "forced fun" night, with choices of either movies, poke tournaments, Monopoly tournaments, Risk tournaments, or bonding times at Blue State Coffee. I decided to watch two movies: Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You.
I did not sleep that night because I knew I wouldn't be able to get up to say bye to others. Instead, I packed, finishing at 3:30 am or 4 am and stayed awake to bid my friends farewell. I did not cry for the first few good-byes, which I found odd for an emotional person like myself. Perhaps it was the effect of the caffeine. Perhaps it had not hit me yet--you know, that fact that I was leaving a place where I'd formed so many relationships; a place I'd come to love so much.
At 11:15 am, Mrs. Larson picked the four of us up to further explore the Yale campus. After half an hour of exploration, we had our final meal at Drew [Blue] State Coffee--yes, I came up with that awesome name! We poured our hearts out to Mrs. Larson about how much we'd miss Yale and how much we'd learned over the 2-week period.
Finally, it was time to bring down our luggage. I cleaned my room and my floor's bathroom (some people disgustingly didn't clean up after themselves and I felt obliged to clear their mess) and signed out. Saying good-bye to the instructors really did it for me--I began crying like a baby. From rising freshman Zoe Egelman to the impassioned Anthony Berryhill, I felt the impact each of them had had on me, be it a small favor like helping me with luggage or a larger favor like trying to improve my self-confidence. These people have played a huge role in shifting Yale to the top of my college list. I'm now stuck between applying to Yale through Early Action and applying to Northwestern through Early Decision. As I replay these past two weeks in my head, the latter decision is almost apparent.
I've learned so much throughout this program--a semester of college, to be exact. However, this is not all I learned. I was taught invaluable life lessons from experienced professors and well-informed students. Some of these students, though they appeared to be in their mid-20s and early 30s, were, in fact, only a few years older than we. While I was taught about legal philosophy, policy writing, and grand strategy, I also uncovered life's rules of thumb, from psychological maintenance to public speaking ability. These priceless lessons are what I'll bring back to my family, my school, and my community.
Before coming to Yale University, I lacked the qualities of a true leader. I was unorganized, extremely insecure, dependent, fearful. However, in a mere two weeks, I developed characteristics which take others a lifetime to gain. I rid myself of qualities which take others a lifetime to eliminate. I learned how to be time-efficient. I increased my confidence through public speaking and, as simple as it sounds, lectures. I learned how to take risks regardless of the potential failure: "The art of victory is learned in defeat," as Simón Bolívar once said. Above all, YISP has taught me the importance of creating relationships. I've formed friendships with the most unlikely persons. I've cried and suffered with them. And despite my whining, my PMSing, my crying, they've been there to support me, even though they'd only known me for X amount of time. They've offered their help to me, they've comforted me--all with HONEST endeavor, too.
I'm so blessed to have professors of the highest caliber believe I, a girl from a lower-middle/middle-class socioeconomic background, am capable of becoming a world leader one day. These professors have provided me with undying motivation to do even better in school, to become even more engaged in current domestic and international affairs, and to become an influential leader in my community. Their faith in me will be emulated in my future actions as my senior year in high school approaches.
With all said, I'd like to express my thanks to the WCCUSD. Without them, I would not have known of the YISP; I would not have applied to the YISP; I would not have been able to afford the YISP. They've shown me that risking failure pays off in the long run, and that even the poorest-performing communities can succeed. Thank you, in particular, to Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg, the initiators of the Ivy League Connection and the main people responsible for making this the most memorable summer of the 17 summers I've lived through. I'd also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. Dr. Luong, director of the YISP and the wonderful man who agreed to allow me (as well as Yohanna, Matt, and Jessica) into the program. Finally, thank you to the dedicated YISP staff. Each and every one of you have helped this year's (and every other year's) program succeed because you believed in us and you were willing to help us. All of you mentioned contributed to changing the lives of 70 people, and 70 emerging leaders.
It's now official. I've graduated from the 2009 Yale Ivy Scholars Program.
This is my final blog, and thank you all for reading.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I believe that our presentation went pretty well. Just like the time when I had to give my persuasive essay, I became serious and my nerves went away when the presentation started. Despite the difficult times our "judges" gave us, we pulled it through. It was an interesting simulation and definitely one that I will always remember. We even got a "visit" from our current president, who was played by Dr. Luong. Overall, my group went through a lot of tough times with this project but we stuck to it and worked as a team. When I was feeling down, I could count on all of them to cheer me up; and vice versa.
Tonight, we have a mocktail reception, where we will have to show our etiquette and social skills. We then have our graduation dinner at 6:30 and presentation of certificates at 7:30. I will take lots of pictures tonight and hope to add them soon. Other than that, here are some pictures from these past few days:
This is our residential college, Timothy Dwight (TD). The white door on the right hand side is the entrance to the boy's dorms. The small arch entryway is the exit/entrance to the college. The girl's dorm, is not shown in the picture but it is to the right of the boy's dorm.
This is a picture of me and my friend, Jean Park. She is very sweet and funny. When we had to give our persuasive essay speech, she was in my group. Ever since then, I have gotten to know her more each day.
From left to right: Me, Jessica Xiao, Hadley Chu, and Tiffany Tzeng. Both Jessica and Hadley had to leave the program a few days early, so I am really glad I got a chance to take a picture with them before they left. The three of them are very nice and I know that we will keep in touch somehow.
From left to right: Zoe, Huong, me, Stephanie, and Bryce. (Missing from our group: Sydney and Angie). We took this picture after we presented.
I am glad I took lots of pictures. These photos will bring great memories that I can share with my friends and family when I get back home. I will try to write again soon and update with more pictures! Thanks for reading!
Friday, August 7, 2009
It is hard to believe that our time here at Yale is quickly coming to an end. It has been truly a great experience for me, as a counselor and the students' chaperone, to watch them from afar and see how much they have learned and grown in the past two weeks. As I have stated before, it has been a pleasure to be here with them at Yale and to watch them soak it all in. They have truly taken this program as their own and have put their heart and souls into their work and also in branching out and meeting new people. They have been quite self-sufficient which I think is part of this whole experience in preparing them to go off to college in only a year's time.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
On Tuesday, I had my interview at 9:00 am. Though I did not have to go to the lecture (since it started at 9:00) I still woke up bright and early to think about what I would say and what questions I would ask. Of course, another thing I had to do was to look up how to get to the interview place from our residential college. Google Map came in great use for that.
When I arrived, there were many people all around the room. I realized that they were all waiting for a tour of the campus. When 9:00 came around, someone called my name. His name is Joshua Levin, a senior interviewer at Yale. We introduced ourselves as we went upstairs for the interview. Only after a few minutes of questions, the fire alarm began to ring and everyone in the building had to evacuate. He apologized many times but I was really fine with it. We talked outside for another 10 minutes or so before we were able to go back inside. The first question he asked me was to describe my high school. He was also curious to see what kinds of classes I had taken this past year. That did not last too long, but something that did was when I mentioned my involvement with Interact. I talked about my position in both ECHS's club and my new role in the District Council, and mentioned some activities that I was involved with. He assured me that Yale had many volunteer opportunities and that definitely sparked my interests. Of course, I also mentioned my hobbies, such as playing the piano, swimming, and crocheting. Overall, this interview went pretty well and I actually learned a lot from him in such a short amount of time.
The question I asked (and the only one I had time for because we were already over 30 minutes) was about what active extracurricular clubs were offered at Yale. He spoke really fast but I picked up a lot of information. It was also really helpful because I never got a chance to take a campus tour of Yale. He mentioned the many residential colleges and how they all had the same amount of students in specific majors. I found that quite interesting.
After the interview, I quickly went back to Rosenfeld Hall where we have our lectures. We then had around 4 hours to work on our Marshall Brief Presentation, and I am glad because we were way behind then.
I enjoyed the lecture we had from Dr. Luong that night because it was something that I could well relate to. It involved tips about recovering from setbacks, failures, and catastrophes. I am always afraid about failing and this lecture helped me realize that there are no guarantees in life, and if I do fail, there are many options that I can take to reassure myself. Other topics covered include being regretful. There are so many times where I feel that I regret not doing something else; but I have learned to move forward and learn from the lesson, rather than thinking about making a mistake.
That night, I found something in my room. Specifically, it was a cockroach. I was horrified and tried my best to get help from my friends. My roommates were not back yet, but I finally got help from one of the instructors/mentors. He bravely knocked the cockroach from the ceiling but then scared me when he said that he did not know where it went. Not wanting to enter the room, I told him that I had a flashlight right on my bed. I finally spotted the cockroach as it ran across my pillow. He saw it too and snatched it using a plastic sheet. (Luckily, I had extra pillow cases with me).
That day was full of excitement and terror; it was one that I will probably remember here at Yale. Yesterday (Wednesday), we had more lectures and at night, we had a "Town Hall Discussion and Debate" with Dean Nick Coburn-Palo. He lectured for half of the time, and for 45 minutes, some students were called on to defend their position on the Speluncean case. (The essay that we had to write about on Sunday about manslaughter). I was really scared because it was uncertain who he was going to call on, but luckily, it was not me. Though, it was really close because one of my friends/classmates was also named Jessica (Jessica Xiao) and she was called on. Whew.
It is 7:30 A.M. right now (Thursday). We still have much to do for our Marshall Policy and still behind. We have a mock presentation later on tonight and our final will be tomorrow. I will keep you updated when I have a chance. Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I've become accustomed to the daily schedule--breakfast, lecture, lunch, lecture, lecture, dinner, lecture/Marshall Brief time--but I've also habituated to the sound of my alarm. As a result, I'm pretty much oblivious to all alarms. Over the past three days, I've slept through over 10 alarm sounds and 40 wake-up calls from Jessica and Yohanna. My roommates have to physically wake me up! Fortunately, I'm never late for lectures like others; in fact, I eat breakfast every morning.
There have been plenty of lectures/seminars since my few blogs, but I want to mention my two favorites: Psychological Maintenance and Self-Presentation with Anthony Berryhill and Rick Brundage, and Public Speaking for Women with Chelsea Goldstein.
The first seminar taught us about the importance of self-confidence--something that I'll admit I lack at times. The main step toward self-confidence is the process of reframing. Framing is essentially one's personal interpretation of a situation. Fears are usually framed in a negative way, and in order to build confidence, one must reframe this interpretation in a positive manner. Instead of thinking, "I can't do this," say "I WILL do this." This is something that has definitely helped me with my group's Marshall Brief presentation.
After this, we practiced physical confidence by reading out loud. This wasn't simply reading off a paper. We were to stand in front of the group, put on headphones, and read. Midway through our reading, Rick turned on extremely loud music, and we automatically raised our voices to speak over the music. It was amazing to see the difference between normal speaking levels and speaking levels while the music was turned on; these levels are supposed to be the levels at which we speak in front of audiences. Next, the group stood outside on a lawn, exposed to the public. We spread out and read a story as loud as we could--talk about awkward! Passersby humorously glanced at us, but at that moment I no longer cared about my image. It was an amazing feeling.
The next seminar, on public speaking for women, was hosted by Chelsea Goldstein. She went over the unfortunate truths about public speaking as women: higher voices, "ill-fitting" clothes, and two-sided qualities. For example, girls who are "cute" are accused of being weak and vulnerable, and girls who have confidence are accused of vanity. Overall I thought her session was very fun!
I almost forgot to mention Dr. Dr. Luong's excellent lecture on etiquette. He taught us about everything, from handshakes, to dining, to escape strategies. Personal experiences accompanied his lecture--it was hilarious!
Despite the stress of the Marshall Briefs, I'm sincerely enjoying my time here at Yale University. Dr. Dr. Luong, Dean Nick Coburn-Palo, and all of the other professors/speakers are so eager to teach us, making me eager to learn. This is something unseen in--or, perhaps, very well-hidden by--most of my teachers (I'm sorry!). Our instructors, too, are willing to help us with any problems we encounter. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I'm so grateful for having these people directing and helping out with the YISP.
Today I had my mock-interview with rising senior Scott Hillier. I was terrified at first, but I felt at ease as soon as I shook his hand. I had a casual conversation with him and basically gave him an outline of my life: music, Interact Club, school, etc. It was also interesting to learn a little about where he came from when it was time for me to ask him questions--particularly when I asked him "Why did you choose Yale over the other schools you were accepted into?" Scott came from Missouri and had to choose between Yale and the University of Missouri (a place where both his father [or was it mother?] and sister graduated from). I'm sure you know what he eventually chose as his school.
Marshall Brief presentations are this Friday. I have no idea if I'll be able to blog for the remainder of our trip, but I'll try!
- The transcript is the most important item during the application process. Readers are looking for AP and Honors classes and what to see that students are challenging themselves throughout their high school career.
- SAT/ACT - important but does not weigh heavily in comparison to the transcript, essay and the letter of recommendation.
- Student essays - This is one of the most important items in the application process. As Yale and Amherst Admission Officers have also said, let yourselves shine in this essay. Be honest, open and use this opportunity to explain any fluctuation in your grades during your high school tenure.
- Recommendations - Again, select teachers and counselors who have a strong relationship with you and can truly do a good job in writing about you and your qualities. This is key.
- Interview - optional. This is not mandatory in the application process. Often times, a Brown alum will interview a prospective student. Students can choose to interview or not. Again, it is not mandatory and will not "make or break" you.
- Extra curricular activities - Please note all activities. Even if that is babysitting, working, etc. It doesn't necessarily have to all be sports, music, theater, etc.
Brown Fun Facts:
- Brown is proud of its diverse campus. 30% students of color. 3rd World Center Group- Established in 1976 to serve interests and needs of all students of color and help celebrate their diverse cultural backgrounds but also have an impact on he wider community on campus. The center raises awareness of issues of race and ethnicity that confront students of color at Brown and within the larger national and international society. It does so by sponsoring lectures, receptions and other community-building activities.
- Academic advisor for all freshmen students
- There is a variety of groups and clubs to join for all students interested.
- Student to Prof ratio: 9-1
- Most undergraduate students graduate in four years.
- 98% graduation rate
- Some of the guest speakers who came to speak at Brown recently are: Spike Lee, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and John Edwards.
- Open curriculum-students have the opportunity to explore widely across the disciplines and decide for themselves what they truly want to study.
- One of the most important goals at Brown is "to develop active learners who take responsibility for their own education."
- As my tour guide, Natasha, stated, "Brown is a great school where you will find happy people enjoying their time here."
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
CLASS OF 2011:
Percentage Admitted: 18%
Of those admitted, percentage enrolled: 28%
Male/Female: 46% / 54%
Students of Color: 37%
First generation college students: 16%
International students: 8%
Financial Aid Applicants: 70%
- Amherst College's 1,000-acre campus is in Massachusetts, 90 miles west of Boston and 150 miles north of New York City.
- With five colleges and 30,000 college students in the immediate vicinity, virtually all of the town's restaraunts, stores and entertainment venues cater to the needs of college students.
- Amherst is one of five colleges. The other schools are Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts, and Hampshire College.
- Transcript -- This is probably the most important item in the application process. The transcript readers want to see that students are taking the most rigorous classes they possibly can in their high school tenure. They also want to see that they are earning high marks and are excelling in all areas of curriculum.
- College Essay -- This is also extremely important and must show who the student really is. Ahmaad reiterates that it is important that the student is true, honest and reveal why the student is a proper fit at Amherst College.
- College Recommendations -- Select teachers/counselors who truly know you and can paint a picture of who you are as a student and why they think you would be a good fit for this particular school. Readers are looking for letters of recommendation that truly stand out above the rest. They are looking at over 8,000 applicants annually.
- Standardized Testing -- SAT/ACT -- Not as important as the transcript, essay, and college recommendations. SAT (2) Subject Tests required.
- No interviews
Monday, August 3, 2009
In the Ivy Scholars Program, every student has to do either a persuasive speech or impromptu and extemporaneous speeches. If you choose to do the persuasive speech, you compose (and try to memorize) a short speech on any topic of your choosing. If you choose the latter option, impromptu and extemp speeches, you have limited time to prepare for each. The impromptu speech is one where you choose one out of three given topics, prepare for three minutes, then deliver a 5 minute speech. The extemp speech is one where you receive a statement about current event topic the night before, then present an evidence-based, 7 minute speech on the statement the next day. I do impromptu speech in Forensics, so I immediately signed up for the impromptu and extemp speeches.
On Sunday night, I did my first impromptu speech. The topic I selected out of my 3 choices was "George Washington". My thesis statement was "George Washington is someone who we must strive to be like not only because he was the first and one of the greatest American presidents, but because he embodied truthfulness, unity, and having a grand strategy." I think I did fairly well, and so did my group instructor, Bryce. He gave me useful feedback as well, such as that my gesticulation enhanced my oration and that I could walk more naturally when doing my pacing from one spot to another to emphasize my change in points.
Today, I gave my extemp speech. I was truly lucky, because the topic I was assigned was "Is victory against the Taliban possible in Afghanistan?" which is essentially my Marshall Brief topic, "How can we preven Afghanistan from becoming a failed state?". I started my speech by describing Afghanistan when under Taliban rule by asking, "Can you imagine a world without music, dancing, or movies? What about one where you can't fly a kite or shave your beard--if you're a guy...well...if you're a hairy woman as well..." The last part of that line was definitely more of a Freudian slip, but it garnered many laughs, which is nearly always a good sign in public speaking. The rest of my speech took on a serious tone, as I described the three not-so-simple steps that would make victory against the Taliban possible in Afghanistan. The first step was defeating them militarily. This would consist of having the US and NATO forces already stationed there training the Afghan National Army and the International Security Assistance Force training the Afghan National Police. Also, the Afghans would have to consolidate their military gains in order to force the Taliban to fight in the traditional way rather than with their guerilla tactics. The second step was legalizing the poppy/opium trade. Right now, it's illegal in Afghanistan despite the fact that Afghanistan is responsible for 93% of the world's supply and poppy farming is the biggest industry in the country. Legalizing it would bring the profits out of the hands of the Taliban and into the Afghanistan economy. It would be based on how Turkey legalized poppy/opium in the 1970s. The third part of the strategy was reforming the government. Right now, the "central" government doesn't control 60% of the country, and this is mostly due to lack of ties between the provincial and central government. In order to reform it, Afghanistan would have to strengthen ties between Kabul and the rest of the country. I explained that although victory over the Taliban now currently seems out of reach, but it isn't with these three strategies.
My final, least impressive speech was one based on a quote by Benjamin Franklin. The quote was, "There never was a good war or a bad peace". I talked about World War II, the Great Depression, and interacting with parents. Truly, by this point I was tired and tired of doing speeches, but I managed to effectively elaborate on each of my examples.
Now, with the writing assignments and speaking sessions finished, I feel very relieved. However, I still have to work a lot with my group on the power point and the presentation for our Marshall Brief. We have a four-hour work session tommorow, though, and hopefully we'll be productive and churn out an exemplary work of grand strategy.
The four of us ate dinner with Ms. Jessie Rojas yesterday. We were able to catch up on what all of us were doing and talk about many other things such as her job as a social worker. I'm very grateful to her for taking the time to meet with us and for Professor Luong for organizing the get-together.
On Sunday, everyone was excited because we actually had a "break" until 1:00 P.M. This was because some students had to go to church. For me, I still did not sleep in because I had two essays due (one by noon, and the other in the evening). Since I had not started any of them, I woke up at 5:00 A.M. to start. Luckily, on Saturday night, I was so tired that I went to bed at 11:00 P.M. (which is pretty early for me here...). I finished one essay (about a murder case where we had to declare the defendants as guilty or not guilty, using our knowledge of morality) and at 11:00 A.M, I decided to give myself a break. I met up with Stephanie and Yohanna on Broadway St., a block full of stores and restaurants and got a chance to get myself a Yale University sweatshirt! Best of all, it's in my favorite color: blue. Later on that night, I was able to finish my persuasive essay and at 8:30 P.M., we had to present our rough draft to a group of students and a staff member. I was the last person to present and if you ask anyone in that room, they will all say that I was so nervous and really red. My face was burning hot and my heart was pounding extremely fast. The students who went before me were pretty relaxed but as more went up to give their speeches, the more I was terrified.
The students in my group were very comforting. They tried to tell me to relax and even offered me water. When I started my speech (which was about my Marshall Brief Topic - Education), I stuttered a lot; but as I continued, I tried to focus and apparently, that was exactly what I did. Like always, I tend to get nervous for things that I do not have to be nervous about.
Today, we had more lectures, and tonight is our final speech. Two of the lectures really interested me today. One was about the Art of Psychological Maintenance and Self-Presentation and the other was Public Speaking for Women. I enjoyed the first one the most because we were told to "get out of our comfort zone." We did many activities such as putting headphones on and reading an article, then having loud music turned on. This would then make us read/speak louder because we cannot hear ourselves talk. Another thing we did was we went outside and walked forwards and backwards, visualizing the difference between being confident and having no courage. We had to picture that the more we walked forward, the more confident we were; and when we walked backwards, we were "supposed to be" feeling sad and well...miserable. In my opinion, it actually worked. To top it off, when we reached the "furthest point", our confidence was so high, that the sun came shining down on us. Seriously. (What a coincidence!)
I am currently trying to multitask between working on our Marshall Brief and blogging, but unfortunately, I must go now. I have lots to write still and will try to add pictures tomorrow. I hope that I will have time to blog tomorrow because I still have much to say. Thanks for reading!