Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mentorship Outing

Today, the Brown mentorship group went on our first outing since the dinner. Unfortunately most of the mentors couldn’t make it, but all five mentees were present. We were joined by Mr. Ramsey, Brown alums Susan, Peter, and Alice, Elizabeth, a current senior at Brown, and Irene and Guadelupe, former ILC members and incoming Brown students. We took BART to San Francisco, where we ate lunch at Chevy’s and watched Billy Elliot.

Lunch at Chevy's

At lunch, I sat next to Elizabeth and chatted with her about her experiences at Brown. She is majoring in Sociology but is also doing Portuguese Studies, something she told me she became interested at Brown. Hearing her stories made me realize that students in college discover their passions in college and often change their major, no matter how set they were on it before. I also learned that Brown during the school year is not quite the same as it had been for us at Summer@Brown. There are more events going on and of course, more people on campus, adding to a whole new vibe at Brown.

All the Brownies

After we finished eating, we headed to the Orpheum Theatre to watch Billy Elliot, a musical about a young boy aspiring to be a ballet dancer. I had heard praises about the show from Beilul, a Columbia cohort who saw it on Broadway. In addition, I had never seen a musical before, adding even more to my excitement. I wasn’t disappointed. The show was entertaining and inspiring.

After three weeks of being home, I miss life at Brown so I enjoyed our “reunion” with fellow Brownies. My mentor, Raquel, couldn’t make it today, but we’ve been contacting each other and are planning a meet-up. This mentorship program has been great, and I’m looking forward to future mentorship events.

First Mentor Event

It’s been a while since I wrote about Brown activities, but it is a school that always finds a way back into my life, so I expect to write more about it now and in the future. This time I went to the Orpheus Theater with my mentor and the rest of the Brown mentees. Only my mentor was able to come, so I had another opportunity to talk to Susan.

After we arrived at San Francisco, we went to Chevy’s. Susan and I sat together and we talked about Brown, about school and about next year. I wish I could recall the conversations that Susan and I had, but acting on the wisdom she gave is the ideal. She gave me great advice for my Environmental Club for the coming year, for instance, trusting officers that the club elects, or in context, why people wouldn’t be trusted. We had a rant about projects where only one person did the project. Susan also is going to connect me with someone she is friends with who works at Biorad. However, I found a problem that they only give internships to college students entering sophomore or junior year. Susan still encourages me to apply because her friend said that I would be a good intern and they needed interns. Later this week I will probably contact her friend, and then I could see whether or not I can apply.

After we were ready and the play was about to start, we walked a few blocks to the Theater. We had about four minutes before the play started, so we came at the perfect time. We watched “Billy Elliot the Musical,” and for what I was told, it was a musical based off a film. The story follows Billy’s dream of becoming a ballet dancer while a nation-wide coal strike happens. His parent, since his mother is dead, disapproves of his ballet dream but later accepts Billy and supports him in his London recital to a prestigious dance school. After Billy is accepted to the school, the strike fails. It has a bittersweet ending, but the actors have well placed humor that ends the play focusing on Billy.

The play was a great time to spend time with my mentor, while watching a play that I would have never heard about but nonetheless enjoyed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Words from a (Hopeful) Future Brown Bear

It’s been more than a couple of days since I left the wonderful city of Providence Rhode Island. I’m no longer jetlagged in any way, and the intense humidity I felt on the East Coast is but a faint memory. However, the memories made between myself as well as my cohort and the other people I met at Brown are forever imprinted in my mind.

I remember being on the plane and leaving the Bay Area before the sun came up and watching the sunrise, which represented a beautiful start to an amazing trip. Although my cohort was really friendly and familiar with one another, we were all still somewhat aloof of each other and tended to stick with people from our own schools. Little did we know, this was all about to change within the first night at Hotel Providence, where we got an email from an angry Don Gosney, who noticed us “segregating” ourselves and demanded that we change such attitude. We immediately made a conscious effort to walk, talk, and sit with members of other schools. This awkward friendliness towards each other was our first form of actual bonding, as we’d laugh about taking cheesy photos and appearing like a cliché “sisterhood.”

For the first week in Providence, my cohort and I went on college tours on a daily basis. Before this program, I was set on settling in California for college. I figured that the stress of leaving my loved ones would outweigh the benefits of studying beyond my comfort zone and in another state. I even specifically told Ms. Sue Kim, my private college advisor, that I was only interested in California colleges. However, on the East Coast, we visited colleges such as Boston University in Massachusetts, a liberal arts college that Martin Luther King Jr. himself graduated from, Wellesley College, an all-girls college that looked like a palace and had top-of-the-line architecture, and Harvard University, another fellow Ivy League college. I’m glad to announce that my eyes have truly been open to all the other options beyond Universities of California. I’m in love with the East Coast and what the colleges have to offer out there, such as multiple study abroad programs and an abundance of intellectual and supportive peers.

After the college tours and an awesome over-lapping with cohort of Brown Session 1, it was time to move into the dorms. I still remember the struggle of moving my stuff out onto the campus and finding out where to go with my cohort. When we all found out what to do and where to go, we were faced with another struggle: carrying our luggage up the stairs onto the 2nd and 3rd floors of Harkness Hall. We helped each other before helping ourselves and pretty soon, we were visiting each other’s rooms like friendly neighbors. Prior to coming to Brown, I also told myself that I wasn’t going to dorm. Rather, I planned on living in an apartment for my first year of college as to save money and maintain my own privacy. Living in Harkness Hall, however, changed my mind completely. I became close friends with nearly everyone on my floor. Our whole building would meet down in the 1st floor lounge just to chat and gossip like old girlfriends do. I was living in a college community setting, and knowing that I would be missing out on this made me change my mind about living in an apartment during my freshman year of college. I want to be part of the buzz and roommate drama. I want to have sleepovers with the girls 3 doors away from mine. I can’t wait to go back to the dorm life in about a year.

The class itself was awe-inspiring. Kisa Takesue is one of my heroes. I never thought a teacher would be so full of energy. Unlike any teacher I’ve been taught under, Kisa would actually notice the class falling asleep and making us stand in a circle and do some type of wake-up activity to get us back on our feet and ready to learn. I studied Women & Leadership, which is pretty self-explanatory. Before taking this class, I thought of feminists as man-hating hypocrites who wanted to be greater than men and take more credit for their jobs. However, this course taught me the true meaning of feminism and what feminists really do strive for, which is simply political, economic, and social equality. Through this course, I also learned how to be a better leader and facilitator. I learned techniques to calmly quieting down a classroom, which is something that many teachers at my school don’t know how to do. I was taught skills that would benefit me both in and out of the classroom.

Upon heading back to the airport, Rebecca, one of the girls in my cohort, pointed out that as we all walked: Me, Caroline, Cynthia, Rebecca, Alex, Mariko, and Adrianne; we walked as one big united group of leaders. We were ready to take the lessons learned inside and outside of the classroom to our own communities, and we walked with the confidence in knowing that we were set to change the way people see us as women and as leaders. A few hours after boarding the plane, we noticed that there was a beautiful sunset following us home. It was a perfect way to end such an amazing journey.

The college visits and Brown opened my eyes to what I really want when it comes to colleges. Before, I was set on living in an apartment and attending a California college. Now, however, although I don’t mind staying in California, I’m so much more comfortable imagining myself in out-of-state colleges such as Brown and Boston University, which is where I plan on applying to this fall. I’ve completely dropped the apartment living idea after being able to have the experience of sharing a floor with many other people going through the same life changes as I am. Being part of the ILC meant that I was qualified to partake in a huge scholarship program that has changed the way I see my future. I highly encourage those who have been offered to be part of this program to grasp onto it and take it seriously. I have absolutely no regrets ever writing that essay, going through the nerve-racking interviews, attending tutorials and listening to Don lecture about how important always replying to emails is, and boarding that plane to Rhode Island. In fact, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat if I could.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A New and Improved Alex

My name is Ava “Alex” Burnell, I attended the Women and Leadership course at Summer@Brown 2011, and I am a completely different person because of it.

I could sit here and write pages and pages filled with overly descriptive paragraphs about every single little detail and aspect of my trip this summer. But let’s face it, most people don’t really care about it enough to have the patience to read that much; plus, that sort of ruins it for any other students reading this who want to go next summer. The surprise of not knowing all of details is what makes it so exciting for us students. So I will leave those spaces for them to fill in. The little things are always more special when you discover them yourself.

I am going to expand on the 3 main things that I feel have left the biggest impact on me. The first thing is community. The second thing is knowledge. The final thing is personal courage.

The community at Brown was unbelievable and left me in complete awe. The positivity around the entire campus was absolutely overwhelming. No matter where I was at any time, I felt welcome. People who didn’t even know me and had just seen me around would stop me and have friendly conversations with me. I would say about 99% of the time, if I passed by anyone on campus, including students I didn’t even know, I would at least get a smile and a wave or a cheerful “Goodmorning!” Little things like that actually greatly improve quality of life. During my stay at Brown I was more jovial and happy to be alive than ever. I found myself appreciating every little thing that would normally be easy to take for granted. I appreciated the random songs my roommate would play. I appreciated the quiet humming sound that the fan in our room made. I appreciated the cold showers at the end of a hot evening. I appreciated just being able to breathe clean air. Being surrounded by people who cared about each other and supported each other really made me feel like part of a big family. I felt like I had a place where I knew I belonged, they made me feel like I could do anything. They made me feel like I really could be a leader and change the world. I have made friends that I am of course still in touch with and that I could see myself being lifelong friends with. I know I can always call them whenever I’m bored and want to chat, if I ever want to have an intellectual conversation, or if I just have a bad day and need someone to talk to. I made 20 new best friends and they are now a big part of my motivation to reach for the stars until I get my dreams. I am confident that they will support me every step of the way, just like I will to for them.

I learned so much on this trip that I feel like a completely different person. There are some things you have to learn from personal experience. I learned both inside and outside of class. It was very easy to apply the knowledge we received in class into the real world. The one that I think meant the most to me was that in class we always talked about making sure to be inclusive, and to be conscious about when we are not being inclusive. This basically means to include everyone in the community and to reach out to those who feel out of place. I think that is so important because everyone goes through a time when they are trying to find out where they belong and they can get really sad if they are struggling to find it. I see girls sitting by themselves in high school all the time and people almost never reach out to them or try to spend time with them. As soon as I realized that, my attitude completely changed and whenever I was in the dining hall with my friend and saw someone by themselves I would say “Hey, let’s go sit with them.” One of the first times I did that, my friend from class said “I’m so glad I met someone who actually does that. At my school nobody even does anything about it or tries to reach out to people who are alone.” When she said that I realized how rare it is that people compulsively feel the need to take care of others. That is something I developed in my class. I made many friends through this way of reaching out to people.

I gained a great deal of confidence and personal courage. This class required public speaking and being able to openly express your feelings. When I was presenting to my class, I realized that public speaking is just like a normal conversation but with a few more eyes on you. What I liked about Kisa and Jen Madden and Dean Rose was that they didn’t try to shove a specific speaking style down our throats. They showed us examples of good public speaking and ways of planning a speech and asked us to go with whatever works best for us. I have learned to sound more confident when I am speaking about things I am passionate about which is crucial because if I sound sure of myself, it will be easier for others to believe in me too.

I want to take everything I’ve learned and use it to make my community a better place. I want to teach others the importance of taking care of everyone around them. I want to show people how much better life can be with just a little more effort and a positive attitude. My life is forever changed by Summer@Brown. I will never, ever forget this experience. Any success I have in the future can without a doubt be credited to those 2 weeks of my life. Which were quite possibly the best 2 weeks I’ve ever had.

As far as college goes, this has not changed my view on my application process. I adored my time at Brown, but seeing how lucky we are to have the change to get and education and to have that great time reminded me that there are so many people without that opportunity. This made me want to go to West Point even more so that I can be a soldier and fight for freedom until ever y single human being has that right to learn. The great experiences I had at Brown made me even more willing to fight for those who are robbed of those kinds of experiences. However, if I don’t get into West Point and for some reason can’t enlist then Brown University will definitely be on the top of my list.

Thank you to the Ivy League Connection, the donors, the WCCUSD school board, the leader fellows, the RA’s, my parents, all of the girls in Harkness, Guy Sanchez, the chaperones, our guest speakers, Kisa Takesue, Jen Madden, the amazing Dean Rose, and everyone else who made this trip possible and who made it the experience of a lifetime. It has left an impact on my life that will never go away. You guys have helped make me into a better person; a new and improved Alex.


Farewell Brown

This blog, the “reflective blog,” is what might be the final blog in a series that chronicled the adventure of a lifetime. It must encompass the past three weeks on the East Coast and at Brown University. I have to explain how this wonderful opportunity given to me by the ILC has changed and shaped my future. Given the weighty topics I’m dealing with here, maybe you can see where it might be difficult to begin…

Honestly, I’m going to have a hard time summarizing all the events and impressions of the past weeks in a single blog, but I’ll give it my best shot. Please bear with me.

I was actually very nervous when I boarded the shuttle at El Cerrito High School. I’m not at my best at 4 in the morning, so this probably contributed to my anxiety, but a lot of my stress was simply that I didn’t know what to expect. I had been away from home (translation: away from my family) a couple of times, but I had never been away from both home and close friends for such an extended period of time. I knew Adrianne, Ava, and Caroline only slightly from classes and extracurriculars, and I knew Josie, Cynthia, and Rebecca barely at all. I was also worried about my class. I had looked up the Women and Leadership course online, but even after reading the description and watching Kisa’s video I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. (Funny, but this seems to be a recurring theme.)

I have to say that all of that has changed. I now feel very close to my fellow W&L Brownies, and I hope they feel the same. I know that I will call them for advice or just to hang out! It was great to bond with my fellow El Cerrito High students, but I was especially glad to get to know the De Anza girls. I’m pretty sure that I would never have met you three if not for this program, yet these past three weeks with you have been wonderful and enriching. My life is better with you in it!

My new circle of friends goes beyond the ILC–I have to include all 14 non-ILC students from my Women and Leadership class. We were pretty open with each other, both in class during workshops and in our dorm. A major part of this was the very clear atmosphere of acceptance. I have never been in such a comfortable “safe space” before. As demonstrated by one Ropes course exercise involving “trust falls,” I believed that everyone else would catch me and hold me up; I can only hope that everyone else felt the same way about me.

We all became so close by the end of the two weeks that it felt incredibly cruel to separate us. Despite our different experiences and points of view, everyone in our class had become friends in only two weeks. So much of the differences seem to melt away once you really get to know someone. Yet, once you find the similarities, you begin to see the differences again in a new light. The things that distinguish people become interesting, quirky parts about a friend, instead of barriers keeping two strangers apart.

I won’t go into all the details of our departure from Brown; I think that my cohorts have said enough about it. Let it suffice to say that it was terrible and the sight of my friends’ teary faces made me wish that I wasn’t flying home that day.

I must thank Tiffany and Laura for helping make my two weeks at Brown so enjoyable. Both TAs were amazing at facilitating discussions and fostering an open, supportive learning environment. I know that Kisa made every effort to support this attitude both in her TAs and in every one of us.

What can I say? Kisa is the best teacher I’ve ever had and one of the coolest people I have ever met. She made a huge effort to get to know each of us as a student and as a person, which is tough when you have 21 kids and only two weeks. She created an atmosphere in which we could feel comfortable speaking up. She encouraged the “talkers” to listen and the “listeners” to talk, while acknowledging that it was okay to be either option or neither. Kisa is warm and engaging but she doesn’t hesitate to give her honest opinion, but she phrases it in a way that isn’t hurtful.

There’s that thing that you say sometimes when you’re little: Hey I want to be her when I grow up! That’s the way I feel about Kisa. Thank you for the best two weeks of class I have ever taken.

This entire experience has helped me to grow to be a better me. I learned so much about “women and leadership” this summer, and so much more than that as well. On one hand, I learned about other people, people who come from different backgrounds but who are all beautiful and brilliant in their own unique ways. On the other hand, I learned a lot about myself–how I deal with pressure, how far I can push myself, and how much I can actually accomplish if I put my mind to it. Everything that I learned this summer will be valuable in my future, and I am so grateful that I was able to go to Brown this summer.

Of course I must thank the ILC for giving me this opportunity. Without the chance to go to Brown, my life would be so different right now. I wouldn’t have any ideas about East Coast schools; I might have only started to think about college. Now, thanks to the extensive college touring, I have a bit of a better idea of what I’m looking for in a school. I definitely plan to apply to Brown. I know that Providence really reminded me of some of my favorite aspects of the Bay Area, which was comforting when I was in a new place.

So, thank you ILC. Thank you sponsors and administrators. Thank you Brown alumni and Brown mentor program for getting me interested in such an amazing school. Thank you for offering me this amazing opportunity. I hope that in the future I continue to prove to you and to myself that I was worth it.

Undescribable Feelings

I remember everyone's faces as we, the ILC girls, got onto the shuttle bus that heads to the airport. Every single one was now familiar as we waved goodbye and teared up. It's crazy how you begin to relate a person to their life story and pretty soon they are more than just a stranger that lived in the same building as you did; they have become someone important to you, someone who you have shared amazing experiences with.

The first week we spent away from California was impressive already-- We spent every single day at a new college (they were all mind blowing). Then the second week came and we all got ready to attend our all-girls class. The day before we started, I was a bit anxious seeing that the class was comprised of all females (and strong ones at that). Who would have expected that this would be the best class I have ever been in in my life?..

Within the two weeks we spent here, the 21 of us built a bond that is stronger than some people I see on a regular basis back home in the bay area. I didn't think it was possible, but through workshops, the Ropes Course, daily classes, evening outings, the ESTRODEN, we have. You could randomly mix up our group in any way and we would be able to talk like sisters.

The class itself was so amazing. I've never seen so many strong women in one room that were able to work together so well before. I guess an all-girls class was not what I had in mind before. There were many discussions on the female and her suppression as well modern-day women and how they are also being repressed. Girls gave examples of certain things by relating to them and sharing their experiences with the class.

Some people think that classes don't leave much in your head after you have passed it and have moved onto other activities, but this class has opened my eyes a lot. Now, when I pass by billboards, newspaper ads, magazine racks, posters, a Victoria's Secret, I think to myself about how it is degrading to women. Also, I try harder to be a better person. Before this class, others and I unknowingly were being judgmental and ignorant. Now I think before I speak and always give the benefit of the doubt. My mom even says my attitude has improved immensely since I arrived home.

I remember sometime during my first week there I was feeling a bit homesick. That day was just a bad day because so many things weren't going the way I planned: 1. the washer machine wouldn't work for the longest time. 2. the dryer didn't work after the washer finally did. 3. I locked myself out of my room 4. the reception was horrible and my mom couldn't hear me telling her that I missed her and everyone else. I cried that night and couldn't wait to go home.

Then the inevitable came and the three weeks were over.. I watched my new found family surround me at the gates and hug me and tell me how they'd miss me. We all cried and cried and as the shuttle driver became more impatient we cried even more knowing it was almost time. As I watched the girls I now associate to myself as family wave goodbye, my heart clenched because I honestly learned more from them than I did from anything else on this trip. They are the most wonderful people and I'm so glad I have had the chance to become one of them. Thank you so much ILC & Partners for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Home Is Not Where I Thought It Was

Our last day at Brown was the saddest day of my life. I found my 20 long lost sisters and we bonded in the short two weeks of class. Our goodbyes were the longest of any group. I didn't realize how much I grew as a person until our last day. I realized I am much more outgoing, confident, and aware of gender roles in today's society. After our Action Plan presentations, we gathered on the lawn to take pictures and say goodbye. Ms. Williams began to get frustrated with our reluctance to get into the shuttle. Since the ILC girls were the first in the class to leave, everyone saw us off. They sang the song "California Girls" to us as we got on the shuttle.

I learned a lot from the class itself. A lot I can say I knew before but I never realized how bad it really was or that a lot of it is subconscious. I am a pretty "equal" person, in that I am not intentionally racist, homophobic, sexist, or any other "-ist". However, I discovered through this course that I, among many other girls in the class, unintentionally discriminate because we grow up with that lesson that women are subordinate to men. One day, we watched a film about media literacy, which delved into the meaning behind advertisements. On the plane home, Cynthia, Josie, and I went through the magazines interpreting the ads and how they are degrading to women.

Outside of class, I became more independent, outgoing, and outspoken because living a college lifestyle requires that you be more extroverted. I became more willing to speak to strangers, speak in public, and socialize. I think being with one class for a whole day every day let us become more than just classmates. I can't imagine what it would've been like without the Ropes Course or all of the workshops because those were what really pulled us together. I don't think anyone can truly understand how we, as a class, felt saying goodbye. When Alex said "stay in touch", we all knew that we would.

Going home was painful because I wasn't really going home; I was leaving it. When we got back to California, and I saw my family, I was melancholy. I knew I was glad to be back on the west coast but all my memories seemed so distant. I wasn't even home yet when I was texting the other Women & Leadership girls and messaging them on Facebook. We chat on Facebook every day and plan to mail a journal around for everyone to write in.

The past three weeks were unforgettable and through this experience I added Brown to my college list. I miss my new family and I wish that the class could've been at least four weeks. I miss the heat, climbing the stairs, checking in one minute before curfew, hanging out in the lounge when we should be doing homework, doing homework at 3:00AM because we hung out in the lounge, getting into circles, and writing the blogs. I would give anything to go back again and I know everyone in my class feels the same because we openly talk about it every day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Debut and The Departure

Three weeks in Providence, two of those weeks spent at Brown. Two long, intense, life-changing, splendid weeks. My name is Adrianne Ramsey, and I just came back from the journey of a lifetime. Most of you know me as A) the eldest daughter of Charles Ramsey, lawyer and president of the district school board, and B) the rising junior at El Cerrito High School who tries to do 100 things at once and is involved in many activities.

Where do I even begin when it comes to reflecting upon the best three weeks of my life? Instead of writing a very long reflection of my time in Providence and at Brown, I will write in sections describing what happened pre-Brown and at Brown.

1. How I got into the Ivy League Connection 

A. Nominations, part one  

To put it very bluntly, initially, I never wanted to participate in this program. That may make readers wince, but allow me to explain. I remember when Peter Chau, the first Ivy League Connection cohort ever, appeared on national television with my father. I remember attending a brunch with the S.E.A.D. (Summer Enrichment At Dartmouth) students in 2008. I remember my dad flying out to Cornell, Brown, and Yale at three different points in the summer to spend a couple of days with the Ivy League Connection cohorts. I remember hearing, "The Ivy League Connection is one of the most important scholarship programs in the district" and "The Ivy League Connection program changed my life" from adults and students. I remember my mother once asking me in the car when I was in eighth grade, "Do you think you will ever want to participate in the Ivy League Connection?"

I simply said, "No." I didn't even want to explain why. I didn't even know why. I just...didn't want to do it. I barely even understood what the program was about. I didn't want to bother thinking about it.

Fast forward two years later, in November of my sophomore year of high school. I was in P.E. when a call slip was delivered to me by an office T.A. I saw the slip was to see Ms. Sarah Larson, an ECHS school counselor. During lunch, I went into the conference room and saw about thirteen students piled in the room.

Ms. Larson came into the room, sat down calmly, and said in a cheery voice, "How many of you have heard of the Ivy League Connection?", I thought. Everyone in the room, including myself, raised my hand. I had been hoping I wouldn't be nominated for this program, but I should have know. I am my father's daughter. Of course they are going to look at me, my grades and GPA, and see if I want to be in the program!

The program I was being nominated for was the Freedom and Justice course at Cornell. I had no idea what the course was about. When I asked Ms. Larson, she told me that it had something to do with political science. That night, I grudgingly went on Wikipedia and searched "political science." After about five minutes of reading, I decided that political science was definitely a subject I did not want to spend three weeks learning. After a couple of days of going back and forth, I told my mother that I was going to turn down the nomination. While she agreed with what I had to say, I could see a bit of sadness in her eyes. Surprisingly, on the inside, I felt sad too. The ILC means a lot to my dad and on the inside, I felt like I was disappointing him. It was actually hard for me to go to Ms. Larson and tell her that I wasn't going to go forward with Cornell. I thought that was the end of my time with the Ivy League Connection, and I was fine with that.

B. Nominations, part two 

A couple of weeks later, Ms. Larson called me into her office. She told me that even though I had turned down the Cornell nomination, that she thought I should try for another ILC sponsored program.

These people cannot take no for an answer, I thought to myself in surprise. Ms. Larson showed me the list of programs still open to ECHS. I saw Physics at U-Penn, Presidential Powers at Columbia, and then one that caught my eye: Women and Leadership at Brown University. I knew a little bit about Brown University:

  • The university was located in Rhode Island 
  • Cynthia Fong (ECHS Alum '10) was attending the school
  • Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series) was attending the school
Okay, I guess I didn't know that much. But the word "leadership" stuck out to me. I had had a desire to attend a leadership program, but didn't know where to look. Well, here it was now, right in front of me. I had a choice: take it or leave it.

I decided to take a chance. I told Ms. Larson I would go through on the nomination.

C. Application Process (Essay and Interview) 

Eight girls were nominated, seven girls were picked for the essay, and four girls (all from ECHS) were picked after the interview. It was a long and stressful process. Our essay prompt was:

At some of our schools the District operates child care facilities for our teen mothers. 

Since District funding is scarce, the funds allocated for these centers comes from budgets that could fund  textbooks, supplies, after school programs, music, art, small class size, etc.

Please give your rationale for continuing or discontinuing using District funds to operate child care centers in high schools.

The prompt definitely made me think. At first I thought, "No, the district should not fund the child care centers." I said that shows like Teen Mom glamorized teen pregnancy. My argument was very weak. Two nights after receiving the prompt, my mom and I sat down and watched the premiere of Teen Mom 2. By the end of the episode, I was absolutely shocked. The show did not glamorize anything; it showed the hardships these girls were going through with their boyfriends (one girl's boyfriend broke up with her yet she was living with him at his parent's house), babies, and parents (another girl and her mother got into a near-physical altercation and the mother sent a court order demanding full custody of her grandson). The show reiterated every reason why teen girls should not get pregnant. I took extensive notes during the episode and did more research about statistics of teen mothers in accordance to education. Many teen mothers ended up dropping out of high school and living in poverty. The percentages were getting higher and higher each year. Without the child care centers, these women would drop out of high school. The child care centers were an effective way to take care of the children and the women could still attend school regularly! Brilliant! I immediately changed my opinion from a "no" to a "yes."

There are two child care centers in our district; one at Richmond High School and another at Kennedy High School. I interviewed a woman who worked in the Kathy Sanchez center at the school and also took extensive notes of everything she said. I wrote about four drafts of my essay, which were edited by my mother and former Associate Editor of ECHS' school newspaper Keisa Reynolds, who had deferred from Columbia College for a year and was helping out the Journalism program.

"Why are you doing so much research if you never even wanted to be in the Ivy League Connection?" my younger sister Monica asked me one night. She was not discouraging me, she was simply wondering where my desire had suddenly come from.

All I can really say that during the middle of my research, something kicked inside of me saying, You HAVE to get in. You can do this. You want to do this. And, surprisingly, I really did want to. It shocked me that I suddenly wanted to be in the Ivy League Connection, but at the same time, I was very excited. I read through the finished essay and was very impressed with it. I sent it to Don and Ms. Larson, happy with the final product.

A couple of days later, I got an email from Don saying that I and seven other girls were picked for the interview! I did a little dance of happiness and ran to my parents room to tell them that I had been picked for the interview. It was almost midnight but their eyes fluttered open and they said, "Congratulations!" with enthusiasm in their voices.

The interview was approaching. I was very nervous. Don gave us a list of questions that we might be asked, so I did research on those. I picked out an outfit to wear and fixed my hair. I definitely wanted to make a great first impression on the judges.

February 10th arrived. My dad offered to drive me to school, something that hasn't happened often in my life. My dad is very busy and has always gone to work in the wee early hours of the morning, so my mom was always the one to drive my sister and I to school. My dad wished me good luck and gave me a big smile as we arrived at the school at seven thirty that morning.

We drew cards to see who would be interviewed in what order. I received the number 7. I thought to myself, Well, as the saying goes, save the best for last! During the time I waited, I read two books I had brought along with me, worked on homework, and drummed my fingers against my chair.

And then, it was my turn. I walked into the room and said happily, "Hi, my name is Adrianne Ramsey!" as I shook each of the judge's hands. Okay, they all look like very nice people, I thought calmly to myself. I was asked questions such as, "Do you think undocumented students should receive financial aid?", "Why do you think students drop out of high school?", and "What leadership positions are you in?" I thought quickly but in an organized matter so I would give answers that made sense. When the interview was over and I was able to ask the judge's questions, I made sure to ask them about their current job positions, where they attended college, and leadership positions they had pursued in their life time. I wanted to get to know them and I was glad that they gave me as much information as they could.

Waiting to find out who had gotten picked was unbearable. I went back and forth in my head - I had a feeling that I had gotten picked, but I was not sure. I tapped my fingers and feet and tried to clear my mind.

And then we were called back into the room...

We stood in a line. I could hear my heart beating; a scary realization. I thought to myself, Well, if you didn't make it, at least be happy you made it this far. The judge's began calling names. I heard, "Adrianne, Mariko, Ava, and Caroline." All nervousness immediately went away. I had been picked!

2. Ivy League Connection Pre-Summer Events

A. Meeting the Other Brownies 

At first, I was under the impression that only the four ECHS girls (including myself) would be taking Women and Leadership. I then found out that three girls from De Anza would be joining us. Their names are Josephine (better known as Josie) Biteng, Rebecca Scott, and Cynthia (better known as Cindy) Yip. I could tell they were close friends by looking at their post-interview picture.

I also found out that there were two other groups heading to Brown as well: three people (two from Pinole, one from Middle College) taking Macroeconomics, and two people (one from Pinole, one from Hercules) taking DNA-based Biotechnology. I then discovered that the Macroeconomics and Biotechnology students made up Cohort 1, and Women and Leadership made up Cohort 2. Essentially, we would not be attending Brown together at the same time. I was disappointed, but not as much because I hadn't met them yet.

When I did meet the other Cohort, I was extremely disappointed that Brown Cohort 1 and 2 were not going to be spending the whole time together at Brown (Brown Cohort 1 did overlap with us for 2 days and we had an amazing time together). Andrew, Erin, Kathleeen (who took Macroeconomics), Frank, and Erinn (who took Biotechnology) are amazing, wonderful, witty, funny people. We took the time to hang out with each other by going to Barnes and Nobles to hang out, and then I saw Source Code with Erin, Ava, and Mariko. Each time that we got to spend with each other was wonderful.

B. Blogging Tutorial, Dinner, School Board Meeting

Each one of these events were special. I learned so much from attending these three events. I will not completely reflect on these, seeing as though I have written three very long and meaningful blogs about each separate event, but I will say that at each event, I started growing. The exposure I got to meeting so many great people was definitely something I will never forget.

3. Summer@Brown

A. Social Life

Brown is a very social school. Every day, students were playing Ultimate Frisbee, football, volleyball, soccer, or an attempt at Qudditch on the lawns. Everyone is very social and diverse at Brown. I met so many amazing people at Harkness House and, in general, at Summer@Brown. Everyone there is motivated and friendly. I could not have asked for a nicer campus. Leaving the girls and the campus was very hard; I felt like I had lost a piece of myself on the way to airport.

B. Mentors/Staff/Instructor

I will say now that Dean Robin Rose is absolutely great. She cares so much about the Leadership Institute and does so much for the program. She made sure to visit our class and give us loads of advice; I was also pleased that she was in my Ropes Course group. Dean Rose is a hero and will remain in my memory forever.

Tiffany and Laura, the lovely TA's and two of the RA's in Harkness were intellectual and funny. Always opening their door if we needed advice, they provided great humor and excellent additions to our discussions.

I can safely say that Kisa is the best instructor I've had in my life. She is an amazing teacher; she taught me so much about who I am, what I have to bring to this world, and why feminism is such an important topic that isn't taught a lot in school. I will remember her for years to come and hope we cross paths again.

C. Lectures/Assignments

Our class was discussion based. We had many discussions about how we are as women, public speaking, the men in our lives, stereotypes, media literacy, and feminism. I always hated it when we had to move on in our discussions because they were so interesting. We had evening workshops every other day, so that helped to continue the discussions that had been brought up earlier in the day.

Our Leadership interviews and Amazing Women monologues definitely helped to broaden my writing skills and speaking abilities. Before the Amazing Women monologues, we did impromptu speeches and exercises regarding public speaking. Before Brown, I was terrified of public speaking. When I gave my speech at the Brunch, I realized much later that I hadn't mastered the art of conquering my fear. But at the end of this course, I can say that I am no longer afraid of public speaking.

D. Action Plan 

Majority of the class is spent on focusing on our Capstone Project, better known as the Action Plan. The Action Plan is based on a topic that you are passionate about/interested in, and you form a line of work that will raise awareness/educate/help your community about that topic. At first, I was conflicted on what to do. After going back and forth, I decided to base my Action Plan around the Achievement Gap issue in my high school and community. I am happy I chose that topic.

We had to write a 3-5 page paper and do a presentation on the last day of the program to a group of 4-5 students, some of their parents, and a facilitator. I wrote a seven page paper, and when I received it back from Kisa, I was pleased to see the comment "excellent paper." I thought my presentation went by very smoothly. I spoke effortlessly about my topic and was happy at the end of it. My friend Marylyn (who took Women and Leadership with me) video-taped my performance. Watching it, I am extremely proud of myself.

4. Finale 

Leaving Brown was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Ms. Williams (our chaperone) definitely had a hard time pulling us away from the girls and into the airport shuttle. Majority of the girls were crying, and we hugged each other over and over. One phrase I heard quite commonly was, "Why do you girls have to live in California; why do you have to live so far away?"

My response to that question is, I don't know. I also don't know why Summer@Brown accepts all these amazing people into the program, only to have us bond so much and spend all our time together during these two weeks, and then send us off in, in most cases, completely opposite directions. 

I am definitely looking at Brown University for college now. It has everything that I want in a school: a great curriculum, location, people, and programs. While I gave support to those who took Freedom and Justice, I am glad I turned down that nomination because the Cornell program was not right for me. The Brown program was astoundingly everything up my alley. Brown is love. Brown is home.

5. Am I happy I did the Ivy League Connection? 

Yes. Absolutely. The Ivy League Connection changed my life. I came in as a rather stiff perfectionist, and came out as a more assertive and organized person. I never thought that those three weeks on the East Coast would do that for me. I now know that the East Coast is definitely a side of the country that I will look for for college.

I want to thank Mrs. Kronenberg, Don Gosney, the judges that picked me and the other three ECHS girls, and the sponsors for the program. This experience would not have been made possible without you.

I would also like to thank Brown Session 1 and 2: Andrew Gonzales, Frank She, Erin Miller, Erinn Kuehne, Kathleen He, Cindy Yip, Josie Biteng, Rebecca Scott, Caroline Umali, Ava Burnell, and Mariko Whitenack. This experience would not have been the same without all of your beautiful faces, wonderful jokes, and amazing personalities. I could not have asked for a better whole cohort.

Penultimately, I would like to thank my mother and sister for being a great support system to me. I called them just about every day and they had words of encouragement and constructive criticism for how I was doing. Thanks for keeping up with the blogs.

And like I said earlier, as the saying goes, save the best for last:

Thanks, Dad. You've always been there, making sure that I got the best education I could and giving words of encouragement all along the way. Thanks for exposing me and thirty three other WCCUSD students to life on the East Coast. My metamorphasis into a better person wouldn't have happened without you.

And with that, I bid adieu.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Final Day

Yesterday was such a roller coaster of emotions. I said some of the hardest goodbyes that I have ever had to say. Even though I was the only girl who did not cry, I can promise you I felt just as strongly as everyone else. I am home now but I feel like I now have a new home at Brown University, or really anywhere that my Summer@Brown friends are. This experience has been truly life changing for me. I learned so much from the class and from the students there that I feel it has left me a completely new person. My apologies for the short blogging, I will be posting my lengthy reflection blog soon enough to go more in depth about the great things I experience at Brown.

A Seemingly Endless Period Of Taking Pictures

Today was our last day at Summer@Brown.

I woke up today, jumped into the shower, and finished packing. I dashed off to class and arrived with about two minutes to spare. I did a lot better than some of my classmates though; after a late final night everyone was exhausted and some people showed up a little late.

We turned in all of our final assignments and Kisa had us do a forced choice activity. On our first day of class we also did a forced choice activity, so it felt like we were coming full circle. As we moved from one side of the room to the other, I was happy to realize that I have become a more analytical thinker than I was before and I felt much more comfortable making my choice. For example: Twilight or Harry Potter? (If you are concerned about an absence of gravity in this activity, don’t be. This was the silliest question and the lack of solemnity was only because we all chose to answer this literally. In case you're curious, I chose Harry. Of course!)

After a few more farewell exercises, Kisa gave us a little time to take pictures and say more personal goodbyes. We all dashed around the room shoving our cameras at our classmates. Several people got teary-eyed. We were kicked out around 11:30 to go have lunch, and were reminded to meet by the main green at 12:45 to present our Action Plan presentations.

During lunch, all of us ILC girls dragged our luggage over to Faunce Arch in preparation for our imminent departure. The heat made this an uncomfortable and difficult procedure, but by 12:15 I had deposited my luggage in the student center. Caroline and I ran over to the Rockefeller Library to return some books and then headed over to the Ratty for lunch one last time.

There were a few final speeches in the big auditorium in Saloman Hall, and then we split off into small groups to present our Action Plans. I was so nervous to present my speech, but I should not have worried. I had prepared more than adequately and the audience (about seven other students and a facilitator) was very supportive. I heard some interesting Action Plans and got a couple of ideas for things to do better with my own plan.

And then, it was time to say goodbye. We ran around finding our friends and taking the last few sets of pictures. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to say goodbye to Kisa, Tiffany, Laura, and even Dean Rose. (I don’t know if Dean Rose remembers who I am, but she is SO COOL!!!)

Poor Ms. Williams had a terrible time corralling us all into the shuttle bus because we quite simply didn’t want to leave. Our friends escorted us to the student center and helped us carry our luggage to the shuttle. It took forever to even reach the student center because kept hugging each other and taking more photos. I hadn’t really expected to cry, but we pretty much all started sobbing at the same time. I think it was a combination of looking at Maddie’s teary eyes and realizing as I was hugging Kaylyn that I might not see her again that really set me off.

Finally we were all crammed into the van and we drove off, waving frantically through the windows. We turned the corner and they were gone. As one of my classmates said, “Gosh you guys, why do you all have to be so amazing? I would be so much happier right now if I had just hated everyone so that I would be glad to go home now.”

These friends that I’ve made have helped my life become so much richer now that they are in it. I’m going to miss them, but I know that our whole class is going to keep in touch.

Leaving Home to Come Home

After staying up all of last night, I was too tired this morning to realize the significance of actually going home. That all changed when I got to class, and I realized that this would be my last time in that room, my last time learning from Kisa, Laura, and Tiffany, and my last time being greeted, being inspired being amazed, and simply being with this amazing group of girls. I realized how truly special this experience has been and I couldn’t get myself to believe that it was over.

Well, this was partially because it wasn’t quite over. Even after our final activities, exchanging contact info, and saying our “goodbyes”, we still had to present our action plans.

Personally, I was terrified to present my action plan. Being new to public speaking, I wasn’t sure what type of speech preparation was best for me. I was also feeling less confident about my action plan the more that I tried to prepare. When I saw the other kids in my presenting group (who weren’t in my class) present their projects confidently, eloquently, and without notes, I felt extremely intimidated. It was even more intimidating when the boy before me had a project concerning the same issue, but with more statistics and more confidence in his presentation.
I then realized that even though these kids seemed to be more prepared and had done more public speaking than I had, their action plan ideas weren’t necessarily better. I also realized that many of them seemed too confident, making it seem like they weren’t prepared for dealing with the inevitable obstacles that were to come. I had nothing to lose if I just acted like myself and was modest, sincere, and presented my plan in a more conversational style that was natural to me. I think it generally went over pretty well, and I now feel more confident in myself and in my action plan.

Then came the hardest part –saying goodbye to all the girls. Tears were in everybody’s eyes, and when Ms. Williams finally convinced us to board the shuttle, they helped us carry all of our bags and were wishing us a safe flight, much like parents sending their daughter off to college. And as they cried and waved as we left, we cried and waved back.

It's not goodbye; it's write you later!

I have returned to the Bay Area. Thinking back on today, I cannot believe that I have left Brown and am back in the Bay Area. It is great to see my mother and sister again after almost three weeks...but it is freezing cold. And to think that this is considered normal temperature. I will miss the constant heat in Providence (well...not when it's 100 degrees)...and essentially everything about Providence.

I woke up this morning at eight and started packing more of my belongings into my carry-on bag and suitcase. I decided that I would completely finish it once class split for lunch break, so I freshened up, got my last breakfast at The Ratty, and headed to class with Cynthia, Marylyn, Josie, and Rebecca.

Class today was bittersweet. We wrote letters to ourselves about how we have grown as people - Kisa is going to mail them to us in six months. We played the game we played on the fist day of class; the one where there are two sides and you go to the side that applies to you the most. We also took several pictures with one another and passed out lists with everyone's mailing address, Facebook profile name, and cell phone numbers. Lastly, we sat in a circle and did an activity that we did not get to finish last night - say how the class has affected you.

I stated that this class has completely changed my life. I now have 24 sisters (including my actual sister, Monica) and I will treasure them for the rest of my life. I no longer feel like a perfectionist on the inside, and that is a great feeling.

During lunch, I completely finished packing. I hugged Kaylyn and told her she was the best roommate I have ever had, because she truly is. I will miss her, her dancing, her energy, and how she made the dorm like our little home. I went and got a quick lunch at The Ratty before heading out to the Main Green.

We went to the auditorium and were given a speech by Dean Rose before heading off into selected rooms for us to give our Action Speeches. I was the second person to give my speech. I had no butterflies in my stomach, I spoke freely, and I was cheerful. I feel like my public speaking has grown so much and I am so thankful for that. I was also happy to hear the other five people's Action Plans, which were inspiring.

So this is goodbye...

Saying goodbye to everyone was very hard. So many girls were crying, and in the end, I cried too. I felt like I was losing a part of me as we left these girls. Their smiles, jokes, laughs, and all the good times we had will be engraved in my heart for years to come.

Going to the airport was tough. I definitely did not want to leave Providence, but at the same time, I knew it was time. We took a smooth flight to Chicago and then a very long, tiring, and freezing flight to Oakland.

Women and Leadership changed me as a person, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Our 2nd to Final Goodbye

I cried today. I didn’t think it was going to happen, but I really cried today.

Today was our last full day here at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I love this place so much. Someone from the Brown Session 1 told me that Brown was like his home. He loved it so much and is determined to make it into this great school. I didn’t feel like I had the same passion as he did until today.

I woke up earlier than any other day and was ready for breakfast sooner than I thought. After finishing breakfast, I worked more on my action plan, which was due today at 1:30. During class, we had an unexpected visitor, Ms. La Donna Williams. She participated in our group activities and was a fun addition to our class.

At lunch, Ms. Williams went with Mariko and me to Spats, a small restaurant by the university. We had a great meal of salad, clam chowder, and pizza with mashed potatoes and bacon on it. It was a nice way to celebrate our final lunch.

All the excitement was from after lunch. Class was moved to Faunce Hall, where we did a self-defense workshop. Not only did we learn a couple of useful moves that would help us in case we should find ourselves in a situation of an assault, but we also got a chance to relieve some of the stress we gained throughout the week when we did our self assessments. Apparently, according to my fellow cohorts, I can get pretty scary when I’m defending myself. Heheh.

After class, some friends and I went to Providence Place Mall, where I got my first taste of Dunkin’ Donuts. Not only were the workers really friendly, but also the large Coolatas were definitely worth the 5 dollars. The closest Dunkin’ Donuts to my area is about a 20 minute drive away, but I know that whenever I go there, I will be reminded of the wonderful experience I had with my friends today.

We had another workshop from 7-9. Part one involved my Women and Leadership girls, and we did an activity that involved one girl holding a ball of yarn and, while keeping one bit of the yarn, passing it to another girl and telling the group why you believe that girl is a leader. In the end, the class would make a “web” that connected every girl to each other. I choked up and started crying as I explained to the class how good of a person Marylyn is. As I got into my mini speech, many other girls started crying and the Women and Leadership ladies all had a session of love speeches and emotional breakdowns. We’re all a, as cliché as this may sound, band of sisters, and we’ll always support each other regardless of whether we’re in Hong Kong, China, Boston, Massachusetts, or San Francisco, California.


Today was our last full day. As I walked to class, I felt extremely melancholy about going home. This feeling kept on returning throughout the day, despite all of the interesting things we did in class, including discussing the definition of feminism, assertiveness training, and self defense class. The self defense class was definitely a lot of fun, and it was hilarious to see such sweet girls be so aggressive. Most of all though, it got us to think about how each individual person reacts to aggression, and what each person believes aggression is.

In the nighttime, we had our final leadership workshop. One person started with a ball of yarn, passed it to a girl in the class, and then described why they were a good leader. This ended up creating a “web”, and by the end we were all connected by the same piece of yarn. Our class got extremely emotional, and I realized just how much of an impact we all had on each other, and how much we all broke out of our shells, let our guards down, and truly bonded. At the end we all cut the string and created bracelets, and hopefully I will never have to take it off.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bittersweet Moments

Today was the last full day we are going to spend at Brown. I actually had a feeling of denial. I couldn't believe it. I felt like I would wake up early next morning and have the samee routine that we have slowly paved for ourselves.

We had a self-defense workshop where we learned moves from a specialist. It was a 2 hour course and pretty wicked, haha. Us ladies are now stronger than ever so don't think you can mess with us! At the end of the lesson, we all cheered and huddled together. The bond was almost tangible and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else but at Brown with these amazing girls.

Then the closing workshop we had made me realize that it is real-- We are going home tomorrow. The workshop made most of us cry. It was so emotional and I couldn't believe that we wouldn't wake up and go to sleep like this anymore. The routine became so natural so gradually that I didn't realize it setting in.

We all had friendship bracelets that we made from yarn that we passed around as we told each other how our experiences were and who we admired. This sisterhood is really the strongest bond I've ever had between such a large group of people (21). It's so sad to think that we probably wont all be able to reunite again at once.

However, we are already planning trips to different areas where our sisters reside. I love Women & Leadership 2011!

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