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.

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