Friday, May 23, 2014

Enticed For Cornell from Conversation at the Dinner

The adequate Gumbo I ordered as an Appetizer
Note: To the people reading this and inquiring on why this was posted a day later, we came back from the dinner much later than expected.

Today the entire Cornell Cohort met up at the El Cerrito Plaza BART in order to travel as a group to San Francisco for the cohort dinner with the alumni, some sponsors, board members and some other people having to do something in general with education. I arrived there about 5 minutes before the planned meeting time with my father (each ILCer was to bring at least one guardian to represent them at the dinner), and I soon found out that Don had already gone over just about everything, so everyone just chatted away while we were awaiting some Cornell alumni to show up. Right before entering the platform to await our BART train, Don gave everyone of us Clipper Cards (pre-paid BART cards) which I had never used before but were actually pretty simple to use (just swipe or hover over the scanner). Up on the gusty platform, a vision of Evil Don flashed before my head, reminding me what the whole purpose of this entire day was about. Just before an imaginary Don could imaginarily yell at me I approached the first unknown person I had saw there that wasn't a parent. I introduced myself and realized that this person was very familiar. He introduced himself and it turned out he was the director of Hercules Education Foundation as well as a former Hercules city councilman (I recognized him from this): Don Kuehne. He later explained that he grew up in New Jersey, works as a researcher for Chevron and how he went to chemical engineering school at Cornell. I asked him what the weather was like in Cornell in the Summer and he said, that it was fantastic (which I found hard to believe later that day based on testimony of another Cornellian). He also mentioned how his daughter is currently studying organic chemistry at UC San Diego and mentioned how difficult the course is--I've already had a taste of a little organic chemistry in AP Biology last year and I don't see why I couldn't agree with his statement.

The Pork Chop I had that was a little too Well-Done accompanied by rice/beans and two Serrano Peppers--still good

On the train ride I felt like I needed to know more about Cornell in general so I scouted like a hawk for another Cornellian speak with and asked to sit by one that was nearest to where I boarded. Her name was Carolyn Day Flowers. Mrs. Flowers graduated from Cornell in 1989 (way before I was born) and answered ALL of my bazillion questions that I threw at her, and she answered with as much incite-fullness as possible. She chose to attend Cornell because it was a family tradition along with the fact that she fell in love with all that Cornell had to offer. She studied Japanese Language as well as Economics at Cornell, both of which she studied for very good reasons. She studied Japanese Language because she enjoyed it, and she studied Economics because it was interesting to her and there were many job opportunities she could land with a degree in this field. She said her experience at Cornell included being very independent (which I later noted was a common theme amongst Cornellians) as in many didn't receive too much help from teacher assistants or the like, and that self study was a key part to being successful. She felt that with this experience at Cornell, partaking in the outside world was made easier. She also talked about how she enjoyed political science and history (just like me) and how Isaac Kramnick is one of the best professors that Cornell has to offer--teaching there before she even came. 

Exceptional Banana Ice Cream with Caramel Cracker
 When we got out off our train at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, I ran into a little problem. As I so thought I mastered utilizing the Clipper Card, I waved it before the scanner and it didn't work. I was panicking because I was holding up the line, as I hovered it over, and over and over the scanner various times--the entrance wouldn't open until I placed my card into contact with the scanner and then it worked (*whew, how embarrassing). On the way to the well-known restaurant on Howard Street: Town Hall, I stuck to Mrs. Flowers the entire way there talking about San Francisco and how it is always chilly. Then she told me that the weather in Cornell was far different as compared to the Bay Area, with extremely humid conditions in the Summer (Oh boy humidity--I don't do so well in moisture). We walked by and talked about the construction site of the Transbay Tower, which will be the new face of SF, which will be the tallest building in the city once completed and as well as my high school. At this point in time I should've paid more attention/added to the conversation because I felt as if I didn't contribute as much nearing the restaurant, for I was re-jogging my speech in my head. Either way she was a very charismatic and nice person, so and that helped keep the conversation alive. And on another note, she approached me later that evening in the dinner to make sure to keep in contact (with her email provided) so that she can help me with my college application process starting basically right after the school year ends--I'll make sure to keep in contact with her.

At the waiting room in the restaurant on the third floor (meant for private parties) we were served delicious appetizers including one that was a beef slice on short bread with a strawberry drizzle on top. Not only that, but the waiters also served us crab cake bites (I love any form of crab), and they were both VERY well received (for I didn't eat lunch because of make-up classwork leftover from AP testing of the previous week). When we entered the dining room, the tables had name tags arranged on each one of them in order to maximize the our (the ILCers) interaction with the alumni. I was placed in the farthest table back, in counter clockwise order: Jason Levy class of 2007, Ms. Fraser (Natalie's mom), Alex Vollmer class of 1965, Natalie (directly in front of me), Alison Leaf class of 2009 and to the left of me, my dad. I began to talk to Jason since he was the nearest Cornell alumnus and he spoke on his choice on why he chose to attend Cornell. Which was first off, a great education, second he wanted to experience the extremes of weather (since he group up in the Bay Area: Marin County) and lastly he wanted to get away from his parents because he wanted independence. From studying at Cornell he received an internship in San Francisco and is now a web designer, and even joked around and said he may be the next Mark Zuckerberg.  He is also the director of the the Nor-Cal Cornell Alumni Association. After a while, an introduction was made by school board member, Ms. Kronenberg, who allowed everyone to introduce themselves and began with the student speeches--starting with me.

Me Speaking to Everyone
 I was really nervous, since it was my first real speech that didn't include some form of acting. I started it off with a story about how in first grade I was placed into the English Language Development program even though I already spoke English. But the experience helped me realize how I could compete effectively with essentially anyone and its the hard work that counts and never saying no to an impediment. I later spoke about how the Ivy League Connection is an enormous opportunity and how we will give back to the community in the form of continuing local college clubs in our high schools where we will explore college options and help each other with personal statements. Then I thanked the sponsors, alumni who came, the school board members, Don Gosney, and my dad for all their own respective reasons. To top it all off, I ended it with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that my aunt once told me that goes, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived--that is to have succeeded." Everyone seemed to like my speech, and many alumni said I did well--so all the nervousness and preparation of an hour (the day before and on the way to BART) didn't go to waste.

After I gave my speech, I called Carla up to give hers. She followed suit with starting with a story that told of the Ivy League Connection process, and how she moved from Arizona and is in totality grateful for the oppurtunity. Then a alumnae of Cornell by the name of Samantha Berg spoke on behalf of her experience at Cornell. In my opinion she was extremely inciteful on how many classes she took which she mentioned to be nearly every interesting class Cornell offered and how she now designs all sorts of mechanical things such as cell phones to automobiles. Honestly, she was one of the most forward thinking individuals that I have seen in my life and I'm more than sure that will stick as a positive influence in my head for the rest of my life. Lastly, Mr. Ramsey (school board President) gave the last word, emphasizing the fact that the ILC is not specifically meant for just us--it's meant to help the entire community, after all as a community we can only have progress if we help each other out. In other words you are remembered for what you have done for others.

Don made us hastily take a photo outside the restaurant because the Cornell alumni were dispersing (I'm on an island)
After all that, we all ate dinner which for me consisted of gumbo for an appetizer. I wasn't impressed by the gumbo, even though I had only had it one other time in my life at a football team potluck in sophomore year made by a coach with his secret family recipe. The gumbo I felt, had an incorrect balance of spices but the sausage morsels in the soup were amazing. My main entree, the pork chop was over-seared (thus well done) but nonetheless was good because I was hungry. My hats off to the dessert, since it was something extraordinary I hadn't had before. It was I believe banana ice cream with white chocolate bits inside with a caramel cracker and seared banana slices with cream top it off.

Photo with Natalie
I also spoke to Mr. Vollmer (who preferred to be called Alex) right across from me (who I had to shout to because the room was so loud--and at times Ms. Fraser had to relay my questions to him). It turns out that he was a civil engineer many years ago and surprisingly has built many buildings in Latin America, including in Venezuela. He said that he is still amazed when he travels to those countries and finds that his buildings are still standing. He like many other Cornellians have said, at Cornell there isn't really that much help from other people and one must learn to thrive on their own and be very academically independent. He even remarked how it got so bad for him at one point, that the Dean told him to be bring his grades up or else his time at the university could be up. He began to utilize what he had learned in high school--how to learn-- in Cornell and picked up his grades and joined the swim team and a fraternity. He also mentioned, to my surprise that being in a fraternity led him to many later connections in life to the position he is in now. Next, my conversing followed up with Alison Leaf who only graduated 5 years ago and is now in graduate school at UCSF studying cell biology. Good thing I got paired up with alumni who also enjoy the same subjects as I do, like biology so we began talking about what she is focusing her thesis on. Her thesis she said, is going to be on how exactly the protein receptors on each cell know where to allocate themselves on the outer-membranes of cells in order to receive the histamine signals from other cells--which I easily understood thanks to AP Bio last year. She also said that she took an education path that she felt was most comfortable for her and thrived in it, but she said she later regretted not giving other options a fair shot. I'll take her experience into mind when choosing a college path.

By this time, Ms. Leaf had to leave to another Cornell dinner and many other alumni from different tables were leaving as well. Don saw this moment and couldn't take it anymore and thus called everyone to take a picture at an assembly of rocks outside. There Don, as well as parents took many pictures and I was confined to my own island as the middle rock was too small. After the picture, we all came back to the restaurant, where after not too long, all the remaining alumni had left home or to other social get-togethers.

The much awaited back up train-after the 1st was delayed
Then, when Don felt like it was time, we all left the restaurant as a group to the BART station. A night walk in any city in my opinion is nice, because of the complexion of the lights and the variety of people you'll see/meet on the street. When we got to the station, I met one last person to give me college advice for the day. I met Reggie Terrell, who simply gave me advice on choosing college options. He said it's always good to choose something you are comfortable working with the rest of your life, not so much the money. I have always had this battle in my head whether on getting a great paying job or a job that I like better, but pays less, I'll probably decide in college so I know what to major in. Mr. Terrell also mentioned the ROTC, which I know about and probably will not join. It's a valid option indeed, which is why he emphasized with the grants given and its benefits, but I more than likely will not join it because it's time consuming--whereas I can be in clubs or in other activities. Well, after he went home too I was left with Don as his BART buddy on the train talking about the ILC in general and cats. Don talked about how the Chicago cohort almost wasn't going to have a dinner with alumni, until rather recently, and now it is going to happen next week--I'm happy that the first year cohort will have a very similar experience as the rest. Although before we could move on to cats (even though I may be more of a dog person even though I don't own a dog, cats are still cool pets to me), we had to transfer trains in Oakland and guess what... THERE WAS A DELAY. Of course we all wanted to go home, but this only reassured the fact that Don said earlier while walking back from the Town Hall restaurant in SF, that we didn't have to write a blog on the same day (write it the following day) because it was so late....YES I can sleep.

When we finally arrived in El Cerrito again, we were all exhausted from not normally doing this, but glad that it all happened so we could receive all the college advice the Cornell alumni were able to give us in one dinner session and at the same time learn more about the university that we will attend this Summer. Also my arm was tired because of the flowers I had held for a district counselor ever since walking from the restaurant.  We all bid each other tired goodbyes and until next time, which will be in the not so distant future. Today was a good day.

No comments:

Post a Comment