Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Completely Amazed

I'm still amazed at what wonderful news I received just last Monday. Four years ago, I never thought that I would be attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world, much less, qualify for one. I suppose it's the Richmond High mentality, the one where the dream school for everyone is U.C. Berkeley, and the only one. There's nothing wrong with that--Berkeley is a great school. However, in these past couple of months, I've learned that there are more opportunities beyond what is here in California.

I knew there were plenty of resources at Brown University, I saw for myself this summer. I fell in love with the school and I knew I had to come back. Then school started once again and we were finally starting the college application process. Sue Kim asked me when she came over at Richmond High: "Are you applying Early Decision anywhere?" I thought to myself, well, Brown really won me over, and it is definitely my number one choice. I wanted to show that to the admissions officers there. So I told her: "Yes, I am, at Brown University." I was determined.

When I was filling out my application and supplement to Brown, I never hesitated or pondered a question; it was easy for me to show the love I had for Brown. The thing that probably made the difference in my application, however, were my essays. I know they have a holistic process when reviewing applications, but I was confident that they really did stand out. I also think my transcript made a difference as well. It reflected the all the work I've done in high school.

The Ivy League Connections was what definitely prepared me for this school. If not for the program, I wouldn't be writing this blog! It's opened my eyes to the many opportunities available to me. Going back to what I wrote earlier, coming from a place like Richmond High, it's difficult to succeed in this environment. It's possible, but it requires much effort and discipline, things that I have done in order to have a good education.

Ms. Kim has also been a great counselor! She knows how to make our best qualities shine through our applications. Without her help, my application wouldn't have been as good.

My scanner is not working right now, but I will post up my acceptance letter this week. I want to share it with the rest of you.

I'm very happy right now and I can't wait to start school in Providence next year!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Going Home

Right now, it is 8:28pm, and I am flying over the U.S heading to Oakland, California Airport. Today has been such a short day even with the hour I gained through Spring Light Savings. I learned about peer motivation and had the opportunity to walk around Brown to see the campus. Irene, Ms. Kronenberg, and I were able to go to the religious life center. Unfortunately, no one was there although all the doors were unlocked. I have some filers for students as El Cerrito High. I also have Brown napkins for my family! Full proof I was there.
More proof will be what information I learned at the Symposium that I can emplace in my action plan and other services. I will have to be more patient.

You will have to forgive me. I do not consider myself an artist, in fact I am not, but do take pride in my pictures and my on-the-spot stories for my younger brother. Nevertheless, I wrote a poem regarding a stat. I learned today during a speech at the Symposium. The poem is also of a thought I had been thinking of before.


Sunday, today, was when I learned this:
Here it is- some very shocking news
Outrageous it may seem, it happened in America
Checking in the box for whom you want to lead- is it a
In from one place and then to the
Going and going Spreading

Voting is a way for the people to shape their government-that shapes them
Only 40% of Americans voted six days ago
This needs to improve
Explain to me, please, why only 40%

My vision of me at 18 is holding a ballot in my hand
Excitement not contained with my hair flying in the wind
And supporting the flag that-
Not too long ago many fought and
Died for

Yet with so many people working to form an
Oasis in a desert. Minute Men, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr… was the desert
Unadulterated from their work?
And are you part of that 40% or is the answer
Did you vote six days ago

Monday, November 8, 2010

Final Reflection on the 2010 Symposium for Social Action

I got in bed last night at about 12:20 AM Eastern Time after doing some homework and writing my blog. My roommates and I were still pumped up from the endless ideas running through our heads and the excitement of meeting new people. A few minutes after we said goodnight, we were all lying in silence when I suddenly popped up from my pillow and asked one of them, “Isabel, how did you get involved in photojournalism?”

When Isabel and I introduced ourselves on the first day of the Symposium, she mentioned that she had taken “Leadership and Photojournalism/Documentary Filmmaking” through Summer@Brown, and that her Action Plan involves composing a photo essay telling the stories of low-level workers at a nearby branch of a big corporation. She was surprised by the seemingly random question, but I had a purpose behind it.

Isabel lives in San Francisco, and I live just across the bay with easy access to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains and Transbay buses. She said that she became interested in photojournalism through a National Geographic seminar about photo essays, and her passion grew from there. After some more discussion across the beds, she agreed to document my Action Plan once it progressed some more. I reciprocated by offering to help her with her Plan in any way needed. The conversation expanded to  include my other roommate and a larger discussion of the differences in the cultures of our schools and cities. I think we finally went to bed around 1:15!
The view from the fourth floor of J. Walter Wilson student resources building 

We groggily checked out of the inn this morning before breakfast and rushed over to Wilson Hall for the events of the day. I barely had time to grab some fruit and a scone before a 23-year old named Scott was introduced to us. He just graduated from Brown this past year and was involved with STAND (an anti-genocide organization) through his interest in Darfur. He also created an “action-based curriculum” for use in colleges and high schools across the country that emphasizes the effective implementation of service learning in schools.

I was so moved by his account of the faith that people like the Kenyans had in their future even after the incredible atrocities that they had lived through – and his own determination in the face of frustrations and mistakes - that I started to cry. I was outraged because the common Kenyan people were so involved in making their country better that 75% voted in their second democratic elections ever, while about 40% of Americans voted this past Tuesday. I was outraged because the service-learning requirement in our school is carried out in ways that are, frankly, filled with corruption, dishonesty, and a complete lack of connection between the service and the learning. But I was inspired by the fact that Scott is only a few years older than me and started something so important that has been so successful. He has made countless mistakes that have seemed like they were going to derail his whole project, yet he has persevered and kept his eyes on his goals.

Next we split up into groups to reflect on what we learned from the Symposium and recognize that it was time to go home and work harder than ever! Too soon, the Symposium was officially over.

The semi-famous window of Faunce House on the street side of the quad

Dean Rose and Lexi had decided not to hire any official clean-up staff in order to save money for the actual Symposium programming. So, my friends and I volunteered for the clean-up. We were supposed to dump out several liter-sized containers of coffee and multiple trays of cookies and fruit into the trash (what a waste). I thought that a better idea would be to walk out onto the quad and see if any hungry college students would want the food. All the food was in good hands by the time I was done running around in the cold air and enthusiastically advertising it around Wilson Hall. Mission accomplished!

Different offices in the student resource centers. Although the two communities depicted (LGBTQ and religious) may seem almost like polar opposites, a "Safe Space" sticker to show support of LGBTQ people was displayed on the door of the chaplains' office.

Finally, it was time for the last goodbyes. I hugged everyone – Dean Rose, Lexi, my old friends, and my new friends. We will keep in contact and continue supporting each other’s efforts, whether they are our official Action Plans or any other type of project. Though I am leaving Providence, my motivation is stronger than ever and I am ready to change the world.

I would like to thank everyone involved with the Ivy League Connection (sponsors, organizers, alumni, counselors, chaperones, teachers, professors, my parents, and my fellow students) because I have needed you along every single step of the way since I have become involved with this program. You all have gone out of your way and been so generous with your time and effort. Thank you for having faith in my success.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Inklings Into Ideas

One of many swallows flitting about near the Science Library

It was even colder today than yesterday – but I made do with three layers of sweaters. We had breakfast all together in Wilson Hall and then broke into panels with four young people who were farther along in their Action Plans than we were. I was amazed by the range of ideas and the amount of success that these people had – and they had started out just like me! One young woman had started out with the simple idea of raising awareness of the genocide in Darfur and ended up representing the entire North American continent in talks about legislation in Europe through a large nonprofit organization.

After we asked questions of the panelists, we split into our content-specific areas. I was worried that my plan wouldn’t quite fit in with the “Identity” group, which is where I was placed, and I was debating whether I should switch to the “Conflict/Violence Resolution” group. But Lexi (the organizer of the Symposium) and Dean Rose allayed my fears, and I stayed in the “Identity” group. That turned out to work really well, since the main leader of the content group is the director of the LGBTQ resource center here at Brown. The woman helping her lead the content group emphasized that she wanted us to keep in touch so that we would have a continued support line, so I’ll definitely do that.

Two other students had Action Plans relating to LGBTQ issues. Moriah from Cleveland is trying to hold a benefit concert to raise money to buy or rent space for a youth LGBTQ center. David from upstate New York is working on generally strengthening his school’s Acceptance Coalition (similar to El Cerrito’s Gay-Straight Alliance). The others ranged from working on issues of body image, gender inequality, trust among young women, and interfaith youth groups. Just by talking about and troubleshooting each other’s plans, we learned so much that we could apply to our own. At lunch (I had a slice of exotic black bean-avocado pizza on Thayer Street), I stuck with most of the students from the content group and got another chance to talk to them in person about the differences and similarities between our strategies.

L-R: Irene (myself), David, Moriah

The next workshop that I was signed up for was titled “Transitioning Your Project.” There we discussed how to pass on leadership to people that will continue working on our projects after we can’t anymore (because of college, new schedules, etc.). Again, towards the end we returned to troubleshooting our individual Plans and learned from each other. I frantically wrote down notes and completely covered 4 pages in blue ink. The ideas ranged from ways to motivate and identify emerging leaders in a group to making a binder with all the information for our organization to pass on to the next person in charge. The third workshop was focused on communication and how to effectively convince different audiences to be involved with our projects. That was also helpful but we didn’t have time to discuss our individual Plans with our peers. It also didn’t delve as deep into the subject as the other two, so I personally didn’t enjoy it as much. However, even during the third workshop I was jotting down ideas every few seconds.

After a quick break and a stop back at the inn where we are staying, it was time for dinner. Dinner was relatively uneventful, but I did sit with the group of friends that I met during the summer and two new friends.

At dinner - Lindsey, Safiya, Lina, and I were all in the same Women and Leadership class this summer. I met Emma and Nora this weekend.

Before going back to the inn for homework and rest, most of the people at my dinner table and I went on a quest to find chocolate cake for sale somewhere on Thayer Street. We failed miserably (partly because it was about 8 PM by then) but enjoyed some Ben & Jerry’s instead. Later we ended up sitting in a circle at the end of the hall in the inn, helping each other with homework like calculus and advanced Spanish while sharing our favorite songs.

Whimsical decorations on chairs at Ben & Jerry's

I loved the past 30 hours or so at Brown, but I have so many ideas for my Action Plan jumping around in my brain that I can’t wait to get back to El Cerrito and start working on them. I’m so, so, so thankful that I got to be here and be involved with the whole Brown Leadership Institute community.

Ready to go

I now have answers to my questions for my Action Plan and another service project that I am doing and contacts if I have further questions. I have four pages filled of notes that will help me on my two projects. I went to the sessions transitioning your project and supporting your Action Plan with effective communication.

I cannot believe that tomorrow I will be leaving! I am very glad that I could come to Brown. It has helped me on my projects and being here when Brown is in session gives me an idea about the campus life through the many posters and flyers around.

I have had a great time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wesleyan and the Start of the Symposium

I woke up tired from the time difference and the fact that I had to stay up late rewriting my blog post because the WiFi crashed. However, I got to nap and work a bit on the two-hour drive to Middletown, Connecticut. Once at Wesleyan, we grabbed some breakfast at the dining hall before the tour.

There were posters everywhere in there. Several student associations had put up messages arguing against affirmative action, and later when we returned for lunch a different group of students was standing on tables arguing passionately for affirmative action. Another set of posters had to do with raising awareness of sexual violence and promoting a safe atmosphere on campus. The students of Wesleyan are an active bunch, and these are only two examples of the issues they are concerned with.

Although it was a rainy day, I was equipped with three sweaters, and several people were kind enough to let me share their umbrellas throughout the tour. I had heard mixed reviews about the appearance of Wesleyan’s campus, but personally I think it’s simple and pleasant. The clean smell and dewy droplets left everywhere by the rain made it even more beautiful. The tour guide, Spencer, introduced me to a “social justice and anti-oppression program house” called 200 Church Street, the College of Social Science, and “service learning classes,” which piqued my interest. The “service learning classes” which combine community service and traditional academics for class credit (e.g. Prison Education). When we met with Chris Lanser, the admissions officer for Northern California, he explained more about these programs in detail.

Chris explained that 200 Church Street is one of several “program houses” that are options for student housing at Wesleyan. It’s not a co-op, but it provides many opportunities to volunteer around Middletown, brings in campus speakers, and hosts events relating to social justice. Wesleyan’s system of student housing encourages students to live more independently with each year, which I like. Freshmen can choose to live on coed or single-sex floors, with only other freshmen or sophomores as well. Juniors and seniors can live in apartments and houses owned by the university, in small groups.

The College of Social Science appeals to me a lot. Everyone who I talked to about it said that it was extremely challenging, but that only made me more interested. The Colleges at Wesleyan (the others are the College of Letters and the College of the Environment) are their own majors, with about 2 classes per semester for 3 years. The College of Social Science is run through colloquiums and seminars and admits about 25-30 students each year. The Colleges are extremely interdisciplinary by definition – if I’m not mistaken, the required areas of study include history, government, economics, and philosophy. Final exams are very rigorous, giving an oral exam and a 5-page paper every day for a week.

Wesleyan also has an ice rink that’s open from October through March, and nearby Cromwell has a year-round rink with many coaches and figure skating programs, according to Chris. It turns out that his 14-year-old daughter also figure skates like me, and just recently landed her double salchow! As far as I know, Wesleyan is probably one of the only colleges that I am interested in that has such close and convenient connections with figure skating. They also have a relatively high-level marching band (at least from my point of view, having only participated in a small high school marching band), which my other college choices do not have. Barnard and Brown have scatter bands, and Oberlin has a tiny, kind of disorganized marching band.

Below, you can see the description of an interesting piece of art that we came across at one of the Wesleyan student art galleries. There's also a view of the dining hall and a picture of me in front of the admissions office.

Back in Providence at the Leadership Symposium, I was reunited with some of my friends from the Women and Leadership summer course.  We went to dinner where Dean Rose and several young panelists presented their own social justice plans that were in progress. There were even two siblings from Chicago whose goal was to put transparent shields on school buses to make them more aerodynamic and therefore more efficient in terms of gas usage. Students were given time to ask questions of the panelists, and I asked some questions mostly directed towards the GreenShield siblings.

We closed up with some community building exercises, as always. We played some name games and some fun icebreakers, then were free until midnight, when we had to check into our rooms. My roommates are very nice and friendly. Tomorrow I’ll be attending the content-specific workshops and the 2 other workshops that we could choose. I’ll wrap up now, since my roommates are trying to sleep and I have an early morning again tomorrow.


I miss fall. The orange, red, and yellow leaves that paint the sky filled with thunderous and dark clouds that remind me of romantic piano music and the strikingly green grass. We toured Wesleyan in a sprinkle of rain that left the cool air fresh and cleaned the buildings after we visited a class, Islamic Art and Architecture.

The class was great because the teacher interpreted the facts to form conclusions. I raised my hand and pointed out that the Islamic building from Spain and India both had walls around the main building, when the teacher asked the class if they saw any similarities. I guess it was not an educated observance. I guess I would have to be there for the other classes.

Anyways, on the ride to Wesleyan I flipped through the different radio stations to find out what this region listened to, and found that most of the stations were political -- many more than what we have at home.

At Wesleyan we toured the school, listened to an info session, and talked for a whole hour with Mr. Lancer, who gave thorough answers to our questions, liked his school, and was willing to provide contact information to answer the questions he himself could not answer. I took notes and grabbed the school’s “propaganda” (as I have always thought to be and what Mr. Lancer called them) and course catalogue.

At Providence we were one of the first to sign up for the symposium. Yes! I get the bed in the two person hotel room for three people.

The first event for the night was a dinner and then learning from a group of people working and moving forward with action plans of their own. They gave very good advice such on the importance of getting a support group and how to get one. Afterwards we played games!

I am looking forward to the sessions tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back At Brown, Ready For Action!

It's almost like deja vu, being back in Providence again. We're checking into the Symposium for Social Change tomorrow. The aim of the Symposium is to help the most serious and motivated Summer@Brown Leadership Institute students move forward with their Action Plans.

As you may know, my Action Plan entails developing and carrying out peer-to-peer workshops in my high school about how and why to stop homophobia. As President of the Gay-Straight Alliance at El Cerrito HS, I have partnered with similar clubs at two other schools (Berkeley High and Portola Middle) and trained our club members. The first workshops are happening on November 10.

I have questions and issues to be resolved, though. Thankfully, the Symposium will be full of opportunities to get these problems worked out. There will be leadership alumni panels, skill-building workshops, and people who will help us with content-specific resources. I hope to return to El Cerrito with a wealth of new knowledge, skill, and confidence, ready to press forward and combat homophobia.

The decorations in the Hotel Providence.

Ms. Kronenberg, Lydia, and I arrived at the Hotel Providence a few hours ago to check in - and what a treat! They gave us a $100 dinner and a $40 breakfast gift certificate for the hotel restaurant. We suspect it was because the Ivy League Connection has been such a loyal customer, sending students and chaperones to stay here year after year. We engaged in some lively debate over dinner - we talked about teacher evaluation methods and the rights of student immigrants. I learned so much just from conversing with Ms. Kronenberg. She's so knowledgeable about practically everything having to do with schools.

We're leaving early tomorrow morning for Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. I plan to do homework in the car. Once we arrive, we're scheduled for a tour, an info session, and a quick meeting with the admissions officer from Northern California. I'm really excited - Wesleyan is one of my top choices for college, so I can't wait to set foot on the campus.

Lydia's prediction about tomorrow, formed by Scrabble tiles in the hotel lobby.

Living in an airplane

Today started like a normal day - only an hour earlier. However, it quickly changed to me being in Providence. During the airplane ride here, I reflected upon my Action Plan and wrote an email for it. I have many questions to ask during the symposium, and hopefully they will be answered so I do not butcherly try to help others.

We had a meal coupon… somehow from somewhere…for the hotel we are staying at....

Tomorrow, we will see Wesleyan.

I did take pictures but.... they are on my camera. When I get home, I will post them with these blogs.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Looking back

I may not always remember every detail of “Women and Leadership” at Brown University or even everyone I met but I have been changed internally for the better with the lessons and knowledge I brought home.

The lesson on speaking assertively has had immediate benefits and I am confident will assist me in my future endeavors.

The knowledge is that I, being a responsible individual, can go off to a university and live “on my own.” Well, somewhat, every one needs the help of others.

Being assertive and responsible are necessary for me to carry out my action plan and I am looking forward to doing so! Many problems, I feel, are because of lack of or low self-esteem. My action plan is to raise young women’s self esteem through helping them in developing their talents. However, such a topic is a delicate one and to get to that point of being able to help them in such a way requires many steps. My steps are to build a culture of trust with in my church’s girl youth group (ages 12 to 18). From that point, I hope to build a supportive group that can expand and from there help young women help each other develop their talents.

The first step, as mentioned above is to build trust among the young women. Trust between individuals in a group cannot be built in one night of games and discussion groups. I have learned this summer that creating an atmosphere of trust is all that a leader can offer. My strategy is to offer get-to-know-you games, keep the situations light so it is fun and safe while maintaining kindness.

My participation in the Ivy League Connection was a great experience. In addition, through my goals of developing a culture of trust leading to a supportive community that allows the safety required for young women to develop their individual talents, I will distribute the lessons and knowledge that are now intrinsically a part of me.

If I were to wrap this adventure all in one word, it would be spectacular. Thank you to all who made this adventure possible!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Summer@Brown

This summer trip was an absolutely terrific adventure. Through the course on Women and Leadership, I was able to take at Brown, I learned a lot about leadership and ways to improve in it. I also learned about the obstacles that we as women face in our lives and about those women out there who are trying to set an example for all girls out there when it comes to following the gender norms set by society.

Furthermore, I was able to meet some really amazing and inspiring people while I stayed at Brown. My class was so diverse not just ethnically, but in opinions and perspectives as well. Discussions were so interesting and eye opening because of the diverse point of views that were brought forward. Both Kisa and My attested to having been able to see how each and every single one of us changed over the two week course.

The entire trip is memorable, but the moments that were the most impressive for me were the Amazing Woman Project, Action Plan, College Tours, and guest speakers.

My Amazing Woman Project on Dolores Huerta allowed me to learn more about a woman, who through her actions, has shown great valor, cunning, and tenacity. However, even through all that she has done for farm workers and the rights of others, she still remains in great part unknown and unrecognized for her achievements. It was really interesting and new to me to do a monologue in front of others -- specially representing Dolores Huerta. Kisa, my instructor, even mentioned that it might be a good idea to email or get in contact with Dolores Huerta through some other method. I have thought about it and maybe I will do this later on.

My Action Plan really made me think about all the issues and necessities of my community. I really thought about a wide variety of things I could address, keeping in mind what is feasible for me and what isn’t. I feel that the idea of coming up with an action plan is not a bad idea it really encourages students to think and act towards a good cause. When I did present my plan I also got the chance to hear the plans of some of my fellow peers. Their plans varied from health, the environment, awareness, to poverty. The few parents that were in there to witness our presentations really paid attention and gave their comments. Some even asked questions to clarify points in our plans. It was fantastic and really concluded the summer program for me. Most significantly, it showed what we had learned in the two weeks we spent at Brown.

The college tours and my time at Brown University allowed me to become more aware of the aspects and characteristics of college campuses that I like and don’t like. Connecticut College (CC), Boston College (BC), Wellesley College, Harvard University, and Brown University were all very impressive, different, but in some things similar. Each of these institutions in the East Coast offer a great education, without any doubt, but obviously different college experiences. Thanks to the time I spent on each campus I learned a bit of what each institution offers.

CC, in New London, Connecticut is strong in the humanities and has really good study abroad programs. In addition, students there are able to schedule their finals and take them without any proctors.

BC, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, has two campuses and offers students a wide diversity of academics and sports. The main campus’ architecture is quiet Gothic. BC’s curriculum requires students to take courses in science, math, history, literature, writing, philosophy, art, social science, etc. The curriculum makes students take classes that maybe otherwise they would not have taken. At times these classes can change students’ goals and make them realize new things about themselves.

Wellesley College, is an all women college located in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Its campus is around 500 acres and includes Lake Waban. Apparently, some of its most popular majors are English, psychology, biological sciences, political science, etc. Wellesley requires its students to take a certain amount of units from a wide variety of fields. For example, students must take three units in language, art, and literature. Like CC students are able to take their finals without a proctor and because of the honor code there exists much trust among students.

Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is like a city with a constant stream of people going to and from campus. Here most of the campus life occurs in the main yard. Though Harvard offers a wide variety of majors’ students also have the option to create their own major. In addition, Harvard offers cross-registration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Harvard requires its students to take eight courses from six different fields.

Brown University located in Providence, Rhode Island is a liberal arts college where students are encouraged to explore their creativity and curiosity in all fields. Brown has multiple grassy lawns around its 140 acres. Students take four courses every term so that by graduation they have completed thirty two courses. Brown students as those of Harvard have the choice of creating their own major if Brown does not already offer it. Brown’s study abroad programs allow students to spend some time in one of fifteen different countries.

Moreover, I really enjoyed each of the guest speakers that I had in class. They each came and shared their experiences and perspectives with us. Each of their contributions made the class even more interesting and entertaining. What I liked most was that they were all outgoing and outspoken women. Many of whom are professionals in their fields and others community activists.

Now that Summer@Brown is over I am back home and soon enough school will start! Next year, my senior year should be fun and challenging, but also a chance to show my fellow peers some of the things I learned in the past two weeks.

Thank you, to all those who allowed me to engage in such a challenging and life changing experience. Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Ms. Stewart, Don, Mr. Vilar, Ms. Champion, Mr. Medrano, and everyone else who encouraged me to do this, who believed in me, and who provided me with the necessary things for this trip, thank you!

Ms. Stewart I specially thank you for the care and responsibility you showed me and my fellow Brownies. Without you we might not have made it and survived all those stairs. Thanks a lot for being down to earth and real with all of us. Have fun this upcoming school year!

Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don please continue this program and allow others in our district the chance to take part in programs such as the Women and Leadership one I participated in. Let our district see the rise of more and more leaders, because youth are the future not just of the world but of our community as a whole. Continue doing the excellent jobs you do because without you my trip would not have been as it was.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coming Together for Change - My Final Reflection

What's unique about the Women and Leadership course at Brown is that they don't only teach leadership skills for young women, but also social responsibility and a truly open mind. An open mind doesn't just mean being respectful of ideas other than your own, but honestly trying to see things from a different perspective. It means treating others as you would like to be treated in every way, even though initially they may seem so different from yourself. That's what I learned firsthand inside and outside the classroom at Brown.

I wasn't so concerned about being on the East Coast, because I've been there before to visit family. What really hit me was meeting people who were truly from all around the world. We each had different ideas because we were individuals, but more often than not, we were essentially the same in one respect: we all were at Brown because we wanted to change the world for the better, starting with ourselves.

My self-confidence has increased exponentially throughout the course of the program. I think that self-confidence is the make-it-or-break-it factor in leaders and in anybody who wants to be successful in life. It also means being comfortable with yourself - with your heritage, your skills, your interests, and your ambitions. No matter what the external obstacles may be, self-confidence always has to be there so that you can move past them.

The final project in the Women and Leadership course was my Action Plan to implement interactive peer presentations in classrooms to combat homophobia. By moving this plan forward, I will not only improve my school and community, but put into practice my improved leadership skills. I've seen how it's possible for an incredibly diverse group to come together and support each other through difficult times. I always thought that "coming together" was a cliche that didn't actually happen in real life, but I was proven wrong. I want to bring this feeling back to my community so that everyone can learn just like I did.

Looking toward my own future, I'm very excited about getting placed with a mentor who is an alumnus of Brown University. Everyone who I've talked to who has gone to Brown is a very accomplished yet humble person who is focused on helping. I know that I can learn a lot from an older and more experienced person who comes from that kind of background, and I'm looking forward to it.

I want to help in my own way. Hopefully, I can continue to get guidance from the Brown Leadership Institute through the Symposium for Social Action. Students from summer@Brown will share how they have progressed on their Action Plans during the weekend of November 5-7. I know that the ILC can help me attend, and I'll do my best on my end by helping my community in the ways I've outlined above.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point. No matter how small the contribution may be, I am incredibly grateful to you all for this amazing experience.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Reflection

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” -Peter F. Drucker

It find it difficult to fit all that I've felt, learned, seen, heard, and changed into one blog. However, I will do my best to make sure anyone reading my blog will comprehend all that happened to me during my stay at Brown University.

All I've learned since the first day I stepped onto campus and the last day I glanced back at Brown has formed a new character inside of me. Everything: the class, the people, the activities, are all part of my experience on the East Coast. There was no single moment or single person that defined my time and growth at Brown University; they all are interlaced within each other in an intricate manner. It was all the laughs we shared; it was all the mornings at the Ratty; it was all the times we found something new to learn in class; it was everything.

From the first moment I stepped into class and heard Kisa Takesue utter, "Well, good morning! How are you young ladies doing today?", I would be in a completely different setting for learning. Her enthusiasm and humor made the class fun and intriguing every single morning and afternoon (her laugh always made my day). The high level of intellect in the class made it that much more interesting to participate in. I would always wake up with a smile on my face, looking forward to go to head off to the Watson Institute, where our course would take place and I would have another day of learning about the amazing women leaders in our world. Each day would balance learning of women roles in the world as well as the leadership skills deemed necessary to have.

One of the first things we noticed in class (though we knew we would face this because of the course's title) was the lack of boys in our class. The majority of us have an equal number of boys and girls in our classes back home (only one girl in our class goes to an all-girls school) and so we found it rather awkward and a bit unfair to be surrounded by only girls. Only after the first day did we no longer notice this different set-up. Initially, I thought this setting would reinforce the idea that women and men must be separated to learn. However, it was only after a couple of classes and evening activities did I realize this structure of learning does not segregate genders, it empowers women to become leaders without the supremacy of males often felt at times. I don't mean to say men would have ruined learning in class because of their "machismo", I mean to say that the material we learned in class would not have been as relevant to them as it is to us. The lack of boys led us to build a stronger bond with each other and a better understanding of our similar struggles. Though I don't mean to be cliché, the class was all about women power.

In the first days of class, I kept asking myself: "Am I truly a leader? Can I mobilize a group of people towards a common cause? Can I act the way a leader is suppose to act?". These were the questions that kept popping into my head whenever someone mentioned we were leaders; and yet these were the questions I could I answer without hesitation after a week. It took me some time to first realize what kind of person and leader I was, then I realized afterward what my passions and strengths were.

I am a leader. I am not ideal definition of a leader (because no one is), but there is no definite way one can lead. The only way one can lead is to use one's own strengths instead of focusing on the weaknesses. I learned that pursing my passions will lead me to become a better leader rather than spreading myself thin with other interests. Who wants to look up to someone who is not passionate about their own work? Passion is key to any accomplishment. This is the best way to motivate people together.

I enjoyed that our class was based more on discussions and analytical thinking rather than lectures and tests about women's history in the world. I can't tell you how many debriefs and circles we shared in class and even after the clock struck 3:30; our class found themselves chatting in circles after-hours and we found this the best way to talk with each other since it gave everyone an equal presence in the group. The class allowed us to think for ourselves and, agreeing with Irene as she said in one of her blogs, we were not taught by what a textbook said. It was okay for us to each have our own opinions; however, we were presented with other perspectives as well. It was up to us to learn to be empathetic towards others.

One of the highlights of the Summer@Brown were the people and the students we met from all over the world. Of course, there were some people that were not as enthusiastic being there, but they don't matter. The friends I made were amazing and each one had a special talent. There was a champion jump-roper, a chef, a lifeguard and a swimming instructor among other things. Lina, from Massachusetts, and I shared a passion for immigrant justice. Though we both on the opposites of the United States, it goes to show that distance has no role in social justice. We often talked about the DREAM Act, something we feel needs to be passed. We each are doing this type of work through similar organizations at school. This was one of the many bonds I had during my stay.

I do agree that my experience was indeed life-changing. However, I think in order for my summer at Brown to become an integral part of my leadership style and thought-process, I must constantly reflect back on what I learned and utilize the skills I gained in class. There have been many times where I've attend a class or workshop specialized to teach a life-long skill and yet they do not find a good way to maintain the sustainability of the skills obtained. Women and Leadership, though, practically places these skills in our hands and shows us where to go. What a better way to hone our skills than through an Action Plan?

My Action Plan consists of holding workshops focused on college-readiness geared toward underclassmen in my school. Coming from experience, there were few workshops held about college when I was a freshman and it made my sophomore year confusing when it came to prepping for tests, financial aid, and classes. Though there are workshops held at school, I do not think they are I want to reach every student in the school and hopefully, be able to increase the percentage of students graduating and attending college with the collaborative work of other college-prep programs. I hope to do so with the newly acquired skills I learned.

My task now is to contribute to my community on what I learned on the east coast. I will continue to pursue my passions; I will continue to be an active and concerned member at my school; I will continue to lead others; I will continue to do the best that I possibly can.

Reflection on the Summer I Will Never Forget!

The summer@Brown program has changed my life forever. When I first arrived at Brown University I was a little bit shy. However, after the first day in class I felt comfortable and started to be myself. I learned that I have to come out of my comfort zone more often so I can experience new things.

I learned so much in and out of class. In class I learned how to become a better leader. I will take everything I learned this summer and apply it to myself so I can make a change in my community. I did my best to represent the WCCUSD and my high school. I gave my best in all my work.

During class I always had an amazing time. We would always do fun and educational activities. These activities were intended to help us get to know each other and ourselves better. They greatly helped me. I was able to be more amiable with all the young women in my class and I got to know what type of leader each person was. I also realized that I am more of the helper and the one who cares for everyone when I'm in a group. It was great to finally find out exactly what type of leader I am and what I need to work on. It definitely opened my eyes and made me look at myself even more.

I tried my best to grab as much information as possible during class. This summer I also learned that I am more of the attentive listener. I loved learning new things! The class was always engaging. Even when I was feeling a little tired from lack of sleep at times, the class always kept me alert and entertained. I learned something new every single day I was at Brown.

Our afternoon activities were always beneficial. This is where I got to know the other girls and myself better. The activities required a lot of trust. Before I went to Brown I was a little afraid to trust others right away. As a child I was taught to be cautious. However, I was able to completely trust everyone there. We all were true leaders who had problems, but that has never held us back. I felt honored to be part of this program.

I also became more comfortable with myself. I never considered myself to be in the best shape to do sports or other activities, but the day at the Ropes Course made me think otherwise. I was able to do every single activity and I had support from my peers too. It felt good to know that everyone wanted me to do well. It encouraged me to continue going on. This is what true teamwork is. I learned that I need to be more open. I always thought that I was an open minded young woman, but I realized that I still can be more open everyday. This has made me see things from a whole new perspective.

I will take others opinions into consideration more often. I learned that it might make someone feel uncomfortable to do certain things and that I have to make sure that they are okay with it first. In the Ropes Course I learned that instead of asking if they are okay I should ask "What can I do to make you feel more comfortable doing this?" I learned that I need to rephrase my words so I can get a better response from someone.

Being with a group of great and intelligent young women really motivated me to do much more. I need to challenge myself in order to get better results. I plan on challenging myself daily. My goal is to try new things so I can help my family, my community, and myself. Everything I learned I will apply it in my community. I will continue helping my family and friends.

My Action Plan is to increase awareness of the different kinds of colleges that there are. Before I was aware of the ILC, my main goal was to apply to a UC. Now that I was given the wonderful opportunity to go to the East Coast and visit different colleges, my mentality has changed. I plan on applying to Brown University and I definitely will look more into other smaller colleges. I never thought that I would like Wellesley College as much as I did. I thank everyone who made this trip possible because it was a true eye opener.

Since I was lucky to be sent to the East Coast and to attend Brown Univerity for two weeks, I want to get other students aware of the different possibilities. I want to encourage my peers at Richmond High School to think of smaller and private colleges too and not just focus on the UC system. I'm not saying that UCs are bad because they aren't, but there is much more than just that. I was able to see that this summer at Brown.

Overall, my trip to the East Coast was beyond amazing. I learned so many new things. I am more confident than ever before and I plan on making a change. I want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to go to the East Coast and have a great new learning adventure. I am filled with gratitude therefore I will do my best to give back to my community.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Last of a Lot of Things

Unfortunately, due to lack of Internet last night, and an incredibly busy day today, it’s taken me too long to get this final (for now) blog entry posted.

Yesterday was my last day at Brown. It was my last for a lot of things:

Last time I would get chocolate croissants and peach ice tea with Erica before class.
Last time I would wake up, shower, and get ready in Harkness.
Last time I would go to class and be taught by Kisa, with the lovely My as the TA.
And most notably, the last time I’d see all my girls together.

These last two weeks were two of the most amazing weeks of my life. I met so many new people, learned so many new things, and had experiences that would last me a lifetime.

I’ve already got ironclad promises that should I visit India, Italy, or North Carolina that I would have a place to say, and the same goes for my girls if they ever come to California.

I didn’t cry yesterday, thank god, because I know if I saw even one person shed one single tear, I’d be inconsolable.

Despite my opinions on feminism, and the material we studied in the class, I do believe it really helped me grow as a person, especially in my ability to let other people voice their opinions, and to not be so defensive when I am criticized.

I also formally presented my Action Plan yesterday, which was not nearly as nerve wracking as I thought it would be. There were only about fifteen people in the room with me, and we were so cramped that we all ended up presenting sitting down, which really helped us all feel more comfortable.

It went well, and I made sure to videotape it so that my parents back home would be able to see it, too.

And even though I’m home now, and the feeling is bittersweet, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

My deepest thanks to everyone in the ILC program, because without all of you, this wouldn’t be possible, and I am so glad I did it.

Memorable and Life Changing Summer!

Sadly, yesterday was the last day at Brown University. I simply cannot believe that the program is over for us. It feels like if I was only at Brown for 3 days. There is still so much left to do. I wish I could have stayed longer. I fell in love with the campus and everyone there. The staff members were amazing. I will never forget this summer and everyone who shared this experience with me.

Over these past two short weeks I have learned so much. I have learned how to become a better leader in my community. This class has really inspired me to challenge myself. I have grown as a woman and as a leader. I am more confident than ever before. My main goal is to be more outspoken and assertive.
During class we wrote a letter to ourselves. Kisa will send this letter to us within the next 6 months. After we were done writing our letter, we all sat in a circle and passed around a piece of paper with our name on the top. Then people wrote down something that they admired about us or wanted to tell us. It was a really nice activity, but it made me sad that we were all going to leave. At that moment it started to sink in that perhaps we will never see each other ever again. However, I am glad that I got everyone's contact so we can all stay in touch.

Then we all went to lunch in the Ratty for the last time. There we studied for our Action Plan presentation. When it was my turn to present I felt really comfortable. I knew my subject very well that I rarely looked down at my flashcards. There were about 8 people in the room I was in. The Women and Leadership class really made me feel less nervous about public talking.

Furthermore, I became really close with everyone in the Women and Leadership class. I ended up making great friends that share the same passion to make a change in their community and ultimately in the world. It was really hard to say goodbye to everyone. I felt like I really needed to have more time to spend with everyone here. I got so attached to everything and everyone.
Kisa and My really encouraged me to continue following my passions. They were really supportive and always motivated me to come out of my comfort zone. Even when I came out my comfort zone, everyone made me feel so comfortable. This summer has been the best learning experience I have ever had. Before I came to Brown University I knew it was going to be awesome, but it has really blown me away. It has by far exceeded all my expectations. I definitely plan on applying to Brown University.

All the staff members were amazing. My RA Christine was wonderful. She was so friendly! Everyone was so amiable and encouraging. I feel like I am part of a big family here at Brown University. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. It was 5:45 PM and it was time to leave. I was so sad to leave my friends.

We came to Boston in where we stayed at a Hilton hotel near the airport. We all met down in the lobby to go to a restaurant in the hotel to eat our last dinner together in the East Coast. It was awesome. I had a great time, but then Mariana and I decided to go to the room to get some rest.

Today we left the hotel at 9 AM. Some of the girls were a little worried that someone would end up having an overweight bag, but thankfully none of us did. Since I have seen a Dunkin Donuts everywhere I could not leave without buying something from there. I bought a bagel and hot chocolate and then we all boarded the plane. I sat with Irene and Mariana.

We arrived at San Francisco on time. I was happy to be back home, but I was also sad that I had left the East Coast. I will never forget my experience there. I loved it. Hopefully, I am able to return to the reunion in November. That would be amazing!

Overall, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible. I had the best time! I had so much fun, met new people, and learned so many new things.

Brown is not Dull -- Brown is Beautiful.

I woke up with a heavy heart. Today was our last day at Brown University. Everyone in the class was special to me in a unique way. I would miss Kisa, My (our leadership fellow) and every single one of the young ladies that I bonded with. The growth I achieved from being in this leadership class is more than I have gained in my entire life thus far. So with a sorrow for leaving Brown but a joy for learning so much, I left for class.

My roommate, Kristi! 

My awesome friend, Tierra and I! 

From Durham, North Carolina, Erica! 

The more, the merrier! 

We did not do any workshops or lectures today. Instead, we were told to write a letter to ourselves that would be sent to our homes near December. The purpose was to remind ourselves of what we learned during the summer course and to apply to our daily lives; we didn’t want this to be something we would forget. So I wrote to myself and hopefully by the time I get the letter, I will not have forgotten the priceless things I learned about women and leadership. As I’ve said time and time again, Summer@Brown was a life-changing experience. 


My, Kisa and Selene

Class Picture! 

We continued on with writing positive comments about each person in our class. Every person in the course was special to me in some way or another. I made it a goal to write something different for each person that related their presence to me. There is so much I learned from the other girls. Their cultures, their histories, their backgrounds, all contributed to my understanding of diversity. I underestimated what diversity is and now I know that it does not only mean a difference in race and socioeconomic status, but also a difference in childhood, beliefs, and ethics among other things. 

Looking back at what I've learned in class, I realized many things. Real learning does not take place as memorizing facts, dates and books; learning is taken from life experience. We learned about life from a woman's point of view, not that it cannot only apply to women, but to everyone. Learning is taking a bit from every part of the world and implementing that into our daily lives. We've had that very concept integrated into our course this summer. As I will use in my presentation today, "Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself." This quote, by the American philosopher John Dewey, inspired me to think about what education genuinely is. It describes our experience at Brown perfectly and I know that I finally found some closure to our class on the East Coast. 
Discussing in class

My proud friend hailing from Chicago, Trina. She was an inspiration to me.

The leadership fellow from our class, My (as in Me but spelled differently) and Kristi. We were being silly

My was such a great person! We all bonded with her

Just thought I'd like for everyone to know what snacking at Brown while studying for two weeks ends up being... 

We concluded the last class and headed for lunch. I spent my lunch working on my Action Plan to polish it off. I was a bit nervous about my presentation, but I knew that if it didn’t go as well as I wanted, I would only learn from it. Life is about making mistakes, and if I mess up, it’s okay. I have plenty of time to learn. I kept in mind that my confidence and public speaking skills have improved considerably since day one and I would be fine. With those thoughts in mind, I left for our presentations. 

Dean Rose welcomed everyone to the Leadership presentations. I loved how she integrated all we’ve learned into her speech -- she was very inspiring. We finally split into groups and I was to be presenting to Dean Rose herself. As usual, I was a bit jittery before I presented but I managed to get through it. It was now or never. 
Dean Rose introducing the Action Plan Presentations

All in all, it went well and I was very pleased that Dean Rose told me I did an awesome job and I articulated myself very well. She said I did better than most, but being very hard on myself, I found this comment surprising but joyful and I appreciated it very much. When it comes to presenting, the saying, “practice makes perfect” comes to mind. With experience, it becomes less and less difficult to talk in front of a large audience. I will make sure to push myself when I present so I can become a better leader for all. 

Afterward, we met on the Main Green on campus and took final pictures with our new friends and professors. Although the weather was raining on our parade (literally, except for the parade part since there was no parade obviously), it did not stop us from our good-byes and departures. It was sad to see some friends leaving already; I felt like we each had a special bond with each other. We’ve grown not individually, but together, interlaced with our experiences, passions, mistakes, doubts and most importantly, our hearts. We’ve each taken to each other in a special way. 

Dean Rose, Irene and I 


Kisa and I 

- - - - -

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." -Anais Nin

In the last few hours, we spent the rest of the time we had just hanging around with our friends. I already packed the night before so I made sure to spend those last few moments with our friends. We made one last run to Thayer Street to buy any things we needed or just wanted. One by one, friends started to leave until there was only a few of us left. Finally, it was time for us to leave and I was so sad to leave everything: my friends, the dorms, my roommate and even the weather (Although I kept complaining about the humidity, I have to say, I am going to miss warm nights in Providence). I looked back at the campus and said my final good-bye. For now. 

At the train station, leaving

We spent the night in Boston and had one final dinner together as the Ivy League Connections Brown Session II group. Ms. Stewart very generously treated us for dinner that night and I was so grateful. I looked around the table with all of our ILC members and although I was happy, inside I was sad that our time in the East Coast was almost up. Tomorrow morning, we would fly back to San Francisco. Back to home. So I made sure to make the most of our last night in Boston. I know I did, so I’m glad about that. 

Our room at the Hilton 

The view from the hotel window on the ninth floor

And so, I finish this blog with a spirit of joy. I am happy to have been in this program. I am happy to have learned so much. I happy to have met so many amazing people. 

I am happy.

Good-bye, East Coast!