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.