Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Game of My Life

Today, there was a baseball game and a mall trip and because I did a mall trip last time I decided to sign up for the baseball game. Plus, it was my first.

Sign-ups were last Wednesday, so it was easy for me to go and put my name on a paper saying I wanted to attend an event. This morning when I woke up feeling the exact opposite of how I felt at first. I didn't want to go to the game at all, I was tired and wanted a day to rest.  But, I decided to suck it up and go. Which was a really good idea in some aspects. One of the aspects of the goodness was that I got to spend time with my friends, the ones I came with and the ones I gained. One of the not so good things were the seats we had and the temperature.  We had seats that were really high up an it was 98 degrees.  Luckily, the R.C's had sunscreen available upon request.

When the game started, I was sitting there really excited. I looked over at Joanne,Chiamaka and Justeen who looked just as excited as I was. When the first player stepped up to bat I just knew that it was going to be a home run or a three run score. Sadly, I was wrong it was a single run score and he got out.

After, sitting in the heat for a while  decided to go down to the concessions area to get out of the sun. Yet, that didn't really even help me escape the heat. Although, I was able to meet a Philly native through Jun, who had been sitting with the woman for awhile. She was very nice and told us a lot about the badluck of the Phillies and the heat.

Talking to her and Jun made the time for the game to be over go by pretty fast. By the time it was time to go I was so tired. But, overall it was a very nice and full day. Although, the Phillies didn't win the game they played well.

I had a great time with the Summer Discovery staff, my cohort, and my newly found friends. I just wished the Phillies could have one though.

An Unforgetable Moment that Has Forever Changed Me

Coming from such a dark background, I never thought that I would have the chance to travel to so many iconic ivy league schools. In fact,  I never thought that I would travel to even one ivy league. But, with the scholarship provided by the ivy league connection  I got to experience something greater than I ever imagined. 

Like the slogan says, "When opportunity knocks some open the door, while others complain about the noise." I was one of the ones who chose to open the door. The door which lead to a completely surprising part of me. My aspirational side, the side that took a chance despite what my fellow peers were saying. It may have required a solid amount of work but in the end it was worth ut and paid off. 

Going to a school like Kennedy high, I hadn't considered the possibility of attending a liberal arts school. To be totally honest, I didn't even know what a liberal arts based school was. Through the ILC I was able to make a connection with a Liberal arts school. From our tours I learned that liberal arts schools give you a "well-rounded " education when you graduate. Meaning it not only focuses on your field of study it brings in the undergraduate studies too. Unlike a vocational, technical, or professional curriculum. I now feel as though a liberal arts maybe somewhere I apply in the future.

From this experience I gained what I would like to call long lasting friends. No scratch that a new found family.
My extended family!!!
Photo credits: John Hillyer 
I was able to meet people that I would have never been able to meet without the scholarship provided by the Ivy League. For instance, Eli Lesser the Director of Penn Academic Summer Sessions. Or Eric J. Furda the new dean of admissions over at Penn.

If it wasn't for the Ivy League Connection I would have never been able to experience such a character building opportunity. From this "roller coaster" of self discovery, I learned that I am an ambassador for the changing of my community. I hope to be able to encourage my fellow peers to push themselves to try, because they'll never know what opportunity they may have in front of them.  I want to be that push that makes them open the door. Just like the Ivy League Connection opened the door for me to be exposed to a liberal arts school.

Thank you, to Don Gosney, John Hillyer, and all the sponsors and contributors who made this moment possible. I am eternally grateful and will forever remember this moment. It has made an impact on me like nothing I've ever felt. 

A new foumd interest

I never considered social justice as something I would be interested in, but now I am a strong advocate for it. I always used to think that social justice was just gender rights for women and to not be racist. 

On the first day of class my original definition was shattered by my peers definitions. Professor Lamas had us to write what we thought or felt social justice was. The definitions ranged from male and female gender rights to equity to sexual representation. Just from those three definitions my mindset was deepened. From that moment on I dedicated my time to trying to learn why my peers felt the way they did. 

Professor Lamas, Michael Nairn, and Dr. Anthony Monteiro were excellent teachers. They taught in a way that was completely different from what I'm used too. Obviously, the difference was in the fact that they are college professors and I've only received a high school level teaching. But, they taught with a dynamic that  was confusing but made us think. They would say certain things that to me were a contradiction. But, now I see  that through that technique I was able to develop my own tailor made definition of what social justice is with a deeper understanding. 

I feel like in the three weeks of taking the course I developed a more open mind. Some of the topics we discussed in our teaching fellow groups were very sad and disheartening but through those conversations we found ways to make changes. One of the topics we discussed was human trafficking. We had an extensive conversation do to the fact that one of my group members did a research project about it when she was 14 years old. She became really invested and knew it was a very important aspect of social justice. We all knew that we would not be able to completely stop human trafficking on our own. But, we can help the human trafficking organizations out there. 

This experience gave me the opportunity to gain an understanding of the "world" people in other countries live in. For instance, two of my fellow students taught about the little known "Palestine-Israel war" that is taking place right now. They were able to teach on it because they have family there and have visited many times. They were each able to share with us the encounters they had as Palestinians traveling through Israel. One of them was spit on by a Israeli checkpoint officer. From that alone I learned that all of us have different struggles but we should be understanding.

I really enjoyed my time in the Social Justice Research Academy. Each and every person I met within it had, a compelling affect on me. My definition of social justice is now, the right to receive the same opportunity as another, regardless of social status, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender, race, culture, or religion. To make it short it is basically equity. I learned that equity is very important in our society and in any society. 

I also learned that I do enjoy social justice efforts. I have received a deeper connection with advocacy through this program.

I would like to extend a special thank you to Professor Lamas, Michael Nairn, and Dr. Monteiro for everything they taught me. And also, to Dato Aronia my teaching fellow and my entire teaching fellow group. But, most importantly to Don Gosney, the sponsors and contributors or made this possible for me.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ocean City

Today, there was a beach trip. The beach we went to was famous for being a reality television show that aired on MTV. The Jersey shore was where went. It was a 2 hour drive there and we left 9:30 a.m.  The drive there was so boring, but it was sort of funny too. It was funny because the DVD player wasn't working, but it was boring because we couldn't watch the movie. The movie we tried to watch was Captain America Age of Ultron. That was was standingcool but, I hadn't watched the first one all the way so I knew I'd be lost.

The person I sat next to was Chiamaka which was really cool, although all we did was sleep just like everyone else on the way there. I woke up maybe thirty minutes before we got to Ocean City and just watched the traffic pass the bus by.  Long before that, one of the resident counselors decided to give up on the movie.

When we got off the bus , Chiamaka and I decided to wait for everyone. Everyone meaning, Justeen, Joanne, and Jun. The only thing was that Joanne had gotten there before all of us and Jun and Justeen were walking towards us as we made a path for people to walk by.

The first place we went was to the flash-point with our resident counselors. Right after that, they let us roam freely between the 6Th and 12th street on the boardwalk. Which may sound like a small amount of area, yet it was actually quite a bit.  The same rules applied for swimming.

Next, we established how much either of us wanted to get into the water and when everyone said they didn't want to we made our way down the boardwalk. All we did was look at was on the side we were on before we purchased anything or decided what we wanted to do. We made exceptions on the food, though.

We walked for a while and then stopped in one of the amusement parks. This park in particular was very nice, for small children. We almost purchased tickets from there because we had yet to find out exactly where the other amusement park was.  It was really strange because Justeen, Jun, and I were standing near one of the rides talking about what we should in the case of buying tickets or not. And then, a woman and her husband come up to us and hand us a bunch of tickets and say "Here you guys go, now you can ride a bunch of rides. This isn't happening for him today." I'm assuming that their young son was in trouble or not in the mood and they overheard our conversation.  When Joanne and Chiamaka came back and we told then what happened and they were excited. In total she gave us 14 tickets which was a pretty good amount but there was 5 of us and most rides ranged between 3-6 tickets.

Although, we had all of those tickets we decided to head over to the other amusement park we found out about from one of the workers. This park just so happened to be on 10th street. At first we walked right passed it because it was perfectly tucked away between two large buildings.

When we got to the ticket booth we decided to all put in money to buy some tickets so we could ride the rides. The first ride I noticed was called the Airplane, it seemed to be what everybody (except Jun and I ) were looking for.  It was fast, scary, dizzining and I was horrified.

Other than the horrifying rides and the heat I had an amazing time at Ocean city with my friends. After, we had rode serveral rides we went back to the flashpoint and then loaded into the bus. I would love to go again someday to take a nice swim in the water. It was beautiful.

GoodByes and Great Sighs

Today, was the last day of class it was a very bittersweet moment. It began in an odd way, it was odd because Professor Lamas started class with a sad introduction. He began by telling us that his aunt had passed and he was really sad about that along with the fact that this was the last time he would see us. When he said those words, it touched my heart, because I have never met a teacher who became so invested in their students in such a short time.

He told us that he wanted us to go around the room and say a few words about the word we put on the board the first day of class . The word I put on the board was fairness because I felt like it described social justice. But I learned that there is so much more to social justice than that. And there are even more social justice issues than what meets the eye. When it came around to me , I simply said how grateful I was to be able to learn so much about social justice with all of my amazing peers. I also said, that in the beginning of the class I thought fairness was just treating a woman the same as a man was treated in the workplace.  But, through the course of the three weeks I learned that fairness is right any person should be able to attain regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or life circumstances, etc.

After, we finished sharing Professor Lamas dismissed us for lunch. At lunch, I knew exactly where I was going and that was to the Love statue. The reason I headed over there was because a couple of my classmates were doing a demonstration.  The demonstration was about mass incarceration, and racism. It was poetry and spoken word with interpretive dance. I was really excited to see it because I had helped one of my peers practice it the night before. And I knew that it was going to come alive because it was really passionate.  All of them were. The demonstration had a captive audience of not only our classmates, but random passers had stopped to listen to what these three young girls had to say. When it was finished, I went and got my lunch and headed back to McNeil to eat in the lounge.

When the class had started again, I noticed that the desk were no longer in a circle, but split into two sections on either side of the room facing the back of the class. I took my seat as did everyone and then Professor Lamas began to present a performer named Jose. Jose was a tribal musician. I believed he performed three songs, I wasn't exactly sure when the ended because he just changed instruments and maybe paused for five to ten seconds.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Time With The ILC!

My time with the ILC was even better than what I had hoped for. Everyone in the ILC that I had the honor to meet and speak with is very nice and supportive as well as polite. From the time I met Don my freshman year to when I saw him after we came back from UPenn he has been extremely supportive and understanding. Everyone I met at the first dinner was wonderful and that is the first time my expectations were shattered. It was an amazing experience where we got to talk about UPenn and got support from Alumni, that by the way were not suck up at all, they were polite, nice, and had great advice for us that helped me get through my summer at UPenn and were very useful. My Chaperone was an amazing wonderful person as well as teacher. He was very responsible but he was also very flexible so that ensured our safety but never compromised the fun we had every day we spent with him. The board was also very polite and supportive. everyone I met during my summer either from ILC or UPenn were amazing wonderful people you can connect with one way or another.

The ILC wasn't just filled with wonderful amazing people it also gave us much support that a lot of us need. They provided me with a laptop and many other things I needed for my trip to UPenn and my time there. they even lent me bed sheets since I didn't have the right size for the mattress at UPenn. They gave us all a sweatshirt that looks amazing, due to the fact that you pick the one you want! to me that was wonderful news since I have weird taste. I really can't think of any bad experiences I had with the ILC. The ILC is great and I am sure that any student that gets in will absolutely love it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Goodbye UPenn and Life-long Fiends!!!

I woke up late again and missed some goodbyes. It was fine with me because I said bye to everyone the night before just in case I woke up late. By the time o had woken up my roommate had already left home so I was alone and it felt really weird. I got off the bed and started packing all my things and pitting it in my luggage bag. I was ready to go home to my loved ones. I went to breakfast with all my RC except for Johnny who had left the night before it was a bit lonely without him with us. We came back and one by one everyone left. The time we agreed to meet outside the quad came and I went outside where we turned in our keys and waited for John. I talked to some friends that hadn't left yet for a couple of minutes before we left.

John came on time and we got on the shuttle we were all used to it so it felt normal and it went by fast, we got to the airport went through the check in and though security. We had a lot of time before our flight so we ate a really good breakfast and went exploring around the airport. I bought some gifts for my little sister and my friend Saul and went to sit down and catch up with my favorite anime series. we got on the plane and I sat with a stranger and john. The flight was pretty awkward till the end when we all talked about how hot phoenix is. We landed at phoenix where we ate lunch and john put some movies into my flash drive so that I could watch them on the flight to Oakland. We had almost an hour left till our flight after we finished lunch so I charged the laptop and my phone so that I could watch the whole movie on the flight to Oakland. We took flight and I watched a movie about drumming that took the whole time so the flight home was a non-boring success.

Finally home! we arrived at Oakland and the weather was great! it was cloudy and late already but it was awesome nonetheless. We waited a while for our luggage. The whole time I couldn't stop thinking about my family and my girlfriend and how much I missed them. I watched Anime on the shuttle ride to EC. We got to EC and got instructions from Don and went on our way home. It was the weekend of my baby sister's birthday so we went to my uncles house to cut a cake for her and eat carne asada, I had missed my mother's cooking the most. I was extemely tired by the end of dinner so I fell asleep on the ouch and somehow woke up in bed the next morning it all felt like a long amazing wonderful dream. BEST SUMMER YET!!!

Wrap Up

fun in the sun with bill

Fun in the sun

Friday morning, extreme sadness and happiness is in the air. I got up late and got to class late because I didn't sleep much the night before since I was trying Amy best to live in the moment and make as many last memories as I could. I rushed to class and we went straight into presentations my group wasn't the last but it was almost last. I got to sit back and listen and learn about all the cool things my peers learned and studied. Time flew and our presentation finished quickly if felt like we were done before we began.
Food Truck Food

After-lunch Snacks



Bill going 0-100 real quick

Hot Air Bag

Up & Down "just hanging"

Tying a Tie
I finally ate food from a food truck and it was quite good and very cheap. It was really cool because I did it together with my friends and it was the first time for us all. We then ended our last day of class with an amazing presentation filled with experiments that were really quite cool!!! There was a monkey that dropped while it got shot, a house that blew up, a fire extinguisher-powered cart, and bubbles floating on carbon dioxide. It was the best class ever!!! We even had snacks that we couldn't finish. Mary made a lot of backed goodies that were delicious. Before we left we hugged our teachers and our professor and said our goodbyes it was the most amazing class I have taken and by far the most fun one.

My Best Friends @UPenn
We went to eat dinner after class because it was Johnny last evening. We all dressed up and went to bobby's burger palace together. Right after that I went to the last Cherokee night where we sang our hearts out and danced till the night was over. It was one of the saddest summer nights yet since I got really close to my RC and made a lot of great friends during my time at UPenn.

Physics Department Tour and Data Recording

I woke up this morning the same as usual the only thing out of the ordinary was a feeling of slight sadness in the air. The cafeteria was quitter than usual. I ate breakfast with my RC room. We finished breakfast fast and walked over to class. We talked about how we would miss each other because we knew the day we part ways and got back to our regular lives was upon us. This was the case especially for Johnny he was leaving Friday night because his parents were picking him up early. We got to class and we went straight into our groups we were split into four groups.

I liked the people in my group and we had Peter as our chaperone for our tour of the engineering department so it was even more fun since he is indeed a funny guy. Before I knew it we had finished our tour. We learned about a prototype of an optical device that used low energy lasers to measure your blood flow. This would be used by doctors at UPenn to better their patients and will help save many lives. Then we went into a lab where they study non-Newtonian substances like shaving cream, jelly and sand. They used microscopes that can take videos over a long period of time to observe how the particles moved around and interacted with each other in the different substances. We saw an electromagnetic device that could measure absurdly small amounts of magnetism. Then we went into a chemistry lab where they grew sensors for nanoscopes. We saw a radio wave telescope that would be used to observe the gas clouds that would come to crate stars. They had to be cooled down to extremely low temperatures because the radio waves the gas clouds gave off were very low energy radio waves because of their low temperatures.

It was all very fun and exciting. We were dismissed at our usual time my group had to get back before the other groups because we had to go out to get our data. I had a wonderful lunch with my best friends from UPenn and went back right after. I was really excited to go out and observe the sun using our radio telescope and the famous big satellite we had heard so much about. When we got to the room where we had been building our radio telescope for the past three days we were ready to get our radio telescope and be on our way to the site where the big satellite was. We got held back because our professor had built an electrical circuit for us that would power our telescope instead of brining all the other equipment to power it. We had trouble with it and noticed one part was not connected so we fixed it and sutured a wire to them which I got to help with by suturing one side. We were all having fun but time was running and we had to finish quickly and so we did and were on our way to the big telescope. I was having the time of my life I really enjoy exploring and it was like going exploring to me since I had no idea where the satellite was. We got to the building where it was and it was really big. The building was old and looked really cool.

We got there and we were being filmed through the ride there and the whole time we were there. It was a little weird but I didn’t mind. We waited a while at the lobby before being led to the roof by a person that worked there. We got to the roof and the satellite was huge. We set up ours and pointed it about the direction of the sun. Meanwhile our professor turned on the computer and opened the application to take measurements of the sun. We finished quickly since we spent long on fixing our radio telescope and setting up. We packed up quickly and went back to UPenn it was really cool and I felt awesome. We went back to the quad and I spent time with my friends because there was only one day left. We hanged out laughed and just made the best memories. It felt great to know I had made friends that think like I do and I could talk to whenever I wanted. I finished my day by going to lip sync night where we laughed at one another since we picked the funniest songs to lip sync to and danced around. I couldn’t believe it was all almost over.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From the Beginning to the End

Looking back with my experience in the Ivy League Connection, it seems like it was all in the distant past. I recall first applying to this program in my Sophomore year, but unfortunately, I was unable to get in. I was not discouraged by this, so I kept on pursuing this goal, and the following year, I applied once again to two of the programs offered. Thankfully, I was able to become a part of the UPenn cohort where I would be able to study Physics in the University of Pennsylvania. 

From the beginning...
However, being accepted into the ILC did not necessarily guarantee that I was in the summer program itself, so I was back to writing more essays and filling out more forms. Thanks to Don, I was also accepted into UPenn, and I was able to continue with my ILC journey. All in all, I was definitely surprised that I had gotten this far because I had doubted myself far too much, but this experience had allowed me to gain more confidence not only in myself, but in my writing as well. I can't say that it was all smooth sailing, but my efforts were definitely worthwhile. With this once in a lifetime opportunity, I was able to go to the East Coast and gain new experiences I had never even dreamed of, even if it was only for three weeks.

For starters, I was able to make amazing bonds with people that I hadn't even known in the beginning of March. We grew close and supported each other throughout this entire experience, and I couldn't have asked for a better cohort. In our first meeting at the dinner at Kuleto's, I couldn't even openly talk to them, but it's amazing how far we've come in such a short amount of time. 

Through this program, I was also able to travel and see more of the world, even if it was just in the United States. I had gone out of country before, but prior to this summer, I had never been to any other state other than California. However, in just the span of three weeks, I was able to travel to six different states. Our first stop had been in Texas, and despite the thunderstorms, I was able to see Rice University. Then, we had continued to Georgia to visit Emory University, and we finally went to Pennsylvania as our last stop. For these few days of travelling, I was able to see the gorgeous campuses of these universities, and it made me realize how broad our world is. I hadn't actually thought about applying to schools in the East Coast, but this has definitely changed my perspective.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games. Once I had finally arrived at UPenn, I was ready to get down to business, but my class was not as I had expected. Instead of just boring lectures and memorization, my class was taught by four wonderful professors that had made learning fun while allowing me to attain a deeper understanding of physics, which I know will help me in the future as I continue to study in the STEM fields. However, in this class, learning was a group effort. Because of this, I was able to work with students from different backgrounds, which can be a challenge at times. Regardless of that, I was able to adapt and learn from others, not just about physics, but also about themselves. I had even met people from all over the world, such as Turkey and China. It was nice hearing from others that have a completely different background from you.

I had such a wonderful experience at UPenn, and I know these memories of my summer will  never fade. I would never have had this opportunity without the ILC, so I'm very thankful to all of the sponsors and to Don as well because they made this a possibility. I was able to learn and experience so many things, and I am truly grateful that I was able to be a part of this amazing program. Prior to this, I had never even thought of applying to the University of Pennsylvania, but I fell in love with the atmosphere and the school itself, and I know for a fact that I am applying. Yes, I know that I have been going on and on about how wonderful this program is, and I'll definitely be bragging (just a little) to my friends about this experience, but at least I'll be able to tell them about these new doors that have been opened for me. It may be the end of my ILC journey, but it's also the beginning of a new chapter in my life. the end

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

With an Ending Marks a New Beginning

As I recall back to the night of the interview, I was, then, studying for my Differential Equations midterm the next day while prepping for the interview. When my name was called by the panelists, I was grinning from ear-to-ear. The moment was priceless and I would do anything to relive it. The Ivy League Connection taught me infinite amount of things but the first (the one that I'll remember forever) was to always try. You NEVER know of the outcome unless you try. Many of my friends were skeptical about themselves on whether or not they'll get in so they ended up not trying. I was influenced at one point in time but later it clicked to me that I should just go ahead and give it a shot. Also, the all-n-mighty Don convinced me pretty well too! Because of my decision of applying to the ILC, I was able to meet these wonderful folks that had spent their summer with me.
The ILC gave me the opportunity to try new things, and to experiment with them. Never, ever, would I have spoke in front of massive sponsors of a non-profit organization if it wasn't for Don's persuading emails of encouragement. Don does not directly list out the benefits and words of wisdom out for you on a sheet of paper, but he makes sure we understand that great things come with great efforts. If I hadn't spoke at the University of Pennsylvania dinner at Kuleto's, I probably would not have spoke during my time at UPenn. Then, what's the use of taking Social Justice if you can't even probably collect your thoughts and convey them to a larger crowd?

Before heading to Pennsylvania, we visited Rice and Emory University. When we flew to Houston, the thunderstorm was following us close behind thus resulting in our four hour delay. Because of this, we missed the info session and campus tour of Rice. When we had finally arrived, though, we did a mini-tour of Rice ourselves. It wasn't exactly the nicest weather to be greeted upon but I did get to see some of Rices' interior and talked to a graduate scholar at Rice. We left Houston buoyantly for Atlanta, our next and last stop before Philly. Emory was wonderful; it is wonderful. The setting made me felt at ease and I loved the atmosphere there. Is is bound to be on my apply-to's for this fall.
A Welcome Just For Me
Upon checking into UPenn, we arrived in Philly two days earlier to check out the city. The vibe of the streets were not as busy as a typical run down the streets of UC Berkeley, but it sure had the "walk with purpose" people pushing you around even if you didn't even bump into them. I guess people in the East coast has to walk three strides every second whereas I, whose from California would be walking one stride per second. The adjustment was hard to make at first, but Mr. Hillyer definitely did prep us for it. Now I have learned to properly get out of anyone's way, whether you're out getting a sandwich at Wawa's or lining up for the Septa. All the visits we did in Philly for social justice helped out as well.

The Social Justice class was taught by the amazing professors; Andy Lamas, Tony Monteiro and Michael Nairn. Their experiences of being social studies professors at UPenn makes it undeniably hard to not learn a lot from them. The questions they arise in class for us to think about is phenomenal because we can't answer it immediately (at least I can't). There's no definite solution to racism, there's not an exact way to stop discrimination, but there are ways in which everyone can work together as one and decrease the amount of racism and discrimination happening. When one decides to do something about it to create a better future, another will follow their lead and it will create a chain of positiveness. I am ready to embark onto the already massive chain and add onto it. The ILC has showed me a door in which I may have a chance to go into; this class has led me to the doorknob and now, it's time for me to open the door.
A Happy Cohort :)


Last year, I was not able to obtain a scholarship from the Ivy League Connection. This was my second time applying to the social justice program and this time, I was able to make it. These three weeks have been the best three weeks of my life. I never thought that I would be able to obtain so much information in three weeks. The course has changed how I look at society for the better and I can say that I am much more open minded than before. 

The reason why I decided to apply for the social justice is because I wanted to learn more about how society works and why there are so many issues in the world. I never thought that Social Justice could be such a broad topic. During the three weeks, we have talked about racism, LGBTQ, political issues around the world, issues at home, and much more. As controversial as these topics are, many are not well informed about the things that are happening in right now in the world we live in. It's almost like it's a taboo if we talk about these issues. This class made me realize that the root of all the problems start with us. If we do not change our mindset, how can society be a better place for people to live in? 

 The amount of diversity in this class is incredible. We had people from all over the world come over to Pennsylvania just to take this class. Everyone represented something different and I think that was what made this class so unique.  My only regret is that I wish I talked to my classmates more because I know that some of them were the wisest teenagers I have ever met. 

I know that I say this a lot but the amount of knowledge I gained these three weeks is unbelievable. Everyday we learn something new. We've had guest speakers come in and speak almost everyday of the three weeks and it was great to hear about what they had to say. Some of the issues the guest speakers and students were talking about I had no idea still existed; perhaps I didn't pay close enough attention to it so I became ignorant about it. I feel like I have become more socially aware of problems now and I want to use this profound knowledge towards something great. I feel so blessed to have this amazing opportunity and truly grateful. 

At the Eastern State Penitentiary
 Photo credits: Elexis Webster

Monday, July 27, 2015

An Unforgettable Summer

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I can certainly vouch for that statement. My time in the East coast left me with unforgettable memories and experiences that I probably would’ve never had without this program. This was my first, and last year participating in the Ivy League Connection, and I never actually thought that I would even be accepted. This entire experience felt like such a dream to me, and I’m glad that I was able to participate in this wonderful program.

Initially, I had chosen to apply to Vanderbilt, but I wasn’t able to get in, so afterwards, I applied  to the Physics program in the University of Pennsylvania. This program was actually the one that intrigued me the most because physics is a subject that has always piqued my curiosity. I truly enjoy learning about physics, but I knew that this course was going to be a challenge, since it was an actual college course. Unlike the very basic courses that I had previously taken, this class had delved deeper into physics and went beyond the basics. It challenged me to apply what I learned into the real world instead of using nice problems with easy solutions. 

This course had taught me that the world is definitely not perfect, and that there are always uncertainties within the world. Each calculation that a person has made cannot always be perfect, and error is always apparent, but that doesn't stop us from learning more and more about the world through the use of science. Even some of the great scientists have made errors in their discoveries, but it's these errors that have pushed science to where it is now. As my professor, Bill, says, "The mark of a true genius is about making all of the mistakes before everyone else." Well, I sort of paraphrased because I can't quite remember the exact phrase, but you get the idea. Anyways, I'm truly grateful to have participated in this program. I was able to learn with the use of sophisticated equipment that my school has never offered, and with each lab that I had done, I was able to understand each concept a little bit more. In the beginning of the class, we had started off with the basics of mechanics, but eventually I even learned that Newton's 2nd Law of Motion was actually simplified when it's first being taught. Eventually, we had moved onto electricity and circuits, and I was even able to measure the speed of light. (Not to brag, but my group attained the closest measurement.) I learned so much from this course in just three weeks, and not only from the professors, but from the lab assistants and the students as well.

The main goal of the Ivy League Connection was to be able to interact with others from different backgrounds, and that's exactly what I did. I had met so many different people coming from various places, and it was fascinating to learn about their experiences. I had even become friends with someone from Turkey! The world is so big, and I've learned to truly appreciate everyone that I meet.

After this course had ended, I know that I had changed for the better. I became more independent and outgoing, which is such a contrast to my personality before the program. I remember when I first went into the shuttle in El Cerrito High School, I was too introverted to talk much. Eventually, I had realized that it was perfectly fine to say what was on my mind, and throughout the three weeks, I had changed, even just a little. I became more open to trying new things, just as when I had traveled around for the first few days, and I was also able to open my eyes to how broad our world is.

My experiences in this course had allowed me to learn so many things, even if it was a short amount of time. New topics had always risen with everyone that I had met, and I was actually able to live as a college student for a short while. The University of Pennsylvania allured me with its great atmosphere, so now, I'm definitely thinking of applying. I don't think I could ever forget any of the great memories I made during this entire experience.

And It Comes to an End

Just thinking about how how much time we spent this summer productively, I can't help but to pat myself on the back and said, " You made it!" This program in particular has made me more observant about the intricate details of our society. There are so many things to take into account when just reading an article on New York Times or the Huffington Post. Articles are written by human beings, and everyone will be biased one way or another. It is up to the reader to define the article and determine if that's what we want to believe in. 
A cheesetake shop @ South Philly promoting modern-day racism
The Social Justice Academy started off with a bang on the most controversial topics: LGBQT, contemporary slavery, usage of drones abroad, etc. For the first week we went into the logistics of LGBQT identified persons around the world who have been or are being discriminated because they do not follow the "norms" of society. What exactly is a norm? A societal norm, then it must be that people living in "society" would have to create those norms. If it is, then is it right to tell others how we "should" behave? The questions at hand are what you normally do not discuss in our local communities so openly. However, the lively and non-judging atmosphere this class has created made me feel like my voice mattered; and it did. I began to articulate my voice on some of the most sensitive cases around the world. There's bound to be people who opposes your thoughts and/or ideas and that's okay. Learning from criticism is a step to broaden one's horizon and also teaches us to not get controlled by perception. 

We then led to various visits and explored across Philadelphia to know a little more about the nation's first capital. We visited the Magic Gardens where Isaiah Zagar created such an amazing house full of mirages of artistic perceptions. He made the murals to represent that there could be incorporation of different art styles into formed art to create new products, just like how there could be different kinds of people cohabiting happily and emitting a friendly environment. I enjoyed every single trip of the program and it has been a great pleasure to be able to get in touch with such incredible people doing amazing things. 
Even the largest corporations contain injustice and shows it
On the third week, that's when things got really interesting for me. We started to get into different regions around the world and what their issues are. The Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong was what caught my attention. This is undeniably a big movement in East Asia and most definitely looked at when studying the relations between Mainland and Hong Kong. The feud between the two territories of China has always been there, and now it's on the rise as more and more miscommunications and misunderstandings generate. The political systems of both territories are flawed and should be the one at fault. But wait, should it be or should it not? The records show that what the citizens of Hong Kong want is for Mainland citizens to stop buying all the products in HK and leave some for locals. Going a little back after the SARS, HK promoted their products especially to Mainland folks for them to purchase. What's the deal there? Because of the booming economy in HK, they don't need the sales anymore? It's such a complicated issue and at hand there is no definite solution. I did not agree to some terms in which the student speaker presented during that time, but I understand that coming from an Mainland point-of-view, I would be somewhat leaned towards their side whereas the speaker is from HK. 
After taking this course, I felt better informed about many topics going on around the world but it is definitely not to say that I am informed about every topic, because everyday, you're learning new things and changing your views. 
From left to right: Chiamaka, me, Elexis, and Joanne

Me As a Changed Person

I remember turning in my essay for this program with expectations on how the program would work. I participated in the Ivy League Connections last year and it was the best summer of my life. With this in mind, I was very excited to have another amazing summer. If I hadn't gotten into the Med School program in Vanderbilt last year, Social Justice was my second choice so it was amazing to do the two programs that I wanted the most. 

It was an honor being his studen
The Social Justice class appealed to me the most this year because I think that social justice is completely relevant right now in light of the recent police killings. I am a race that is being targeted and there is little to no justice; I thought that educating myself on these issues is one of the best ways to protect myself. The class was not what I expected but I completely fell in love with the class after day one. At first, I was a bit intimidated by the class because there was a required reading and I didn't finish; I thought that this would put me behind everyone else, but I was wrong. The class was pleasantly surprising in a way that I didn't expect. I imagined it to be completely structured and planned out to the T. It was nothing like I imagined. We touched on many different social issues sporadically. We learned about these issues through the means of art, plays, lectures, site visits, and in class workshops. There was so many opportunities to learn about a certain topic. 

I've always considered myself a self aware and socially aware person; but this summer I learned that that's only half the battle. It's one thing to be aware of a problem, it's a completely different thing to take action. I think that my biggest take away from the Social Justice was learning how to be an activist. I met a group of teenagers in South Philadelphia who were fighting tooth and nail to keep their schools open. I found inspiration in their passion for education equality. I've always been aware that some kids are provided with a better education than others but I never thought that there was anything I could do about it. Once school starts, I'm going to take my community service clubs to the next level. I'm vice President for my school's interact club and I plan to change the meaning of community service. It's more than just cleaning up a park, it's about making sure equity is accessible. It's making sure that we don't take injustices sitting down. 

On the social side of the program, I have to admit that I didn't put in much effort in making new friends. I talked to my roommate and some of my classmates but I didn't really talk to anyone outside of that. One of the reasons for this is because I made really good friends last year at Vanderbilt and it was heartbreaking leaving them behind. I wasn't brave enough to go through that kind of pain again this year. I don't think that it's fun to become so close to someone in such a short amount of time just to never talk to them in person ever again. Life is cruel like that. The people I did talk to enlightened me beyond belief. I met a transgender male named Jason who made me aware of all the problems and injustices in the Transgender community. He was so outspoken and was open to answering any and all questions that I had. I met a Jewish girl named Sarah who was very outspoken on the Israel-Palestine problem. I also learned about the internal issues with China and its territories. One of the most mind blowing facts I learned was that Taiwan wasn't a country. Taiwan is a territory of China. There is no way I would have learned all of this without this program. I can honestly say that I can work with different people now because I have.

I think this is the hardest blog to write because I know I've changed but it's hard to describe how. The change in me is too abstract, and words won't help readers grasp how black lives matter to me even more than it did before. It won't describe my newly ignited passion with mass incarceration, feminism, athlete rights, hip hop, immigration, and countless other things. I'll finish off with pictures that will help describe my odyssey this summer better than I can.