Friday, July 22, 2016

Practice is Priceless

Hey everyone! This is the replacement for July 7th's blog, which was also lost.

For the first portion of class, we were given a lecture on public speaking. The guest speaker, Jennifer, has coached individuals such as ourselves on delivering speeches effectively for about twenty years. She recently has been working with students from Harvard University. 

It was interesting to learn about how only ten percent of the audience’s impression is based off of the actual content of the speech. Thirty percent is auditory, and sixty percent is visual. I took detailed notes of the lecture so that I could remember all of Jennifer’s helpful tips, some of which included ways to lower nerves and how to write a compelling speech. I would need these not only for tomorrow’s Action Plan speech, but for today’s practice rounds.

For the second portion of class, the class was organized into groups that would perform different tasks: one group would deliver their speeches in front of a large group, another group would ask questions, another group would provide feedback, and the rest would be practicing with Christine in a smaller group. We would alternate after everyone had completed their assigned role.

As time went on, I could feel my stomach twisting up into knots and the jittery energy shoot through my body. It had been a while since I’d been so anxious about speaking in front of an audience. I believe that, although it was very helpful, the focus on certain details Jennifer had emphasized led to me overthink things and, thus, psych myself out.

My in-class speeches were not things I was necessarily proud of, because I knew I could’ve done much better. I tried not to beat myself up too much, seeing as it was practice and the speeches were intended to be rough. I was also given quite a lot of useful feedback, in the end, and I knew that the next time I’d address my audience would be much better.

Given that it was the last time we could all get together and eat out, my cohort and our friends Sara, Lauren, Fern, Ishani, Jennifer (not the guest speaker), and Sachi went to Kabob and Curry. I had eaten at this restaurant before with some of them, but Sara had not, so we decided this would be the last time we would eat at a restaurant together.

There was a dance being held in one of the buildings near the V-Dub, so we quickly made our way to the dorms to get ready. Suffice to say, I had a blast. Dancing with everyone (or trying to get them to) was so fun and the music was great. It was the perfect way to end my second to last day at Brown. 

Becoming a Positive Bystander

Hey everyone! This is the replacement for July 6th's blog, which was somehow deleted from the bog.

The day’s first portion of class would be a serious one. Guest speakers Alana Sacks and Molly Sandstrom led a presentation about interpersonal violence, and how to best support those who have experienced it (being a positive bystander). First, we were introduced to the way in which power dynamics and identities were reflected in interpersonal violence, which includes relational abuse, domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault/harassment, and gender-motivated violence. Our speakers presented us with statistics that demonstrated that men are the biggest perpetrators of this behavior, but that also, unfortunately, failed to acknowledge the presence of other genders or specify if they were referring to cisgender men. Then, we were exposed to the ways in which we can support survivors and victims of sexual assault/harassment: when someone shares their experience(s) with you, do not offer advice; analyze the situation in which someone is being victimized (rape jokes, verbal harassment, physical assault, etc.) and consider the options available to you for help. Above all, we were to ensure our own safety before assuming the role of a positive bystander. 

During the second portion of class, we wrote down our thoughts in response to questions that asked us how to be a positive bystander, how men can be positive bystanders, and how to overcome the gender bias. We also discussed and bounced ideas off of each other. It was wonderful to feel everyone else consider these questions proactively alongside me.

The workshop that I was assigned to attend with Sachi, my dear classmate and friend, was about college success. It took us quite a while to find the place in which it was being held: the building was one we had, up until then, been entirely unfamiliar with. We made it eventually, though, and discussed how we would define success and why caring about success in different areas of one’s life is important.

The rest of the evening and night was devoted to finalizing my Action Plan, as the due date was fast approaching. I felt so immersed in the topic I chose that, next thing I knew, it was Thursday. 

Monday, July 18, 2016


Where do I even begin? How do I possibly convey everything I’ve felt because of this experience? I’ll try my best to fill you in, bear with me.

It was my last chance to apply to Ivy League Connection this year. After delving deeper into the politics of social justice and coming to grasp their importance a little more, I was compelled to apply to the Women and Leadership course at Brown and the Social Justice course at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The process was slow, and understandably so. I submitted my essays for the Ivy League Connection program and the Brown scholarship before waiting a few weeks. I was called for an interview session that lasted about three hours, and then I was told of my acceptance.

I was ecstatic. Never in my life had I considered spending part of my summer at an Ivy League school to learn about something I was truly interested in. The fact that I was receiving a scholarship that covered all the necessary expenses was even more amazing to me. 

There was a period of time in which I had to set my thoughts aside and focus on the demands of junior year. Things on the side of Ivy League Connection were quiet, up until the spring. Suddenly, I
was flooded with emails from Don Gosney and my chaperone, Ms. Cruzat. Dinners were being coordinated to strengthen connections within cohorts and to learn from previous members of the program. Tutorials and orientations were held to inform the students and parents of particular procedures and logistics. I even gave a speech on live television at WCCUSD's Board of Education Meeting.

This was only the start for us.
My excitement and zeal steadily grew. As I finished up the last batch of standardized testing, class projects, and tests, I found myself able to daydream a little more of what my time on the East Coast was going to be like. I'd only been to the other side of the country once before for an eighth grade field trip, and I had never visited Massachusetts or Rhode Island.

My departure from the Bay Area to the East Coast didn’t really sink in until the first morning in Boston. The thing I had awaited for months had finally taken off, and I was surrounded by a wonderful group of people who were just as excited as I was. 

Traveling to new places has always been an invigorating experience for me: it not only liberates aspects of my personality that may have been neglected, but also serves as a learning experience. Sightseeing in Boston with great company was like a wonderful little adventure, and touring Wellesley felt like a giant door to a whole new world of possibilities had been opened.
A door was opened at Wellesley's admissions office.
None of it could really compare with those two weeks at Brown, though.

Describing how utterly enraptured I was by the people and subjects I was around is nearly impossible. There I was with at least fifteen other people so incredibly motivated to do something about the depravity around them, so expansive and progressive in their views, so easy to talk to and befriend, so supportive and respectful. That was only my classmates, too. My instructor, my TA, the guest speakers, and the leaders at Brown were equally, if not more, amazing than my peers. I felt like I had been skirted away to a little bubble of paradise.
From the first day of class...
... To our final moments together.
Oh, and the freedom was wonderful. The adults were around to keep us orderly, sure, but every other second was spent with people around my age. I was able to do what I wanted (within reason) when I wanted (again, within reason), with people I wanted to be around. I didn't feel stifled by other's expectations of me, I only felt free to delve in the intellectual matter I loved with an incredible group of friends.

Before Brown, before Ivy League Connection, college was something I wanted, albeit something I was scared of. Don't get me wrong, it's still intimidating, but I've gotten to the point where I'd like to skip the drudgery left in the last year of high school and jet straight to college. I feel more confident and determined to acquire what I need in order to be happy.

I also think, above all, I've acquired more of a grasp on what does make me happy: where I want to go, what I want to do, and who I want to be. Now, more than ever, I know I want to become the best version of myself I possibly can be in order to lead others to do the same. I want to give the world what I have to give, and I want to make it a better place. I want to go wherever encourages and supports me the most in my endeavors, and I want to go wherever there are people who feel the same way. 

That is what this program has done for me, and I hope it will do the same for others.
As this journey ends, others are only just beginning.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Where Thou Art, That is Home

Pro tip: trust your gut.

Komal awoke with a bad feeling about our trip back home, and honestly, I so had I. Right off the bat, the plane was delayed for thirty minutes: Our first flight from Providence to Atlanta was supposed to be at 6:30 PM, but while checking our luggage in, we were told that departure had been pushed back to 7:00 PM. Of course, this wasn't much of a problem: the flight is about two hours and a half in length, and our connecting flight was at 10:35 PM.

We made our way to the gate without any problem and boarding on time was not an issue. However, after everyone was situated and ready to go, we were forced to wait another fifty minutes while the plane was filled with fuel.

Once we had landed at around 10:00 PM and gotten off the plane at about 10:15 PM, we regrouped and attempted to figure out how to get to our gate. We ended up sprinting, carryons and personal items in tow, to the shuttle that would take us to the other side of the airport. We kept running until we reached the gate.

It was deserted.

At three minutes before departure time, they had closed the gate and were ready to go. Our seats had been sold off before we could tell them we had arrived late because of their delayed flight. We stood in front of the glass window, staring at the plane we were supposed to be on. I even waved to the pilots.

We were given tickets for the next flight, which would be at 8:00 AM. Delta refused to pay for the hotel (keep in mind, we were a group of women of color in one of the biggest airports of the Deep South and were not going to spend a night in the airport) and only offered a slight discount. Furthermore, due to the way funds were coordinated for the trip, we didn't have enough money to pay for the hotel rooms.

Eventually, Don was able to pay for the rooms. By the time we got them, it was past 1:00 AM. I got to bed at around 2:30 AM, after showering and getting ready for bed as much as I could (my pajamas were in my suitcase). Being that our flight was at 8:00 AM, we were only going to be allowed four hours of sleep.

Surprisingly, everything went along smoothly. We boarded the plane on time and without incident, took off, then landed about five hours later. We spent our time watching the movies and listening to the music Delta provided on their monitors. The sound and display was surprisingly good quality, and I was able to rest comfortably in my seat.

Everyone was exhausted, so chatter was minimal throughout our travel. The shuttle from the airport to El Cerrito High School was nearly silent. I wasn't sleeping, but rather reminiscing about Ivy League Connection and my time spent at Brown. 

When we finally arrived, Don gave us a ton of snacks for us to take home and enjoy. I said my goodbyes, thanked Ms. Cruzat for her services, and then finally drove home to the comfortable bed waiting for me. It's good to be back.

Final Farewell

And here we have it, folks, the last day of Women and Leadership.

As expected, the last two hours and a half of class were filled with tears. Everyone was fine until we were given string and told to tie it around everyone's wrist while providing an affirmation. It was
amazing to see how everyone had loved the class as much as I had, and that we'd all managed to
Tina, Christine and I taking a few of our last photos together
establish extremely close friendships in such a short amount of time.

Surprisingly, I didn't cry. Granted, I did choke up a little and came close to shedding a few tears, but something stopped me: I didn't feel as though this was the end. I would be seeing these wonderful people again, be it in a few decades or a few years.

After our final session of class and a lunch break, the Leadership Institute filed into Macmillan Hall for a final lecture by Kisa Takesue, the director. Kisa addressed the families, friends, and guardians of the students, going over the mission of the Leadership Institute. The teachers gave a short explanation of their course, and even the TAs briefly introduced themselves. Finally, the meeting was concluded by a sweet slideshow of photos that illustrated our experiences at Brown.

The gathering was dismissed and we were all told to meet with our assigned groups for the Action
Plan speeches. Believe it or not, I was less anxious than I had been the day before: I would be speaking in front of less people, who were essentially strangers, and I had already practiced the thing a few times. I was ready to conclude my membership as a student in Women in Leadership; I was ready to say goodbye.

As expected, I failed to psych myself out this time, and I delivered my speech with much more finesse. I felt proud that I was able to conclude such an amazing course with respectable work.

When our groups had finished presenting and we found each other in front of Macmillan Hall, we had another round of group photos and heartfelt conversations. I even went over with a few of my classmates to be filmed by some of the staff. We were told that the video would be posted on Brown's website and then were asked a few questions concerning our experiences at Brown.

After a final goodbye to Tina and Christine, our lovely instructor and TA, the ILC girls and our friends accompanied me back to the dorms. Once we had managed to get our luggage down the stairs (there are no elevators), we allowed ourselves a few moments for hugs and tearful farewells.

Everything went by so quickly, almost as if it hadn't happened. I can't believe I was able to get so close to a group of other people in such a short amount of time, and all those in-class discussions about intersectionality seem like a dream. I suppose if I liked my two weeks here so much, I'll just have to apply to Brown.
Showing our solidarity after giving each other affirmations.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Take Action

Every student enrolled in the Leadership Institute at Brown is required to complete an Action Plan at the end of their two weeks. The student must first identify a specific issue they wish to address, and then they are able to flesh out a course of action.

My issue concerns a lack of openness about mental health due to stigma and ignorance. I want to specifically direct my focus to my school: due to the pressure to attend a competitive college and, in some cases, the necessity to work in order to provide for one's family, stress and sleep deprivation are rampant in the student population. Stress and sleep deprivation can both exacerbate and induce mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, many people do not take a person's mental health into consideration when it comes to their "abnormal" behaviors; instead, they react with scrutiny and alienate the individual.

My plan is to establish a club that promotes mental health awareness. The final design of the Mental Health Awareness Club is largely dependent on demographics: every individual possesses their own triggers, coping mechanisms, and so on, but I can provide a general framework of what meetings will look like. There would be two of them held each week: one exclusively for those with mental illness and another for all members. This is to provide an exclusive space in which those with poor mental health can feel the most understood and supported - to make them feel safe enough to open up about their feelings and experiences. If a student begins to feel overwhelmed, there will always be coloring books, paper, colored pencils, slime, and stress balls that will allow them to calm down. Additionally, both sessions will strictly be under a policy of private, but not confidential: if anyone shares information that insinuates they, or other people, are in danger, I have a responsibility to report that to a higher authority and ensure their safety.

I will consider my plan successful if I can establish the club, cultivate a sense of inclusiveness and appreciation towards those with mental health within my school, and see the club continue on after I graduate. Given that I will be in my last year of high school, however, I realize that I will need to be flexible in my outlook and expect to adjust certain expectations.

Finishing Strong

The Ivy League Connection was such a beautiful experience that I’m so glad I got to be a part of. The ILC has pushed me so much, every step I’ve taken with the ILC has been outside of my comfort zone and that is how I have grown so much.

When Don first presented at Middle College High School I was very reluctant to apply. I saw my sister go through the process but I wasn’t sure if it was right for me. Now that I look back, it wasn’t about what I thought I’d enjoy, it was my fear of being rejected that made me reluctant. Eventually I admitted that I really wanted this and put in so much effort to get there. I wrote my essays, asked everybody for opinions, and eventually felt content with how they came out. I submitted them and that was it.

One day at school my friend received an email listing all of the girls who got into the interview rounds, I was not on the list. My confidence was shattered, but when I noticed I didn’t get any emails I realized there was a problem. After speaking with Don, my application was actually put in the wrong pool. After reviewing my application, I scored high enough to be the ninth girl added to the interviews.

Now was the part I was most nervous for. I am not a great speaker, especially under pressure, and these interviews caused me so much stress. As I walked nervously in the room alongside my mother I thought about how fast this came. I walked in to be greeted by Don, and sat next to my friend the entirety of the night. I relaxed a little bit after being fourth to interview. The interviews weren’t as bad as I thought, it wasn’t too hard to answer the questions. The interview although, went very quickly. Before I could blink five people went through their interviews and now it was the waiting game. After a longer waiting period than anticipated it was finally time for us to know. Three names were called in alphabetical order, I thought I didn’t make it. At the end “Bailey Ward” was called, and I couldn’t believe it, I did it! After snapping some pictures with Komal, Lynda, and Camila I headed home.

After the interviews I waited for more emails from Don. Getting an email from Don was so exciting, I couldn’t wait to get more work to do. I enjoyed every piece of preparation for Brown it made everything seem so surreal. The application process was a bit complicated, I was even nervous about the essay required for Brown but got it done with the help of a few.

Departure day!
Next was the Orientation, Tutorial, School Board presentation, alumni dinner, and meet and greets. Each of these events leading up to the trip were what got me comfortable. I got to interact with my cohort at these events and got valuable information that prepared me for the trip. When our first chaperone had to leave to take another job offer, we got a second meet and greet dinner with Ms. Cruzat. This dinner is the event that brought us closest.

On June 22, 2016 our trip began. The beginning of our trip was spent touring colleges and sight-seeing. This was the perfect time for us to get even more familiar with each other before we spent the next two weeks together. Time flew in our first few days and eventually it was move in day for the dorms. The move in was a very quick and easy process, I ended up with a single dorm that I grew to love during the trip.

The Women & Leadership Class.
June 27, 2016 was the first day of the Women and Leadership course. I have grown and learned so much more than I ever expected in this course. I now know I am capable of so many great things and can’t wait to share all that I’ve learned with everybody around me. So many things through this journey have contributed to my growth as a leader. It would take me hours to list each thing so let me just list a few. The workshops, my teacher Tina, my TA/RA Christine, my classmates, the lifelong friends I made, Ms. Cruzat, my cohort, the discussions, the activities, the homework, and the action plan all contributed to my growth.
The last photo with the cohort.
Every piece of this trip taught me something and I am so grateful for it all. As I implement my action plan back at home, I will remember all I’ve gained from this amazing trip. I can’t wait to follow the next leaders who will enjoy and grow from this experience as much as I did.