Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our Village Continus To Grow...

Dear Ivy League Connection Students,
Mr. Ramsey ask me to post a message to you and of course I would like to post something relevant to your experience. Something inspiring, that will encourage you to continue to do your best. There are many people in your community who are very proud of your accomplishments. You all have been given a unique opportunity and gift, I hope you seize the day and make the most of it. What Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg have done is so special, they created a program that not only helped you as individual students but has also helped our entire community. They understand that it takes a village to raise a child. I hope that this is what you learn from this experience that when you are given a gift, you appreciate it to it’s fullest and that at some point in the future, you pay it forward to fill some other need that you may see in your village. That way we all continue to contribute to our village to keep improving it. I congratulate each of you for your hard work and I encourage you all to explore your options. Hopefully this experience will show you that you don't have to "settle," the world is at your doorstep. Don't be afraid to knock and enter.

Now, here is the practical part of the advice that I want to give you; below is a recent post in Dear Abby. I think there are many good tips in here for students as well as job seekers. You will soon be applying to colleges, for internships, seeking letters of recommendations etc. Please remember this important information, it may just land you the opportunity of your dreams!
I wish you all great success now and into the future. All the best.

Christina Slamon

Dear ABBY: I am a small-business owner who does the hiring for my company. I hope you will share some suggestions for young people who are now applying for postgraduate jobs.
(1) Every contact with a prospective employer is a mini-interview. Present yourself appropriately. I have received many inappropriate e-mails. Example: "Hey, when would this gig start?" Please remember to use a salutation and communicate politely and clearly.
(2) Many companies post a great deal of information about job openings on their Web sites. Read the site carefully before calling so I won't waste time answering questions you could have answered on your own.
(3) Shortcuts may be cute when text-messaging your friends, but in business they are annoying and unprofessional. Avoid messages such as "Thnx 4 ur help. Talk 2 u later!"
(4) Because I must read your resume and application, please proofread it for spelling, grammar and typos.
(5) Many Internet sites now offer free e-mail. Set up an account using your name or initial so I don't have to e-mail "hotchick99" with an offer to teach young children.
(6) If you have a phone interview, please find a quiet place from which to place the call. It is difficult to understand you above your roommate who is cursing over a video game.
(7) Never, ever tell a prospective employer you are waiting to hear about a job you want more, that pays more or gives you more "fun" time. Simply say you are "exploring all your options," and I will understand.
By the way, Abby, I am not an old fuddy-duddy. I am a 26-year-old professional who expects more from my peers than I have seen. -- EXASPERATED RECRUITER IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR EXASPERATED RECRUITER: Your suggestions are excellent. I am sure they will be appreciated not only by first-time job applicants, but also their prospective employers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

END OF S.E.A.D. ( 08)

S.E.A.D. has be a real positive impact in my life for the last three years, and I'm sad to say it's coming to a end. Yesterday, June 12, 2008. we graduated from our final year of the Dartmouth program with the feeling of accomplishment as we walked across the stage. For two weeks we prepared a graduateion speech that was to be presented on friday. The two weeks were phenomenal, the audience were exceptionally enthusiastic and opened minded to what we had to say. I felt like there were my family and i will never forget this year for the rest of my life.

~Jean-Pierre, Fordjour
S.E.A.D. Scholar

Friday, July 11, 2008

SEAD III Graduation at Dartmouth College

(Hanover, NH Friday July 11, 2008) Today at Dartmouth College the El Cerrito High School students graduated as part of the SEAD class of 2008. The twenty-seven member class of '08 will be returning home to their families tomorrow having completed their third two-week summer at Dartmouth. Yijun Zhan, Dzinya Dejugba, Brandon Mills, Jennifer Kuang, Jean Pierre Du Forge, and Jasmine Nunley have worked (and played) hard as they focussed on coursework designed by the SEAD staff to promote and facilitate their admission into college. They began the program as rising high school sophopmores and are scheduled for one last visit to Dartmouth as SEAD students in November. The SEAD program will monitor their progress in the years following high school as part of their curriculum planning for future classes. Indeed, the program also benefits the staff as many of them are in training to become teachers.
The SEAD program has not only provided our students with academic opportunities, it has modeled to them the positive experiences of self-reliance and teamwork that are necessary to succeed as adults. The West Contra Costa Unified School District has done well by the Ivy League Connection.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Here are Harnwell College and Kings Court College -- the two dormitories where Bertha Romo will be staying when she begins her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The UPenn Quad

The famous University of Pennsylvania Quad -- where our Ivy League Connection students are staying this summer. When entering the Quadrangle, visitors should be ready to duck. On most days, frisbees and footballs will be flying as students relax between classes. The earliest buildings in the Quad were constructed in the 1890's. Today, the Quad encompasses 38 interlocking buildings surrounding five interior courtyards. Three of Penn's twelve College Houses call the Quad home: Fisher Hassenfeld, Riepe, and Ware.
Here are some photos of iconic Butler Library at Columbia University. It houses 2 million volumes which comprise the University's collections in the humanities, with particular strengths in history (including government documents and social science materials published before 1974), literature, philosophy and religion, as well as one of the country's most extensive collections of materials pertinent to the study of Greco-Roman antiquity. The stacks consist of 12 floors of books and the entrance is at the third floor Circulation Desk. It is the largest of the more than twenty libraries and collections comprising Columbia University Libraries. The building was financed by Standard Oil executive and philanthropist Edward S. Harkness and designed by James Gamble Rogers, opening in 1934 as "South Hall." It was renamed in 1946 in honor of Nicholas Murray Butler, president of the University from 1902-1945.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Here they are -- the "Penn or Bust" crew -- early this morning in California.

The travelers among them are now in Philadelphia -- settling in.

We now have 26 West County students on the East Coast -- 6 in Hanover, New Hampshire, 11 in Ithaca, New York, 6 in New York City, and 3 in Philadelphia!!!

First Time Is A Charm

I finally figured out how to send a blog on this site, so here goes.

We arrived in New York last Saturday and dropped off our luggage and started walking. No sooner did we go a few blocks but it started to rain. After a brief discussion on the rain, we decided to continue walking to Broadway at Times Square since the rain seemed to stop. Walking is something that we have been doing lots of each day. The students were more impressed with Times Square after the sun set because then all the lights are so bright and impressive. After dinner we walked around Times Square and up Broadway and then back to the hotel. We were all very tired by that time.

On Sunday I took Nick to a church by subway and then I returned to the hotel. After breakfast, the rest of us picked him up at church in a van and off we went to Columbia. There was a long line of students and their parents waiting to check in. It was clear that the program was well organized and ready for hundreds of students to check in within a two hour period. Each of our students has a private room, most with a view of the main quad. The campus is beautiful, everything is so green.

It became very evident soon thereafter that I am the only chaperone here. The program is not expecting a parent or chaperone to be around during the program. After checking in, the students attended a welcoming BBQ but I was not invited so I left them for the day.

I have met with the students after class each day at 4:30. Clearly they have settled in and have had a chance to meet lots of students including a high number of international students. Each of our students has expressed that they are enjoying their class and each feel that their class is challenging.

Both the math and physics classes have lectures in the morning and then split into small groups to work in the lab. According to the director, these two classes were the most difficult to get into due to a limited space in the labs. The pre-req for the math class was only Pre-Calculus, so Christine feels very comfortable since she has already had Calculus. In the physics class, some of the students have had physics already and some have had Calculus so both are helping each other on the topics. Tierra's class goes on a fieldtrip twice a week. On Thursday she went to a recycling center as well as the Botanical Gardens in Queens and learned about how "green" the building at the garden is.....she took lots of notes and said the building is LEAD Platinum, then she explained to me that is the highest level of energy efficiency for a building. She had lots of data from that trip so I will ask her to include that in her next entry in the blog.

On Wednesday Madeline and I had the opportunity to talk to the director, Darlene Giraitis. She was very welcoming and answered lots of our questions. She also gave me a copy of many of the handouts the students received during their opening orientation on Monday morning. She told us that the RA's are from all over the US and they too have to apply to participate during the summer high school programs for session 1 and 2. They arrive at Columbia two weeks before the students to receive intensive training. I think this part of the program is also fantastic.

Darlene also pointed out a few upcoming special events for the students. One is the College Admissions Fair on July 17 from 12:30-2:30. At the college fair, admissions officers, alumni, and current students from over 100 colleges and universities will be on hand to answer questions and provide information and literature. Princeton Review and Kaplan will also be there. Also on July 17 and18 at 1:00 and at 7:00 students who are in the Theatrical Collaboration class will present their original short plays that they wrote and directed. Darlene said this is usually a great set of plays to attend, and it is free. On Friday July 18 there is a seminar which is organized and put on by Columbia admissions officers. It is an interactive and intensive session on selecting and applying to college, the admissions process, and financing a college education, sounds fabulous....then is the final farewell BBQ at 4:30.

The students have lots of choices of activities during the weekends. The RA's have a list of places they plan to take students. All the students need to do is sign up on the list which is posted in the main floor of the dorm buildings. If a student is really interested in doing or going somewhere that is not listed, no problem. All they need to do is talk to their RA and get a group of other interested students and an RA will take them.

Yesterday I received a call from Janna saying she and Christine missed the trip to Coney Island. There was a mix up in the departure time. So, I took them to Coney Island on the hour long subway trip. Upon arrival we caught up with the RA and Nick and Andrew so off they all went with the rest of the group.

Today, all of our students told me they were going with the RA to the Metropolitan Museum. So now I am going to give them a call to see how they are doing. It is raining, again, but still very hot outside.
Signing off for now from New York City.
Chery Lilhanand (chaperone)

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th at Dartmouth College

(Hanover, NH Friday July 4, 2008) It was a sunny day in Hanover this July 4th--our nation's 232nd birthday. Many in the community celebrated by attending a parade and festival on the Green at Dartmouth College. Today also marked completion by the six El Cerrito High School students of the first week of a two-week summer session at Dartmouth. The student's daily schedule--including Saturdays and Sundays--usually begins at 8:00 am and lasts until 10:00 pm. The academic focus of the coursework includes essay writing, SAT preparation, and public speaking. The Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth program (SEAD) includes students from nearby Claremont High School to as far south as Spartanburg High School in North Carolina. El Cerrito High School is the farthest away and the only high school west of the Mississippi to participate in the SEAD program.

Mr. Miranda

Thursday, July 3, 2008

From Ms. Kahn

Hello Ivy Leaguers! This blogging is all new to me but I have to say that I've really enjoyed reading your reflections on the classes, studying, and the college environment in general. It sounds as though you are managing your time well and have been able to prioritize studying, social time and time to relax. Wendy - you have learned something that many people never learn: the skill of empathic communication (EARs). Theresa, Lucina, Jeannie, and Chelsea - I am impressed that you found the test easy. What would you share with the students at PVHS about taking a college level test?
Keep up the good work!
From Pinole, Ms. Kahn

Mrs. Kronenberg Goes to the East Coast

So -- early Tuesday morning I departed SFO for New York City. I arrived in New York early enough to check into my hotel (the same one that the chaperone, Cheryl Lilhanand, is staying in) and then head off to meet the Columbia troops at Circle Line -- where we boarded a 2 hour New York City harbor cruise. It was quite spectacular -- the evening was warm but clear (and dry) and we had a wonderful time learning about the city. My favorite trivia question: how many restaurants are in the Big Apple? 18,000+

After the cruise, we took the students back to Columbia before curfew check (strictly enforced at 11:00 pm) and then Cheryl and I headed out to dinner at Nonna's (recommended by her son, Brian -- a great recommendation -- known as a "little gem" on the Upper West Side).

Wednesday we headed out for breakfast and a "planning meeting" and then met with Dawn Marvino and Darlene Giraitis (meet her here:

She shared a story about how Pfizer has underwritten 60 scholarships this summer: - unfortunately, it has been difficult to fill all the spaces and many have gone unfilled. This speaks to how difficult it can be to effectively organize this type of program. It takes a level of commitment uncommon to most bureaucratic organizations to be successful.

Darlene has been in charge of the program for the past 20 years and grown it from 90 non-residential students to 2,000 residential/non-residential students. She is expanding it to include not only Barcelona (as it includes today) but soon Jordan (at the King's Academy -- modeled on Deerfield Academy where the King of Jordan is an alum -- see this link for more information:

Darlene is very impressed with the Ivy League Connection and shared that it is the only program of its kind at Columbia. Columbia has very strict rules (which are scrupulously enforced) to keep its students and classes secure. No access is granted to any non-students.

After meeting with Dawn, we were told by one of the office workers that a student from El Cerrito who is attending the program asked if he could qualify for a "scholarship". We learned that, although he lives in El Cerrito, he attends Berkeley High School. Unfortunately, he is ineligible unless he transfers back into El Cerrito High School.

Dawn and Darlene were both very warm and cooperative and Darlene mentioned posting a picture of our students on the Columbia website. Wednesday night we went to the Tribeca Grill ( for our "special dinner" -- we all loved it -- from the duck, salmon and filet to the sorbet and creme brulee -- it was truly a New York speciality (thanks to Ms. Lilhanand's daughter-in-law, Bernadette's, suggestion).

Today, Thursday, I wound up driving from LaGuardia Airport to Ithaca (it took about 4 hours) after my plane was "rescheduled". I met with Abby Eller, Program Director here at Cornell, as she interviewed serveral of our students. Abby was happy to have us back and very supportive of our approach and program. After that meeting, some of the students joined Tiffany and me at Starbucks and then went to dinner at Appel with all the rest of our contingent. Then I returned by little Pontiac Vibe and headed here to catch up on my blogging.

That's it for now -- over and out from the field.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Much (Sustainable) Progress Today at Dartmouth College

(Hanover, NH Tuesday July 1, 2008) The SEAD students attending Dartmouth College had a productive day today. El Cerrito High School has six rising seniors in the SEAD program. The focus of today's instruction by the teachers and staff was on college preparation. Between breakfast and lunch the students attended a college application class and another class on SAT preparation. After lunch they had an essay writing class, and after dinner they applied their learning and completed a timed SAT practice essay. The students even managed to try their hands at making pottery at a local pottery crafts shop. The social theme of this year's SEAD program is environmental sustainability. Jay Davis, the SEAD Program Director, has promoted conservation as a means of being socially responsible and the students have responded by conserving resources during activities. Thus, the attributes of responsible citizenship are also being developed by the SEAD program.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cornell University Arts Quad

Designated in 1990, the Arts Quadrangle Historic District comprises some of the earliest surviving buildings on the Cornell University campus. Morrill Hall, the first building constructed was individually listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and was listed on the National Register in 1966. The district includes 10 buildings, two statues, and one memorial. Olin Library, constructed in 1961, is a non-contributing building.

Some pictures of the dorms in Hanover, New Hampshire where our SEAD students are staying and the Dartmouth and Cornell University and Columbia University campuses.

Some photos from our sendoff of the Columbia and Dartmouth students, the arrival at Dartmouth, two of our Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) students, JP and Brandon, and one of our special interviewers, attorney Ismail Ramsey.

Here are some pictures from our Cornell and Columbia events -- dinner with the alumni and sponsors and our presentation to the Hercules City Council.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Here is Wallach Hall -- another part of the Columbia University campus. Our students are enjoying their time tonight getting ready for classes tomorrow. They are taking Math, Physics and Urban Planning.
Check out their thoughts on their blog.
Here's a note from Janna at Columbia:
Hello all!
While I am working on posting the pictures and writing something for the website, I put together an album of some pictures from our cameras. This covers the plane ride and Times Square. More to come! We would have updated earlier but we did not have proper internet connection. We're doing great and having a blast!

Columbia Quad

Here's a picture of the Columbia University Quad where our students are staying. Now in its 21st year, Columbia University's Summer Program for High School Students offers highly motivated students the opportunity of a lifetime: a world-class educational experience set in the most exciting city in the nation. The Summer Program for High School Students in New York City is renowned for its academic rigor, instructional excellence, and the unique opportunity to experience college life in the Ivy League and life in New York City. Take a look at their blog.

Ivy League Connection at Dartmouth College

Yesterday the Dartmouth College cohort of the Ivy league Connection arrived about two hours late after being delayed at our scheduled stop-over in Phoenix. A summer-rain showered the scenic ride from the Manchester airport to the Dartmouth campus, but the students: Dzinya, Yijun, Jasmine, P. P., Jennifer, and Brandon were in good spirits all through the journey. They settled into their dorm rooms after reuniting with the 23 other high school students attending Dartmouth as part of the Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) program. All of the SEAD students are in their last year of the program after beginning the program as rising sophomores.
They have bonded into a supportive family of friends and the Dartmouth staff has done an excellent job of facilitating their academic and social development. Today an early thunderstorm began the day's activities. The students attended class and had personal mentoring from the Dartmouth staff.

Mr. M

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Students Are Blogging

The Summer 08 blogs are being set up. Check out the links on the sidebar. Be sure to watch the videos from the Cornell students.

Everyone is doing a great job sharing with us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Enjoyed my stay

I just returned from a long flight after spending four glorious days in Ithaca, New York at Cornell University. I enjoyed this trip even more because I learned so much more about the Campus and its program. I saw that our Summer Studies Students were integrated into the regular campus with full access to all services. I saw them walking to class along with Cornell students who were taking summer classes. I also saw professors who were working on their summer projects. I got to see Cornell students giving guided tours of the campus to interested High School Students. I must say that the guided tours had plenty of interested students.

This is why I am so honored to have twelve of our students taking summer studies classes in Philosophy, Psychology, Hotel Management and Medical History. For our district to have created the Ivy League Connection was innovative, smart and visionary. I saw that we were the only school district in the world that had created such a program. It is truly a delight to be part of it.

I was sad to leave because I had seen such joy and enthusiasm from the students. I am sure that they will do fine and have great stories to tell upon their return.

Finally, it would be nice for them to post daily reports so we have some idea of the challenges that they are facing in being with smart students from around the globe.

That is it for me.

Enjoy the balance of your day. I know that right now you are in Mandatory study programs, so hopefully before you go to sleep you will have something to share with us.

Charles T. Ramsey
School Board Member
West Contra Costa
Unified School District


What is

The Ivy League Connection?

The Ivy League Connection is a project created in January 2006 by two West Contra Costa Unified School District School Board members – Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg -- to provide students of the District with a chance to participate in summer enrichment programs conducted on Ivy League campuses.

West Contra Costa Unified School District is a diverse, urban school district located in the East Bay across from San Francisco, California. A great majority of our students have not had exposure to the thousands of colleges that exist. The Ivy League Connection is an effort to provide that exposure.

The goal is to significantly boost scholarship and develop leadership skills among all our students. The emphasis here is on having our student participants give back to the entire campus community – sharing what has been learned during the summer experience and assuming a leadership role on campus focused on fostering a “college-going” culture among all student groups.

The program began with an application to and acceptance in the Dartmouth College Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) Program. Six El Cerrito High School students were accepted into this three-year program in January 2006. The SEAD program is designed to accept cohorts of six students from a single school. The students travel to Dartmouth College each summer for three summers.

This three-year model was so impressive that it was replicated at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania that summer. Cohorts of our students were sent (together with a teacher chaperone) to attend the summer programs.

In order to be selected, students had to be recommended by their teachers, complete student and parent applications, and go through an interview process. This has allowed our District to reach out to the community of alums as well as the professional community to assist us in the interviewing.

What have we accomplished?

Summer 2006:

We sent 14 students (from two District high schools – El Cerrito High School and Kennedy High School) to three Ivy League summer programs:

o Dartmouth College – Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD)
o Brown University – Leadership/Civil Rights
o University of Pennsylvania – Theater Arts

Upon their return, these students have taken on a leadership role on their campuses as well as visited elementary campuses where they shared their experiences. In addition, events have been held where the students have had an opportunity to meet alumni from the various Ivies.

Summer 2007:

We sent 22 students (from four District high schools – El Cerrito High School, Kennedy High School, Richmond High School and Pinole Valley High School) to the following Ivy League summer programs:

o Dartmouth College – Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) (6)
o Brown University – Leadership/Civil Rights and TheatreBridge (11)
o University of Pennsylvania – Theater Arts (2)
o Cornell – Law and Justice (3)

Summer 2008:

We will send 33 students (from five District high schools – adding Hercules High School) to the following summer programs:

o Dartmouth College – Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) (6)

o Brown University – Women in Leadership Institute (6)

o University of Pennsylvania – Biomedical ResearchAcademy (3)

o Cornell University (12) four programs:

Hotel Operations Management (1)
The Individual and the Social World (4)
Body, Mind and Health (3)
Freedom and Justice (4)

o Columbia University (6) three programs:
NYC – An Urban Case Study (1)
Investigations in Theoretical Physics (3)
Survey of Modern Mathematics (2)

The picture above represents almost all of our students who will be traveling to the Ivy League Schools in Summer 2008. The photo was taken at a school board meeting where the students and their families were recognized by the board for their accomplishments.