Saturday, July 5, 2008

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)

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