Sunday, July 26, 2015

There’s No Place Like Home

No matter how much they enjoyed their time at UPenn, there’s nothing like the comfort that comes from being around your family, sleeping in a bed that knows you and eating the food prepared only the way a mother can prepare it.

When the airport shuttle arrived around 9:15 on this chilly July evening, the family members of the Penn cohort broke into ear to ear smiles.  As the Penn cohort piled out of the shuttle, family members ran to give them the kind of big hugs reserved for long lost family members.

Going with the tradition of every ILC flight being delayed for one reason or another, the Penn group decided they liked the 108ยบ temp in Phoenix so they stuck around a while longer before coming the rest of the way home.  

Even Phoneix couldn't hold this group, though, and sooner or later they had to come home--and we’re all so glad they did.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Coming Home

Sitting on the tarmac 2,911 miles away from home with the airplane stuck to the ground—what’s wrong with this picture?  EVERYTHING!  Don’t these people know that the Columbia cohort has a date that evening with their families?  Don’t they know the importance and value of sleeping in your own bed and eating your mother’s cooking?  So what’s the hold up?

The plane finally took off and with every waking second the cohort was closer to home.

Finally, they touch down at San Francisco International Airport but then the same problem they faced in New York trying to depart was faced while still in the airport.  Why was it taking so long for the luggage to appear?

Finally, they board the shuttle to take them home and they find yet another obstacle to slow their progress.  Who on earth are all of these people on I-80 and why can’t they go any faster?

Finally, the shuttle pulls into El Cerrito HS where family members await to take them to that heaven they know as HOME.

For more, stay tuned and read the blogs as only the Columbia cohort can write them.

Providence Will Never Be the Same Again

And the last shall be first.
The Brown-II cohort—the last ILC cohort to depart this year—gathered at El Cerrito HS at 3:50 AM this morning.  Most arrived early, a few were late but all were there and ready to strut their stuff in Providence.

By now they had all heard and knew what to expect when they arrived: show their ID’s and med cards, weigh their luggage, put on their new luggage tags, receive their itineraries and listen to the last minute instructions about room descriptions and blogging.

What they really wanted to know, though, was why they had to stand in the cold when by rights they should still be snuggled in the warmth of their beds.  And, as I felt the wind cut through my own body, I was asking the same question.  This was one of those questions we ask knowing we’d get no answer.

Before positioning themselves for the obligatory photos, I offered to fill their goodie bags with red and grape vines to hold them over on their lengthy trip east.  Their chaperone, Tiffani Neal, had put together her own care packages of healthy foods—fruit and energy bars—so there were few takers for the unhealthy snacks I offered.

The Brown-II cohort is comprised only of ladies and they’re all enrolled in the Women & Leadership class at Brown.  While there they will be educated about their true value in society and will learn that the only thing keeping them back is their own unwillingness to step forward and lead from the front.

When they arrive late on this Saturday they’ll meet up with Komal Kumar—the Brown-I cohort—who arrived one week earlier to take a DNA Based Biotechnology course.  They’ll also meet up with Komal’s chaperone Margaret Maher before she heads home on Sunday.

As always, we look forward to reading the blogs of these ladies as they become a part of a world they’ve only read about.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We Just Want to Go Home

Going home.  Sleeping in your own bed.  Sharing the embrace of family.  There’s nothing like it and when you know it’s coming it can’t come soon enough.

Sadly for our Cornell cohort it seemed like the world was against them and didn’t want to let them come home.

When we tried to check-in the day before for their flights the American Airlines site required that they select their seats before allowing them to check in.  For their second leg of the trip home this wasn’t a problem but for the first leg, the AA site said that all seats bit one were already assigned.
Packed in like sardines

Four hours on and off of the phone with customer service representatives in faraway countries was a fruitless endeavor.  Representative after representative pawned me off on someone else before they just decided that nothing could be done online and the cohort would have to check in when they got to the airport.  Even though they offered assurances that there would be no problems at the airport, with their shoddy service to date we were not convinced.

On Return Day the airport shuttle demanded payment—something that was supposed to have already been taken care of by others.

And then American texts Mr. Chan-Law that the flight will be delayed.  Delays are always bad but when you have a connecting flight in Chicago it can be a real concern.  There were no explanations for the delay—it was just delayed.

When the plane finally took off we were all concerned because the time between the scheduled arrival in Chicago and the scheduled departure from Chicago was only 20 minutes.

Even before the first leg took off American’s web site now added a new twist to the itinerary when they showed a flight at 7:00 AM Sunday morning leaving Chicago for SFO.

Even after they landed in Chicago and made their connecting flight, there was no guarantee that their luggage would be with them.

Fast forward several hours and the plane landed—20 minutes early!  Will wonders never cease.

And to top it off, the luggage was on the same plane.

Shortly before midnight the parents started to gather was the Cornell shuttle arrived.  Alfredo had texted a few minutes earlier that they wouldn’t be easy to miss and he was right.  Their shuttle was a stretch limo.

While stretch limos may be nice, their trunk space is limited so finding a place for the luggage for seven travelers meant that the interior was filled not only with the passengers but with their luggage as well.

Nonetheless, when their ride came to a halt and the doors opened, the weary Cornellians started rolling out of their ride and into the arms of their waiting parents.

Considering that they were still on East Coast time it was just after 3 AM their time and they were whooped—and well they should be.

Welcome home Cornellians.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Brown-I Departs

Normally when a cohort meets on Departure Day they meet at El Cerrito HS around 3 AM so they can catch the first plane out of the Bay Area.

For Brown-I, however, we only had one member of the cohort and the plane was not scheduled to depart until 8:25 so I met Komal and her chaperone (Margaret Maher) at Komal’s home and, instead of an expensive airport shuttle, I just drove them to SFO.  Much cheaper and much quicker—and we all loved the idea that we weren’t meeting up at a time when people should be snuggled in their beds.

I arrived 10 minutes early to find Margaret already waiting and within seconds Komal came out.

With such a small group the normal routine that we go through only took a few moments and we were off to SFO—20 minutes ahead of schedule.

With no traffic on this early Saturday morning we arrived at SFO nearly two hours before the flight was scheduled to take off—plenty of time to check-in and grab something to eat before departing.

Komal’s class at Brown—DNA Based Techniques in Biotechnology—is a three week class while the Women & Leadership cohort in Brown-II takes a two week class.  When they arrive next weekend they’ll meet up with Komal and complete the cohort.

In the meantime, though, Komal will pave the way for the W&L ladies and prepare Brown for their arrival.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

O’Dark Thirty is Later in the Day

Year after year we send our ILCers east and the tradition is to meet in Front of El Cerrito HS to wait for the airport shuttle.  In order to arrive at their destinations at a reasonable hour the cohorts have to catch one of the first planes leaving San Francisco or Oakland airports.  With the lengthy check-in lines and then the security screenings, this means that they need to arrive at the airport at 5 AM or earlier.  This requires that they gather at ECHS somewhere around 3:20 AM--as was the case this morning.
We’ve double checked and none of our ILCers live on farms where they’re used to rising this early to milk the chickens and feed the cows so rising from a perfectly good bed at this hour is simply unnatural and their bodies often reject the notion.

Nonetheless, they arrive with their parents in tow with smiles on their faces as they prepare to head east for the adventure of a lifetime.
This morning the Vanderbilt cohort--comprised of Arnold Dimas from Richmond HS, Katherine Phan from Pinole Valley HS, and Hummd Alikhan and Gwennie Gilbert-Snyder from El Cerrito HS--met with their chaperone Jenny Gilbert to have their luggage weighed, receive last minute instructions and load up on red and grape vines for emergency sustenance.

And, of course, the group photos that are a staple of every ILC event.

The Vanderbilt cohort heads first for Houston where they will check out Rice University.  They then head to Atlanta to visit Emory University before boarding a greyhound bus to take them to Nashville where they will study for the next three weeks.
They valiantly stood in the chilly morning air when all of a sudden their airport shuttle arrives.  This wasn’t some old van or bus.  Today it was a gleaming stretch limo that seemed to be as long as a city block.  Nothing’s too good for this cohort and arriving at the Oakland airport in style should seem par for the course.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Decent People Aren’t Up At That Hour

It was early--awfully early--2:50 AM early.  It was that time of night when our bodies were telling is we should be snug as a bug in a rug back in the comfort of our beds.

But no--we were, instead, standing out in front of El Cerrito HS preparing the UChicago cohort to head east where they can soak up information about schools like UChicago, Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis and Notre Dame.
Led by Alana Scott--their chaperone from Hercules HS--Tamika Whitenack, Brandon Dela Cruz, Aisha Asif and Jae-An Wang had their luggage weighed, their IDs checked and received their last minute instructions before standing in the unseasonably warm morning air to have their group photos taken.
This was a quiet group with no questions from either the members of the cohort or their parents.  Could it be that their minds were whirling thinking about the activities planned over the next few days?  Could it be that they were thinking of the questions they would ask the admissions officers from the schools they’ll be visiting?  Or maybe they wondering if they rushed back home if their beds would still be warm.

None of this mattered, though, once the airport shuttle arrived, their luggage was loaded and they had settled into their comfortable seats.

At 3:51 the shuttle doors closed and the van headed south on Ashbury on it’s way to SFO where their first stop later today would be St. Louis where they would dine with admissions officers, students and alums from Washington University in St. Louis.  Tomorrow the site visit before heading up to Chicago and a visit to Northwestern.  Capping the week they take the Greyhound bus to South Bend IN to see if Notre Dame is everything they say it is.

When the week rolls around they check in to their dorms at UChicago and attend the orientation.  School starts on Monday and they all want to be prepared.  Stay tuned to their blogs so you can follow their exploits.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Penn Departs

It was unusually warm at 2:45 AM when the first member of the UPenn cohort arrived to El Cerrito HS to go through the last minute procedures associated with Departure Day.

Most of the cohort arrived on time with one testing the forgiveness factor by arriving a few minutes late.  It’s tough to chew out a cohort member for being late, though, when the chaperone arrives 20 minutes late.  At that hour of the morning, though, it’s much too early to be heavy handed.

The group went through the normal ritual of affixing their luggage tags, grabbing trash bags (for those wet towels), and weighing their luggage.

Some of the bags were super light while a couple were perilously close to the limit.  One bag, though, topped the maximum allowed by more than 5 pounds.  This required some quick reshuffling with the owner deciding if she really needed everything she had in the bag (she didn’t).  Goods were transferred from the check-in bag to the carry-on and with a bit of judicious decision making the bag made the cut.

Last minute instructions were given which included a plea to remember what they were taught about proofing and formatting their blogs so as to avoid the inevitable emails begging them not to force me to work so hard to correct their errors.

They were reminded to send in their room descriptions so future ILCers might know what to expect.

And they were reminded of the need to listen to the advice/instructions of their chaperone and ILC administrators.  In particular, they were challenged about mastering Time Management.  They were all advised to get plenty of rest before this trip, to start going to bed earlier to adjust to the difference in the time zones and, in particular, to get to bed early the night before Departure Day.  Getting up at 2:30 AM is tough for most people but getting up that early after staying up late to blog is even tougher.  Several of the blogs were posted right before midnight so there’s no getting around the lack of sleep of these young people.

Tomorrow they get to rise around 4 AM (2 AM our time) so we know they’re going to have a tough time with that.

One of the bigger fears the ILC has is that the ILCers will wear themselves out before they start their classes and this is why we try to prepare them for the difference in the time zones as well as the dawn to dusk running around.  We shall see how the Penn cohort fares.

The group headed off to the side to take the group photos before boarding their airport shuttle.  The shuttle arrived early so at 4:17 there was nothing left of them but the memory of the tail lights on the distance.  As this blog is being posted, their plane is somewhere headed east as they head for Houston where in a few hours they will pay a site visit to Rice University.  Tomorrow it will be Atlanta and Emory and Friday they’ll be eating at Distritos in Philadelphia.

We may envy them this adventure but right now they’re envying the fact that most of their fans are still snuggled in their beds catching a few more zzz’s--which is where I’m off to in 2 minutes.