The company was sublime, the food was divine, complemented by a venue with panache, and the night was- well, cold…but nonetheless turned out to be electrifying.
Leading up to Wednesday evening’s adventure in the City, I was jittery but excited for the chance to grill alums on the Ivy League experience and to get acquainted with the ILC sponsors whose monumental support I had witnessed a week before, at the School Board Meeting. A floral Neiman’s number reserved for the occasion lent me a boost of confidence as I stepped out, determined to have fun and to forget about the AP test that awaited me in the morning. I was in for an eye-opener.
My father and I had the pleasure of being joined at the table by chaperone Ms. Tiffani Neal, ILC Selection Committee members: Mr. Izzy Ramsey, Mr. Henry Ramsey, and Mr. Herman Blackmon; the latter also was an ILC sponsor along with Mr. Wally Gordon.
Our table was rounded out by Mr. Kuehne, who happened to be the father of my friend and ILC Brown member, Erin Kuehne. Erin hadn’t told me that her dad was an alum of the Cornell School of Engineering, which was well-represented that night.
The inspirational speeches set the mood for the electrifying evening to come. My admiration goes out to Terilyn and Taylor, both of whom genuinely expressed exactly how I (and I’m sure the rest of us Cornellians) was feeling at the moment, their words better than I ever could have put it. As alums, sponsors, selection committee members, parents, school district supporters ‘popped up’ to introduced themselves, I marveled at how many people were gathered here in support of us. It really echoed what Mr. Peter Lee had said about the importance of forming life-long connections and the embodiment of being a Cornellian. I realized that there was a greater network of support behind us out there, much bigger than the eight of us journeying to Ithaca. Joe Arciniega put it impeccably that these were people who wished us success and had already made contributions to our success. I’m ready to make them proud in New York and share what I’ve gained from the experience with fellow students.
Mrs. Lilhanand, Mr. Ramsey, and Mrs. Kronenberg stressed the importance of bringing back to the WCCUSD community what we’ve learned from the ILC experience in the form of service learning projects and encouraging other students to reach for the Ivies. Indeed, ILC alum and future freshman at Cornell University, Yueming Wang certainly brought that quality to the table Wednesday night. Her stirring description of how Cornell and the ILC completely altered her point of view and bolstered her confidence that she and the rest of WSSUSD could compete just as well as anyone else from more privileged areas, fired me up for what will be the most difficult but most exhilarating three week experience of my life.
As the amazing evening carried on, I got to know Ms. Neal much better, as we chatted about what her past experiences chaperoning for Cornell were like. She is really pleasant, friendly, easy to talk to, and eager to help; I’m so glad she’ll be accompanying us to Chicago and Ithaca this summer! I was very impressed by Harvard Law graduate Mr. Izzy Ramsey. I have never been to the East Coast before, so his and Mr. Kuehne’s descriptions of the weather (especially the winter weather) made me all the more grateful for this summer sojourn.
Later on, Genevieve told me about the alums at her table, the sweet story of how Doug Mitarotonda and his wife Rachael Reichenbach met and got married at Cornell. I was also awed by Doug’s triple-major status and marveled at how he managed that while participating in varsity athletics. Genevieve passed onto me Doug’s tips from his cross-country days on the best trails to run during our stay at the beautiful Cornell campus. Genevieve, Joe, and I have already made plans to try them out; I’m so excited!
Amidst our conversations, the Cornell alums and ILC students were ushered outside to take group photos. I will always remember the iconic shots of the eight of us popping a pose on the courtyard boulders. We made it back in time for a sumptuous desert which concluded the evening. My one regret was that I never got to take a picture of the delicious, quickly-devoured food.