Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Popping Up"

It was a casual Wednesday afternoon and I found myself reaching for my suit. Funny how such a normal day can suddenly change into such a fantastic night.

Wednesday, May 11, was the date of our Cornell Alumni Dinner where we recognized all of the people who are either involved in our program, or who are somehow associated with it. The mere idea of this dinner, admittedly, was already beginning to make me nervous. I thought that I might freeze up in conversation with such civilized adults as the ones who I knew I would be dining with. What could I say to the individuals who were paying for my trip? Would I have anything to say that could possibly interest them? And more importantly, how could I thank them for their generosity? My interviewers who had decided to put me in the program would be there as well, so I would have to thank them too, but how could I really tell them how much I appreciate this colossal opportunity?

By the time we got to the Town Hall Restauarant, however, everything just seemed to flow. From the outside, the place seemed to be pretty regular. There was a big red tent-like room that we stepped into and we waited in there for a few minutes until we were seated. 

We Cornellians had been laughing and socializing the whole way over, so our amusement was only heightened when we saw that our "Formal Dinner" would take place in a heated tent. However, this was not the case at all. We took a left into the main building, a right past a rather large dining table, and then another left to the stairs. We climbed two flights and entered what was definitely one of the swankiest places that I have ever seen in my seventeen years of existence. All of our jokes stopped, and were replaced instead with genuine smiles of excitement.
I found my seat quickly afterwards and began speaking with the individuals sitting to either side of me; One was a Cornell Alum from the class of '63 and the other was the chaperone of last year's Columbia trip (and, as it turned out, she knew my brother from earlier ILC experiences. Nice to know that someone of importance recognizes and respects your last name). 

We spoke for a while until the first few speakers came up, saying how wonderful everyone in the room was. My fellow cohorts Taylor Doty and Terilyn Chen were asked to speak and both expressed everything that I felt for the people around us. There was a lot of thanks already drifting around the room, but they made it clear that we, as students, are truly grateful to everyone who has helped to make our trip possible.

And then Mrs. Kronenberg stood up. She walked to the front of the room and gave more thanks to the people that deserved it. However, a few minutes into her speech, she looked to us students and asked us to "pop up" and introduce ourselves so that everyone could see what the program was all about.

And that was when I realized it. As I stood up, I realized that the Ivy League Connection is not all about professionalism or fancy dinners; It's about us. It's about showing the world that the West Contra Costa Unified School District has potential and that we, being that potential, can compete with students from absolutely anywhere. We are not insignificant and we are not small. We are the reason that the people in that swanky room came together and we are the reason that our school district will be better recognized in the future. I realized that I never had any reason to be nervous around these people, because each one wanted me to succeed just as much as the next. They had all made contributions to our success in one way or another, and this was simply our chance to show them our appreciation.

From then on out, the dinner went very well. I was 100% comfortable and felt like I could speak with President Obama if he had decided to walk in the room. The Alumni Dinner was a great experience for me and was a true milestone in my journey with the ILC. Thank you to everyone who has made our trip possible, and thank you for providing us with what is truly the opportuninty of a lifetime. I am extremely excited to get to Cornell and show the world what the WCCUSD has to offer.

...and by the way, here is a picture of my cohorts and me demonstrating our newfound enthusiasm. I am the one in the white, haha.

1 comment:

  1. Jeez, Louise-Joe. Up until I read what you wrote about what these dinners were all about I just thought we were there to eat our supper. You put a whole new perspective on these events for me. I'll be looking at them now through a different set of eyes and may come away enlightened--and with a full belly.

    Joke as I may about what you wrote, you nailed it, Joe. You got it.