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  Parent Testimonials

The ILC Administrators can sing the praises of their program and most people might believe every word they read.

Reading the words from the parents of our ILCers, though, is so much more powerful.  When the parent of a prospective ILC applicant reads about the changes a parent sees in their child, when they read about the transformation they see in their children and when they read about how their children are now thinking about college in a whole different way, these words convey a much greater message than any ILC Administrator could ever write.  

Please read the words that the parents of the 2013 Ivy League Connection scholarship recipients wrote and then decide whether this program is right for your son or daughter.

Some of our ILC alums have been kind enough to provide their insight on how their participation has affected them as they've matriculated to some of our country's finer educational institutions. These are students who participated in The Ivy League Connection and are telling us about their experiences in a world unlike what they left here in the WCCUSD.

Please check out The Ivy League Connection Parent Feedback Blog Site

Brown University

From the Parents of Elia Chuaqui Schmida
Women & Leadership

Elia Chuaqui SchmidaWhen Elia said that she wanted to participate in The Ivy League Connection, we had no reservations in terms of the quality and safety of the program. We knew that this was a program available to WCCUSD students, and knew that the program had a good reputation, though we actually knew very little about it. We had attended a WCCUSD Board meeting a few years ago when several Ivy League Connection students spoke. At the time, we did not fully understand the full scope of the ILC, but the students who spoke did so with such passion and were obviously so moved by their experience that we were excited for Elia to also be a part of this program.

When Elia said that she was applying for the Women & Leadership program at Brown University, we were a bit confused. Women & Leadership? What is that? What about Economics? Or the program on Social Justice? But, no, Elia wanted to be a part of the Women & Leadership program. When she was one of the three students at her school chosen to participate, we were so proud of her! Just getting through this first hurdle—a panel interview—was a huge accomplishment.

We are so pleased that she chose the Women & Leadership program! The highlight for us was reading the nightly blogs from all of the ILC students, but especially those of the Brown cohort. We read with envy each night about the amazing experiences these young women were having, moving out of their comfort zones, broadening their world as well as their view of the world. With each passing day, we could see them considering where they fit in, and why, and the role society, gender, politics, race, language, and culture play in defining who they are (and who they are not). What an amazing class! We were never afforded such experiences in our youth, and I cannot help but believe that Elia will carry this ILC experience with her through college and through life.

In the short time that Elia has been home, we can see the lasting impression that this experience has had on her. Rather than returning home and complaining that school is about to start, she came home and immediately began working on her college applications. She has reviewed her senior class schedule, and has already requested particular changes that she believes she needs for next year. She is more reflective, thoughtful, and focused than she was before.

Thank you, Ivy League Connection, for giving our daughter this amazing opportunity. And, thank you for giving us a window on her experience through the ILC Blogs. What a gift!

Ben Chuaqui & Mary Schmida

From the Parents of Jay Fan ~ Hercules HS
DNA Based Biotechnology

Jay FanThe first time I learned about the ILC was three years ago when I saw a picture of a group of students in the Hercules High School office, stated “Ivy League Connection”. Admiring the proud and confident smile in the picture, I wished my son could be one of them. Jay was a new freshman that time.

The first time the ILC really connected to my life was last October when Jay came back home announcing he was going to apply for the ILC summer program. Jay was very inspired by his peers and Mr. Gosney’s ILC introduction speech. Jay made his choice to apply for the Brown DNA course—biology is his favorite subject. Knowing only 3 students will be selected for this course from the school district, I was not certain if he could make it, especially with the interview. It was Jay’s first interview and he is not a public speaker. When my husband and I found out he was finally selected, we were very excited and proud because this would be a lifetime opportunity and experience for him.

After being selected Jay had his first formal dinner in an elegant restaurant with his cohort, Brown alumni and parents. As part of the program, Jay appeared in front of the school board with his cohorts for the first time. By the time Jay departed for the East Coast he had grown a lot physically and socially and I knew he was ready for the pre-college life.

First time being on the East Coast Jay visited Yale, Harvard, MIT, and Dartmouth where he met admissions officers and learned more about college preparation. From his blogs Jay showed a great appreciation for his first time college laboratory experience and independent college life. He met many intelligent students from different countries.

Coming back home with more confidence and independence, Jay wants his fellow schoolmates to have the same benefits. He decided to start a college planning club (it is already in the process) to help others preparing for college life.

The ILC is a truly unique and successful program in the WCCUSD. We can’t express more thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, especially Mr. Gosney who devoted countless hours to support the program. Thanks for the sponsors who made it possible. Thanks, Nate, for being a great chaperone and ensuring that everyone had a safe and fun time on the East Coast.

Angela Du

From the Mother of Alicia Green ~ De Anza HS
Women & Leadership

Alicia GreenAlicia has always been an articulate student full of great ideas and strong opinions. She has never had issues expressing her thoughts or opinions with parents or family, yet in a group setting often she would tend to keep quiet and not allow the group to learn from her. Slowly we have seen her change and develop into a very articulate young woman in every situation. Since she has had the experience with The Ivy League Connection she has had the opportunity to meet and interact with other young people equally as creative and articulate as she is.

I’ve seen a certain confidence in Alicia. She’s now willing to stand on her own and hold true to herself and her own opinion. I couldn’t be more proud to see my daughter grow and develop with the confidence of a true leader. I know it’s hard to believe that a change of this magnitude could happen in such a short amount of time, but I think this experience allowed Alicia to tap into what was already there. Thanks to the ILC my child will go to the college of her choice with confidence and the ability to hold true to who she is and what she believes in.

Yvette Green

From the Father of Niels Griedel ~ El Cerrito HS
How a Nation’s Economy works: An Introduction to Macroeconomics

Niels GriedelIt is important that we take the time to thank The Ivy League Connection for all their hard work to make this program a huge success. What an incredible opportunity for our kids…it was truly an honor to have our son Niels participate in this wonderful program.

Niels certainly benefited from leaving the nest on his own, seeing more and different environments, and Ivy League schools no less! There’s no doubt he came back a different person. The Ivy League Connection gave him valuable perspectives on so many things, respect, responsibility, meeting new people, college life and how to assess school choices, just to name a few. Also, I’ll admit I certainly took some pride, when asked by another parent “where’s Niels?,” in saying, “…he’s at Brown taking a class…it’s part of The Ivy League Connection program at our high school.” People were amazed to hear of such a thing. It was fun reading all the students’ blogs; it provided a window into how they think and how their thinking changed in such a short time they were there.

I especially want to thank Don Gosney for his sacrifices and efforts to make The Ivy League Connection successful - great work, really. Thanks again so much for ILC.

Brian Griedel

From the Father of Carson Lian ~ De Anza HS
DNA Based Biotechnology

Carson LianSix months ago, I didn’t know how to guide my son Carson to pave his road to a top ranked university, so I went to his counselor and asked her what I could do to send him to one of the best colleges. I also asked what resources De Anza could provide to give students with good potential to become enrolled in a top ranked college. She told me that I did the right thing to communicate with her and she told me there was a program called The Ivy League Connection (ILC) which provided a chance to students with good potential to join some summer programs Ivy League schools offered.

It was very hard to get into the ILC program. To qualify, a student needed good grades, good motivation and good potential. The process of selection was very rigorous. Students who applied for the program had to go through a round of interviews with a group of panelists. On one hand, I was glad that Carson was chosen for the Brown DNA cohort; on the other hand, I was worried about Carson’s ability to live away from home, on his own. At home, he didn’t cook, didn’t do laundry, and struggled with time management.

Anyway, no matter how I worried about Carson, the day finally came; Carson went to Brown with other ILC members. They got a chance to see some of the top ranked colleges in the United States. They had a chance to go to the campuses to meet students from there, and they got to know better how admissions processes worked at these colleges. The most important information to me is that going to Ivy League schools is very affordable for those who qualify for financial aid!

During his three weeks of study at Brown, I read every single blog he posted online. I am very happy that he adopted into college life smoothly: he got up on time in the morning to go to class, and he made a lot of new friends, which cheers me up a lot since he would stay home all day long here and he was not a very social person. He told me that he loved college life much more than high school after he came back. I feel he is more mature after attending the program; he has a higher self-expectation than before.

Thank you very much, ILC. You gave Carson a once of a lifetime opportunity to preview the top ranking colleges in the world. The experience he had in Brown will be a great treasure in his life.

Winter Lian

From the Parents of Michelle Croda ~ De Anza HS
Women & Leadership

Michelle CrodaThe Ivy League Connection (ILC) program is an amazing opportunity for students. We highly recommend that students apply to this program even if they don’t think they want to go away to college or to an Ivy League school.

The program gives students an unparalleled experience of “doing college” for a couple weeks. It allows students a glimpse of what they can achieve and opens doors to new ideas and possibilities. The college tours the first week allow students to begin comparing different campuses to get a feel for what college fits their needs and personality.

The administrators and chaperones for the program are efficient and detailed oriented. They definitely dot every “i” and cross every “t” to make sure that the students are safe and fully prepared. Even to the point of letting them borrow cameras, sheets, and even fans! I felt completely confident that my daughter was well taken care of.

Our thanks to all of the people who made this experience possible; we never could have made this happen for our daughter. Our final comment: Encourage your child to apply!

Mark & Katrina Croda

From the Parents of Shraddha Luitel ~ De Anza HS
Women & Leadership

Shraddha LuitelAs a recent immigrant, we do not have much understanding of opportunities that lies in the WCCUSD. It was Shraddha, who came to us and told us about The Ivy League Connection. She had learned about this program at the presentation held at her school.

Without a second thought, she chose to apply for the Women & Leadership course. It was one of the proudest moments to learn that she was selected for The Ivy League Connection.

I was not worried about sending her to the East Coast but rather, scared she would not come out of her comfort zone there.

Her experiences at Brown University had been incredible and she seemed to have formed a family in very short time. When she returned back from Brown, I was able to see changes in her. She was more confident and her future goals seemed clear. The Ivy League Connection had exposed her to different universities on the East Coast and taking her class at Brown had changed her views. She still talks about what she learned and how she wants to make an impact on the community.

It is wonderful to see our daughter mature after the two weeks she spent at Brown. We are thankful to The Ivy League Connection for presenting this opportunity to students at the WCCUSD and hope that it continues to create a positive impact on many students’ life.

Shanti Uprety Luitel & Shrawan K Luitel

From the Mother of Crystal Tse ~ De Anza HS
Women & Leadership

Crystal TseFirst of all, I want to start out by saying thank you to each and every person involved with The Ivy League Connection. I am so grateful to them for making it possible for Crystal to have an experience that would not have been possible for her without the ILC.

It was and still is surreal for me to hear myself say that my daughter stayed in a dormitory for two weeks to study at Brown University over the summer.

I first heard about The Ivy League Connection when Crystal was in the 9th grade. She came home from school one day and told me that her teacher had suggested that she join. I asked Crystal what ILC was. She hadn’t looked into it yet and she thought it was a “club” that interested students could join and at the end of the school year, they all get to go to visit some Ivy League schools. I was amazed and said something like “Of course you should join this club. It sounds wonderful.” Well, it wasn’t quite like that. Needless to say, it is a little more selective, but nonetheless, a wonderful program.

While Crystal was at Brown, each day brought new and exciting experiences. I wasn’t worried while she was away because I know she is very responsible and also I was comforted by the fact that she had a safety net with her chaperone, Tiffani Neal, and also the RA at Brown.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the daily blogs that the students wrote. Each blog was like a puzzle piece that gave a clearer and more complete picture of the students’ experiences in class and of the activities they took part in.

Due to the fact that the students were required to blog each day and complete their homework assignments, they were learning how to organize their time better. This skill is important in college. I wondered what a class called, Women & Leadership could possibly teach to the students. I was surprised at some of the things that Crystal learned in class and the activities geared toward strengthening their leadership skills. It opened my eyes as to how much I don’t know. It’s great that the girls are gaining so much knowledge at such a young age. All of this will serve them well in the future.

Crystal returned home with a stronger sense of self-confidence and hope. She feels hopeful that she will be successful with her Action Plan using the skills she learned in her leadership class.

The experience at Brown has expanded our thoughts on the possibilities of where she might be able to attend college in the future.

Marie Ortega

From the Mother of Sonya Nepali ~ El Cerrito HS
Women & Leadership

Sonya NepaliI first heard about The Ivy League Connection from my daughter, Sonya, last year, when the principal at El Cerrito High School recommended that she check it out. Sonya went to an informational meeting shortly after that and she came home with the list of things she needed to do to qualify for the program. I saw that the requirements to qualify would push her out of her comfort zone, from forming and defending her opinion on a challenging essay question to preparing for the interview. At that point I could see that, even if she didn’t make the cut, just going through the process would be a good experience for her. Sonya worked hard on all the requirements and we were both so excited when she was accepted to the ILC!

For her coursework, Sonya chose Women & Leadership at Brown University and from the minute she left for her time on the East Coast, I could see that this whole experience would have a big impact on her. I got tears in my eyes numerous times, reading about her experiences while she was on the East coast, opportunities that I didn’t have as a young woman. I paid for my own college education and started my studies when I was 20 years old. I didn’t think about touring colleges and choosing one that would best fit my personality, give me community and support me. I chose one near my home that was the cheapest option. Thanks to her involvement in the ILC, she now has a perspective on what she wants out of a college and what colleges suit her goals.

I also didn’t know much about financial aid, scholarships and grants when I was going to college. I took out loans that I was still paying off 10 years later! I now know that many of the private colleges are looking for ways to support a diversity of students at their campuses and often have the financial back up to assist lower income students. With my daughter’s excellent grades and drive to do well, I feel more confident that we can find a college that will accept her and that will help us with financial aid.

Thanks to the ILC and Brown, she has also become more aware of the issues of class, culture, race and gender in our society. Again, I didn’t even start to think about these issues until my mid twenties! For her to have this foundational experience has raised her awareness of the inequities in our society. As a young woman of bicultural heritage, it’s important for my daughter to have this awareness as she ventures out into the world.

Finally, I am thankful that she is required to design and follow through on an Action Plan based upon something she has learned in the Women & Leadership course. It could be easy to sink into despair about the issues in our society but this course supports young women to become empowered and to confront and work to change the inequities and issues that women face. This is a powerful lesson. As Sonya herself said in her last blog, she knew it was going to be a challenging course but the greatest challenge wasn’t one she was expecting: the challenge of figuring out who she was.

This experience has definitely had a positive impact on her life and I’m grateful for the ILC and Brown University for making this possible for my daughter.

Dianne Driscoll

From the Parents of Julia Shebek ~ El Cerrito HS
Women & Leadership

Julia ShebekMy Fair Julia: Dean Almandrez Surpasses Professor Higgins

The Ivy League Connection has provided our daughter Julia with the mentoring, experience and drive to transform a thorough, reflective, empathetic student to an empowered, proactive young woman. As parents, we watched Julia work diligently to prepare for each step in the ILC’s rigorous process thoughtful essay, paying attention to detail, preparing for her interview, stepping out of her comfort zone with Brown alumni and seat neighbors on her flight, and then ultimately diving in to the Women & Leadership Course. After her late night arrival at Oakland on Friday, we didn’t have the chance to see her enthusiasm in action until Saturday.

We were getting ready for dinner and I was answering her questions about some of the binders I was organizing for a project at the high school. She asked if the committee would be open to hearing a student’s perspective, and followed up with insightful inquiries about how the committee functioned, and how she could contribute. It was wonderful to see her quickly apply some of the skills described in her blogs from Brown.

The Women & Leadership Program at Brown is transformational. As a parent, I’ve been inspired by the students’ growth this summer with the Women and Leadership Program at Brown and have enjoyed the metaphors and amusing titles many of the students use for the blogs. As I thought of cultural references that most families would understand, I remembered Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” and its musical adaptation, “My Fair Lady” in which a young woman is mentored and ultimately exceeds the mentor’s expectations with her independence, intellect and accomplishments. I don’t know if Julia’s growth exceeded Dean Almandrez’s expectations; but as a parent it has been wonderful to observe the many ways she has developed.

When the process started for The Ivy League Connection this fall, Julia researched the many courses offered and chose to apply to three of them, focusing on the coursework itself rather than any preconceived notion about each individual university. When she was advised she’d have the opportunity to be interviewed for the Brown Women and Leadership course, we managed our expectations, believing that interview practice alone would be a helpful skill to prepare her for college. In our family, Julia is the quiet one; my reputation for dominating conversations is welldeserved. We were thrilled that she was selected, and she was organized and efficient in executing the tasks assigned by the ILC to complete an application to Brown. She quickly signed up for her blog seminar, and communicated well to coordinate family schedules for us to attend the Brown dinner at Town Hall.

Due to the heat wave at the time, Town Hall was forced to open the windows to our dining area to cool the room; with the breeze came the street noises, making it a challenge to hear anyone but the person next to you. I was concerned that Julia wasn’t doing enough to engage in conversation with the Brown alumni at our table, and on the BART ride home talked to her about the benefit of including more people in a conversation. I was happy to see her blog months later in Providence about her dinner with recent Brown graduates and read her comments about how it was getting easier to have conversations with strangers.

Don Gosney made it easy to pack for Brown: we knew Julia would physically have everything she needed. However, as a heavy sleeper, we were worried that Julia would have a hard time getting to class on time, even more so when the girl originally expected to be her roommate didn’t appear. We don’t know if it was excitement about the class, or a new-found ability to hear her alarm, but we were happy to see that Julia not only made it on time to class, that she used her extra time to help out other students looking for buildings at Brown.

The revelations continued; some of Julia’s favorite trips in the past had been to big cities New York, Boston, Seattle. When she visited colleges with The Ivy League Connection, she raved about the greenery at Wellesley, and found herself appreciating the setting at Brandeis more than Boston University.

The students were thorough in explaining the varied exercises, workshops and tools that Dean Almandrez and the staff used to challenge the way the students thought about women’s role in society, leadership styles, working together, and developing a plan and presenting it publicly. When I read Julia’s description of the scavenger hunt, I was amazed to read that my daughter, who once struggled to manage her time at home, was the one to notice the time, which proved to be advantageous for her group. For those who remember My Fair Lady, “I think she’s got it!”

In the past, my perception of The Ivy League Connection was that it provided WCCUSD students with an opportunity to understand that they could be successful at top-notch colleges outside the UCs and Stanford; that it opened their eyes to the universities across the nation. Today, I also see the impact of a class itself, and how it can transform a student, giving them the tools and confidence that will make them successful on their academic and professional journeys.

Thank you to the Board of The Ivy League Connection for your vision and your execution. Thank you to Dean Almandrez for creating a phenomenal course that can excite and empower a new generation of women. Thank you to the sponsors of The Ivy League Connection; you have really made an impact on the lives of these students. Thank to you to the district for supporting the program and to the principals, counselors and teachers for advocating for the program and preparing the students. Thank you to the students for embracing the program and inspiring us.

With appreciation,
Karen & Pete Shebek

From the Parents of Josh Gonzales ~ Pinole Valley HS
How a Nation’s Economy works: An Introduction to Macroeconomics

Josh GonzalesFor the second time, we were blessed to have a son participate in the Ivy League Connection (ILC) program, and for the second time, we have noticed a dramatic and positive change in our son.

In 2013, our son, Malachi participated in the Macroeconomics program of the ILC at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. This was the first extended stay on the east coast for Malachi (Josh…as he was called by his older brother prior to his birth), and before his participation in the ILC, Josh was determined to attend “a school in California.” But immediately upon his return, he set his sites on attending an Ivy League school, Brown in particular.

The program broadened the perspective of our son, and he now is working even harder in his academic and extra-curricular areas (such as forensics and band) to give himself every chance to gain admissions to a prestigious university. He spend the summer engaged in serious academic study with students from Europe; Africa; Asia; and from all over the United States. His in-class education was only surpassed by his out class experiences with friends he met from around the world.

Significantly, the academic challenges did not overwhelm him. When you consider our son is a product of the schools in the San Pablo and Pinole areas, there is considerable credit that must be given to his teachers and this district, as he competed successfully with those from private prestigious preparatory schools from some of the most resource-rich communities in the world.

He appears more mature and confident, while also being more sure of a career path. I also noticed that he is even more willing to engage in academic challenges, taking four AP classes while also playing a demanding varsity sport, water polo. There are days when he works up to 15 hours, with school; homework; sports; and extra-curricular activities.

Lastly, the responsibility expectations of the ILC made our son more concerned with the details of life; a harder worker; and has improved his personal decision making. We owe, and hope to pay by our service in the community, a great deal of gratitude to the ILC for the exposure and support provided to our son.

Michael & Jacqueline Gonzales

Duncan TaitFrom the Parents of Duncan Tait ~ El Cerrito HS
How a Nation’s Economy works: An Introduction to Macroeconomics

We learned about the ILC two years ago, when our daughter Irene was accepted for the Constitutional Law class at Columbia University. This was a life-changing experience for Irene, so we were thrilled when our son Duncan was accepted this year for the Macroeconomics class at Brown University. We have been impressed not only with the program itself – who would not want this opportunity for their children, who attend public school? – but also with the WCCUSD School Board members who have championed this program, the funding from the community, the unflagging and efficient work of Don Gosney, and the rigor of the selection process. Although it’s probably impossible to list all of them, we can try to enumerate the ILC program’ opportunities and benefits for the students who participate.

Here is a start:
1. The overall experience profoundly changes them; don’t even try to argue a constitutional issue with Irene unless you are prepared to lose!
2. They broaden their horizons beyond our Bay Area microcosm; they experience the East Coast mentality, and spread the left coast mentality around.
3. They visit excellent universities/colleges (many being Ivy League schools), meet admissions experts and academicians, and generally experience East Coast college life.
4. They grow socially and meet interesting people from different places, background and interests. 5. They have a chaperone to guide them, but not “hover” too closely. Ultimately, they take responsibility for what they do and how they act. 6. They have to take care of and be responsible for their own stuff. Duncan learned how to iron a dress shirt, a non-academic yet useful and necessary life skill.
7. They have an academic experience of the highest caliber.
8. They learn unexpected things about the world and about themselves.
9. Through blogging, they become more comfortable writing about themselves, an excellent preparation for writing college application essays. Blogging also forces them to process and describe their daily experiences.
10. They recognize the value that our school district places in them.
11. There are important benefits for us parents, too. We separate from our children for a few weeks, which helps us prepare for the day they head off for college. Although we may have some trepidation, the presence of the district chaperone means they have someone to turn to if a problem arises. Anyone would love to send their deserving student to Ivy League schools for summer classes, but the cost is high, approaching $10,000 per student at some colleges that are part of the ILC program. This price tag would deter most, but the tuition, housing, meals are all covered by ILC – plus airfare, the cost of visiting other colleges, and dining at restaurants during preparatory events here at home, and for meetings with admissions people at the various colleges. With gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the generosity of the donors, who are individuals and groups that live and work in our school district.

The donors fund, but the genesis of the program came from the District itself, particularly from visionary School Board members Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg. Having received their university education in the east, they recognized a decade ago that students in our district needed a way to broaden their horizons. In a way that has yielded direct and tangible benefits for WCCUSD students, they got the word out about an urban school district in the San Francisco Bay Area that easterners never knew existed. And everyone is better for it: the students, The Ivy League schools they have had the privilege to attend, the school district and the donors themselves. All should feel incredibly proud of the unique accomplishment that is The Ivy League Connection.

We are extraordinarily lucky that both of our children have had such phenomenal opportunities. When we talk to people about the ILC program, the typical reaction is awe (“What a program!”) and wonder (“How does an urban school district with a history of chronic debt pull this off?”). Just explaining the program makes us proud, and the ILC is a positive and surprising element of our discussions with people who are moving to the area and ask about our experience with the WCCUSD.

Peter and Ann Tait

Columbia University

From the Parents of Anmol Randhawa ~ Hercules HS
Presidential Powers

Anmol RandhawaI remember when my daughter told me she wanted to apply to go to Columbia University over the summer through The Ivy League Connection. I did not know much about the program so I was very apprehensive. It would be the first time Anmol would be staying away from me and her mother, and she would be on the East Coast. I did not really want her to go away for a month but I let her apply. I still remember how ecstatic she was after she got back from her interview. She couldn’t stop saying that she got in and she couldn’t believe it. I knew then that we made the right decision in letting her apply.

However, that does not mean we were fully comfortable with Anmol going off to New York City without her parents. The ILC really makes us, parents, feel more comfortable with the idea through the countless meetings, the dinner, and all the information that they share. They gave us the hotel information, the flight numbers, emergency contact numbers, everything that a parent could ever need.

Sooner than we had expected Anmol was off to New York to tour colleges and attend Columbia University for three weeks. We could not have been happier for her. She was able to see Yale, UPenn, and so many other colleges that perhaps she would not have been able to tour otherwise. She was also able to make a wide variety of new connections with alumni of these prestigious colleges and with students from around the world.

Throughout the month that she was gone, we did miss her but we knew she was in good hands in New York. We never had to worry about her safety or her well being because we were assured over and over again of all the precautions and safety measures that the ILC takes. She has come back more confident and enriched. This was a life changing experience for her and I know she absolutely loved the time she had there.

We would like to thank everyone who has made this trip and The Ivy League Connection possible. We would like to say thanks to Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Kronenberg, Don Gosney, and Mrs. Cheryl Lilhanand. An extra thank you to Cheryl for being a wonderful chaperone to the entire Columbia cohort and for understanding how worried a parent can get when their kids go off without them. She made us feel very comfortable with the idea. Thank you again to the ILC and we are extremely grateful that Anmol was able to partake in the program.

Thank you,
Baljinder & Manjit Randhawa

From the Mother of Margaret Spencer~ El Cerrito HS
Presidential Powers

Margaret SpencerImagine my surprise on moving across the country to a public school system in budget-strapped California and discovering that simply by being a student of that district, my daughter was eligible to apply for a scholarship for a free Ivy League summer course and college tours!

All on her own, a determined Margaret completed all the requirements of the application recommendations, essay, interviews, and more. My husband says he’ll never forget the excited, proud look on her face when he picked her up the night she found out that she’d been admitted to the group attending the Columbia University “Presidential Powers” course.

Margaret learned many, many things through her ILC experience. She learned to navigate the rigorous communications and deadlines associated with the program which puts responsibility for almost everything on the students; parents are involved very little. She learned firsthand that universities vary widely in their structure and atmosphere. (Her mother, in contrast, had never heard of The Ivy League when I was her age!) She learned how to research and write a long college-level paper, the final result of which her professor, of Columbia and Oxford, gave high praise. She learned what both residential college life and residential Manhattan life are like, amazing life lessons at 16. She learned the New York City subway system. And how to order in nice restaurants! She glimpsed possible futures from Ivy League alums and admissions officers. She also learned something of the fine art of managing up and dealing with strong personalities. She learned how students from around the world can be very different - and yet surprisingly alike.

She also learned, I think, how everything’s relative: On the one hand her West Contra Costa County School District is not as endowed as some, and her high school doesn’t offer Latin or a lacrosse team - and yet it made available to her an experience that none of her North Carolina friends or cousins around the country have: an allexpenses- paid college sampler. For nearly four weeks!

All the while, I felt confident that she was safe and well managed, and having an incredible experience. (The blogs the students are required to write daily provided a terrific window on what was happening over in New York.) The experience is very well planned.

That this ambitious, complex program exists in a public school district is remarkable. That it’s managed on a volunteer basis makes it downright incredible. Any parent of a smart, interesting, potentially college-bound student in West Contra Costa County schools, especially one who would benefit from a push to a wider horizon, would be well served to nudge his or her child toward this one-of-a-kind program.

Paula Scott

From the Parents of Elena Battas ~ Middle College HS
Introduction to Business, Finance, and Economics

Elena BattasBeing part of The Ivy League Connection has been an amazing experience and great opportunity for my daughter, Elena. She really wanted to be a part of it as soon as she heard about it as a sophomore. First of all, you must have a high GPA and score above a certain score on the PSAT. This gets you in the door so to speak. From there, it is up to the student how far they want to take it. First, they must write a personal statement about why they want to be a part of the ILC, and then write an essay answering a prompt for each program to which they want to apply. If their essay responses are accepted, they have to sit through an interview given by a panel of professionals and educators. This would be intimidating for anybody especially a teenager. The interview alone is an invaluable experience for a student to learn about how the real world works. It can be exhilarating when you are accepted and heartbreaking when you are not.

Elena wrote eight to ten essays during her sophomore and junior years applying for ILC programs and was interviewed three times. Her tenacity and commitment to being a part of the ILC was awarded when she was offered a new scholarship at Columbia University in New York City. She was the first ILC’er to attend the Introduction to Business, Finance, and Economics Course. I can’t put into words how excited we were when we heard the news. Hearing this incredible news was just the beginning of her journey.

Acceptance into the ILC is only the first step. Each student has to apply to the university as well. In most cases, this is done online. It is a great introduction for students who will soon be applying to colleges in their senior year.

It takes a prodigious amount of commitment and responsibility on the part of a high school student to be part of the ILC. There are a number of required events that must be attended before a student even leaves for their summer program. There is a fancy dinner, training sessions, and an orientation to name a few. Punctuality is a must. Deadlines are not suggestions.

An important part of the program is that each student must blog after each important event and at the end of each day on their trip. Blogging everyday is not necessarily easy. It takes a serious commitment and sometimes late nights to complete this task each day. As a parent, I really appreciated being able to read about what Elena as well as the rest of her cohort were doing in New York City and on their trips to other Ivy League campuses. I think it is a great way for the students to reflect on their days and look back on the amazing experiences they had on their ILC adventure.

Elena had an incredible and invaluable experience this summer. She was able to see and do so many things that she otherwise would probably not have been able to do. I am so thankful to the ILC for giving her this opportunity. It is something that she will remember and cherish for the rest of her life. It has allowed her to be more independent and push herself to try things out of her comfort zone. At the same time, she had to abide by rules and follow directions given to her by Don Gosney, Mrs. Lilihanand, and the ILC. All the students are held to very high behavior expectations. I would like to thank Don and Mrs. L, in particular, for supporting and looking after Elena. It has been an awesome, life-changing, and character building experience for her. We are so thankful that The Ivy League Connection is and will continue to be a part of our lives.

Abdul & Lisa Battas

From the Mother of Simon Cohen ~ El Cerrito HS
Constitutional Law

Simon CohenWhen Simon began at El Cerrito High School, I became involved with the school’s Writer Coach Connection program. Through the program I met Hale Kronenberg and when he found out that we were new to the district, he began telling me all about The Ivy League Connection and that his wife, Madeline was one of the program coordinators. I remember talking to Simon about the program and he immediately felt that was something that he knew he would want to participate in. When he brought home the ILC materials, it amazed us what this program offered WCCUSD students: a full scholarship to attend a summer program at an Ivy League school, visits to prestigious colleges, meetings and dinners with Ivy League students, alumni and admissions counselors. The program gave a lot and also asked a lot of students. Simon was truly up for the challenge and we were in full support of his interest in this unique opportunity.

When it came time to apply, during his junior year, Simon knew that he wanted to be a part of the Columbia cohort. The Constitutional Law course meshed so well with his love of history, law and debate. When Simon told us he was accepted into the program, we were so thrilled for him and so grateful to the interviewers and the program for making this incredible opportunity possible for him.

The weeks and months prior to departure gave us many insights into the program and also gave us awareness about how much time and effort goes into making these scholarships and this program available to WCCUSD students. The informal potluck was a great icebreaker, where we were able to meet the other members of the Columbia cohort as well as the wonderful “Ms. L”, the group’s seasoned chaperone. She made us all feel informed and at ease about sending our teens off to Manhattan for three-plus weeks. The delicious and luxurious dinner at Prospect was a great opportunity to meet and speak with Columbia alumni, some of the ILC donors, and listen to the program perspective from Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg. Additionally, attending the WCCUSD School Board meeting was a real treat! It was a proud moment to see the entire 2013 ILC group acknowledged by the esteemed Board and as a special aside, it was wonderful to listen to Simon, the Columbia cohort speaker for that event, give a heartfelt speech about what this kind of program means to students in our district.

Once the departure date came, the group jumped right into the full schedule of college visits, moving into the college dorms, tackling the challenging coursework, sightseeing, and meeting new people, and we looked forward to his daily blogs to give us a peak into what he was doing. The blogs are a great great great idea! Not only do they provide students with a skill for communicating their thoughts and ideas about their unique daily experiences, but also are a wonderful window into the program for parents, students and community members to see exactly what kind of an impact this program has!

Simon thoroughly enjoyed the Constitutional Law course and really appreciated the high level of academics that were presented to and expected of the students. He enjoyed the interactive nature of the course: debates, discussions about court cases, visiting the District Court to see the law in action. In addition to the course, one of the most important things that Simon got from this experience is that he felt his sense of independence and self-confidence grow a great deal. Being away from home for almost a month, having to organize yourself so that you complete your work, your laundry, make curfew, figure out the NYC subway system, explore new neighborhoods and sights, and write a daily blog, these are all things that will help Simon as he prepares to go off to college on his own. For many teens, college is such an abstract concept. It is something they read about in college brochures or look at on college websites. But to experience college life first hand, to live in a dorm, to be taught by college professors—these are priceless gifts, ones that will help ILC students start their college experience with more confidence, assurance and ability!

My only wish is that more WCCUSD students could have the opportunity to experience The Ivy League Connection. This program is a window to what is possible for our children! On behalf of our family, I would like to give sincere thanks to Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, and Don Gosney, as well as the generous program donors for their ongoing and tireless efforts to make this program possible. THANK YOU!

Leslie & Aaron Cohen

From the Father of Emily Cain~El Cerrito HS
Constitutional Law

Emily CainThe Ivy League Connection (ILC) is an amazing opportunity for high school students in the West Contra Costa School District (WCCSD).  The ILC provides a safe, organized, and well chaperoned opportunity to participate in student life at some of the nation’s best colleges and universities.  WCCSD leaders and chaperones provide the perfect mix of supervision and adventure along with the ideal combination of structure and free time.  After my daughter spent her summer in Providence, Rhode Island after her sophomore year, I was excited about letting her go to New York for four weeks after her junior year.  She complained a little about how often she had to check-in with the chaperone, but she never once expressed a concern about her safety, and nor did I.

Students return from ILC with a more sophisticated understanding of the world and a well grounded ambition to pursue a degree from an elite college or university.  In addition to educational programs in economics, leadership, law, and science, the ILC provides a week of college tours on the east coast followed by dinners with college alumni. My daughter Emily was thoroughly impressed by the accomplished, young alumni she met.  She recounted how she listened to two young Yale graduates conduct a long and spirited debate on the pros and cons of genetic engineering while they all shared a dinner together in New York City.  Based on admission statistics presented at the Yale tour, she knows that Yale is probably not in her future, but I know that she stepped away from that dinner table with an aspiration to be more informed and articulate. 

In the residence halls at Columbia, Emily met young students from all over the world, most of who come from privilege.  Although this must have been intimidating at first, she quickly realized that she had lots in common with many of the girls despite their different circumstances.   In another ILC venue, Emily was mentored by a resident assistant who shared her college experience at Wesleyan and encouraged Emily to apply.  That simple gesture gave Emily the confidence to see herself at Wesleyan or any number of high quality colleges.  This is the gift that the ILC offers to all WCCSD students who successfully apply themselves.  Thank you.

John Cain

From the Mother of Bryan Moran ~Pinole Valley HS
Constitutional Law

Bryan MoranI could not believe the night my son told me he was accepted to take Constitutional Law at Columbia University through the ILC program; it was like a dream come true for both of us. After his acceptance into the program, meetings, dinner, and training were set to prepare him for his departure date. The dinner was in an elegant restaurant in San Francisco with sponsors and alumni from Columbia, this dinner gave my son the opportunity to ask questions about Columbia University life on campus.

The ILC also prepared my son for the daily requirement of the program, blog every night, which was a great idea and helped me to know exactly how my son’s day was going, having the opportunity to read his blogs and the rest of the cohort every night gave me the comfort to know he was not alone in that new world, after all he is only 15 years old.

The founders of the ILC program; Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg with the organizational skills of Don Gosney work so hard to the success of every single cohort trip. They pay attention to the smallest details and demands of the universities to make sure each student life is comfortable as possible in their journey, by allowing them to know what they can expect on their dorms and the courses they will be taking.

WCCSUD students cannot imagine how lucky they are to have a program available for them and to show that working hard and doing well in school can pay off by having a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand their education. The ILC program has been an incredible experience for my son, he has learned so much from the program at Columbia University, but the best of all …it has given him the experience of be in a class where each student is eager to learn, he likes to be around students who show dedication and passion to success, and this would not be possible without the ILC experience.

With his stay in NY he was never alone, his chaperone Ms. L did a tremendous job by taking care of him, each day right after classes she would meet with the cohort to ensure they were okay, that gave me the confort that I needed, the program has specific requirements and rules which are very important for the safety of students, after all whose parents do not want this for their children.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made my son’s life experience an incredible one: The Ivy League Connection founders, supporters and an incredible chaperone. The Ivy League Connection is an excellent program that has opened my son’s eyes to life in college. Everything is possible with dedication and the support of this program.

Millie Moran

Cornell University

From the Mother of Tomi Balogun ~ Hercules HS
Hotel Operations Management: Tactics for Profitability

Tomi BalogunThis was Tomi’s second year in the Ivy League Connection (ILC). She is starting her senior year at Middle College High School. She spent the summer at Cornell University focused on Hotel Operations Management. The previous summer she was at Columbia University in the Constitutional Law Program. The ILC program has been great for my daughter! She has had the opportunity to explore many of her interests while having new social experiences. The entire process of applying, getting prepared, and completing the demands of the program has forced her to develop better time management, increased her self-confidence, and learn practical life skills that she will carry into her college years and beyond. For example, in her Hotel Management course she learned how to create and implement an efficient business plan.

I was very apprehensive about her being away from home initially because she is the youngest in the family and is very shy and sheltered. Her experience at ILC has made her much more comfortable interacting with her peers and adapting to new environments. Tomi has developed a more adventurous spirit. I am more at ease with the idea of her going away to college next year because I am sure that she will make smart decisions and be successful academically. She plans to major in English and Marketing. Through ILC she got an opportunity to tour many different types of prestigious colleges which opened her eyes a great deal. Her goals have been refined directly due to her participation in the ILC program.

I am very grateful to the entire ILC program for helping Tomi to blossom.

Bolanle Apaokagi-Balogun

“When I dare to be powerful- to use my strength in the service of my vision then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audre Lorde

From the Mother of Jenna Lee ~ Hercules HS
Freedom & Justice

Ivy League Connection Experience for Jenna Lee: A Mother’s Reflection.

Jenna LeeThis summer has to be a most memorable one for Jenna - ever since she knew she was accepted into The Ivy League Connection Cornell cohort, it has been one thrilling adventure after another. From the early morning departure at El Cerrito High School to her return at San Francisco airport, I can see that not only has this experience given her grounds to grow emotionally and socially, it has also provided her the opportunity to gain insightful learning tools from professional educators on this trip.

It is obvious from her blogs at Cornell that she looked forward to every day with zest and wonder. The relentless hard work and reading materials required was part and parcel of this expedition - and I am glad she was exposed to it. The trust she had that her cohort would do just as well, if not better, kept her on her toes.

Although she did not succeed in her sophomore year to Brown for the Biotechnology program, her hopes of getting into The Ivy League Connection were not diminished this year. She knew the expectations the second time around, working harder on her essay and preparing well for the interview process. When she knew she was accepted for Cornell, we celebrated that night at Hometown Buffet for dinner!

The events that took place after the selection process were coordinated to perfection through the energies, time, and efforts put in by The Ivy League Connection coordinators Mr. Gosney, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg. On May 23rd we enjoyed an exceptional dinner at One Market, an elegant restaurant in San Francisco, with the Cornell cohort, Ivy League Connection sponsors and an alumni group from Cornell. We had great conversation and learned a lot about student life at Cornell. Two of the alumni guests at our table are now engineering professionals in the Bay Area. On June 4th, an orientation session and walk-through process were given to parents, to ensure that safety and survival guidelines were adhered to on the trip.

On June 11th, the students gave speech presentations to the Hercules City Council. Everyone had butterflies in their stomachs, but it was a great opportunity for them to overcome public speaking fears. Mr. Ramsey provided the informative introduction on The Ivy League Connection program to all who attended the meeting.

At 3:00 AM on June 18th, I drove Jenna to El Cerrito High School to meet Mr. Gosney and the Cornell team. Needless to say, we did not sleep the night before - we were just too excited. Jenna broke the record for the lightest luggage ever - 20.2 lbs. Yes, Don weighed everyone’s check-in bags. His exemplary organizational skills were a marvel. He also provided an itinerary and contact information for everyone on the trip. After that it was time to bid everyone bon voyage!

For the next three weeks, I followed Jenna’s journey through reading hers and her cohorts’ daily blogs. They were amazing! I loved the photos they posted and marveled at their skillful writings. It is hard to believe these are sixteen year olds at times. It was certainly something for me to look forward to reading every morning. Their trip included visits to the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Niagara Falls. Reading those blogs was certainly refreshing! On her few calls back, one was to gain permission to leave campus and watch a movie with her cohort - a good break from the daily routine - which was heartily given. That just proved the safety measures that had to be followed even on campus. I have to also thank Mr. Chan-Law, their teacher chaperone, who would move mountains to ensure things were running smoothly for them.

As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I am undoubtedly grateful to The Ivy League Connection’s leaders, their support members and sponsors who have helped contribute to this leadership building opportunity for our youths. From private schools to Lamorinda school district and back to West Contra Costa Unified School District, I am glad we returned. There is no other school district that has this program - not because they do not have the funds, but more because it requires adult leaders to put in time, effort and commitment every year. This trip was very well done from the beginning to the end and one has to marvel at the coordination and management skills of our Ivy League Connection leaders. Thank you again for providing this once in a lifetime opportunity, and for Jenna - she knows that the journey does not end here - it is just the beginning.

Susan Chai

From the Parents of Michelle Phung ~ Pinole Valley HS
Hotel Operations Management: Tactics for Profitability

Michelle PhungMichelle has dreamed of becoming a part of the ILC since the beginning of her freshman year. She became so anxious when her older friends applied and got into the ILC. As soon as she became a sophomore, she waited until the ILC came to her school for a presentation. We remember her constantly reminding us not to plan a vacation in the case that she got in. She spent extra hours at the library to revise her essays and then the day she went in to interview finally came. Neither of us could stay to support her so we could only wait until she called after the interview.

We were so happy to find out she was going to Cornell over the summer. We always tell her getting accepted isn’t easy, but it’s the easy part. For the next few months, we met with all of the people who made the ILC possible and got information about the trip. Michelle had to make a speech in front of the School Board and her cohorts stood in front of the community as ambassadors for their school district. We saw the other students and families who were given this opportunity and we were overwhelmed by the growth of the ILC when we heard it only started with a handful of students. It seemed like a long time ago, however she left for the East Coast very soon and her absence seemed even longer.

The first few days in Chicago, she made sure to call every night. She called every other night the first week of school and then she started to call less and less. We knew she had a lot of work to do so we just waited for her calls. We were delighted to hear about what she learned in class and who she met. We never thought that she could have studied at Cornell and we feel so indebted to the ILC.

Without the ILC, our daughter would have never gained the confidence to apply to an Ivy League school. She wouldn’t have lived so far away from home and she would not have been exposed to the endless possibilities that she can work towards. There were so many schools that neither of us has heard of. During this trip, she found her dream school, UChicago. She was able to bond with other girls in the district and explore new cities. Through dinners, orientation, tutorials, and the class itself, our daughter learned about herself and how to do new things. She was disciplined and learned the importance of deadlines. We are proud of her, but we know that all of this was possible because of the ILC. Thank you to all of the donors, Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don, and community support for making this opportunity possible to students of our community.

Vi Phung & Cammy Ngo

From the Father of Rochelle Yee ~ Hercules HS
Hotel Operations Management: Tactics for Profitability

Rochelle YeeThe Ivy League Connection has done a great job in preparing my daughter, Rochelle, for the future. When she first told me about the program, I knew it would be a great way for my daughter to broaden her horizons. She’s never really looked at schools beyond the UC system and I thought it would help her find her dream school.

I remember when she was first applying and she interviewed, but didn’t get in. She was pretty disappointed and lacked self-confidence because of it. She didn’t let this get to her and she applied again. I was proud that she was willing to apply again. I remember telling her to never give up because this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

I was so proud of her when she got into the program. I wasn’t always there to hear her speak at Council Meetings, but I was there for the dinner. She was always a quiet and shy person when in front of an audience, but at that dinner, she did an excellent job at speaking. It must have been from speaking in front of strangers so much. She had to speak at the interviews and the council meetings and I’m sure she got a lot of practice from that. She’s become more confident in public speaking. I think it’s a very useful skill in life and I’m glad the ILC helped her have better public speaking skills.

When the Cornell cohort left for Chicago, I knew I’d miss my daughter. Every night before going to sleep, I’d read the blogs of the entire cohort just to see what’s going on. I’ve noticed that over time, my daughter’s blogs have gotten more and more in depth. She began blogging about what they did, but by the last blog, she blogged about what she thought and how she felt about situations instead of just stating what happened. She’s learned a lot about the outside world while she was away. She’s also been inspired to learn more Mandarin. At home, we speak Cantonese and I’m pleased to hear that she wants to challenge herself and learn more about our culture.

Because of the ILC, Rochelle has challenged herself in the Hotel Management course and she’s become more independent. My wife and I were always by her side, but while she was at Cornell, she had to open up to others. She’s reached out to a lot of people and learned about many different things.

Overall, I’m very glad that the ILC gave my daughter this great opportunity to broaden her horizons and learn so much. This is a wonderful program that matured my daughter and I’d recommend it to many others. My daughter has become more confident and I’m very proud of her. Thanks to all those who made this possible for my daughter!

Rodney Yee

From the Parents of Christian Abraham ~ Hercules HS
Freedom & Justice

Christian AbrahamChristian knew about the ILC from our family friend, whose daughter was a previous participant in the program. Ever since, she has worked really hard to know what the program is about and was ready to give it her all to be one of the few chosen to be a part of the organization.

The selection process was rigorous. Even though she was well prepared, we were all very nervous for her the day of the interview. However, we were elated and proud when she told us that she made the cut. After the selection process, it is amazing how one of the program coordinators, Mr. Don Gosney, does what he sets out to do in an efficient and timely manner. The people that are involved in the program besides Mr. Gosney, Mr. Ramsey, and Ms. Kronenberg went to great lengths in organizing and facilitating this once-in-a-lifetime educational trip for our kids.

Even though we knew that she was safe, we were nervous and scared when the departure day came. However, once they departed to Chicago, Christian communicated and gave us confidence that she is going to be alright. Since then, we heard from her every day and read her blog every night. Through our consistent communication, we came to find out that she was having fun and at the same time was experiencing what college life means in general. We are so thankful for Mr. Chan- Law for taking good care of the cohort. He was there for Christian whenever she needed him. In addition, Christian was absolutely delighted to see Niagara Falls from the American side. It is an awesome experience.

When July 13th came, we were very excited to see our daughter back home safe and sound. She came back with a positive attitude about other universities away from California. Because of this program, she was able to be independent. Most of all we saw a huge improvement in her writing skill. We were amazed to see how her writing ability sky-rocketed.

Our daughter has always been mature for her age. After the ILC program, however, she came back with unbelievable confidence and a wealth of knowledge. We are so grateful and thankful for everything the ILC has done for Christian and we have no doubt in our mind she will be a well-dedicated ambassador to the program for years to come.

Thank you for all you do and our warmest regards to all the benefactors and members of the WCCUSD board. We appreciate and respect you.

Brutawit & Abraham Shewareged

From the Parents of Tamilyn Chen ~ Hercules HS
Freedom & Justice

Tamilyn ChenWe first discovered how amazing The Ivy League Connection was when my oldest daughter Terilyn went to Cornell for the Hotel program through the ILC. Terilyn had a great experience, so Tamilyn decided she wanted to give it a try too.

The amazing thing is that while this program taught Tamilyn so many skills she will need for the college application process and college itself, it has also given her insights and skills that she can use now. Her experience with the ILC has also allowed the teaching to go two ways. When Tamilyn was on the East Coast taking her Freedom and Justice class, she taught us a lot about what she was learning in class: the teachings of Plato, St. Augustine, Marx, Wollstonecraft, Mill. She still talks about it.

While I know that both my daughters learned a lot from the courses they took, I believe that they learned even more from the process and the experience. The ILC staff was instrumental to this—both my daughters have learned how to carry themselves in interviews, how to ask good questions during college info sessions, how to live with a roommate, and how to engage with admissions officers, among numerous other skills. These skills are invaluable. My husband and I are so grateful that they had the chance to grow in this way.

I am also so thankful that Tamilyn had the chance to meet admissions officers and to visit great schools like Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. She loved visiting both, and she is happy that the visits have helped her decide where she may want to apply to school.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg, who have put so much time and effort into building and improving this program. I also want to thank Don, who has individually dropped things like school books off for Tamilyn and the other ILCers, met with the students at 4 AM to send them off, and taught Tamilyn how to use Photoshop. He loaned Tamilyn a laptop, among other things, and even sent her a new laptop to use when the first one suddenly broke down while she was at Cornell.

I also want to thank Mr. Chan-Law. Tamilyn could not have had a better chaperone, and knowing you were there erased any worries we had. I am also grateful to everyone else involved with the ILC, including my fellow Cornell Summer College parents! This has been a wonderful experience not only for Tamilyn, but also for my husband and I. Thank you so much.

Karen Wang & Steven Chen

University of Pennsylvania

From the Mother of Michael Vroom ~ Pinole Valley HS
Experimental Physics Research Academy

Michael VroomHello, I am the mother of Michael Vroom who attended the ILC trip to UPENN.

I had heard about the ILC for the past few years from previous students that attended a variety of programs. I thought the idea was great. I had no idea what this was really about.

When I saw the process written down, I was a little concerned. As time went on it didn’t seem like so much to ask. Now, looking back, it was nothing. Mike and I had a chance to meet some incredible people. From the students to the wonderful people that give financial support. There is also a wonderful group that organizes and ensures the safety of the students. I think Don Gosney does so much more then what is expected if him. True dedication. Mike attended the physics class. He had such a great time doing experiments, traveling around the area and meeting so many kids from various states and countries. This trip really opened his eyes to other areas of study then what he had been focusing on. He truly grew during the five weeks he was gone.

I would strongly encourage any student, or parent of a student, to go through the process. This is such an incredible opportunity for a teenager to take.

Thank you ILC.

Angela Vroom

From the Father of Audrey Ehi Webb ~ Middle College HS
Social Justice Research Academy

Audrey Ehi WebbI’m writing on behalf of Audrey Webb’s family with regard to the several ways in which the ILC program has contributed to her intellectual and social development, and boosted her chances to gain admission into a top-notch university. It’s provided her with advantages that we could never have hoped to afford on our own.

Audrey’s story actually begins with the 2012 ILC program: That year, she applied for the Social Justice Summer Program at the University of Pennsylvania. She advanced as far as the interview, but didn’t make the final cut. However, an interview committee member encouraged her to apply again the following year (this being but one example of the constant encouragement of the ILC team throughout her experience with the program). She took his advice, and much to our joy made it this time around!

As we soon learned, the time between her being accepted and hopping aboard her group’s plane for Philadelphia was far from being an idle one. But it also was a fruitful one in terms of an introduction to the adult world of today: Wending her way through the labyrinth of a college application, presentations made to school boards, and learning the ropes of networking with UPENN alumni at the dinner hosted by ILC for its awardees were all useful lessons in their own right. And Don Gosney’s instructions during this period on how to blog were extremely helpful.

One very reassuring aspect of the ILC program is that a chaperone (normally a teacher from one of the school district’s high schools) travels with each group. The chaperone is particularly important during each group’s first week on the East Coast before classes actually begin, when the group makes day trips to check out nearby universities. Audrey’s group was fortunate to have John Hillyer as their chaperone as they visited Swarthmore College, as well as Princeton and Columbia Universities.

Audrey was very impressed by the UPENN Social Justice Program itself. To just highlight her impressions: She found the Program’s Director, Professor Lamas – as well as the Program’s other teaching staff and guest speakers – to be not only effective lecturers, but also quite accessible and interested in the students’ points of view; the “practical” part of the Program, including various practical exercises and learning visits to Philadelphia neighborhoods gave the students first-hand experiences to complement the lectures themselves; and the class’s students were encouraged to interact with each other and teachers in a stress-free environment.

To sum up (though much more could be said): Audrey had a great learning experience! Charles Ramsey, Madeleine Kronenberg, and Don Gosney should be applauded for creating and developing the ILC program, which could very well be a model for other school districts with a preponderance of students from low and middle income families.

Glenn Webb

From the Parents of Junhui Zhou ~ Pinole Valley HS
Experimental Physics Research Academy

Dear Ivy League Connection,

We are Jun Hui Zhou’s parents, who is attending his junior year at Pinole Valley High School. Jun passed the preliminary examination and final interview to participate in The Ivy League Connection 2013. We are proud and happy. Jun Hui Zhou has gained a lot of knowledge as well as made many friends at home and abroad as he took a class and did many activities in the East Coast. Jun’s temper has also improved and we think this experience let him establish a more positive outlook on life. We also hope our daughter in junior high school will be just as inspired and yearning as Jun if not more. We would like to thank the event organizers, sponsors, and others that gave support to The Ivy League Connection.

We are an immigrant family. My wife and my English level is limited as we have not received a proper education here in America. Even now we still continue to learn because we are very eager to study hard for our children. We hope to learn useful cultural knowledge, but also that they will be able to enter the ideal university. It is our greatest wish to let them have a bright future and make due contributions to society. We think this is what all parents wish for their children.

The Ivy League Connection is a good opportunity for high school students not only because it enables them to learn cultural knowledge, but to also broaden their horizons, exercise their own ability away from home, and to let the domestic and foreign students learn from each other. It also gave them an advantage since they experienced a university atmosphere and environment earlier than other high school students. We once again would like to express our sincere thanks!


Tim Zhou & Ann Huang

From the Parents of Hannah Phalen ~ El Cerrito HS
Social Justice Research Academy

Hannah PhalenWhen Hannah first told me about The Ivy League Connection (ILC), I was impressed from the start as she explained the program well. I was fully supportive, but I was worried about how she would manage her time during the rigorous selection process. Hannah is in student government, an officer of the Interact Club, works multiple jobs and was taking AP and honors classes at El Cerrito High School (ECHS). I hoped she had not bit off more than she could chew. She worked very hard on her essays during the selection process. Outside of a little editing by me Hannah took charge and did this on her own. She’s made me very proud.

As the father of a young woman beginning to spread her wings I was apprehensive about her going so far from home for over a month. The informational meetings put me more at ease as I could see that the program is extremely well structured and organized, and the people involved very dedicated and professional. I felt she would be in good hands with her chaperone, John Hillyer. When she was finally selected I felt so proud and excited for her.

The kick-off dinner in San Francisco with the UPENN alumni, benefactors and ILC representatives was very impressive. Hannah had never been to such an event so at first she was a bit subdued. However, she was far more at ease at the end of the night, as everyone was so friendly and gracious. She was growing already.

It was hard for me to let her go when we arrived at ECHS at 3:30 AM to meet her shuttle to the airport. However, Don Gosney was already there and was well organized and prepared as he had been throughout the whole process. I was impressed that he took time to come to our home with things he felt Hannah would need. His presence in the program allayed my concerns about Hannah’s safety.

I found during her time away the highlight of my day was reading her blog. As I read I could tell she was having an amazing time and was very excited. In the few days before her Social Justice class at UPENN began, she was able to visit Princeton University, Swarthmore College and Columbia University. She told me excitedly that a trip to Washington, D.C. had been added to the agenda.

Once class began I began reading about what she was learning, the new friends she was making and how she was adjusting to college life. I was impressed. Her professors are dedicated people and the class size was small. She was having an amazing time and my heart swelled with pride as I read. Each day she seemed more mature and wiser. She had demonstrated insight and a firm grasp of what she was learning. My little girl was growing up. As the class and the trip drew to a close, she became emotional and was not ready to leave. She came home a changed person. Although she’s always been mature for her age, she has grown immensely as a direct result of her ILC experience.

What a great program in the ILC we have here in the WCCUSD! More communities and school districts should have such generous and dedicated people so that gifted, hard working young people have an opportunity such as this, that would have been otherwise out of reach. I especially thank Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg, Don Gosney and John Hillyer for making this possible for Hannah. God bless you!

James & Jennifer Phalen

Kai MarshlandFrom the Father of Kai Marshland ~ El Cerrito HS
Experimental Physics Research Academy

What a fabulous opportunity! The Experimental Physics class at UPenn was surely the most engaging, inspiring academic experience my son has ever encountered.
Thanks to ILC for opening the door.
I only wish the District could offer this kind of program to more students.

Brad Marshland

Vanderbilt University

From the Mother of Kimberly de Dios ~ Pinole Valley HS
Med School 101

Kimberly de DiosI couldn’t be any happier the moment I found out that my daughter Kimberly was accepted into the ILC in December of 2013. Before applying, she mentioned the opportunities The Ivy League Connection could provide for WCCUSD students. She explained to me how she could travel to East Coast universities and eventually attend a summer school program at no cost to our family. I didn’t know that any such program could exist. Because this was such a great opportunity, I gave her my blessing. Although she’s never been away from home for more than three days at a time, I couldn’t let my apprehension for her safety get in the way of this great opportunity.

When Kimberly and I attended these milestone events before her upcoming trip, I realized that this was going to be really good in order for her to grow and mature. At the dinner at La Folie in San Francisco, I met alumni of Vanderbilt University and benefactors of the ILC. I could see that this was beginning to broaden Kimberly’s college aspirations. And as for me, I had no idea that sending my child to a university outside of California could ever be financially feasible. But it was then that I started to realize that she could study outside of California if she chose to.

Reading Kimberly’s blog from when she saw Pinole Valley grad Dyana So now attending UPenn, I know that my daughter isn’t limited to applying to schools under the University of California system. Each of her posts during her stay in the East Coast has further opened my eyes. I never would have dreamed of being this far away from home at her age.

When my daughter came back, I felt that she had grown and matured from her experiences. She had the opportunity to attend the Med School 101 course at Vanderbilt University for three weeks and tour three colleges beforehand. At Vanderbilt Summer Academy, she stayed at the dorms and attended class for six hours. It initially pained me not to be there for her. But she managed to be on her own. This was a golden opportunity for me to see Kimberly in a new light, ready to begin her college path as she now faces her senior year at Pinole Valley High School.

On behalf of my husband and I, I’d like to thank Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don, and all the sponsors for making The Ivy League Connection available to students like my daughter Kimberly. And thank you Mr. Mannix for taking care of the Vanderbilt cohort. You’ve given my daughter a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Barbara de Dios

From the Parents of Loan Chung ~ Pinole Valley HS
Med School 101

Loan ChungThe Ivy League Connection has been an absolute godsend. We were not too sure about this program at first. Sending our daughter across the country seemed like a very foreign idea and it took a lot to finally get used to it. But after seeing what it has given our daughter we just can’t give enough thanks.

We always worry about the fact that we can’t help our daughter with her education due to our lack of English skills. We cannot tell her which college is good or what she should do after high school. Thanks to this program, Loan now has been exposed to different colleges and learning environments. She now has a much better idea of what she wants to pursue in the future. It is so great to hear her talk about her newfound dream college. Seeing her become so much more determined about medical school after the course at Vanderbilt is truly satisfying.

We thank the members of The Ivy League Connecting for their dedication. Without them we would never dream of such an opportunity being given to Loan.

Cuong & Chuong Chung

From the Mother of Thomas Johnston ~ Pinole Valley HS
Principles of Engineering & Special Topics in Math

Thomas JohnstonMy son, Thomas Johnston, went to Vanderbilt University with the ILC. This was an amazing experience for him! He got to travel, he learned a lot of math, he now has a much better sense of what he wants in a college, and became more confident and independent.

First of all, Thomas got to travel for a week prior to starting classes. How many students have a chance to spend the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.? He also visited New York City, and Philadelphia. They had a chance to tour Columbia University, Georgetown University, and the University of Pennsylvania. What an amazing trip!

Secondly, Thomas learned a lot of math while at Vanderbilt University. This was the first time ever that Thomas was challenged in math. I could tell from reading his daily blogs that he was enjoying this challenge enormously. He said he learned more math there in a day, than in an entire semester in high school. His instructor, Dawson Gray, was phenomenal!

Thirdly, Thomas has a much better sense now of what he is looking for in a college. He got to visit four different colleges. He had a chance to talk with several alumni and found out it is possible to double major in engineering and music performance. Thomas now also has a much better understanding of the admissions process. He had a chance to listen to and speak with several admissions officers, and he participated in a mock admissions panel where he got to look at mock applications and decide who to accept or wait list.

Lastly, I feel that Thomas has become much more confident and independent. He took the initiative to talk with admissions officers one-on-one to get answers to his questions about double majoring. I don’t think he would have had the courage to do that six months ago. Moreover, he learned how to get along with a roommate, how to do laundry, how to manage his time so he could squeeze in early morning work outs before breakfast, and get his daily blog done before lights out. Above all, he came back with a real focus on what he wants out of his education, and seems very confident that he will achieve the high goals he has set for himself.

I want to thank Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg for their time and efforts in finding sponsors for the amazing ILC program. I want to thank Don Gosney for the endless hours he spent planning and organizing the logistics of the program, and for teaching the students how to blog (our family absolutely loved being able to read the blog of each day’s adventures!) I want to thank Mr. Mannix for being a great chaperone for the Vanderbilt cohort, and for making healthy care packages for the students when there wasn’t enough time for sit-down meals.

Catherine Johnston

From the Mother of Keli’i Rubin ~ Pinole Valley HS
Principles of Engineering

Keli’i Rubin Ever since the first day I learned that I was required to write a blog, I have been thinking about what I would say. I wrote many generic paragraphs of ways to say ‘Thank you’. However, after my son came back I realized just how much those generic paragraphs would not do this program justice.

As a single mom, I always wanted the best for my children. I was pregnant with my son at a young age and I didn’t get to go to a four year college like I always dreamed I would so naturally I always wanted more for my children. I just didn’t know how I would get it for them. At best I prayed for good grades so they could get a scholarship.

This program gave my son a rare opportunity that I believe have changed the course of his and my other children’s lives. My son was able to see his hard work pay off, which is a life lesson that will benefit and motivate him throughout his life.

My younger children watched his journey and my daughter who was having trouble last year in school, told me she plans on working harder this year in school so that she can be like her big brother. Talk about a proud mother moment.

When my son came back from his trip I got a chance to live through his eyes. Through his eyes I took my first airplane flight to the east coast. I stood in Washington, D.C. and could hear the fireworks for the first time. I stood at the Martin Luther King statue and felt a sense of pride I have only read about in history books. Through my son’s eyes and experience I was able to attend classes and stay in a dorm.

The ILC made this possible for him. ILC made this experience possible for me. I don’t know how to thank the program sponsors for all they have done for my son. I don’t know how to express my thanks for staying with my son when he had an allergic reaction to nuts and had to be hospitalized for the first time thousands of miles away from home. I feel ‘thank you’ is not enough to say to this program for taking my son all the way on the other side of the country and bring him back safe and sound. He came back eager to go to college in Georgetown (Go figure since that is not the college he attended but only briefly visited). I do not know how to say thank you for keeping me updated on all the activities and keeping me informed on every expected and unexpected adventure so I can have a peace of mind and sleep at night. So I will not say Thank You because it just is not enough. Instead I will say this program is a blessing and you have changed the course of our life. I am truly grateful for the ILC

Dancia Cox

Yale University

From the Parents of Liam Guevara ~ Middle College HS
Studies in Grand Strategy

Liam GuevaraHello, we are the parents of Liam Guevara, who was a member of the Yale Cohort this year. I remember last year when Liam applied for the ILC and how excited we all were when he was accepted to the Young Global Scholars Program. What a wonderful chance he’d have, not only to tour Ivy League Colleges, but to actually attend one for a while!

Finally the big day came and we tearfully said our goodbyes. We would miss him, but we knew what a great chance this was for him to be exposed to people, places and ideas that he wouldn’t find here at home. We read his first blogs with a lot of enthusiasm. How we wished we were there, experiencing everything with him. But cutting the apron strings is part of letting your kids grow up, right?

When Liam came back, he was full of energy and passion for everything that he’d seen and heard. He told us of the instructors and speakers in the program, some of whom were famous. He especially enjoyed working and talking with the other students in the program who were from different countries, cultures and social backgrounds. He learned from everything he experienced, even from some mistakes made along the way. One of the most unexpected lessons Liam learned and shared with us was that working with individuals who live and play in completely different social and economic circles was sobering. We believe that this lesson was the biggest take-away from the program: it pulled back the “veil” and gave Liam a glimpse on how the “real” world works and how knowledge found in textbooks is only a portion of education.

We were impressed with how much Liam absorbed, and that he realized that he still had much knowledge to acquire in this world. It has given him a somewhat different focus than before he entered the program. A focus not only in what he’d truly like to study and what universities are offering, but also in a career path that he’d be more suited to. Being in a program offered by the ILC helped to give Liam direction and motivation to learn not just what universities can offer, but what the world itself may have in store for him.

We’d like to thank Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey for creating and supporting this wonderful program, the many sponsors who subsidize the program and the volunteers who help to run it. A special thank you goes to Don Gosney for introducing the ILC to us, and assuming the roles of coach, parent, teacher, cheerleader and demanding boss. He goes above and beyond to make sure everything is done in a correct and timely manner.

Litsa & René Guevara

From the Parents of Joshua Ko ~ El Cerrito HS
Studies in Grand Strategy

Joshua KoThe path to The Ivy League Connection began last year when fellow ECHS students shared their ILC experiences and encouraged Joshua to apply for this prestigious program. Through the process of application and interview, Joshua discovered that he was a finalist for the Freedom & Justice program at Cornell University; unfortunately, he was not selected to go. This decision marked the beginning of a summer filled with rejection into various programs and internships. How would all these disappointments affect a young teenager when facing the harsh realities of a competitive field of highly qualified students seeking acceptance within a limited pool of positions? Apparently, these experiences did not deter Joshua from pursuing his desired aspirations, but rather reinforced a self-determination and resolve to pick himself up and try again – starting with his initial rejection, The Ivy League Connection.

The junior year challenges of an AP filled school schedule set the stage for another attempt to apply for the ILC program. With the understanding of the ILC application process, Joshua was intrigued to pursue the Grand Strategies program for Young Scholars. With the excitement of his acceptance into this program at Yale University, Joshua pressed forward to pack the rest of his summer with several leadership camps that sandwiched a brief family vacation alongside a two-week out-of-state apologetics conference. The summer of 2013 was taking shape that would send out our first born child alone on a personal journey that would take him to the far reaches of Northern California, Colorado and Connecticut (all the “C” states). How would each of these new opportunities enrich and positively affect Joshua? Would there be a sharp contrast from a former summer of rejection to a new summer of challenges?

The ILC journey this summer started off with a college tour of Harvard, Brown, and NYU. The exposure to these academic institutions opened Joshua’s eyes to the possibility of an East Coast setting as a college destination. The initial time spent with the other “Yalies” from WCCUSD provided a wonderful opportunity for these young men to build rapport and gain support with one another prior to their rigorous program awaiting them at Yale. Being in the midst of a world-wide assembly of bright and talented young men and women could be an intimidating and daunting task at first. Unrealistic comparisons combined with extreme exhaustion reinforced insecurities and contributed to awkward transitions. Yet in the race of life it’s not how you start off, but rather how well you finish. Persevering into the second week of this grueling course gave Joshua opportunities to extend beyond his realm of comfortability and channel a renewed focus rooted in God’s strength and inner peace.

With the ILC program emphasizing leadership and initiative, we were ecstatic to hear of Joshua’s growing confidence in speaking up in class and reaching out to meet new people. His participation in the simulation and presentation pieces allowed him to enjoy the personal interaction and communication aspects that go beyond the lessons, lectures, and readings. Devoting time from a heavy academic load to find depth, richness, and substance in humanity and interpersonal relationships was a powerful discovery in trying to find that important balance in life we all constantly strive for.

We are truly overwhelmed with appreciation for the supportive team that surrounded our young men. Many thanks to Don Gosney, Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey for laying the groundwork in California and to Tracey Singh-Poole for doing the leg work on the East Coast. Kudos to Damian, Liam, and Eric for joining with Joshua to formulate a distinguished team that did a great job representing WCCUSD on an international academic stage. We also want to acknowledge that we are so proud of our son, Joshua, for facing challenges and past rejections head-on, and for pursuing heights of personal growth in leadership, maturity, responsibility, confidence and building relationships. Finally, we are very grateful to our Heavenly Father for guiding our son with His protective hand so far away from home (yet never far from God), preparing us for the next journey in parenthood as we get ready to send our child to college – perhaps Yale Part 2?


David & Anita Ko

From the Mother of Eric Wilson ~ El Cerrito HS
Studies in Grand Strategy

ERIC WILSONThe Ivy League Connection is truly an outstanding opportunity for students in our school district. Eric, our son, puts a heavy emphasis on his academic studies, and we are so pleased this program exists to offer students like him such tangible and valuable rewards.

Eric experienced the whole application process, was interviewed by a panel of professionally accomplished adults, attended high functions in suit and tie, was held accountable for his appearance, behavior, and effort, travelled across the country, visited several universities and met with admissions officers, experienced college campus life, and attended a challenging summer program at an Ivy League school.

This opportunity has changed our son’s life. It has provided Eric with a level of maturity that will greatly enhance his college experience. Additionally, he is now strongly considering applying to Cornell, Yale, and perhaps others. Without the ILC, we believe his consideration of these schools would have been very unlikely.

We feel very fortunate to have the ILC in our district. We are grateful to those who run the program, as well as the sponsors who make it possible.

Amy Wilson

From the Mother of Damian Wong ~ Hercules HS
Studies in Grand Strategy

DAMIAN WONGI didn't know that Damian was going to apply for the Ivy League Connection until he came home one day and told us. In fact, I didn't even know what the Ivy League Connection was. Damian explained that the Ivy League Connection was a wonderful program that sent kids to summer programs at Ivy League schools. I asked him the price and he said that everything was free: hotel, airfare, program tuition, and food. My husband and I encouraged him to apply and to get all the help he can get. We asked which one he wanted to apply for and he said the Yale program. We asked him about his choice. His response was because it is the hardest program the Ivy League Connection offers.

Damian told us about how there were other kids in the past who have done the Ivy League Connection and how they would be helping him. The earlier generation of the ILC scholars really helped and encouraged Damian. We knew that if Damian got in, he would be helping the next generation of ILCers.

A few weeks later, after writing a few essays, Damian told us that he was accepted into the interview. When time came, we drove him to El Cerrito High School. We were waiting for a long time and we started to wonder if he made it or not. Finally, while we were parked outside, we found one of the applicants and asked how Damian did. The student said that Damian was accepted. We were so happy for him and proud of him. We had a lot of confidence in Damian because he always loved to talk. We had a feeling that he would answer the questions very well.

When the time came for Damian to leave, we figured that it was about time for him to become independent and to start exploring. Since he will be leaving for college soon, we thought that it would be very beneficial for him to go and experience a pre-college life. It was the ultimate test of his independence. He would be doing his own laundry, waking up on his own, and organizing his space and time. We worried more about how he would handle his luggage than anything else. Damian has always been quite independent. He likes to go out alone, so it wasn't very difficult for us to let him go. Our only request was that he call us every day, which he did.

While Damian was on the East Coast, he told us about all the colleges he visited. He said that his favorite university was Brown. What really attracted him to Brown was its open curriculum. Damian also sent us pictures and told us about all the delicious food he was eating. We were glad that he was having a good time. When time came for him to go to Yale, he told us about how busy it was and how he was really enjoying it. He told us about his roommates, the new friends he made from all around the world, and the activities that he was doing. When we heard about the Marshall Brief we thought that this will be very hard, but also very fun for Damian to do. He has always been passionate about human rights, which was the subject of his Marshall Brief.

When it was time for Damian to come back home, he called us and said that he would be back at night. We knew the time he would be here, but we wanted to play a trick on him. When his plane landed, he called. We told him that we will be leaving the house shortly. Needless to say, he was not happy. We found him at the luggage claim and he gave us a hug.

Now that Damian is back, we have noticed that he is much more open minded and willing to travel outside of California for college. He says that he feels more confident, and we can tell. He constantly rambles on about how he wants to help the new generation of ILCers and how he wants to get more sophomores and juniors to apply.

We want to thank the Ivy League Connection for giving our son the opportunity to go and study Grand Strategy at the Yale Young Global Scholars program. We want to thank all the staff and sponsors for helping our son throughout his journey. We want to thank Don for his house visits and advising Damian on what items to bring. We want to thank Damian's chaperone, Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole, for being a wonderful chaperone. The Ivy League Connection is a wonderful program that sponsors kids to go out and experiment outside of their comfort zone. We recommend this program to anyone who is willing to apply. We know that Damian will be helping future ILCers.

Anna Wong

                                                                                                GO BEARS!

Madeline Kronenberg
(510) 527-9446
Don Gosney
(510) 233-2060
When opportunity knocks, some people answer the door while others complain about the noise.
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