Through WCCUSD’s Ivy League Connection program, Hercules High School Students Justine Betschart, Stacy Chan, Ramiah Davis-Shephard, Louisa Man, Julia Maniquiz, and Yueming Wang will be attending Cornell University to either study Freedom and Justice or Hotel Operations Management during the summer of 2009.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1: Happy July!

Ahh, Mid-Term...CHECK! I'm very happy to inform my great readers that my first college-level exam is complete and I feel pretty great about it. My hard work has finally been applied to a concrete idea, and I feel confident reflecting upon my work. My TA was sincere when he told our Hercules trio that we need not stress, and we will be alright. Thanks Desmond!

Today began just as every other day has the past nearly two weeks. I awoke at 7:40am to meet Julia and Ramiah for 8:00am breakfast at Appel Commons. Today's breakfast differed slightly in that we had a mini-review prior to heading off for McGraw Hall. While slurping our cereals and snacking on our fruits, we went over each philosopher's (Plato, Christ, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine & Locke) view of human nature, justice, and government. It was a great way to remember the themes we studied the previous night. Plus, we reminded ourselves that we actually know this stuff!

After breakfast, we took our "intimidating" walk to McGraw, where we snagged our seats and broke out the pens and pencils. We read. We studied. We prepared. We were ready. After a few inspirational words from Professor Kramnick, we obtained our instructions and exam booklets and began. During the one hour exam, I realized that Professor Kramnick was telling the truth when he claimed that he "wouldn't try to trip us up." Everything that was on the exam was discussed in either lecture or discussion. Having gone to all of my classes, the test was as clear as day light. For my essay portion, I wrote about the similarities between Locke and the other 4 philosophers and who was most similiar in his views. Because I had a strong grasp of Locke going into the exam, I was excited when I came across the Locke essay question. After happily completing the essay portion, I moved onto Part 2 which called for us to select 5 out of 10 presented quotes and indicate the origin and significance of the quote. After selecting a few Locke quotes, two Plato, and one St. Augustine, I realized that I was done with time to spare! I strategically went over my work to make sure no glaring mistakes were present, and I officially finished. I'm really proud of the work I put into my exam, and I hope my TA Desmond appreciates it, too!

Following the exam, we had a two hour lecture by Professor Kramnick on the writings of Wollstonecraft, de Gouges, and partly John Stuart Mills regarding the topic of women. Having already read Wollstonecraft, de Gouges and portions of J.S. Mill, I wasn't confused or introduced to any unexpected ideas. Again, preparation has made this course much easier for me and my comrades. Following the two hour lecture, we were free for the rest of the day. During that time, Julia, Ramiah, and I grabbed some lunch, paid a visit to the Cornell Store, and investigated the Andrew D. White Section of Uris Library (aka "The Harry Potter Room"). I highly regret not having brought my camera along with me, but I promise that I will revisit and provide pictures! It's absolutely stunning!

Tonight's assignment requires us to review Wollstonecraft, de Gouges and J.S. Mill. I'll be getting to that assignment after dinner at Appel.

Before signing off, I've been asked to reflect a little on my district and how they've prepared me for this course. I am more than happy to put in my two cents. Firstly, without the support of my district, I wouldn't be writing this blog from my Cornell dorm, at all. I owe this entire experience to them. In terms of preparation, I have to thank those "amazing classes" I had the privilege of taking in high school. Without note-taking skills from AP U.S. History or analyzing skills from AP Language & Composition, I would not have tools I need to succeed in any college course, let alone an Ivy League course. I will admit that some of my high school courses do not compare to level of work that occurs here at Cornell. One infallible idea that will undoubtedly help our district would be the sorting out of obviously unhelpful courses and promoting the ones that help students prepare for college. By doing this, kids will be more prepared for college. Also! I cannot forget this. There needs to be more emphasis on English and writing courses. College is based on your ability to express your ideas, and without basic writing tools, one may appear to be a lackluster student. I have been lucky to have a great AP Language & Composition teacher, so I feel as if my writing is up to par. Mind you, I could have easily been placed in a different class, and my writing skills would have suffered. We need more teachers like Mr.Litvin! Also, people in my Freedom & Justice course are undeniably intelligent and belong in the class. Note that a majority of these students are schooled in private institutions, but the fact that 3 public schooled students are keeping up reveals the high standard of HMHS. I am definitely proud to be a Titan here at Cornell.

Having traveled out of the country as a part of a student ambassador program, I know what it is like to be away from home. Some nights I wonder what's happening on the West Coast, but I am focused and do not let any kind of homesickness get to me. Being at Cornell is an entirely different experience from living at home or even traveling with People to People (the student ambassador program). It is much more comforting. You are surrounded by hundreds of students in a similar situation: eager students prepared to learn and earn college credit. This mutual understanding makes the days fly by and the knowledge accrue in mass amounts. What could be better?

I have rambled quite a bit about WCCUSD, but students who are considering applying to the ILC for the summer of 2010 need to hear it. For those who will be applying and will possibly be accepted, I have one bit of advice: PREPARE. You have to consider the students you will be competing with in class. Most of these young adults are raised in wealthy, well-educated families and have participated in similar programs during past summers. Not being from one of those families motivated me to prepare before coming to Ithaca, along with studying intensively during my stay. You have to be willing to do the work, and if you are, I highly suggest that you apply. Your work will be paid off, and you will undoubtedly feel prepared for higher learning. I hope my advice guides the confused souls of prospective Ivy League Connection Participants. ILC will take you miles, but you have to be willing to put in the work. I promise; you will succeed.


  1. Justine,

    I so love reading your blogs!

    So much of what you wrote mirrors EXACTLY my own feelings except that you write so much better than I.

    You had one line that we need to emblazon on our letterhead: We read. We studied. We prepared. We were ready.

    Isn’t it amazing how much better you can do when you KNOW what you know? Confidence in yourself sure makes a difference, doesn’t it?

    I’m so very glad that you provided your commentary about your own preparations for Cornell and also provided advice for others. There’s so much truth to what you wrote and we would all best take heed of it.

    And by the way, when you’re making good valid points it’s never rambling. I’m reading 25+ blogs per day and responding to every one of them so you can imagine that my mind’s starting to turn to much about now but when I read the blogs from our Cornell group it makes it all worthwhile. Not only are you telling us what’s going on around you but you’re telling us what’s going on inside you. I love it.

    Please, Justine, just keep up exactly as you have been—except add a pretty picture now and again.

  2. Yes, I love those pretty pictures, but I would welcome a video clip. I will save the gushing for another day, Don did enough in his post. I also value your insight and appreciate your clear message about how your preparation made a huge difference in your performance on your exams. I am grateful that you listened to my advice. I wished more students would.

    However, your time at Cornell is not restricted to the classroom and discussion group. A view into the world after class in at Mary Donlon would tell us more. Who is your roommate? Where does she hail from? Does she enjoy her selected class and if so why and if not why not?

    Have you bonded or is the chemistry not what you had hoped for? How has your life changed knowing that you have to establish your own routine and remain disciplined during the day. I know that some students are probably frustrated and have tanked it in. I know that you are very observant and take us "inside the walls" and give us more relevant information that will be useful to our next cohort of students from Hercules High School. Yes, we want to get a better profile so that we can continue to shine and build on what we have established as a foundation.

    The Fourth of July is here and it symbolizes the day that we declared our independence from the King of England. So it is a day to celebrate, but isn't it ironic that we celebrate a day of rebellion? Let that sink if for a moment. Please consider this as you study Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. They were vilified for their views and their hopes for getting a piece of the American Pie.

    I want you to pay special attention to the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Really dissect every word that MLK wrote and why he had anger and frustration behind his thoughts. He was tired and shaken to the core, he no longer trusted that decent people had the POLITICAL WILL to ensure that all americans had an equal opportunity to prosper.

    Does this still continue today? Look around you, assess how only those fortunate few in the ILC got to go. Think of those who were left behind. You had other worthy Hercules High School students who wanted and tasted this chance. So, how is that just? How do reconcile that they are left to ponder what could have been and only through a lack of resources are they stymied from having this once in a lifetime opportunty.

    So yes, speak with your roommate, do an interview, speak to other Cornellians that are part of the regular campus. We want to hear their stories. Only through you will we have that chance.

    I am glad that you are thriving in the Freedom and Justice course, your interview panel knew you had the goods to get it done and you have proven them right. So make this trip much more than just getting a good grade. Take the time to do the campus tour that is given every day. We need to find out as much about Cornell as possible.

    An early congrats on your exam and essay. One day I would love to read your paper. If you do well, I hope that you will post it to this blog site. We would love to have it archived for the records.

    Take care.

    Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
    School Board Member
    West Contra Costa
    Unified School District