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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10: FINALLY!

After 3 weeks of mild confusion, academic growth and college experience, it is all over. The final began at 9:38am and by 12:08pm, I could finally say that I "graduated" from Professor Kramnick's Freedom & Justice course. I am so proud of our trio, and I also commend the Hotelies for all of their hardwork in the past 3 weeks. I'd like to place a little interjection in here before I say my final words. Minutes before beginning this blog, Julia, Ramiah and I ran into our TA Desmond. He happily let us know that we all received A-'s on our Plato papers. I am EXTREMELY proud of the three of us. He even told us that if we manage a B or higher on the final, we may receive A's for our final grades. How cool is that!? Now back to our day. As of right now, the 6 of us are in Olin Library making sure we complete our blogs before 5:00pm. After doing our daily duties, we will do a little more campus exploring, making sure we visit every last spot before tomorrow's afternoon departure.

This morning started with nervous butterflies, for it was our last day of class and the day we have been dreading: Final Day. While we spent many hours studying over the course of a week, high-achieving students like ourselves couldn't settle our nerves and believe that the final would be a cinch. After doing a last minute review over our last breakfast at Appel Commons, we made our last trek to McGraw Hall. Upon our arrival, we took our seats, grabbed our pencils, and hoped it wouldn't be too bad. To our surprise, it wasn't. We knew our concepts, and there was nothing on the exam we could not answer. I wrote so much that I required a 2nd exam booklet. Time wasn't too much of a constraint as well. All 3 of us had extra time to review our work and assure that it was the best we could produce. Again, I'm so proud of us 3 ladies.

After running out of McGraw in pure excitement, we made our way to Trillium where we met up with our Hotelies. We then made our way to Day Hall for a campus tour. It may have been a little out of order considering we've been here for 3 weeks, but I did learn a few new things about Cornell. For instance, on a outdoor stairway next to Olin, there are "musical steps." There are thousands of small rocks around benches that are meant to be thrown across a patio, which produces sound! Because I am in Olin Library right now, I cannot post any pictures or video. I promise I will once I return to my dorm after exploring. Overall, I was proud to say I knew a majority of the information presented during the tour. I've really come to know Cornell. I can even tell you a few myths if you'd like to hear!

This being my last Cornellian blog, I have been asked to reflect on my experience. In regards to my personal experience, I learned that I can handle being away from home, but I just don't prefer it. I love seeing Julia and Ramiah every day, but I miss those familiar faces at home as well. When I go off to college, I know that I will be just fine, for a few calls home always eases any hints of homesickness. All in all, I think my emotional state of being is just great, and I'm sure my mentality will carry on to my upcoming college entrance.

College is about working in groups. Luckily, I came to Cornell IN a group! High school is an individual competition, and I've broken that habit upon arriving here. I enjoy discussing concepts and ideas with Ramiah and Julia. It is a great way to reassure what you've learned and know what you're saying isn't made up (Sounds a lot like J.S. Mill, doesn't it?). I've also learned the power of TA's and office hours. There are so many resources for students on college campuses, and I found my experience here much less stressful thanks to those accommodations. I wish that this concept existed in high school, but I fear that students wouldn't take advantage of it like college students do.

Who would've thought that a girl who grew up in the public education system could excel in an Ivy League college course? I can assure you that I would have never thought of myself in that way a year ago. The class experience was a nice change. I found out that I enjoy college lectures much more than high school "lectures." I also enjoy discussion sections in that you have a TA who really gets to know you as a student. Desmond has been a great instructor, and I am certain that I will keep in contact with him this upcoming fall. He has great knowledge, and I will make sure to learn as much as I can from him, even when I return back to California.

The roommate experience isn't as pivotal as it is made out to be. Due to hectic scheduling, I hardly found myself in my dorm room, let alone in there at the same time as my roommate. When we were accommodating our room at the same time, we found that we had many interests in common. We're both looking into applying at the same colleges, and we both love certain subjects in school, i.e. math. I'm definitely going to miss accommodating a "mini-household" with someone of my own age, but it won't be too bad going home and seeing my family. I'm certain that Julie and I will keep in contact after our Cornell experiences.

Now comes the big question: Will I apply to Cornell? That's a difficult question to answer at this point. I love certain things about Cornell, but other ideas also exist that would prevent me from traveling across the country for college. I truly enjoy the "natural" feel of Cornell. I don't want to go to a college where it's building, building, building. I enjoy the trees, grass and wildlife. It's very comforting. I also like the resources here at Cornell. I'm never too far away from a library, a dining hall, or some sort of activity. I enjoy the small environment, but I also love bigger campuses. For me, bigger campuses = more to do. That's where I have a problem with Cornell. I feel slightly constrained. Ithaca isn't too much of an up and coming town. I enjoy nature, but I also enjoy balance. I find this balance prevalent in California, more specifically at Stanford, if you didn't already know. I also have trouble seeing myself at Cornell due to their academics. Cornell is very well-known for their business and agricultural departments. I want to attend a school that is known for their science departments, for I am certain that I will be majoring in some sort of science. Then of course, there is the weather. I don't think I could handle endless months of winter nor countless days of rain. I am one of those people who likes to stay indoors when it rains. Weather can truly bring me down. This is only a small factor in my college decisions, but it is a factor, nonetheless.

Overall, this experience has taught me what I am and am not looking for in a college experience. I've met amazing people, who I know I will keep in contact with for a long time. I've also strengthened my established friendship with Julia, and budded a brand new friendship with Ramiah. Upon returning to Hercules, all 6 of us will have been changed people. Hopefully, we will have the opportunities to enlighten our peers of the experiences outside of Hercules. Who knows, maybe students in WCCUSD will start to feel like, "Hey, if those 6 girls can succeed at an Ivy League, maybe I can too." If I can help in just that sense, I feel as if my job as an Ivy Leaguer has been fulfilled. Of course, I wouldn't be an Ivy Leaguer without the help of the ILC. For that, I can only say thank you. I hope that my experience and opinions will help this program thrive, for our district can only benefit from this program. Again, I cannot say thank you enough for this opportunity. I'm ready to take on higher education. Nothing's stopping me now, thanks to the Ivy League Connection.


  1. Justine,

    You certainly know how to start a blog off properly. We couldn’t be prouder for you all with your Plato papers.

    I’m truly going to miss reading the blogs from you Cornellians. They’re so well written and full of interesting information and observations.

    I worry, Justine, about your fascination with everything Stanford. Please don’t get me wrong—I think Stanford would be a great fit for you. They’ve been known, though, for disappointing a lot of VERY qualified applicants and I just want to make sure that if they screw up, that there’ll be another place you’ll feel comfortable going to.

    By the way, please don’t promise photos and videos if you don’t plan to deliver on them. You still owe us some photos from early on of some library or something. Do you really think I look at these blogs just for the words? As I’ve tried to tell you all so many times before: Words are nice but words with photos are nicer.

  2. I am so sorry about the Uris Library pictures! I have a few moments to finally relax, so I'll be uploading those shortly. I absolutely promise!
    Just so you know, I do have back-up plans in the event that Stanford doesn't work out for me. Although it lacks the prestige of Stanford, UC Santa Cruz has a similar Environmental Program. Plus, I love Santa Cruz. At this point, it's between Stanford and UC SC. I still have a little time to do some searching, so we will see if anything changes. Thank you so much for the concern!

  3. I knew we had a winner with your posts when I read your first one. Remember the hiccup with the stop by the Hercules Police Officer. Once I read that post I knew I was in for a great three weeks. And guess what, it was a great three weeks!

    Justine, your sense of purpose and clarity are impressive. Stanford is a great school and I love Santa Cruz. Alvin Yee, graduate of El Cerrito High School and former Freedom and Justice student in professor Kramnick's class as a sophomore will enter UC Santa Cruz this fall. So the best of luck with you.

    What I want to share with you is how appreciative I am of your discipline and maturity. I knew that everyday around 3:30 PM you would have your post done. I could count on it like clockwork. I loved it. This is how the real world works. It is a series of routine behaviors that allows us to get our work done and ensures that we remain responsible.

    You have a lot of talent and this program brought out the best in you. You saw that within your quiet and laid back self that you could have a voice that roared. On this blog site your voice roared loud and clear. Thank you for making us hear your voice. I loved every second of it.

    Now is the time for you to continue to expand your college search and to make sure that you find the right fit. One year ago the Ivy League Connection was something that you had never heard of, now it is a program that made a life changing experience for you. So keep an open mind and explore schools across the SPECTRUM. I do not want you to exclude any college that might want a talented and gifted student to grace their campus.

    Just like that picture of the Groundhog that you sent a few days ago, I see an innocent and loving young person who just wants to be happy and have a moment in the sun. I will keep that picture for me a long time and know that you will find that peaceful spot on the lawn and look up and say "hey, I am here and you notice"

    Justine, we did notice and I am glad that you are a proud graduate of the Ivy League Connection. Sometimes the wait is well worth it.

    Thanks again for being part of the clan that made a splash in Professor Kramnick's class. I am sure that he enjoyed your time as much you enjoyed his. I would also hope that you get a photo with Des. I am dying to see all of you young ladies with him in a group photo.

    Have a safe trip home.

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