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.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5: Winding Down

It's hard to believe that this trip is coming to a foreseeable end. Last week literally flew by me in a blink of an eye, and I'm finding myself finishing my last essay and pondering the possible format of my upcoming final. It's truly mind-blowing how accustomed I have become to Cornell.

Today began with a need for an alarm clock, unfortunately. Mr. Crossley invited the 6 of us to accompany him at the Statler Hotel for Sunday brunch, and we simply could not deny the fine dining, nice company, and possibly last meal between the 7 of us. At 10:15am, we were all on our way to the Statler where we were greeted by a familiar face. On Saturday June 20th, our group had breakfast at the Statler prior to our trip to Syracuse University. During the breakfast, we met a student who also served as our waiter: Leslie, a rising junior in the School of Hotel Operations. To our delight, she waited our table this morning with the same courtesy and smile she had more than two weeks ago. It's a small detail, but seeing her made the breakfast special. It's another sign that my familiarity with Cornell is growing. After stuffing our bellies with every fine delicacy you could imagine, Mr. Crossley dropped us off at Mary Donlon, so that we may finish our weekend's homework. I'm glad to say that the only item left on my To-Do list is the further refinement of my Plato essay. Hopefully, it will be cinch.

Because I can never leave a blog posting too short, I would like to comment on a "situation" proposed by Mr. Ramsey: High School v. College. How do you compare and contrast these two pivotal institutions? Having been at Cornell for over two weeks now, I think I have a pretty well-rounded opinion. Overall, the two are immensely different, but there are a few similarities that exist. For instance, every student is expected to do the work. When walking into my discussion section, there should be no doubt in Desmond's mind that I have read the previous night's assigned philosopher. There is no time for special instruction if a few students do not read the material. I find this trait common in my high school classes, as well. If I do not read the night's assigned chapter, it is my duty to make it up and suffer a day's worth of learning due to the fact that I cannot comprehend the material. School is my responsibility, whether I am in high school or college.

While this is a huge similarity, differences are apparent. After classes, I do not have my mom to ask me how much homework I have or how much time I plan to devote to it. I have freedom in the sense that I control my own time. I decide whether I need a break or if it is time to hit the books. I enjoy this freedom because it has made me realize that I truly do put my schoolwork first. If there is time for relaxation, I take advantage of it, but I know when it is time to focus my academic self. I think an important difference between high school and college is the amount of involvement a teacher (or professor) and assistants express. Office hours at a high school level do not exist. You are expected to work around a teacher's schedule in order to receive extra assistance. In college, professors and TA's understand the fact that everyone isn't on the same level, so time is allotted for those who desire extra attention. Also, professors and TA's expect you to know the dynamics of a class. You will never hear Professor Kramnick say, "Pull our your planners and write down the due date for your next essay," as is commonly heard at HMHS. Overall, college requires a focused, balanced student. High school is great preparation, but college is the ultimate test.


  1. Justine,

    As we might have expected from you, another fine blog.

    Your commentary and analysis on both the belly stuffing session and on high school versus college were interesting, informative and insightful.

    I don’t ever recall having an instructor in college who slowed things down to accommodate those students who either couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up. In every one of my college classes it was sink or swim. If you couldn’t hack it, we all knew where our college advisor’s offices were so we could drop the class.

    We also knew the office hours for our instructors but it was still OUR responsibility to go to them and not the other way around.

    Built into every collegiate class, though, are office hours where you have access to the TA’s and the instructors. That’s part of the deal. We really don’t have that at the high school level although it might be far more beneficial there than at the higher level. Perhaps we might have a better graduation rate or even a better pass rate on the Exit Exam if we provided our HS teachers with office hours.

    Then again, in high school do we really think that those that are in the greatest need for this type of assistance would ever take advantage of it? I suspect those are the ones you’ve referred to that require your teachers to slow things down.

    You see the problem, Justine, and you can envision the solution yet we have people in our community and even people in positions of leadership within our District who encourage teachers to slow things down and even to dumb them down to accommodate those who are either incapable or unwilling to attend classes to learn. Of course, that’s another issue but it’s one that needs fixing, too.

  2. Hello Justine, I applaud you for coming to the realization, that your schoolwork comes first, with the push of your parents. I really did not know you before you went to Cornell, but I am truly impressed with the fact that you appreciate the importance of taking care of business. When a young adult is given the amount of freedom that you young ladies have been given, and you use that time to grow you are to be commended. Keep up the good work.

  3. Thanks Justine,

    I think that everything has been said with your post. I do hope that you can "tie" everything together with your final version on your paper and with your final.

    What I have enjoyed with this year's cohort in Freedom and Justice is that each of you embraced the work and looked forward to learning the material. For this I am grateful.

    I do hope that you will provide an exit interview to Mr. Crossley so that we can learn from you what went well and what we could improve upon for the set of students to attend the program next year.

    At the end of this week, we will have over half of our students back in the Bay Area. We want to capture their experience before it becomes stale. So a video clip in a Q & A format would be useful.

    I still hope that all of you eventually get to the Dairy Bar. I am saddened that the only time that you have decided to venture to it is on a Sunday. Maybe tomorrow after class you willhave a chance to taste the sweet cream.

    Enjoy your evening.

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

  4. Hello Justine, The previous post was actually from Brenda, Ramiah's Mom. I meant to say, I applaud you for realizing the importance of schoolwork "without" the push of your parents. Keep doing what you are doing.....

  5. Justine,

    Thanks for being so informative and candid in your posts. I am struck with the issue you identified as "involvement" from teachers.

    Colleges offer the TA system (personal tutoring really) to give individual support in a way that high school does not.

    How do you think that high schools might incorporate something that would provide a similar result? On-site tutoring centers? Student study groups? Something else?

    Hopefully, there are teachers among our blog readers who would like to hear your thoughts so that they could incoporate your suggestions. Please let us know what you think could help.

    Great job staying self-motivated and disciplined.