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.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6: The Final Countdown

It's Monday afternoon in Ithaca, and I can't help but remind myself of the fact that it will be the last Monday afternoon I spend at Cornell. Having become so accustomed to life on campus, it's kind of difficult to picture myself back at California at this point. Nonetheless, I must do my daily duties as apart of the ILC and report on my day thus far to my gracious sponsors and interested audience.

After a long weekend, I found it a huge pain to wake up this morning. To my detriment, I chose a soft song to wake up to on my iPod, so I'm lucky to have woke up on time. After stumbling around rounding up my belongings, I made way downstairs for my daily walk to Appel Commons with Julia and Ramiah. While slurping our cereals and slicing up our French Toast, we were in true disbelief that this would be our last Monday breakfast at Cornell (Sorry folks, I'm sure the 6 of us will be mentioning our "Cornellian lasts" for the next week). After fueling up on food, we went down to the lower level of Appel to print the 2nd draft of our Plato essays and took off for class.

Today's lecture in McGraw Hall was centered around Edmund Burke and his conservative views. Being a huge fan of Lockean liberalism, I found Burke to be a huge pessimist who I wouldn't want to be under the control of. Regardless, I took the best of notes I could and listened for any helpful information that would benefit me in our upcoming final. After our lecture, we broke into our discussion groups where we spent most of the time reviewing John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke. The most important moment of our discussion was the distribution of our mid-terms. To my delight, I received a B. Although I was very proud of my work, I found a few inconsistencies with my exam's grading and planned to discuss this with Des following our writing session, for it was time for lunch.

After enjoying a healthy salad at Trillium, I made my way back to Goldwin Smith where I was greeted by a previously unseen face: a groundhog! Yes, a groundhog on campus! I'll admit, I have been a huge fan of the countless squirrels that dart around campus, so upon seeing a groundhog, I found myself smiling and taking pictures like a child. I can't help but share the cute little bugger with my audience. While on the subject of wildlife on campus, I think I should describe the situation a little better. Everyday since I have been at Cornell, I have seem some kind of animal run across fields in front of lecture hall or my very own dorm. It's a very exciting thing for me because I truly love animals to the point where it has become a passion. I'm sure Ramiah and Julia will tell you that I get overly excited anytime I see a squirrel or a flock of geese on campus. It's a big reminder of home, for I live in an area where animals are constantly coming in and out of my backyard. Sorry to go on for so long about these little creatures, but as I said, it's sort of a passion for me.

Now back to what I have come here to do: learn! Back at Goldwin Smith, our class arrived for our bi-weekly writing workshop. During the hour long session, we passed in our Plato essays, peer edited our neighbor's essays, and heard the first paragraph of every student's essay (without names, of course) by Des. I really liked this exercise because it allowed us to hear our voices through someone else. Everyone had great paragraphs, which made Des really proud. After class, I approached Des and asked about some of my mid-term corrections. I'm very happy I did so because he told me to come to his office hours so that he may add points to my score. Hopefully that B will turn into a B+! Either way, I am very proud of the work I put into my test, for Des had very good things to say about it. After my small chat with Des, I took a trip to Uris Library to snatch up some pictures. It's a truly beautiful library, and I hope to sneak in a few more trips to the "Harry Potter Room" before my return to California. Who knows? Maybe I'll actually sit down to read a few philosophers, instead of showing up just for pictures. It's an amazing environment, where one could truly hear a pin drop from across the room. I know a few readers are dying for some illustrations for my trip, so I hope you all enjoy.

Tonight's plans include visiting Des' office hours along with reading 28 pages of Karl Marx, an iconic philosopher in this course. We will focus on Marx for two whole days before moving on to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X on Thursday. After that, it's time to wrap things up with the final exam on Friday. We are truly nearing the end!

Ms. Kronenberg has asked me to comment on the idea of high school teacher's holding office hours, so I'd like to take the chance to put in my opinion. In college, office hours are official slots where students may receive answers to their pending questions. In high school, students are required to take the initiative in order to receive extra attention. I think this is a good thing for high schoolers because it instills in students the comfort of knowing that it's okay to ask for help. It's better for students to take advantage of any type of help they can receive rather than assuming they can do everything on their own. Overall, in both high school and college, students can receive all the help they want, as long as they are willing to make the effort to obtain it. I don't think having office hours on a high school level will better scores or grade averages. If students want help, they will seek it out, regardless if sessions are previously planned or asked at a last moment's notice. I hope this helps!

P.S. I'd like to send a birthday shout-out to fellow Ivy Leaguer Stephanie Ny! She has been working ever so diligently on her Yale reading assignment, and I'd love to commend her for her commitment to the ILC. I'm sure that we all hope she has a great 17th birthday! She's definitely earned it!


  1. Justine,

    A very nice blog, indeed. And, of course, you know you won me over with your photos. A nice touch getting that shot of the plastic beaver lawn decoration. You weren’t fooled, were you?

    On the matter of office hours for high schoolers, do you really think there are many students at that level who feel intimidated about asking for help? You’re much closer to highs school students than I ever will be so I trust your judgment and observations on this but I’m surprised, nonetheless. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is like me (stupidly bold so that I go up to anyone to ask questions).

    I believe that having set office hours for teachers would be of benefit to the students but I’m not sure the logistics could be worked out. We’re already requiring the teachers to conduct about 645 classes per day each and the students have to attend classes from the first bell to the last so I’m not sure when we could schedule office hours where the students and the teachers both would have the time and freedom to meet.

    Asking the teachers to stay after work to conduct office hours would, I am positive, require more money to them and since the District doesn’t have the money to pay them their regular salaries, I don’t know where they’d find the funds for extra time.

    Also, so many of the students have after hour activities whether it’s sports, clubs, music, cheerleading and other good stuff so I’m not sure where they might be able to find the time.

    It’s a tough issue, Justine.

    And, we can’t forget that some of the kids that need the help the most are the least motivated to make the time to give the effort to ask for help.

    By the way, thanks for the 411 about Stephanie and her B-Day. I sent her a congratulatory email when I read your draft earlier in the day.

  2. I wanted to post prior to the start of the Michael Jackson Memorial. The entire world will be tuned into this event. I am surprised if anyone gets anything done for the remainder of the day.

    I know that he was not from your generation, but he was from mine and I can say that his likes will not be seen for a long time. Anyway enough of that.

    I can read from your posts that you have thoroughly enjoyed your time at Cornell. Your personality has been revealed to us during the past three weeks. I hope that you will continue to find yourself and I hope that you will let us know ultimately where you decide to apply to college.

    A few colleges that I hope you will consider, research and ponder are Dartmouth, Wellesley, Pomona and of course Cornell. In reading your posts and really hearing what seems to be a fit for you, I have surmised that based on my experience these academic institutions would be worthy of your presence. Of Course, Stanford is your number one and rightfully so, but I know that you need a longer list than just Stanford where the acceptance rate is low.

    I will not go into why I feel the aforementioned schools are excellent fits for you. I will allow you to investigate and inform me later about your thoughts and impressions. I have confidence that you will do an excellent job of vetting the numerous list of schools. I however wanted to throw out a few examples of highly selective colleges.

    Great job on taking the time to speak to Des. I am glad that he was receptive to taking a second look at your mid-term. Your willingness to share your feelings and question some of the comments shows that you are confident in what you are doing and what you have learned.

    Your photo gallery is great. I can see all that Cornell has to offer and why it is such a great place to learn. I see the campus beauty, the serenity of the locale, its history, and the fact that the school is a great location to get a top notch education. I do hope that you and the others will have a chance to go and see the Cayuga Lake. This is what Cornell and Ithaca represent along with the beautiful "gorges".

    Karl Marx as I mentioned is a big figure in this class. Just like John Locke his philosophy was adopted by many countries and by some of the great minds in this world. So remember to really look at his work with a critical eye and now with history on our side does his philosophy in practice work. Only you can answer this question, and remember there is no wrong or right. I am just happy that you have a chance to study his ideas and views.

    Hope all else is well and lets finish the week up on a strong note. You all have gotten a lot out of the class.

    Back to the Michael Jackson Motorcade as it heads to the public memorial service at the Staples Center.

    Take care.

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