Saturday, August 16, 2014

No Longer Hopeless

In my sophomore year, I was called out of class for an orientation about the Ivy League Connection (ILC), which was given by Don Gosney. I was interested in the program, but I turned down this “opportunity of lifetime” that Don was talking about at the time. Since I am not a U.S. citizen, I immediately assumed that I wouldn’t qualify for this program. Then came junior year of high school and I got invited to the ILC orientation again. Even though I made a mistake the first time, I refused to apply again. Constantly being rejected from scholarships, due to my visa, has made me question the opportunities that approached me. Just one week before the deadline for the Women and Leadership Course at Brown University, my friend who went to Brown for the Physics summer program persuaded me to apply. He said that I would never know if I qualified for the program unless I tried.

After applying for the ILC towards the end of 2013, I forgot about it until I received an email congratulating me about getting into the interview. On the day of the interview, I felt nervous because only four girls could get into the ILC. I thought, “What are the chances of me getting against against these confident girls?” But I tried my best, thinking of how hard it was to get to the interview; and to my surprise, I got in.

The months following my interview involved a blog tutorial, application process for Brown University, a city council meeting, and fancy dinners. These events helped me become more responsible, punctual, professional, and many more even before I was in Providence, Rhode Island. Making time for me to blog has helped me with time management and responsibility. Before this program, I used be so shy to even ask for directions or order at a restaurant. But now, I could walk into a store and get a worker’s attention without feeling embarrassed. The Women and Leadership course at Brown has taught me to be more confident in myself and to not worry about what others think about me. I also learned valuable life lessons such as “don’t judge a person based on one thing about that person.” I see the world differently now, in a good way.

The people that I met on this trip have filled me up with so much energy, which I want to spread in my community. I plan on starting and continuing the action plan that I came up with at Brown this summer. My action plan is to fundraise money for the GRIP(Greater Richmond Interfaith Program), which is a program that helps people that are either homeless or at risk of being one. I am determined and motivated to make a difference where I live.

The five days that I spent visiting colleges and eating at fancy restaurants in the East Coast gave me a more understanding about life after high school. I learned what to look for when applying to college, including clubs and dorm life. It’s very different actually experiencing and seeing things than to read about these places online or in a book. There were some things in the East Coast that made me realize how lucky I am to live in the Bay Area. On the other hand, there were moments when I wanted to take a part of Rhode Island back home. Overall, I came back to California knowing more about what I want. I now understand what type of leader I am or what type of setting I prefer.

The Ivy League Connection was my second school. I put the same effort that I put into Middle College High School into the ILC. I want to thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs.Kronenberg, Don Gosney, and sponsors for being able to give me a chance to see how it is like outside the Bay Area. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

True Colors

Unleashing My True Colors!
How do I begin this? I would like to start from square one, where everything began... The moment when I came to El Cerrito High School, for the interview, was nerve wracking. To tell you the truth, I didn't believe that I had the chance to go to Brown University. It was a 1/8 chance for me to get picked, and I did, so thank goodness. After that moment, I woke up extra early to go to school, knowing that I have a summer that awaits me. You don't know how EXCITED I was, and I'm how grateful I was during the whole trip.  I had to keep reminding myself that the place I am at is reality, because it seemed so surreal. 

Providence Photoshoot
It has been an amazing journey, and I mean AMAZING. The awesome people, places, and experiences are all so irreplaceable that I wish I can go back in time to relive them. I wish I can go back to Brown for this program, the W&L course. It was a fun class full of activities, love, and discussion. I loved the activities and the documentaries the most, because I believe those were the moments in which I made the impacting memories. I hope that the Ivy League Connection can send even more empowering teens to Brown for this special program.

Reserving this Memory
This program has touched my heart, and has changed me. The texts and videos were mind blowing, and I believe the discussions were the icing on top. I really loved the people I met during my time at Brown. I am positive that I miss each and every one of them, to the point where I cried on the last day of school. Everyone has touched my heart, and changed my mind about society,women, and human nature. I wish we all went to the same school, but that's not possible, or is it? I don't know how to explain my trip there, because to me, it's a moment you have to experience yourself. I dream of a day when I can go back to Brown, and say hello to my second home.

To the Greatest Roommate, Yasmin
I need to thank everyone that is a part of the Ivy League Connection. I never thought about other schools outside of California, and now I have broaden my views on it. It's definitely true that I was able to think of a school from the East Coast, and that school in mind is Brown. I know that we had the opportunity to visit other amazing colleges and universities, but the memories at Brown, stay at Brown. There's so much history, in a two week time period, at my second home. I learned to live, learn, and love. To let out all emotions, and to begin again, renewed. This was definitely the highlight of my summer, and I dream to do it all over again. 

To those who will be reading this, the Ivy League Connection has changed my life. Now I know some people may take the word change lightly, but I mean it. I changed. I want to thank those who made this possible for me. Sponsors, panelists, and just anyone that helped me reach this stage of my life, thank you. I thank my supportive friends who helped me practice some questions. I thank my family who were ecstatic to see me go into this program. Thank you to those who were in the Ivy League Connection, because you worked really hard. Spending hours not sleeping, for us. And I like to thank you. Whoever you may be, reading this much is enough for me. You were able to find this one blog from out of nine people, and I'm grateful. I would like to thank the people I met during my time back East. I found amazing, inspiring people while I was there, and I fell so lucky. I feel lucky that I have been able to meet all of you while I was there. No matter how far away we may be, we may find each other in the future one day. 
                My name is Thao Le Hoang. I am a '16. And I am a woman, a phenomenal woman.                                                                                                                              Thank you. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Goodbye for Now

My whole experience with the ILC has been amazing. I have bonded with my cohort and made great connections  with people. The Women and Leadership Course at Brown has brought new light into my life, made me see things in a different way.  The ILC was amazing, they accommodated us very well. The hotels to the dinners were amazing, and I am very great full for the opportunity. Interview day was stressful and leaving for the trip became more stressful but going there was the best thing that happened to me. I would like to thank Dona and everybody. I have come back as a changed person that is ready to help my community.  Thank you all again for either reading my blogs or supporting me through this amazing experience. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Just Where Do I Begin? An Experience of a Lifetime...

Where it all began...The Interview!
If you told me 6 months ago that I'll be attending Brown University in the summer with a scholarship, I'd say that you were out of your mind. But hey, I guess I was wrong. I just don't know where to begin; from the very first meeting that go us here to the weary nights of writing essays and turning them in before the deadline, or even the tutorials that presented us a set of rules to the fancy dinners that didn't cost us a dime. Let's not forget about the endless waves of emails sent to each of us almost at least once a week, with reminders as well as tasks to do. This sounds like loads of work being dumped on a normal high school student but I'll tell you what, it's all worth it in the end. 

I really can't write just how much I thank Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, and Don Gosney for creating a program such as this that really gives students in my district a chance to discover and experience an Ivy League School. All the hard work and dedication that they put in this program really shows just how important the students  in the West Contra Costa Unified School District are to them. I know that most of the schools, especially mine, are that of low income and many people believe that the students won't make it far. But this program helps prove all the doubters wrong, I can tell you that. I also thank all the staff/teachers at school and sponsors of the program for believing in us and assisting us from the beginning. Everything that the ILC has to offer at no cost is one heck of an opportunity given by the district. I just hope that more students take advantage of this opportunity because it can really change your life, like it did with mine. 
From the School Board Meeting

From the moment I attended the first ILC meeting, I knew that I had to apply for the program. I mean, I really had nothing else better to do this summer, so why not? I was warned about the amount of dedication and work that we had to put in order to get in, but this didn't scare me at all. I remember when I got called up for an interview for the Vanderbilt program. Unfortunately, I didn't get accepted and I was a bit overwhelmed with this outcome. But I didn't let this small setback stop me, and because of this rejection, I was able to apply and get accepted to another course: Women and Leadership at Brown University. Before attending the Women and Leadership course, I used to just laugh and joke about the stereotypical comments about women with my friends and just ignore the baffling, sexist commercials that we see on TV. But now this course has opened up a new perspective for me in how women are portrayed and treated in the social media and even in everyday life. I just never knew how much women are oppressed in comparison with men whether it is in sports, jobs, and even in movies. Women in movies are always shown as the weaker link and it always takes a man protagonist to save them. But what if it was the other way around? It would seem so weird and different to see because that's just how the media has taught us and continues to teach us, unless we change it. This is where the leadership part of the class comes in. All the activities that we did as a group really help me improved in my leadership as well as my skills in teamwork and communication. These skills and knowledge that I've gained I hope to bring back to community and to assist in implementing my action plan as well.

After this summer, I was pretty happy that I got rejected from Vanderbilt. I really just can't explain just how much fun I had at Brown. Maybe it was the beautiful campus, or the life-changing course that I took, but it wasn't just that. It was the people. All the wonderful people at Brown that I ended up meeting now has a special place in my heart. It might sound a little dramatic but it's true. It felt so weird at first being in a different environment away from home, as well as meeting a wide variety of students from all over the country and some even international. But after spending time with the people at Brown, all that weird feeling went away and I just felt like I was at home. And because of this I can't thank ILC enough for giving me this opportunity to experience an Ivy League School such as Brown as well as interact with a very diverse group of students in the summer@brown program. One of the greatest things that I got out of this program was the fact that I met so many young, bright, and amazing students in the program that I could possibly meet. 
To our first day at Brown hauling luggages to our dorm
To the endless nights of blogging

Everything that has happened this two weeks at Brown felt so surreal, like as if it was a dream. Now I'm back home writing this blog and remembering all the fun times I had in the East Coast as well as all the things that I've learned that truly made this program a life-changing experience. It's so different now. I was used to waking up in the morning and seeing my roommate, Ofir still asleep on the other side of the room, trying not to wake her up as I prepare for my day. I was used to saying good morning to everyone that I saw in the hallways and bathroom even if my face and hair was a mess. I was used to walking with my group to the Vdub or Ratty for breakfast, then making our way to CIT 219 and see the beautiful face of Dean Almandrez greet us. I was just so used to everything that Brown offered me that I felt like I was at home. I was so comfortable with everyone since they motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and just be myself, and because of that I was able to discover new things about me along this two week journey. But the most important thing of it all was that I developed a family-like relationship with everyone there, including my cohort. Just spending time and seeing each other every single day you just feel like you found another home within the dorms and in class. It's crazy to think about; and I never thought how two weeks with strangers can turn into family just like that. It's hard to express what I feel just on this blog. But all I hope is to see the wonderful faces of those in the summer program again later on in the future. 

Just say that we made it! The ILC Women and Leadership Cohort of 2014
Action Plan Presentations 7/31/14
We thank you Ivy League Connection and Brown University for an amazing summer!
And let me just take a moment to thank the wonderful leaders in my Women and Leadership class who really taught me more than I can ever imagine. I spent two weeks of my summer with them and it was literally the best two weeks of my life. From all the activities and deep conversations that we had in class, I can imagine just how successful they will be in the future in implementing their action plan and achieving so much more. This class was filled with unique talents and personality that you can't find elsewhere and I'm just fortunate enough to be a part of it. This wasn't just my class, it was my family. And let's not forget that this class had one of the best (if not the best) and most inspiring instructor of all time, Dean Almandrez! If you're reading this, thank you Dean Almandrez for motivating and inspiring us to become the great leaders that we are today. I hope that this won't be the last time we'll all see each other...
The Women and Leadership Class of 2014!

"Watch out, we're taking over the world!"
-Stephanie Wang
"I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me."

-Maya Angelou

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How Can I Ever Thank You All?

It seems as if it was just yesterday when I met my NEMOW sisters. I remember sitting down with all eight of them preparing our blog page and learning how to use blogger. As the times I got to spend time with them went by I gained trust towards them, including the girls that went to school with me. If it wasn't for the ILC I wouldn't of gotten so close to NEMOW. The whole preparation for the trip taught me that when I'm older I won't have my parents to tell me to respond to emails, do essays, and email applications to Brown. Learning about technology was a huge thing for me , I've never been close to using any devices bigger then my phone. I've learned how to upload pictures to my computer,  adjust photos, and even rename them. It funny how technology has been around me this whole time but I've never really used it.

Having the chance to take a course at Brown is a big privilege. My parents would of never had enough money to pay for the Women and Leadership class, let alone for my plane ticket. The other girls taking the Same course as me and NEMOW had their parents pay for everything. Due to my social economic status I've always felt like I can't get anywhere to go to school or even travel. I also always thought rich girls were just spoiled and didn't care about others but while taking my course I met some girls that were very down to earth and didn't let money determine the person that they are. 

Thanks to my course I know feel more open about my gender and more proud. I now watch tv, movies, and videos and automatically see how woman do so much to impress everyone but themselves. I now am not able to ignore how women are hyper sexualized and stereotyped by the social media, I feel like I have the need to say something now. I've changed into a more outspoken person throughout the two week course. Having to wake up early to go to breakfast, then class, then lunch , then class again was a sneak peek at what college life will be like. I know that I wont be having anyone tell me to head to my dorm because its almost curfew or to clean and wash my clothes when I'm away for college in the future. I gained lots of self-responsibility while having to depend on myself. I also learned how to spend my money wisely and not let the other girl trick me into going out to eat all the time. The dorm life was really good especially since I didn't have a roommate, If she would of arrived I would of learned a lot from her.
I'll forever remember you all! Women and Leadership summer class of 2014! CIT 219, is our home!

Going on college tours was something I would of never done If it wasn't for the ILC. Seeing NYU, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Wellesley helped me realized that UC Berkeley isn't the best school like everyone told me. All of the campuses were nice including Brown University. I got so attached to Brown that I now want to attend there, it's my first option. Second I want to attend Wellesley College, it seemed like it was the place for me the instinct I stepped foot on their campus it was just so beautiful. An interesting fact that I found out about was that financial aid will be willing to pay for my whole college classes which is great for me because my family won't be able to afford it. It's sad how I didn't know about all this college support and wonderful colleges/ universities.

Going on fancy dinners wasn't my sort of thing but I went along with it. I never understood why the ILC had us go to fancy dinners but I'm pretty sure it's so we can experience the wealthy life we can have if we work hard and get a wonderful degree or career. I enjoyed the food and had the chance to meet lots of people that started with absolutely no money and now have a good job and education. The people I met have encouraged me to work hard and discover different things.

Our Columbia Tour photo with Beulla.
Thanks to the ILC I'l forever have those eight sisters and chaperon with me wherever I go. I became so attached to them that I even know their favorite saying and know how they really are. I've met many older people who told me about their stories and others who helped me figure out what I should study. I learned how to use technology more on a daily bases, give myself responsibility, and trusting people. I can never put in words how thankful I am that the ILC gave me this opportunity. I thank Don for taking most of his time to write extra extra long but important emails to all the ILC'ers and for organizing everything. A big thanks also to Madeline Kronenberg, Charles Ramsey, and all the sponsors for cooperating and believing in all of us. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will forever cherish. I'll never be able to pay off this whole trip but I'll make our program proud and represent even when I go off to college. It'll always be the ILC,  the program of once in a lifetime opportunities and dreams that come true. Thank you all!
Our last picture.

Thank You, All of You.

Once again, I would just like to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported me throughout these last few months…there were so many people involved who have encouraged and allowed me to participate in this amazing program.  With a special thanks to Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg and Don Gosney for their continued dedication to the Ivy League Connection.  Thanks to my wonderful chaperone Jenny and my fun-loving cohorts.  Thanks to all the alumni, students, and educators who volunteered their time to meet with us and share their experience and insight.  Thanks to family too—this truly was an experience that I will never forget. 

It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that this adventure is coming to a close.  I’ll be forever grateful for that knowledge that I’ve gained throughout the Women and Leadership course at Brown University.  I’ve learned about gender roles, societal oppression, and so much more. I’ve learned how to be a better leader, how to listen, and how to present myself.  I’ve learned about different colleges, research and internship opportunities, and the importance of networking. But most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself.  Now I’m finally on the path to discover my true potential (I say “path” because this course made me realize that I still have a lot of room for further growth and development).  I’m excited to put this new knowledge to use within my own community and beyond.


I never attended the ILC recruitment presentation, my counselor Ms. Munoz called me out of class and  into her office one day and I asked me if I would like to join the ILC, I told her yes and she wrote down my email and that how it all began. After that day I began receives what seemed like a ton of emails, I am very glad my counselor cared so much about my future that she went out of her way to insure I was aware of my opportunities.

I have only been home a couple of days and I have begun to see change within myself. I will never forget the girls I met in the Women and Leadership class nor will I forget the lessons I learned from each one of them. The Women and Leadership course allowed me to have a safe space to learn what it means to be women in the 21st century. The way I viewed women in the media has changed and I can no longer ignore the way women are hypersexualized and stereotyped.

This class really opened my eyes and showed me how women are treated by the norms of society. I learned more about myself in  this class, I  learn what type of leader I was changing my personal awareness which enabled me to make better decision when it comes to working as a team.

I am extremely grateful for all of opportunity’s the ILC provided me with. For the last three week I spent on the other side of the county and meet different people from around the world. I had the opportunity to visit colleges like NYU, Colombia, Wellesley, Dartmouth and Brown. I learned from the information session, I learned that attending one of these colleges could be a real possibility and there is finical aid available to attend these schools.

Being away from my family allowed me the opportunity to get to know myself in a different way and see how I acted in a college environment along with being responsible for myself. Looking back will miss everyone I met on my trip. I can’t believe that I had the opportunity to take a 2 week class at Brown University. I am grateful for class and the college experiences it severed as more motivation to go to college. After this trip I can finally see myself attending a four year college. Now that I am back in my community I can’t wait to share that same motivation.

Before going to Brown, Don warned me that I would be treated like an adult and for that I am thankful it allowed me to accountable for myself. Now I am starting to feel more like an adult and more responsible.  After this course I now know that I can make a change in my community, I have a voice and it’s time it is heard.

Thank you Don, Ms. Munoz, and ILC.