Saturday, May 28, 2016

Meet, Talk, Eat, Sleep

University of Pennsylvania Flag
Stressing out over my routinely late mom,  like always, I couldn't help almost crying. The cohort and one of each of our parents had to meet at El Cerrito Plaza BART Station no later than 5:10 PM for our evening dinner with some of the sponsors, chaperones, and alumni from the University of Pennsylvania at Town Hall restaurant in San Francisco. It was 4:00 PM and I was still at my high school from when it ended at 3:09 PM, still needing to change into my formal attire. I was utterly terrified of being late and the risk of losing my scholarship to the university. I thought to myself, "You really had to do this out of all days? This is my future and the dinner is my gateway to so much more opportunities. I can't be late to this." As I was about to call John and Don, my mom finally appeared with my sister in the car ready to be dropped off. 

We easily dumped my sister at one of her friends' house and swiftly carried on our journey to the BART station. Looking at my iPhone 5s for the time only made me stress out even more. I put my phone down and on the charger before it died and gave me an annoying headache stressing over the time. To save me some time, I decided to switch into my blouse and put my slacks over my leggings carefully in the back of the car while my mom was driving. To my surprise, the time we arrived to the station was 4:34 PM. We were the first to arrive other than Don. I was more than relieved seeing the time; I don't even want to imagine what the inconvenience of me being late could have cost everyone.

My mom and I walked over to the station from the parking lot and greeted Don. He was pleased to see us early. It was cold outside in El Cerrito; I was shivering waiting on the rest of the party to find their way to the right station. As time passed by everyone began coming one after the other. Once all of my cohort and chaperones arrived Don gave us a spiel about public transportation, clipper cards, escalator courtesy, and how satisfied he was on our punctuality. At first I thought that it was unnecessary to go over these things it seemed like common sense, but then I remembered Don only goes over past mistakes and potential problems. Throughout the informative speech the rest of the people had appeared: Lisa Romero (Pinole Valley High senior, attending UPENN in the fall), Jun Zhou (Pinole Valley High graduate, attended Experimental Physics program at Penn as a part of the ILC and is currently at UC Berkeley), Alex Elms (Pinole Valley High Graduate and recent graduate from Penn), Mrs. Kronenberg (Co-Founder of ILC), and her husband, Mr. Kronenberg (alumnus from Dartmouth College and Colombia Law School). Don ended the speech just as the final person, John Hillyer, had arrived. We headed through thee automatic gates of the BART station and went up the escalator to the platform."

On the San Francisco train, I had sat next to Diana's older sister, Karen Ramirez. She told me about her experience coming from El Salvador six years ago and her life at Contra Costa Community College. She's majoring in Social Welfare and is transferring to UC Berkeley soon. She gave me some advice to stay involved within my school because it will help me further down the road showing me things that I may be interested in pursuing a career in; it shows me what I like and I dislike  making it easier to settle on my career. Karen had shared how proud she was of my cohort for going so far to attend the University of Pennsylvania over the summer; there was a true reason we all made it so we should take advantage of it. As the train pulled into Embarcadero BART Station, I thanked Karen for sharing her experiences and for the advice because I know it will assist me to continue striving. We all stepped off the train and continued to the escalator until we were on the streets of the city.
Town Hall Restaurant in San Francisco

The walk to Town Hall was close by from where we got off; It was just a few blocks away. The streets of San Francisco was beautiful and busy as always. There were a lot of construction work in the process as we were walking to Town Hall which probably caused the sewage odor lingering in the city air. We soon approached Town Hall leaving that repulsive smell behind us. The restaurant itself was small on the outside, but once you step in it's far from small. All that you see from where you first walk in is a patio with many lights along the borderline of the "ceiling" and "wall" and multiple waiters setting up a long, white table with around 24 chairs placed throughout the sides of it. That table is where Don, my cohort, UPENN alumnus, and sponsors were dining at. There were large heaters that hung above the tables for when the weather turned cool. The inside of restaurant had three floors where people had private reservations and where the bathroom was located. The main level stretched down and around the corner filled with a large abundance of people. It was hard to tell where the end of it was. 
Inside of Town Hall 1st Floor

Most of us had come to the restaurant earlier than from when our reservation was set for. We had a good amount of time to kill so we all began getting to know each other and asked questions for our sponsors and alumni from Penn to get a better feel of what it's like being there and learning more about themselves. We barely started talking to John, when Allonna randomly fainted. I was extremely confused and concerned as she started losing her balance and then collapsed against the hardwood floor. Her mom and John came to her side quickly, ensuring her safety. We took a few minutes watching her from a distance, giving her some space. Don took the alarming situation and turned the spotlight onto the sponsors and alumni giving Allonna and her mom some privacy as well as the opportunity for the rest of the cohort to get to know them better.

Distracting us from Allonna, Chris, Diana, and I began talking to Ms. Topor, Ms. Morris, and Ms. Andrea. Ms. Topor and Ms. Andrea both are alumnae from Penn while Ms. Morris is an alumna from UC Berkeley. They all told us about their experiences at their schools and how they felt about it. They decided to attend those schools because they felt as if it was meant for them to go there. Ms. Morris was amazed at Berkeley. She came from a small town in Southern California so the transition into Berkeley was different; she loved it. Ms.Andrea had a great time at Penn. The environment and the community is diverse and there's so much to do. 
Table Set Up

Don announced it was time for dinner, so we ended our conversations and went to find our name tags showing our designated assigned seats. I had thought to find my set earlier while I was taking pictures of the restaurant to save me some time later on. My mom was sitting to my right and Diana to my left. In front of me was Mr. Mahendra Prasad, left of him was my fellow Forensics member, Lisa Romero, and to his right was Ms. Liz Block. We all stood up and gave brief introductions about ourselves; some gave longer ones sharing a more detailed background. Getting up, my clumsy self accidentally fell back down before fully standing making me feel slightly uncomfortable when I introduced myself. Diana gave a pleasant speech thanking everyone for our opportunity and excitement of our future plans being in the East Coast as well as her past experience the previous year at Brown University for Women & Leadership in the ILC. 

Dinner Menu
The menu included French roll bread with butter, biscuits with a spicy-sweet jam spread, salad with fetta cheese, walnuts, and romaine lettuce, grilled mixed vegetables, asparagus garnished in bread crumbs, prime rib, and deep fried chicken, with a dessert of chocolate and sea salt caramel fudge brownies. As the food had came one by one, we all were engaged in conversation, but still managed to multi-task eating as well. Ms. Block is a graduate from Duke University, where she majored in psychology. She is also a part of the West Contra Costa School Board. Mahendra graduated Penn in 2004 and had a memorable experience. He's originally from Memphis, Tennessee and lived on a farm. As he was discussing his past experiences, he emphasized with his honest and wise words that accomplishments and awards are a side effect of your hard work; you need to focus on the process instead of the end result. After hearing that, I started self-reflecting and told myself to keep reminding myself that from here on and throughout my future. I will forever keep that saying with me thanks to Mr. Prasad; thank you. 

I had excused myself to use the unnecessarily far restroom on the second floor of Town Hall. I came back in the middle of hearing Don's closing speech. I felt embarrassed interrupting him from speaking, but thankfully no one really seemed to notice. I thought I had come near the beginning of his speech but it turned out to be near the end. I was ashamed missing a generous part of it thinking to myself, "I knew I shouldn't have drank that much water." We finished up the night with a picture in front of a boulder next to Town Hall; it was the cohort holding the flag of UPENN and alumni of Penn with our supporting sponsors right behind us. We all headed back on the train soon after, feeling tired and full. That night is a night that I will never forget.

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