It was 5:25 PM when my mom and I arrived at Lavonya DeJean Middle School in Richmond. Both she and I had to be there for the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board Meeting no later than 6:00 PM in the school's multi purpose room. I was dressed in my black semi-sheer blouse, tan dress pants, navy blue cardigan and my black flats with my hair in a high ponytail ready to go. Whenever I'm early to something, I get excited and feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, leaving me stress-free. I grabbed my teal matte portable charger and exited my mom's dirty, white 2006 Town & Country van.
Since I was early, I decided to do some exploring of the campus. DeJean Middle School is fairly large for a middle school but is inconveniently built in front of BART tracks. I can only imagine how annoying that must be hearing the loud sound of the train passing by while you're in class learning or while trying to take a test.
All of the front gates were locked, so I went around to the side where I found doors that opened to the multi purpose room. I walked back to the car, dragging my mom along to the entrance.
I opened one of the double doors, letting my mom in first. I turned around, checking if there was anyone else behind me and I saw Allonna and her mom walking up the sidewalk toward the multi purpose room. Holding the door open for both of them as they walked in, I said "hi" and wished Allonna a happy birthday. Attending a Board meeting is some way to spend a birthday.
|Inside Lavonya DeJean's multi-purpose room.|
Allonna and I spotted Don in a gray button up working at a table in the back of the room; we greeted him eagerly. He informed us that the meeting wouldn't be starting until around 6:40 PM so we had a lot of time still on our hands.
Allonna had a smart idea to take pictures of the place as we waited for the time to pass by and the rest of our cohort to appear.
While we were taking shots of our surroundings, Diana had arrived. She was dressed in her black and gold flats, black slacks and blazer with a tan and black polka dot top. The last of our cohort to arrive, pointed out by Allonna, was Chris. He was outfitted smoothly in his black suit, red tie, white button-up, and square-tip loafers while checking in near the front with his mom. We all chatted for a bit before making our way to our reserved fold-up seats near the front of the room. Sooner than we knew it, the meeting's agenda began.
|Diana and I|
Thanks to Don working his magic, he was able to have us moved up to the first on the agenda preventing us from being out too late. I was relieved; I was still exhausted from the Town Hall dinner the previous night.
The first cohort announced to present to the Board was, my cohort: The University of Pennsylvania. They called up John's name to introduce us. He walked to the podium with all smiles signaling us to follow him. As we rose from our seats, I felt confident knowing that we're being supported and being up there with my amazing cohort. We all grew comfortable and friendly with each other so fast, it's amazing. John gave an introduction of each of us, telling the board and the audience who we are, our grade level, and the high school we're currently attending. He also stated what program we'll be studying at Penn as well as the other university site visits we will be touring - Georgetown University in Washington DC, Colombia University in New York City, and of course, The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
It was now Chris's turn to give his speech representing our cohort. He made a lovely speech, thanking Don and Mrs. Kronenberg for the opportunity and founding the Ivy League Connection because without them, none of it would be possible. He also shared how enthusiastic all of us were to be going to Penn to the Social Justice Research Academy and how we will come back blossomed from where we first came in. Listening to Chris present drew a smile on my face because everything he was saying spoke for all of us. I was more than happy just thinking about what our future has to bring to us. The Ivy League Connection is genuinely a one-of-a kind program that we're so blessed to have and the opportunity to be a part of. I know the process of our month long expedition will spark a change in all of us for the better and we're going to take advantage of this.
The five of us, including John, still holding our grins, made our way back to our seats as the audience applauded for our cohort. We all respectfully listened to each cohort present themselves and discuss the future of their journey. It was satisfying hearing how appreciative everyone is for the programs they're going to, giving the ILC a stronger purpose for its existence than it already has.
|John, Diana, Me and Mike|
Once the last cohort, Cornell, finished closing their final words, we all walked together outside to take an annual group picture enforced by Don. Don had specific instructions of how we would be placed in the picture. We ladies were instructed to sit on the long, wooden bench covered by a pink set of tablecloths. Four of us were required to stand in the center right behind the bench because there were so many of us. The five guys sat with their legs crossed centered on the floor. Our parents and chaperones filled in the spaces in the back standing behind all of us. Taking photos of all of us smiling and with our eyes open was a difficult job to do, which is why Don took 26 shots of the entire group to ensure he got at least one good quality image.
When Don dismissed us, we were allowed to leave. My close friend, Diana Valle, and I decided to stay for a bit and take some pictures of our own. We gave her dad and my mom our phones to capture us together. Since my mom is nowhere near tech-savvy, even though all she had to do is hold the phone and press the white, circular button at the bottom. She gave my phone to Diana's dad instead to get some pictures on my phone. Diana had spotted her chaperone for Cornell, Mike, and asked him to take a picture with us. I called John over as well so we would have both of them in our picture. Diana's dad took around 20 pictures in total; satisfied, we thanked our chaperones for joining us and split up from there.
Ending the evening on a good note, my mom and I left, saying good-bye to everyone then headed to the car, where my older sister was waiting. I had an enjoyable evening and am even more anxious for Philly.