Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The ILC Landscape

"Wow." It's such a simple word, yet simultaneously so expressive. Nearly three months have elapsed since I received the scholarship to go to UPenn, but I am still grappling with this reality. Every time I think of the upcoming trip, that monosyllabic word manifests itself in my mind and reverberates there until my thoughts eventually drift elsewhere.

At 5:30 PM, my mom and I headed from our house to Pinole Middle School for the ILC Orientation. We live fairly close to Pinole Middle, so we reached the school, parked, and were walking to the gym within ten minutes when we saw Don getting out of his van. I called out a greeting, prompting him to turn and respond in kind before getting back in the vehicle and parking it right in front of the gym. He got out once more, informing us that the gym and outdoor basketball courts should both already have been open for ILC use and departs to find someone to open them. As we waited, more people began to trickle in. First among them were Mr. Hillyer and his fellow De Anza staff members, Mr. Myrga and Ms. Thomas, who are chaperones for the ILC as well. Shortly afterwards, Kamillah, Diana, and Shuxin from Pinole Valley also arrived, so I went over to them to socialize. Eventually, Don was able to secure access to the gym. He unlocked it, recruited us ILCers to help him bring various items inside, and invited everyone else to enter the building as well.
Inside the gym at Pinole Middle, featuring some of the luggage available for ILCers to borrow. 
As with all the other ILC events, we began with introductions for those unfamiliar with the ILC and the people involved, before branching out into "breakout sessions" with our respective cohorts. Mr. Hillyer gave us each a colorful 2016 Penn Itinerary, a packet of room descriptions from former Penn ILCers, and a copy of the agenda for our trip, which he had actually written earlier that day, ensuring we had the most recent information. 

Of course, to eliminate any false pretenses (and dash any hopes we may have had for getting up at a reasonable time), he first announced that we would be meeting up at El Cerrito High School at 3:30 on the morning of our departure. We will departing on a direct flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia at 6:30 AM on Wednesday, June 29th, which is only 21 days away (from the time I am posting this)! Mr. Hillyer also informed us that Don was kind enough to include travel days for us, meaning that we would not have to do anything intense as soon as we get off the plane, which is certainly a relief. After that, he continued to detail our plans for each of the events planned for us, which include college tours of Columbia University in New York and Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and plenty of opportunities to experience East Coast public transportation. In addition, we also found out that Miguel will be performing at the Fourth of July celebration in Philadelphia, which we were all elated to hear. 

Once the sessions were about complete, Don called us back to a single corner of the room, where he addressed the parents about the items we would need for the trip, as well as informing them of the items he has available for loan. He reassured them once more that we would be in good hands under the supervision of our chaperones, and fortunately, the parents seemed comfortable with the notion of entrusting the chaperones with the well-being of their children, which should prevent complications. My mom certainly seems more comfortable with the prospect of letting me go to Pennsylvania under Mr. Hillyer's supervision after being able to meet with him, accomplishing the goal of the orientation. I can almost feel the trip approaching, becoming more real and present with every passing moment. Time feels more tangible than ever as well, as I imagine it represented by a clock, with each movement of the second hand ticking closer to our experience.

In many regards, my entire ILC journey still seems somewhat surreal, a mountainous landscape I'm navigating my way through. Somehow, I've stumbled my way through the rockiness and reached the peak of a mountain, only to discover one orders of magnitude more immense than the one I stand upon. This pinnacle looms ahead of me, its apex seemingly meeting the sky. As I glance back over my shoulder, everything I've accomplished seems remote, so I turn my attention forward once more and see the footprints of my predecessors in the well-worn trail ahead of me, alleviating some of my apprehensiveness as I take a deep breath and continue.


  1. Glad that I was able to put your mother's fears to rest. We will have a great time on the East Coast and enjoy a wonderful learning experience!

  2. I am so proud of you Chris!!!!

    Mr. B

    1. Thank you, Mr. Botello! I appreciate the support!