Ivy League Connection gives local youth an academic edge

Richmond High School sophomores, Brittany Ferguson, Naxhlleli Ramirez, Elizabeth Alonzo, Julie Le (front, from left to right) and Marco Hernandez (back left) pose with Richmond High School counselor JP De Oliveira at Ivy League Connection dinner.

Richmond High School sophomores, Brittany Ferguson, Naxhlleli Ramirez, Elizabeth Alonzo, Julie Le (front, from left to right) and Marco Hernandez (back left) pose with Richmond High School counselor JP De Oliveira at Ivy League Connection dinner.

Ivy League schools are known worldwide for their prestige, academic rigor and exclusive admissions. The Ivy League Connection funds trips to Ivy League summer enrichment programs to create that college-going academic culture in Richmond.

Last Thursday, the ILC hosted a private dinner with Elizabeth Hart, the director of minority outreach at Brown University.

“If we’re going to be a democracy we really need to give a voice to all segments of our society,” Hart said. “I really think education is the path for all communities to have a voice.”

The ILC was founded in 2006 by Board of Education members Charles Ramsey and Madeline Kronenberg. The idea was to promote a “college-going culture” among students in the district. The innovative approach allows teacher and counselors to recommend students for the highly selective program. Then the student interviews for a spot.

“This program started with six kids, now we have hundreds,” Board of Education President Charles Ramsey said.

Students who are accepted into the ILC have their grades monitored, attend mandatory group meetings and have exclusive access to university admission staff like Hart.

Brown University's Director of Minority Recruitment, Elizabeth Hart answers questions from Ivy League Connection students at a private dinner.

“It’s really beneficial for Richmond High kids to have the opportunity to be in a program like this because of the reputation of our school,” Richmond High sophomore Brittany Ferguson said.

This year, 35 students from the ILC spent the summer studying at Ivy League institutions. Each student is still responsible for applying to the summer course and must be independently accepted by the university. The six that went to Columbia took a course on constitutional law or presidential power but each school offers different courses.

ILC spends an average of $9,000 per student on course fees, flights, food and lodging. The student only needs money for extra spending cash.

“Ninety percent is privately financed from labor unions, contractors, engineering firms, architects and private donations,” ILC administrator Don Gosney said. “The other 10 percent is paid for by the district, but only covers sending district employees as chaperones.”

Attending summer sessions gives students an extra experience to put in their college application. Meeting professors and getting a feel for a campus helps students understand if a school is really right for them.

All of the students in ILC are smart but before joining the ILC many of them had never considered applying to schools outside of the University of California system.

“They [ILC administrators] know how the applications work and have a lot of resources to help students,” said Richmond High sophomore Marco Hernandez.

They also help parents understand Ivy League opportunities.

Before Irene Rojas-Carroll graduated from El Cerrito High and was accepted to Brown, her mother, Leah Carroll, found support in the ILC.

“They hired this private counselor, she usually works with rich kids but they got her to come in and talk to all the Ivy League Connection,” Leah Carroll said. “She had this binder that was laid out in a color coded, rational, chronological order, with a little touch of humor. She just really de-stressed the process.”

Each year the program gains momentum and more students are nominated.

“The idea is not to send 30 kids a year to summer programs,” Board of Education clerk Madeline Kronenberg said. “It’s to create a college-going culture.”

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. This is truly one of the greatest things since sliced bread! It warms my heart. So glad that doors are being opened and that the greatness that lies within Richmond youth is being realized and recognized!

  2. Julia Marshall Post author

    What really impressed me while I was covering this story was the blogs. As part of the program, kids write about their experiences and impressions. It is worth checking out. Don Gosney was telling me it has become a huge resource for students world wide who are interested in applying to Ivy League schools. I linked to it in the story.

    • I really enjoyed listening to Ms. Hart explained why Brown University would be a school to consider when applying to college. She did a fantastic job in explaining why Brown is a phenomenal and unique establishment!
      The students present were just mesmerized and could not wait to become Brown students! The Ivy League Connection rocks! Thanks for taking time to cover the dinner and promoting the positive impact of this organization.

    • Don Gosney

      Blogging is an important part of being an ILCer.

      If you talk to college administrators they’ll tell you that one of the biggest problems they face are incoming freshmen that cannot write at a college level.

      We require our ILCers to blog every day while they’re back east and several more times (after milestone events) before they board the plane.

      We tell our ILCers that there’s nothing wrong with writing a travelogue but we want them to tell us how they’re feeling and what they think about what’s going on.

      We’re stuck 3,000 miles away from where they’re at and the only thing we know about what they’re experiencing is from what we read in their blogs. We ask them to expand what they would normally write. We tell them that if they write about the bad dorm food, from their writings we want to taste just how bad it was. If their instructors tell them something of importance, not only do we want them to tell us what that is but we want them to write about why they agree or disagree.

      When we read their blogs in March and then again in August, it’s almost like they’re being written by different people. They’ve grown in their writing skills and we think this has to help them when they fill out college applications, scholarship applications and even job applications.

      Just this year our ILCers wrote 1252 blogs that had 77,298 page hits from 37 different countries. That tells us that there’s more than just a few of us checking them out.

  3. Don Gosney

    Thanks so much, Julia, for helping to tell the world about The Ivy League Connection.

    We have so many great students here in West County but they don’t often have the same kind of opportunities that students in Lafayette, Los Gatos or Piedmont might. In a depressed community like ours the priorities of our school district don’t always emphasize a college going culture. This is where our little program—The Ivy League Connection—can help.

    Here in California we have two great university systems open to our youth: the 10 campus UC system and the 23 campus Cal State system. All 33 of these schools are fine schools but for a lot of various reasons they may not offer the “perfect fit” that the students in our District need and deserve.

    There are more than 3600 universities in the United States and we want to make our students aware of these schools so when they make their decisions on where to attend college, they’ll be informed decisions. I’m a Cal man myself (Go Bears!) and my allegiance will always be with them but that doesn’t make me blind to the fact that Cal is not for everyone. The same can be said for the other campuses in the two systems. [Cal has nearly 36,000 students, is extremely tough to get in to, has very little to offer in the realm of financial aid and for many freshmen classes has lectures that seem to have half of the freshman class enrolled. UCLA has nearly 40,000 students with the same negatives as Cal but only costs about $32,000 per year.]

    According to Cal’s web site, the cost to live on campus and attend school for an in-state resident is just under $33,000 per year and the costs will escalate steeply every year for the foreseeable future. That means that a person would have to earn maybe $45,000 per year before taxes to come up with that kind of money.

    Cal can point students in the right direction for financial aid from the federal government but some members of Congress are trying to kill that opportunity. Cal can also introduce students to bank representatives for student loans but the kicker there is that sooner or later they expect that money to be paid back.

    At many of the schools that the ILC can make our students aware of, the class sizes are dramatically lower, the quality of the education is high and the opportunities for student aid that doesn’t have to be paid back is very high.

    At too many of our local high schools the guidance counselors aren’t provided with the tools to make our students aware of the doors to a better life are. What we in the ILC try to do is to make them aware of those doors, open the doors for them, escort them through those doors and then introduce them to the people waiting for them on the other side. What they then do with those opportunities will be up to them but we like to think that they’ll know what to do and they’ll succeed more often than not.

    We want our ILCers to be ambassadors for our District. And when they return home after the summer programs, we expect them to reach out to their fellow students and others in their community. We want each of our ILCers to spread the word to a hundred other students and pretty soon we’ll have a real college-going culture embedded in our community. We’re already seeing that between the efforts of the ILC and other organizations (including the hard work of the WCCUSD), we’re having an impact.

    Lest anyone get the wrong idea, the ILC is not an opportunity to go to College Camp. The 11 course we offer this year are rigorous classes demanding the most out of our students. Completing these courses can be a real boon to our students when they apply to college. Try to imagine which looks better on an application: acing the Grand Strategy course at Yale University of being promoted from the French fryer to the grill at Lucille’s House of Ground Round?

    The ILC won a prestigious national award last year and stands a good chance to win a state award this year. Colleges and universities are getting to know about The Ivy League Connection and it’s helping to put our community on the map in a positive way. We even have college representatives coming to our community to seek out applicants rather than our students having to go to San Francisco, Modesto and Sacramento to seek out college admissions officers.

    Just by writing about this event and the ILC, Julia, you’re doing your part in helping and we thank you for that.

  4. wccusd voter

    Ramsey says: “This program started with six kids, now we have hundreds.”

    I think Ramsey is guilty of extreme exaggeration. This program serves 30 students a year, not hundreds.

    The guy doesn’t have much to boast about, so he stretches the truth.

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