Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Taste of What's to Come

Coming off of a tiring weekend that included prom, track playoffs, and the routine couple hours of homework, I wasn't as excited as I wanted to be when I realized that the dinner was fast approaching. When I originally found out the date, I was incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet with the fine men and women that had been responsible for giving me the opportunity to go to Cornell for the summer.  By Sunday evening, all I wanted to do was try to recover from a train-wreck of fatigue, a bothersome cold, and aching knees that made it difficult to climb a couple of stairs.

Nevertheless, as the Monday school day came to an end, I tried to regain the excitement that I once knew I had at the beginning of the program.  After heading home, getting ready for the night in my finest suit, and even persuading my dad to let me borrow his nice watch, I began to feel ready for whatever the night had to offer me.  My dad, a man who has been working in San Francisco for about the past 40 years, informed my mom and I that there would be traffic on the way to the El Cerrito Plaza Bart station and said we should leave early.  In reality, we arrived about 45 minutes early to the station, time that I believed I could've spent knocking out a school assignment or two.  Regardless, my mom and I made conversation until then and walked out 15 minutes prior to the actual time.  We were greeted by Don, my cohort and their parents, my chaperone, Mr. Chan Law, and supporters of the program.  I greeted everyone with a traditional handshake and greeting, which made the transition to meeting new people a bit easier and eased my worries.  I never realized it until that very moment, but four out of the six members of my cohort are from Hercules, which, personally, made the introductions a little easier.  

The Cornell Cohort (Left to Right, Back to Front):
Stephen Fong, Don Gosney, Justice Delos Santos, Thao Le
Hoang, Shanti Shrestha, Julie Lum, Helen Gilbert-Snyder
After a quick ride to the City, we arrived at the Embarcadero Bart station about twenty-minutes early, time we used to take thousands of pictures with thirty different cameras while we all looked in different directions (you would think we all the technology today we could take one and be done!)  Following the papparazzi frenzy, my cohort and I began to get to know one another a little more and talk about what we could expect.  Shanti and Thao, being the returning ILC members, talked to us about what we could expect from the trip.  They spoke about the environment that we can expect out on the East Coast, such as the weather, the people, and especially the food.  It sounded glorious and I couldn't wait.

When we all arrived in the restaurant, we saw that there were already more than a couple of guests that arrived for the dinner.  Before retiring to our seats for the dinner, I had the opportunity to make myself familiar with the guests that were going to be attending the dinner.  Mr. Chan Law, Stephen, and I had the opportunity to speak with Cornell alum Jesus Verduzco ('99).  Jesus was incredibly friendly and greeted each of us with a smile.  We all engaged in conversation as he talked about his experiences at his hometown in Texas, Cornell, and Berkeley.  Him describing Cornell made me even more excited for the trip as he verbally painted a picture of the campus and what I could expect.  The conversation wasn't one sided either, as Jesus asked me a couple questions about my expectations for the campus.  His friendliness made the transition into the night a lot easier while allowing me to become comfortable with what the night had to offer.

(From Left to Right): Alex Vollmer, Kelly Delos Santos
 Justice Delos Santos, Jesus Verduzco 
After a solid introduction, everyone took their seats in preparation for the meal.  I was seated alongside my mother, Kelly Delos Santos, Cornell alum Alex Vollmer ('62), West Contra Costa Unified School District School Board Member Madeline Kronenberg, and, to my surprise, Jesus as well!  Shortly after everyone sat down, Ms. Kronenberg gave us a wonderful welcoming speech, followed by two marvelous speeches by fellow cohort member Julie Lum and Cornell alum Doug Mitarotonda ('02).  At my table, I had a wonderful conversation with all those seated around me.  I felt like the elephant in the room because I was the only kid, but everyone was so incredibly friendly that it allowed me to feel welcome during the conversation.  Our topics ranged from culture and language to sports to what I could expect when I apply for college.  During the course of the conversation, we talked about the idea of helping students understand their potential to do great things and how we could activate that potential.  Ms. Kronenberg suggest that I, being fairly close to the athletics department at my school, reach out to other hard-working student-athletes and help them succeed in the classroom as well as they do at school.  The idea started developing in my head throughout the evening and it gave me a great topic of discussion for the intellectuals I was bout to meet at Cornell.  The conversation wasn't just fun, but it was incredibly inspiring and it motivated me not only for the summer course, but for my future as a student, both in my last year of high school and upcoming college.

I can't write about a dinner blog without writing about the food, can I? While the food was by no means the only highlight of my night, I can say with certainty that the three-course meal I was presented was the best that I've had in a long time and possibly my entire life.  I was first presented with a caesar salad, but this was no ordinary salad.  This salad didn't use the short, two-inch leaves that can be found in a high school cafeteria.  The leaves were more than 10 inches in length and required both a fork and knife for me to dig in.  It was absolutely glorious from start to finish, so incredible that it made me want to become a vegetarian.  That thought was pushed aside when I was presented the spareribs.  At the Bart station, Don had mentioned that the spareribs fell off the bone from the minute they were touched and I thought this was an exaggeration; it was not.  I took one little jab at my sparerib and the whole thing fell apart!  With that being said, do I need to mention how good it was?  To top it all off, I was presented with a delicious sorbet topped with fruit and an almond flower cookie.  I didn't think I'd have enough room for the desert, but after one bite I was in heaven.

This night was simply amazing.  Not only did I get the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people and engage in conversation, the night got me very excited for my trip in every shape and form.  Going into the night, I didn't know what to expect, but walking out, I had a sense of optimism for what was to come.  This dinner was a great taste of what is to come.
The Cornell Cohort, Alums, and future student, Kevin Mendoza

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