Friday, May 20, 2011

A Delicious and Entertaining Dinner in the City

Last night was the final dinner for this year’s Ivy League Connection group. It was finally Vanderbilt’s turn. As Julia Chang so nicely put it, “they saved the best for last.”

After meeting at BART, and reiterating the importance of punctuality, we embarked on our trip to San Francisco. It was interesting how we were all dressed up and fancy on BART. We got a lot of curious glances, but I just smiled.

Our group consisted of Ms. Yolanda Bulls, Don Gosney, Mr. Charles Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Mr. Don Ellis, Mr. Henry Ramsey, Mr. Herman Blackmon, and Ms. Linda Cohen, as well as we three Vandies and our parents. We reached Perbacco, where we met up with Vanderbilt alumni and School Board Trustee Ms. Elaine Meriweather.

I have never eaten at a fancy restaurant such as Perbacco. The most experience I’ve had with fancy feasts would be from watching shows on the Food Network. I brought a camera, not to take pictures of those who would attend the dinner, but to take pictures of the food. I knew that Don would be taking plenty of photos of the attendees anyway, so I didn’t feel too silly using my camera in order to preserve memories of food. My goodness, that food was delish. I was a bit wary of trying duck for the first time, and because I am a pollo-pescatarian, I could not eat the ribs. So, instead, I chose the vegetarian option which was a delectable dish called gnocchi, which is a sort of potato dumpling. Dessert was heavenly, or some members at the table called it “sinful”. It was an incredibly tasty, warm chocolate brownie/cake with meringue. I have decided to post the menu up on the blog so that I can finally stop describing the wonderful food to you readers, and focus on the actual importance of the event.
My image about how this whole event was going to play out was pretty incorrect. I thought I was going to be placed next to one or two adults at an extremely small table. I feared not being able to connect with my neighbor/s at the table, and worried about awkward silence. But boy, was I wrong. I sat next to two young and exciting alumni and my mother. I felt no awkwardness. We connected, and I learned so much from them.
I am really appreciative of those alumni. Out of the four that were at the restaurant with us, I had the opportunity to speak in depth to two of them. I discovered their experiences at the school, and how they made the best out of their college life. They informed me about their main decisions to choose Vanderbilt; since both of them were from the Midwest (Wisconsin and Illinois), I was interested in learning why they chose this school, and decided to go out of state.

Tyler Sanchez, a recent graduate, shared stories of his travels and work experiences while at college. I let him know that I wanted a school that offered a study abroad program, and he happily informed me that Vanderbilt has a great study abroad program. He talked about his experiences in London and how he could easily and affordably travel around Europe after classes. He talked about working in India and helping with sustainability and agriculture projects. With all this traveling, I was so shocked to learn that all of this did not affect his schedule at Vanderbilt or push back his planned graduation year. Tyler also pointed out how incredibly affordable Vanderbilt could be, thanks to scholarships. Both Tyler, and my neighbor John Tilsch, shared information on college life, and what they participated in while attending school. Though both John and Tyler had different experiences at Vanderbilt, both loved the school, and had a great time. I loved hearing about their varying experiences.
Because this is the first time the ILC is taking students to Vanderbilt, John and Tyler knew very little about the program. After doing my best to explain to them what the program is, what its intentions are, and how we got accepted into the program, I could tell that these two alumni were very interested in the ILC. They were impressed by all of us ILC members, and I hope that we all inspired them to continuously be involved in the Ivy League Connection.

Obviously, the Ivy League Connections is about connecting. We all came together and shared our memories, our experiences, our history, and our future. We’re all connected together one way or another, and if no connections are shared, new ones are created. This program grants us with countless opportunities. We get to meet new people and learn new information.

This evening was a night to remember. I had a fantastic time at the Vanderbilt dinner. I am extremely glad that this night was made possible. A blanket of thanks goes out to those who attended the dinner. Your time contribution is greatly appreciated. I hope we can all keep in touch and stay connected through the ILC.

The Ivy League of the South

Some would say we’ve lost our focus.  How could The Ivy League Connection send our students to a school that isn’t a part of the Ivy League?  Vanderbilt is a full 750 miles from Columbia University, even further away from Harvard and Cornell and is significantly closer to Dallas than it is to Brown.  They even talk funny there.

BUT…Vanderbilt is claimed by some to be The Ivy League of the South so we’re compelled to send three of Pinole’s finest to Nashville to find out for themselves.  Aiyana Hedeen-Garrett, Kye Duren and Julia Chang will trek east along with chaperone Yolanda Bulls where our three Spartans will study World Religions.
Tonight, though, the ILC team gathered at Perbacco in San Francisco where we were joined by four recent Vanderbilt Alums.  Rachelle Soderstrom (’04), John Tilsch (’04), John Labiak (’08) and Tyler Sanchez (‘10) shared with our group their experiences and insights about attending Vanderbilt.

Strangely, all four of our alums hail from areas other than the South.  Something about Vanderbilt called out to them and changed their lives forever.
Several of us noticed that our three Vanderbilt cohorts seemed to hang on every word coming from the mouths of our alums.  They were soaking in every bit of knowledge they could.

As much as the conversation enthralled me, I didn’t lose my focus so when the food was brought out I gave it the full respect it deserved.  Some had the plate of ribs and they looked awfully nice but I’m betting that those of us who had the duck got the better end of the deal.  Just my opinion, mind you, but it’s based on having eaten almost every day for better than a half century.  Experience should count for something, shouldn’t it? 

No matter how the argument goes with regards to the entrĂ©e, there simply could not be any controversy when it came to the hot chocolate cake thingy they put in front of us for dessert.  If the lights had been a little dimmer and there was any way to distract those sitting close to me, I would have swapped my empty plate for their full one and I’d still be there scarfing down a few more of those delectable goodies.

Good food aside, though, one of the benefits of this evening’s event is that we met some new friends that we can call on to work with our youth and provide them guidance about yet another fine university for them to consider.