Sunday, July 6, 2014

We are already proud, now just do the rest.

   Today was the final day that our cohort was together and it was bittersweet if nothing else.  In my experience as a traveler I have seen how camaraderie away from home has an effect, quickly bringing a group together, and we were no different.  Though today is not even close to the last day of the trip it is the final day we will be a complete cohort (at least in proximity) until our departure on July 26th.  Between today and then the students, or young adults, are on their own to represent the neighborhoods of West Contra Costa County, and I have nothing but faith they will do an outstanding job.
   The past 5 days have been a whirlwind to say the least.  From starting at 3:50am in front of El Cerrito High School on June 30th, to taking evening strolls through Washington DC's amazing memorials, one area we all can agree upon is how quickly the first days have gone, but also how much we have been able to accomplish.  There have been blisters, cockroaches (not in the hotel rooms of course), blown luggage wheels, harsh heat, tired feet but of course that gleam of adventure has never left our eyes.  We have gotten to know each other on a much deeper level due to our 
Hanging out with Ben Franklin on UPenn campus.
time together.  Andrew's love of literal ideas, Gwennie's admiration of anything with more than 4 legs, Julia's creative writing style (so much personality!), Other Julia's love of theater and natural leadership, Bryan and his World Cup Fever and of course Donna's amazing ability to eat (and her wonderful laugh which is very contagious).  
Evening Monument Walk
   These characteristics have endeared us to each other and continues to make me feel confident about the talent, intelligence and unique character that our students from Richmond, El Cerrito, Pinole and San Pablo are able to bring even 3000 miles away from home.  It has been an honor to be able to work with students who have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the world around them because it reaffirms everything I work so hard for in my life; education.
   The night our group presented to the Board of Education in front of Charles Ramsey, Madeline Kronenberg (and of course Don Gosney) and the entire community we stated how important this program is for branching our community into the world.  It is not just good for our community, but Philadelphia better be prepared for what we bring to them as well.  It is always scary going to someplace new but that is where true growth comes from; overcoming difficulties, solving problems and using critical thinking.  
4th of July Celebration in Downtown Philadelphia
   Our motto the past few days has been, "You choose your level of involvement" and anyone who believes that their destiny is in the hands of others is blind to the possibilities that are before them.  Our cohort is about taking risks, not being afraid to fail, because it pushes us to work that much harder for our successes.  Each opportunity is a chance, not to build character, but to reveal it.  I wish all the luck to the UPenn cohort over the next 3 weeks.  Make friends, try new things and of course put yourself out of your comfort zone to better yourself as an individual and a student.  Always remember, we are already proud of you, the rest is up to you.


  1. Thanks Mr. Hillyer for sharing your time, your experiences with this lucky cohort. I love your photo of the kids taking the picture at the Washington monument; their evening stroll yielded photos on their blogs that took my breath away. Your perspective, guidance and encouragement is much appreciated.

  2. Thank you, John for getting the kids off to such a great start, and for generally just being the perfect chaperone: relaxed, but "on it," fun and dedicated, too. So glad you're there for the kids.