Friday, August 1, 2014

And So It Ends...

The first time I became cognizant of the ILC and the opportunities the organization offered was early last fall when I was herded into the ECHS theatre along with many of my peers, and Don told us about what the ILC was and what it offered us. I had been aware of the ILC's existence in my sophomore year because many of my friends were participants and upon their return, they had been doing great things for our school. I was inspired by the actions of ILC alumni and their vehement endorsements of the program, and I wanted to become involved in the program myself. 

From the moment I learned about the various courses offered by the ILC, the Social Justice Research Academy was always my first choice. I agonized over my application essays and checked my email constantly to see if I'd gotten an interview or not. Then, one day at school Other Julia accosted me on the way to class with the news that I'd got an interview! (Spoiler: we both got in.) I prepared for my interview as much as I could, pestering my friends for advice and practicing my delivery with my patient, long-suffering parents. At last interview day arrived. I barely ate at all I was so nervous. When the panel announced that I was among the people they accepted, I stayed cool and composed, until the second I made it to the parking lot, where I was struck by the need to do an interpretive dance of joy. 

The various pre-trip events, tutorials and School Board meetings flew by. I tried to absorb as much information as I could for fear of inciting the wrath of evil Don. Up until then, the dinner with UPenn alumni in San Francisco was the fanciest venue I had ever been to. 

All at once, it came time for our journey to begin. I was so excited (and groggy) at two in the morning on June 30th, when my father woke me up and drove me to El Cerrito High School, where I met up with the rest of the cohort. The next week passed in a blur. I loved everything about the East Coast. College tours and sightseeing blended together. I had so much fun on our night time monument tour in Washington DC, geeking out in the Smithsonian, and touring Georgetown's campus. Our cohort had so much fun along the way. (I will always feel a pang of sentimentality when I think of our youthful exploits, like "Spoonhenge" and Other Julia's brilliant interpretation of the squirrels at Penn.)

The three weeks I spent at Penn were some of the most intellectually challenging and exciting times of my life. I felt so privileged to be a part of the SJRA. My teachers were amazing, the activities thought provoking, and my peers equally passionate about social justice. The experience as a whole was incomparable. The class challenged me in more ways than I expected. I didn't think I could become more of a radical, but thanks to the SJRA, I did.

I loved everything about the SJRA, from Professor Andy's golden retriever, (whose name is Emma Goldman, yes, that Emma Goldman,) to weekend discussions of Hegel and Zizek.

My time at Penn changed me more than I could have imagined. I knew that this would be a formative experience but I had no idea how much I would be affected by my time at Penn. When I think back on my experiences I am filled with gratitude to all the people who made this trip possible. Over the course of the last four weeks I learned many valuable new skills, but none of it would have been possible without help from people every step of the way. Now that I am home, I am determined to put the things I learned to use in my own community.

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