Saturday, July 11, 2009

Reflection take two

Its seems like ions ago that i first stepped onto the campus of Brown University. In reality, its only been three weeks, yet I feel like a new person.

At the beginning of the three weeks, I was hesitant to answer questions, scared that I would be wrong. I didn't feel like I could compete with these kids who were so smart and dedicated. I was scared to ask the instructor for help, because I thought she would think I was stupid. I was scared to talk to people that I didn't already know. I was scared of being myself, because I might not impress these amazing people.

At the end of the three weeks, I find myself answering questions confidently or at least proposing possibilities when I'm unsure. I feel like I can compete with these kids, but the more important thing is, I don't have too. At Brown, people know everyone else is intelligent. People are willing to give people the chance to be interesting and engaging. Its as if people realize that they competed to get into the program, and now everyone must be there for a reason. I found myself asking the teacher for extra help, asking her for clarification. I realized that people are there to help you, people generally want to help you, but they aren't going to go out of their way to give it to you. I realized you have to ask for help, and its okay to ask for help—its a sign of intelligence, not weakness. I find myself introducing myself to strangers, just because its a more interesting way to live.

This is what I can bring back to El Cerrito— the confidence to be myself. So many students don't ask questions, or don't try because its the cool thing to do. People who don't do work are rebels. People who ask for help are losers. But that's not really the case. Everyone at Brown was open about their shortcomings, they were open about not understanding things, they were open about asking for help. If El Cerrito High could develop a culture like this, I can only see positive changes coming about.

The Ivy League Connection has given me this amazing opportunity to become a new person. It has given me the opportunity to struggle, to fight, and to conquer. Also, it has reminded me that just because the WCCUSD doesn't have the best reputation, it still has people who care about the students, who want them to succeed, and will do everything possible to help them (even when we don't feel like we're being helped).

I'd like to thank everyone who has made my time at Brown (and Cornell) possible. It has been a life changing opportunity for me, and I sincerely hope you will continue to make this experience available for students in our district. And in twenty years, you can sit back and relax, while we take over the show.

Because I can assure you, we're going to be a big deal.

Each and every one of us.

Its been fun,
Joseph Young


Madeline Kronenberg said...


Thank you for being so candid and thoughtful in this blog.

Being "yourself" is everyone's goal - and I applaud you for using this experience to grow in the confidence you need to become a "new person."

I particularly appreciated your insight into students' being "open abouth their shortcomings" and understanding that asking for help doesn't make you a loser.

These are powerful thoughts -- worthy of continued reflection.

So, this is 2009 -- twenty years is 2029, and the show will be yours (I've calendared it).

Thanks again for the blog -- I know you are all going to be a "big deal" -- I've never doubted that.

P.S. --- Keep making it fun (that's one of the secrets of real success -- if it's fun, it's not "work")

Don Gosney said...


We often relate to other people based on things that have happened in our own lives. Your revelations about your fears of looking stupid remind me of a story from my early years at Cal.

We were in a three part math series of classes and this was the middle class. We were still on the quarter system at the time so the classes were only 10 weeks long. Our TA was from Argentina and his mastery of the English language was rudimentary at best.

As happens at large schools like Cal, the lectures had maybe 800-1000 students and the real teaching went on under the auspices of the TAs.

For the longest time I was struggling in this class. I just didn’t understand what the TA was trying to teach us. Between the subject matter and his problems with English, I was sinking deeper and deeper into that hole of despair.

Finally, after about five weeks (half of the quarter) a classmate raised her hand and sheepishly told the TA that she had not studied that material in the previous quarter’s class. Once she broke the ice, the rest of us chimed in and, as it turns out, none of us had studied that material. The reason was that our TA misunderstood which class he was TAing for. Instead of the second in the series, he thought we were in the third of the series.

By that point, we were all in a world of hurt with no time to recover before finals. If just one if us had had the cojones early on to raise our hand and say “I don’t understand” perhaps I wouldn’t be telling this story 39 years later.

There’s nothing, Joseph, nothing at all wrong with saying that you don’t understand. You might be amazed at how often people will stop to help you in situations like that. I think you saw that yourself.