The Ivy League Project

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The Ivy League Project


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Every Government teacher Ruben Pizarro, the director of Dream Academy, looks to give students an unforgettable experience from a trip to the Presidential Inauguration to New York City. This year he is not only giving up party of his summer vacation to take over one hundred students to visit New York City and Washington D.C., but he gave up his Spring Break to take 50 students, including two Alisal juniors to visit Ivy League schools.

From the start of school, Pizarro was in search for a program that would allow him to take a group of students the East coast and tour campuses, instead of sightseeing like the Dream Academy. So when he was introduced to the Ivy League Project late last summer, he jumped on board.

However, he was not aware that sign ups were already in session, so due to the late notice it was very hard to fundraise, “It was such short notice that the students would not have had that much time to fundraise.” As a result, only two students go to be in the program – Gisselle Cortez and Evelyn Navar. These two young ladies not only had to find a way to pay for this very expensive trip but as well had to meet the 3.75 GPA requirement and be involved in various activities

Luckily, they had no problem having to pay $2500 because it was worth to have the opportunity to visit the Ivy League Campuses on the East Coast. They were encouraged to attend the Saturday morning meetings the Dream Academy hosted to try and do some of the fundraisers the Dreamers were doing, but it did not help very much. “I had to get a job, it was too much money for my parents alone to pay for it,” said Navar. Her motivation to go into this program was to gain communication and networking skills, which Pizarro guaranteed she would gain from taking on this trip. Pizarro was also a great motivation for Navar. “It was nice to see how someone actually believed I could actually make it to one of those schools. I would have never thought I could actually go to an Ivy.” Pizarro’s faith in Navar was based on her outstanding grades, as well as her community service.

Cortez, on the other hand, had an easier path. “My parents are very supportive and they really encouraged me to go and they paid for the whole thing.”  Cortez, like Navar, earned the right to go on the trip thanks to her GPA and her involvement in both varsity Cross country and Track, as well as school clubs.

Just before Spring Break they were off on their journey to visit their first Ivy League school, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  However, before they left they got to have lunch with two of the brothers from the movie McFarland, USA, at McFarland High School. Pizarro said, “It was great. They motivated and inspired the students we also took pictures with them they were very friendly.”

As soon as they arrived in North Carolina they were off on their busy journey. Visiting two states every day and constantly being on the road, the students were exhausted. Yet, they were enjoying themselves making new memories. Navar said, “The bus drives were really, really long and tiring but we made the best out of it, I mean we were sightseeing at the same time.” Cortez added, “The time on the bus was super tiring but going to see all the schools was worth it.”

Every school they went to, with the exception of Princeton had Latino student panels, which made it much easier for Alisal students to get comfortable. Most of the students on the student panels were from small cities heavily populated with Latinos, in fact, there were two students from Alisal who were currently attending MIT and were giving the tour – Everardo Rosales and Joseph Martin. Pizarro said, “Nothing more powerful then them being Latino students, but Latino students who attended Alisal.” He believed they truly inspired the students that they could one day make it.

Although the main focus was to tour campuses and get that college experience, the group was able to go and do a little bit of sightseeing. For example, they went to Ellis Island, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Mansion, and the Plymouth Plantation. “My favorite part was going to see George Washington’s Mansion. It was so beautiful and it was just fun throughout the tour,” said Cortez. Navar said, “Going to Ellis Island was special because I had never seen the statue of liberty and seeing such a great monument for the first time was truly special.”

The trip really inspired both Cortez and Navar. Cortez said, “I never really thought I could ever go to such a prestigious school like that, but now I am very motivated that with hard work and knowing the right people, it can give me a high chance of getting accepted one day.” Navar said, “Not only did we learn so much about admissions and what we would need to be successful, but we learned how to network and how much it can help us, I would definitely recommend people to embark on this program next year.”



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