Thursday, July 20, 2017

Take A Chance

This is from the day of my interview.
This year when Don came to El Cerrito High School to talk to us about the ILC was not the first time I had heard of this program. Last year he had also come to our school to tell us about this opportunity, I received a piece of paper inviting me to our theater at the end of the day. I wrote my name down on the clipboard to receive more information but never went all the way through with the application process because I had other plans. This year when I received the same slip of paper I went to the library to find a smaller crowd compared to last year, since there was a walk out as it was the day after the elections. I wrote my name down on the clipboard again in case I changed my mind this year.

Don actually had a typo in my email address so I didn’t receive any information about the programs until the last one offered, Cornell. There was also UPenn but not many people showed interest in it so it didn’t end up happening. I remember it being around a hectic time during the school year and since I received that information so last minute, I had to be quick on making the decision of whether I should apply or not. It was the middle of March, with midterms going on, a rally coming up, I had also just taken my SAT. March was a very full month for me, but I made the decision to take the chance and just push my schoolwork aside and make applying to the ILC a priority.

It was not long before we began with the long string of emails from Don letting us know that the group of students who applied was being narrowed. Some were from my school, some from Middle College, De Anza, and all over WCCUSD. It was down to sixteen students from which they would select seven to interview to receive three scholarships being given out that night. I didn’t tell many people that I was going through this process because I didn’t know how it would turn out, and I didn’t want to jinx myself. Only one of my best friends knew who helped me prepare for the interview so I could not even share my stress with anyone else.

I remember it perfectly, I was waiting for my math class to start and a sophomore came up to me and said congratulations. I asked why and he said Don emailed out the list for the students who got the interview. I didn’t check my phone at school because of school Wi-Fi, so he showed me on his phone and low and behold, my name was at the bottom of the list of seven.  I also saw some people on the list that I knew but the first thing I did was tell my dad because I was so excited.

When the interview day came I had school all that day and a test as well, so I had a lot running through my mind. I came home and just changed before grabbing my bag and heading to my dad’s store because my mom had work. I did my makeup there before my dad dropped me off at El Cerrito High School where the wait began. I was there for a few hours but Don had snacks so we could stress eat which was greatly appreciated. When they told us the order of the interviews, I, of course, was last. Even more waiting, so I was on the edge of my seat and literally shaking during the entire interview.
When they called the name of who received the scholarships they did it America’s Next Top Model Style where you were told on the spot to go home. My name was the last of the three called and it felt surreal. Of course it was only the beginning but I had no idea what I was in for. I applied to Cornell with Design Immersion but got my second choice, which was Inspiring Leadership, I am so glad I did because I met some of the greatest people from all over the world and did things I never thought I would be able to do.

I learned that leadership is about growth, but the kind of growth you foster in the community which you create for your team. You as a leader have people looking up to you for the things you do. Such a small girl in a big world doing big things: I brought myself to Cornell University where I sat in Phillips Hall to learn the secrets of leadership from all over the world. The real secret: you can’t teach leadership.

It starts with you, as a follower, as a listener, as one who sits back and observes what the great leaders of the world are doing. I learned that I identify as an introverted leader, which is not a bad thing. They can sometimes be the best leaders because they hear everyone out and use their platform for give others a chance to voice their passions. I was always an introvert and I struggled because of it, but I put so much focus on myself and what I was doing that I never took the time to slow down and evaluate what my beliefs were, what the values were that I was going to act upon.

I learned that in this class. I wanted to tell myself that my values were family and love and all these things which you think you can’t live without. But I stayed up late thinking about what the things were which subconsciously drew me into making the decisions that I did. My values are compassion and commitment and composure. Which when I could identify, changed the course of the way I viewed who I am and the organization I am a part of.

My graduation day!
Leadership starts with something small; it starts with you and me, it starts with a vision. To find those who share your values and common goals are those who will make your team. You have to trust them; you have to choose a team who can work diligently and at their best even when you are not there. You create relationships where people are not afraid t tell you that you are doing something wrong, and they feel comfortable sharing their ideas because it’s not always a democracy, or being an authoritarian. It’s about knowing what goes where, and when to embed that into the tactics you use in your approach to a mission.

That relationship, that community, that empowerment: I found it, I found it on the other side of the country held by the leaders of today. Tomorrow the world will be something else, and we will apply what we learn from our stories. There is no time to waste in taking action for what is important to you.

Coming from the birthplace of the free speech movement and seeing all the diversity in leaders from all different walks of life, it gives hope and encouragement to persist everything that I do to work towards my goal. Because I learned that we are, the leaders we have been waiting for.

This summer has to be the best of my life, I took in as much as I could and had so much fun, I made many friends along the way and came back with a different perspective. Cornell University, the middle of no where. Where I can proudly say I lived my dreams as cliche as it sounds. My advice: take a chance, have an adventure and see where you'll end up. It'll be your wildest ride. 

1 comment:

  1. It's important to note, Noor, that although your name may have been last on the interview and acceptance lists, this doesn't at all mean that you were the last selected. The lists were jumbled to bring some randomness to them.

    It was a pleasure having you as a part of this cohort. You always had a smile, you did what was asked and you represented us all with distinction.

    And you took a lot of very nice photos--always a bonus in my book.