Blog Archives

Scholar Check-in: Julie Kwong

Julie and her friends at Princeton.

Princeton University, freshman

Since my last weekly check-in, I have been preparing myself for the mid-terms which took place on October 26. I had mid-terms in both Spanish and Introduction to Architectural Thinking on that day. While I should have started studying for it earlier, I dedicated an adequate amount of time for each class 2-3 nights before to prepare study guides for myself leading up to the exam. Luckily, my Introduction to Architectural Thinking exam was open note, and on the day of the exam, I felt confident because I had prepared a comprehensive guide to all of the concepts we had learned in that class. After taking those exams, I realized that every assignment and every discussion in class is related to the ultimate exam. The practice we get in homework and classwork assignments as well as the topics and pictures displayed in the readings all will help with the exam. I will definitely keep this in mind over the next four years. After the exams, we had a fall break for a week from Oct 26 through Nov 4. Hurricane Sandy had a huge impact on the Princeton community. I heard that a lot of surrounding neighborhoods lost power for many days as well as experienced severe damage due to the storm. The Princeton campus lost several trees and closed its campus for a few days. I am glad I was home with my family during this big storm and have enjoyed a great week with friends. I will be coming back home for Thanksgiving Break! The school will be providing a bus at a low cost to take us back home for the short, but important break. I have really grown attached to my Princeton home, though, and can’t wait to return!

In general, I have made two really close friends on campus and am very grateful to have them. I met one of them on my camping trip and the other lives in the same building. Honestly, I can’t say if I would be enjoying campus life the same without them because we practically do everything together (eat meals, go to events, retrieve free food, explore the surrounding neighborhood, and even study!). While I haven’t made a lot of friends on campus, I am happy to have these close friends by my side. Also, I really like my roommates. We all get along and have had no problems with each other in terms of violation of our Roommate Agreement. I am really grateful to have these people with me while I am so far away from home.

College Scholar Check-in: Mauricio Novoa

Mauricio Novoa

Mauricio Novoa

In the second installment of our year-long series of college Scholar check-ins, Mauricio Novoa (CDI Class of ’10; Gettysburg College Class of ’14) discusses his workload and some of his extracurricular activities. 

The start of the school year went pretty well: reuniting with my friends after the summer, getting mass amounts of readings the first week, and giving my word to volunteer at 20,000 different things before getting used to my course load. I’m currently enrolled in 17th Century English Drama, Literary Foundations of Western Culture, Critical Methods for English, and a Poetry class. My grades may not look so hot this semester, since reading isn’t really my strongest attribute and these classes are basically all reading. But who knows, I might pull off some miracles.

For volunteer work, I’ve been asked to help out with the Migrant Education after school program again, which helps children of migrant families bridge the education gap with help on homework, English, and anything else they might need. This time, though, instead of just being a tutor, I’ve been asked to take on more of a staff role and be on hand to help the tutors if need be. I’m not quite sure exactly how this will work, but I’m helping to train the new tutors. I’m also helping with adult ESL classes for Migrant Ed, which I did over the summer during my internship in Gettysburg. I’m really excited to get back to working with the families, especially the Lopez-Espinozas, who sort of adopted me while I stayed in town over the summer. I’m hoping they invite me over to their house again for some nice home-cooked Hispanic food, as I am severely lacking it in school. In addition, I have a work-study job at Vida Charter School as a classroom aid, which is an amazing experience. Working with the little kids is so much fun, and how can it not be when they’re so adorable and trying to learn Spanish. This group of kids looks to be a bit more challenging behavior-wise than my group last year, but I’m sure Mr. Victor (the head teacher) and I can handle it.

With my fraternity, we’re working on getting a big philanthropy event set up for October. The event will essentially be a night of inflatables; people will come and play on them for 4 hours. They will then purchase raffle tickets for prizes and that would be where we get money to donate. This would be a collaboration between the Latin American Student Association (I’m Vice President) and the Campus Activities Board. Since I’m the philanthropy chair for the fraternity, I have to run around talking to people to try and get this going, but other people have been handling the bulk of that so far, so now I’m just trying to tie up the loose ends.

Read Scholar Julie Kwong’s first check-in from Princeton.

A CDI Scholar in Tibet

by Hayoung Kim (CDI Scholar ’09; McDaniel College ’13)

In the West, it’s commonly believed that Tibet is oppressed by China. While studying abroad in China, I had a chance to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region (Tibet) to research human rights issues as part of a class I was taking. This opportunity allowed me to see for myself if the stories were true. Before I landed in the world’s highest altitude airport, in the capital city of Lhasa, Tibet was a mystery to me, but I couldn’t hide my excitement. Standing in the thin air, I had a hard time breathing for the first couple of days. Some of my colleagues suffered from altitude sickness.

Standing atop the highest point in Tibet.

In Tibet, I was fascinated by the country’s religious culture and beautiful scenery, which remain unspoiled by humans. The streets of Lhasa were full of ascetic monks and Tibetans walking around with prayer wheels and mala, which are unique Tibetan religious tools used when reciting Buddhist scriptures from the Mahayana Sutras. The way of life was quite different than what I had observed in Beijing. Tibetans dressed differently, wearing their traditional clothing—thick and conservative dress—and ate Yak momo (the Tibetan version of dumpling) and Yak butter tea. They also spoke a different language than the commonly used Mandarin Chinese, Tibetan, and lived in huge houses known as  “common.”  Typically, 25 to 30 households live together in one common, forming an enormous community.

Hayoung in front of a “common.”

During my research, my professor, Dr. Kabir, took us to different villages to engage with local Tibetans. Interestingly, the Tibetans I spoke with seemed satisfied with the Chinese government, which they say was doing as much as it could to ameliorate the living conditions in Tibet, one of the poorest regions in China. At one of the villages that I visited, Drigung Village, people were very nice; they invited us into their homes so that we could charge our cell-phones and cameras, and offered us their traditional yak-butter tea. I didn’t like the bitter taste, which reminded me of salt water that I tasted during science class, but since it was their way of showing respect and hospitality, I had to drink every last drop.  One of the children I met was a very timid but energetic and ambitious boy named Tsering Chodun. His mother informed us that his dream would come true one day because the Chinese government was increasing the education budget for minorities in order to close the gap between Han Chinese and Tibetans.

I was in Tibet for two weeks. What I witnessed during that time may not represent Tibet as a whole—there is of course the possibility that the villagers and Tibetans with whom I spoke were scared of foreign contacts and did not speak openly during the interview—but they were confident and relaxed, and happy. They showed me their Chinese flag and Mao’s portrait, which hung in their house. One of my new Tibetan friends told me: “I feel free as a bird, as long as I do not care about politics.”

View more images from Hayoung’s trip:

At Potala Palace (where the Dali Lama used to live)

Roughing it.

Tibetans praying outside of a temple.

Young girl in traditional dress.

CDI Honors 2012 Graduates at Bon Voyage Party

On August 4th, CDI honored its graduating Scholars at the Bauer Community Center in Rockville, MD. In past years, this event–known as the Bon Voyage party–celebrated our high school Scholars. This year, with our second class of Scholars graduating from college, we revised the format to include all of our graduates. Watch the slideshow!

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CDI at the Cherry Blossom Festival

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Scholar Portrait: Francisco Barrera

Francisco in front of the classroom.

When he moved to the United States from El Salvador in 2002, CDI Scholar Francisco Barrera (CDI class of 2007) faced a difficult transition. As a native Spanish speaker, he often found himself struggling to understand his teachers at Wheaton High School. In his own words, he felt “intimidated and uncomfortable” whenever he was asked to solve problems on the board. His ESOL classes helped, but outside of the classroom, adjusting to life in his new, faster-paced country tested him. As a result, his grades suffered and he ended his freshman year in disappointing fashion.

At home, however, Francisco had a powerful ally in his mother, Rosa. She had been unable to complete her own schooling back home in El Salvador, but she knew the value of a solid education, and she worked long hours to give Francisco and his siblings every opportunity to study. She told them, “There are many paths you can take in life, but only educating yourself guarantees success.” Though his freshman year results had been discouraging, he took his mother’s words to heart.

With her encouragement, Francisco enrolled in Honors and AP courses during his sophomore year. He expected his grades to drop, but instead found that the more difficult classes actually stimulated him. Determined to succeed, he worked hard and his grades soon began to improve, and he became an Honor Roll student his final three years. At the same time, he participated in clubs like Wheaton Works and the Vietnamese Club, ran cross country and track, and joined the tennis team, where he worked his way to 2nd singles his senior year. Outside of school he volunteered at the Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity, serving 360 hours of community service as a mentor and translator for immigrant families.

But what Francisco wanted more than anything was to go to college. Through their excited interest, his science teachers had shown him how to love the subject, and now he wanted to do the same for others. Unfortunately, even with his excellent transcript, he didn’t know how to make that goal a reality. At CDI, Francisco learned how to prepare for the SAT, how to create a college list and apply to colleges, and how to get the most scholarships and financial aid. Thanks to the one-on-one mentoring he received from CDI counselors, Francisco was accepted at six colleges—Randolph Macon, St. Mary’s, University of Vermont, Dickinson, Hood, and Goucher—and was offered $162,000 in financial aid.

“CDI taught me that I had options,” he says. “I got a full ride at Goucher through its Educational Opportunity Program for minority students. Without CDI I would not have known about that program.”

Francisco and his students.

Today, Francisco is one of CDI’s first seven college graduates. With a B.A. in Biology from Goucher College, he is fulfilling his dream, teaching 7th and 8th grade Science at Southwest Academy Magnet School in Baltimore County. Because of the support he received from his mother, he knows how important it is for adults to stress education, and he’s taking that message to the next generation. In the classroom, he challenges his students through hands-on activities that generate interest in the topic, as his teachers had once lit a spark in him. Taking a page out of the CDI playbook, he wants his students to make discoveries by themselves, knowing that in order for them to succeed they need to be fully invested in their own education—building a strong foundation, one brick at a time.

Just like Francisco.

A version of this post originally appeared in CDI’s Winter Newsletter.

CDI at the Rock N’ Roll Marathon-Health and Fitness Expo

On Thursday, March 15th the CDI team and 16 CDI Scholars volunteered at the Rock N’ Roll Marathon-Health and Fitness Expo at the DC Armory.  2013 Scholars, 2012 Scholars, and College Scholars all participated in this community service event. The Health and Fitness Expo is where runners go to pick up their race bibs, T-shirts, and goodie bags. Each of the volunteers gave runners their bibs and answered a variety of race questions. With thousands of people running the marathon, half marathon, and relays, the Scholars were all very busy helping the runners get their gear. They volunteered from 3:15p.m.-7:15p.m. and returned back to the CDI office around 8:00p.m.

The race organization graciously donated $5 to CDI per volunteer. With all the Scholars who participated, we were able to raise $95. Both Scholars and counselors had a great time volunteering for this event and hope to participate again next year.

Here are a few pictures from the Expo!

New Scholar Kevin Iglesias


New Scholar Thyra Thanos


Class of 2012 Scholar Rundell Douglas

CDI Welcomes the Class of 2013!

Collegiate Directions is pleased to welcome the CDI Class of 2013 into the CDI family. After a rigorous application review process–which includes interviews with prospective Scholars and home visits with their families–CDI counselors selected the following Scholars from our six partner Schools into the program.  This year’s application pool was one of our most competitive to date.

Andaya, Roberto Albert Einstein HS
Asfaha, Samuele Wheaton HS
Avila, Karla Albert Einstein HS
Ejigu, Selome Albert Einstein HS
Esayas, Nolawit Paint Branch HS
Flamenco, Evelin Albert Einstein HS
Fuentes, Erica Albert Einstein HS
Gebremariam, Hana Albert Einstein HS
Gosh, Iris (Jenny) Albert Einstein HS
Gutierrez, Esther Springbrook HS
Ibrahim, Ahmedin Wheaton HS
Iglesias, Kevin Wheaton HS
Joshi, Prashant Paint Branch HS
Larios, Nicole Paint Branch HS
Lee, Bo-Eun Walter Johnson HS
Lumbuku, Ekhe Michael Walter Johnson
Martinez, Graciela Wheaton HS
Nicol, Sharon Paint Branch HS
Olivera, Lenin Springbrook
Pelap, Stephane John F. Kennedy HS
Romero, Katherine John F. Kennedy HS
Serpas, Rebeca Springbrook HS
Tanos, Thyra Wheaton HS
Thanki, Naitik Paint Branch HS
Vasquez, Janet Wheaton HS
 Zavala, Jessica Paint Branch HS

CDI: The Year in Review

As we approach the end of 2011, let’s look back on what as been a tremendous year for CDI. This year we saw:

  • Our largest entering class – we have 25 Scholars in our 2012 class. (And congratulations to all Scholars who’ve gotten early acceptances–I’ll write more on this topic later.)
  • Increased standardized test scores again this year. See last week’s post on this topic.
  • Al Neely scholarship funds awarded to first three Scholars (Diego Hernandez, Annie Sim, Binh Pham). This scholarship was named in honor of Al Neely, with special thanks to Archstone for their generous donation.
  • Michael Crockett scholarship funds awarded to support two Scholars (Muhammed Abdulkarimu and Mirko Valdez). This scholarship was named in honor of Michael Crockett.
  • The further development of project work with Baltimore City Public Schools and DC Prep Public Charter School.
  • Our 1st annual benefit, held at the University Club of Washington, DC in May. Our honored speaker was Pat McGuire, President of Trinity University. To view an 8-minute video of the benefit featuring three of our graduating Scholars, visit our YouTube page here.
  • 100% matriculation of 2011 Scholars at four-year colleges. In total, they received a little more than a whopping $678,000 in scholarships/awards to attend college or an average of approximately $28,000 per Scholar.
And of course how could we talk about 2011 and NOT mention that seven of our first group of Scholars, the class of 2007, graduated from college this year? (The other three are all on track to graduate in May 2012.) In the coming months, expect to see a post about each of these Scholars right here on the CDI blog. In those posts I’ll interview the Scholars and let them tell you where they are now.

Kevin Rivas, Juniata College, business administration

Gloria Koskey, Stanford University, human biology

Jaime Hur, Dickinson College, biochemistry

Francisco Barrera, Goucher College, biology

Cindy Villarreal, Goucher College, psychology

Frances Kalema, Hollins University, business & art

Wendy Avelar, Cornell University, mechanical engineering