Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Building Relationships - by Eugenie

"Part of growing up is realizing you learn to love so many people.  It's about forming those relationships and finding what will last forever." - Dylan O'Brien

Truthfully, I absoutely loved Florida.  Every second of it.  The parks were awesome, the food was great, and the weather was magnificent.  There were moments when I was a little exhausted and overwhelmed, but I knew that every single one of us felt that way at one point or another.  I didn't expect anything less that that; we were marathon 5000 km away from home, walking for most the the day, whilst constantly being surrounded by a sea of people.

Throughout the trip I was always reminding myself of the main reason why I decided to go in the first place.  Yes, I love science and travelling, but I chose to go on this trip because I had a mission.  And that mission was to build relationships.  I wanted to meet new people and have genuine conservations with people I've never really talk to before.

Luckily, I got to do exactly that.  I went into those trip knowing that I had no obligation to only sticky with certain people.  I floated from group to group and I learned tons about these people that I once knew nothing about.  I ate tons of super wicked food with different people, I explored the parks with different groups, and the best part of it all was the conversations I had with these awesome human beings.

I've made some pretty rad friends o this trip and I'm so thankful that I was fortunate enough to have done on this amazing adventure alongside 26 stunning individuals!  At the end of the day I know that the chances of these friendships lasting is unknown, but one thing is for sure, the memories I have made with these wonderful people will last a lifetime!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Florida Top 5 - by Ali

It was really difficult to narrow down my top five things about this trip, since it originally started with seven items and grew from there, before I had to bring it back down.  As much as I would have loved to explain why I loved every single minute of this trip, I just picked out the very best, in my opinion.

Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) 
I was really looking forward to going to Hogwarts.  From the minute I found out that it was on the trip, to the minute we arrived, it was sitting in the back of my mind, jumping up and down with excitement.  When we finally arrived, I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t be as grand and magical as I hoped it would, but those fears were unfounded.  IT. WAS. AMAZING!!!!  I felt really immersed in the whole “Muggles in Hogsmeade” experience, and the shops, food, and villagers made it even better.  I loved getting butterbeer (it was fantastic), going on the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley, and seeing the GIANT DRAGON ON GRINGOTTS THAT BREATHED FIRE EVERY TEN MINUTES!!!!  The clothing shop mirrors that told you were looking fine, or alternatively that it really wasn’t your style.  Even seeing the people of all ages running around with wands and casting spells added to the experience.  Basically, it was awesome.

“Look at its lil’ face!”
Now, I could talk about the manatees all day, but I won’t.  Essentially, they were adorable.  It was so cool to see them in their natural habitat, where you could be swimming along in the surprisingly not frigid waters and one would rise up out of the gloom like a surfacing submarine (yes, the first time one did that, I thought it was a submarine).  It was really different to see them where they actually live, to see a bit more about how they act, as opposed to how they act merely in theory.  Then there was that one sunbathing manatee who just floated by the boat and let everyone pet him/her.  And there was the mom manatee who went drifting by with her baby, and my mind exploded with cuteness overload.  All cuteness aside, they were very beautiful creatures who just drift around happily all day, and that’s a really nice thing to watch.

Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom)
“I know this isn’t a picture of Kali River Rapids, or of us after getting soaked, but this picture is important and must be shared.”
I felt like I needed to single out this ride in particular.  I went on it five times with my faithful companion Jacob, who got soaking wet as well, but not as wet as the last time in which I was that ONE PERSON who got drenched... and then I never dried and had to change when we got back.  But anyways, it was so much fun to first play water roulette on who would be that ONE PERSON, and then to cackle hysterically when the newbies got on with their little ponchos and thought they were safe.  After a period of time, we felt pretty much like practiced tour guides, warning them as they looked up and down our drenched frames with horror.

 The rides in Universal Studios
*internal screaming*
Universal Studios, especially the Marvel island, was great.  I got to go on The Incredible Hulk (terrifying), both dinosaur rides (terrifying), and the Spiderman ride (not terrifying).  I can’t believe I survived the Hulk and the dino rides, but for me, the real highlight was Spiderman.  When we went on it first with the lights on so the effects were less realistic, I thought “Wow, this is amazing.  It can’t possibly get better!” and then we did it with the lights off and I thought “IT GOT BETTER HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?”  After we got to go around the back and look at how the cars and effects worked, it got so much more amazing.  For me, the best part was how the cars only move at one extremely slow speed through the track, and yet the tilting and shaking makes it feel like your speed is changing.  It was ingenious.

Team Physics and Team Geology Rocks!
Finally, I have to mention Team Physics (Becks) and Team Geology Rocks (Mama Kenks).  Throughout many of our activities and almost all our workshops, we were split into two groups, and the sense of camaraderie was brilliant.  When doing the Physics workshops, and the tours at Animal Kingdom, and pretty much anywhere else, everyone on the trip really bonded.  The very first exciting thing for me on the entire trip was Mr. Becker showing up and destroying everyone at Smash Bros.  Just being with all those people was awesome.  We got to learn about each other, compete (I’m lookin’ at you, rover building challenge), and even just hang out like at the African Buffet and Margaritaville.  The people are always the best part of anything, and I’m really glad I got to spend time with such great ones.
Thank you Mrs. Becker, Ms. Kenkel, and Mr. Becker for bringing us on this trip.  It truly was the experience of a lifetime.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Dream Fulfilled

When I was 13 years old Apollo 13 came out.  This epic tale of the "successful failure" of 1970 changed by life.  I watched it and I was hooked.  I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut.

I watched that movie over and over again, several times a week, some times every day.  When I reached the first 100 viewings, the VHS went dead, and my mom had to buy me a new one.  When I ran that one dead I finally bought the DVD.  And when I started teaching, I bought a second DVD to leave in my classroom.

At 13 my ceiling was covered in star constellations, and the moon dangled above my desk.  My bed was placed at just the right angle to watch the moon rise from it every night.  I had lamps, candles and blankets covered with stars, shelves with books, and duotangs filled with research about the space program and the universities that would help me get there.  This was the dream.  I had to work for NASA.  And so every day I would BEG my parents to take me to Florida, to visit the Cape.  To stand where "they" stood - the men and women brave enough to leave our planet.  It just never happened.

Until November 9, 2014.

When I travel I'm usually pretty good at keeping my cool.  I'm a details person and I travel with large groups of students, who are always my priority.  But when our bus pulled into the NASA parking lot, keeping my cool wasn't an option.  I was full-on geeking out.

There are 7 parking lots at NASA.  Named for the Mercury 7 astronauts.  In order.  Parking lot 1 being Alan Shepherd, 3 being John Glenn and so on.  I wasn't even off the bus and i was vibrating in my seat.  The NASA globe greeted us, and at 9:00 am, at the opening of the park, they played the national anthem. While not "my" national anthem, it was a sign of respect and honour for all those who had served their country through expeditions into space.  I was so proud to see how instantly respectful out students were.  Then again, our Florida family here really are the best.

Our workshop started the best way possible - with a talk and Q&A with Astronaut Winston Scott.  Inspiring does not even begin to cover how I felt about hearing him speak.  The first thing that struck me was his confidence and his passion and excitement towards space flight and research.  I knew just listening to him that I never had the right temperament to be an astronaut.  I was born to teach, and there has never been a moment of regret on my path.  But knowing that I could never do what he did (and most could not display his level of confidence, calm and courage in the face of extreme circumstances such as his) just made my respect him that much more.  The second thing I love is that his Bachelor's degree is in MUSIC.  That's right.  MUSIC.  Then he went on to study engineering later.  And when the kids asked him about this, he said, "Why limit yourself to being just one thing?"  I think this is such beautiful advice.  Why indeed.  Captain Scott plays the trumpet in a NASA band, and then would fly to space.  Before that he flew "Top Gun" F-14 Tomcats for the Navy.  Now he teaches at a University and inspires others.  Why limit yourself.  He never did.

We then had a chance to participate in a Mars Rover Engineering Challenge.  I can promise future Physics students that you will be seeing this in my classroom - because it was amazing.  NASA's understanding of the scientific method, planning, testing, adjusting, testing, working together, experimenting, testing really unparalleled.  And more than just the activity itself, but watching our students work together so well, and so creatively was more than I could have asked for. Ms. Kenkel and Mr. Becker got super competitive about it, but in the end lost to Parm, Emily, Danilyn and Justin - who worked together so well, had an unparalleled attention to detail, and really showed the rest of us how it's done.

There was a workshop on developments we use in our every day life because of the space garden and a stroll through the Rocket Garden.  And I got to walk along the gantry way that Neil and Buzz walked on their way to crawl into Columbia, on top of the Saturn V rocket.  The space mission to top all space missions.  The one that brought man to the moon.  And I walked up and down their path - with the bright orange bars exactly as I remembered them from every time I watched the moon launch over and over again in my teen years.  I closed my eyes and tried to image how it felt.  I'm pretty sure less frightening that it would have been for them - I wasn't 500 feet above the ground next to the world's biggest rocket - complete with rocket fuel (so powerful in fact you had to be at least 3 miles away at the time of launch).  The experience can't be adequately described - though I'm sure from the ridiculous grin on my face in the photos, you may get the idea.

After the workshop we got in line for the bus to take us 5 miles away from the main complex to the Saturn V complex - the building out near the launch pad the holds a full Saturn V rocket - worlds largest - and the rocket that was used for the Apollo (moon) Program.  Again - after almost 20 years of being passionately in love with the thought of space travel, I cannot describe what it was like to stand there - right next to it.  To see a moon vehicle, Lunar exclusion module, command module, service module, and of course, to touch a moon rock (much smoother, denser, and darker than I expected, for the record).  Sadly, we were pressed for time, so we quickly loaded back the bus to return.

And then there was the Atlantis Building.  With the now-retired Atlantis Space Shuttle - one of three remaining shuttles that has been to space.  After a short movie on how the Space Shuttle came to be (which turns out to be a brilliant story in problem solving, persistence and the scientific method), the current arose to reveal Atlantis, it all it's glory.  Goosebumps.  Ahhhh!  I was the nerd standing next to the screen, who ran out to meet it - and photograph it - before the rest of the tourists to catch up.  There was no end to my geek-out in sight!  The Atlantis building has a launch simulator that I had to miss (as I wanted time to go to the space shop! biggest in the world!!), the original prototype of the shuttle (i.e.: giant paper airplane), a space toilet, international space station model to crawl through, and of course - "emergency exits" - also known as the slide that gets you back down to the bottom floor.  NASA really does think of anything.

My only regret about this day is that I was unable to control time, to slow it down and give me the moments I needed to savour it all.  Guess I'll just have to go back again soon.

Kennedy Space Center, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Welcome to Orlando - by Shweta

TODAY IS NOVEMBER 9, 2014. Today is the day following a red eye flight in which all (or at least the most) of us kids and teachers (except Ms. Kenkel, with her skillful plane sleeping abilities) stayed up, unable to sleep on a red-eye flight from Sea-Tac International Airport to Orlando International Airport.  And while a few of us may have caught some z's in there, I know I couldn’t sleep. But I turned this struggling into a positive by buying wi-fi to use on the plane - so it wasn’t completely a total bust of time! In addition, I was grateful to have given myself a good solid whole night’s sleep the night prior to the flight, which helped. A LOT.  I realize now I prefer daytime flights over red-eye flights.  I personally find it really hard to sleep on buses or planes, or just anything that I can’t use as a bed. Plus, I feel more awake in the day (for obvious reasons), and I find it’s generally easier to be productive on daytime flights. Well, maybe "productive" is the wrong word, but during the day there is least the opportunity to socialize, and get to know your group better.  No one frowns on you for the constant chatter, and enthusiasm is encouraged, instead of stifled while you try to respect everyone attempt to fight for those few previous minutes of sleep that they can get.  But I feel really disoriented on night flights, like how one would feel after waking up from an afternoon nap. Nevertheless, it was a very tiring, but any experience required to get us to Orlando was well worth it

We hit the ground running when we landed, and let me say that entering the park was so surreal.  I was literally a zombie as we came through the gates. But sleep exhaustion aside, we jumped right into the fun (in an effort to help kick-start our adrenaline so we wouldn’t collapse onto the ground). The park we explored today was Hollywood Studios, which had some similarities to California Adventure Park in Disneyland (though Hollywood Studios is much smaller). I won’t go into a huge compare/contrast of Disneyworld and Disneyland because I’ve been to only one park here in Florida so far, and I don’t know enough about the former to criticize. But, that doesn’t mean they both don’t radiate the same magic!  I'm looking forward to seeing what the other 3 parks here at the magical World of Disney have to offer!

I swear I will not recite my whole day today, but I did want to mention that I spent half of it with Mom & Dad, (Mr. & Mrs. Becker), and Mama Kenks (Ms. Kenkel). It was time well spent, and definitely going to be continued over the near future. I love getting to spend time with teachers.  Getting to now them and enjoying time with them from a non-academic yet academic perspective (I hope that makes sense - if not, I blame it on the fact that I brain-turning-to-mush level sleepy) is really fun, and really, unlike any other fun you can enjoy.
Tomorrow, we’re going to go and explore the past and present of manned space flight, learn about engineering and other super cool stuff at NASA, and not to mention MEET AN ACTUAL ASTRONAUT, the one and only, Captain Winston E. Scott!! THE EXCITEMENT CANNOT BE CONTAINED.  I guarantee you a much more detailed story of that experience to come.

Now I am going to recharge my mind’s fried batteries. Stay tuned for more of Shweta's jumbled thoughts tomorrow!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hello World, It's Me, Shweta!

Hey there world, 

My name is Shweta Sehijpaul. I'm in the 12th grade, at Sullivan Heights, the best school anyone could ask for. As of this moment, I'm sitting at my computer, typing with a heavy pit of trepidation in my stomach, counting down the minutes to the next adventure of my life. 

Destination? Orlando, Florida. Time remaining till we're off? T-minus 5 days, 20 hours, 20 minutes and 11 seconds. Level of excitement on a scale of 1 to 10? STRAIGHT UP TO 1 MILLION!!  Have I packed yet? HA, NOPE. I'll get to that soon enough. I'm probably going to remember about half the things I didn't bring as soon as we land at the airport. (I digress quite a bit - you'll definitely see a large bit of that in my posts to come).

Anyway, why on earth am I going to Florida with 23 other students and 3 awesome teachers? FOR SCIENCE (all wrapped up together with fun with a pretty bow on top)! Florida is home to Kennedy Space Center, DisneyWorld, EPCOT, Universal Studios, and Crystal River. All of these places have a little bit (or a lot) of science woven into them, which is one of the many beautiful things about them. Physics and wildlife conservation are the naturally magical subjects we'll learn more about at Disney, we will literally dive into ecosystem education at Crystal River while swimming with manatees, we will get hands on with engineering alongside the experts over at NASA, while spending some quality time with NASA Astronaut Captain Winston E. Scott. And of course, greenhouse tours at EPCOT, learning how to build roller-coasters, studying how technology helped create the thrill-seeking rides of Universal Studios, plus so much more.

I can't wait to go and experience it all, and to share it all with you, lovely readers! Look forward to hearing tons about these, plus more about these experiences and and my thoughts in general.

Only 5 days, 20 hours, 9 minutes and 11 seconds remaining!​

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Life Changing Adventure: Disneyland Reflection by Justin

It was a cold, winter day... or was it autumn. I don't remember. Amidst the conversations within the student council room, Mrs. Becker, I believe, walked up to the front of the classroom to give us an announcement. As we sat there listening, she told us that Student Council will go on a leadership retreat at Disneyland. At that moment, the class went into jubilee as feelings of excitement filled the room. Sitting in my chair, I was shocked. Never had this happened in all my years being in student council. To put it simply, I was excited. I began to count the days until the day we would leave for Disneyland.

Now, fast-forwarding towards the day we would leave, all of us, one by one, assembled in Bellingham International Airport. As everyone socialized amongst each other, pure excitement became the word to describe everyone's faces. I was no exception. I knew that I would partake on adventure full of joy.

Throughout the plane ride,  I had a conversation with one of my close friends. This friend in particular had been my friend ever since I joined student council back when I was such a shy person and, in my opinion, she helped me break out of my shell that I was trapped in. As we were talking, I began to realize that I stopped being awkward around people most of the time. Until that moment, I didn't know how natural it was to interact with others. I would just usually keep to myself. However, I realized that I am able to start friendships with others, like any other person, thus giving me confidence to be the person I am today. That was the first realization that I had as a result of this trip; the first of many. Then, after our flights, we landed in Los Angeles. Our trip had finally commenced.

The next day, we walked to Disneyland for our first leadership seminar. Excited for what was in store for us, I ran towards the land of dreams; the happiest place on Earth. Then, as our first seminar began, I wondered what I would learn that day. There, we met with our leader and we went through our  first leadership training session.

At the time, I learned the usual stuff, such as “What makes a good leader?” and things like that. Though I felt as I have heard that kind of stuff before, I still had the will to learn more. That was when I learned about Walt Disney and what made him a good leader. Walt Disney is a person who started out as an animator, but he ended up being much more. Though there were many good qualities about him, there was one thing that stood out to me the most. I learned how he had to adapt in many situations, a really good quality of an effective leader. As the person explained, that was when I learned just how leader-like he was. Before, I didn't think much about him, but now, I see him as a role model; someone whose values are those I want to emulate. Right then and there, I realized what it takes to be a good leader, one that would be a positive influence at the school.

The next day was our next training seminar. Trying to keep the events of the day before out of my head, we walked into California Adventure, the park right beside Disneyland. Over there, there were many things that had happened, but the one that stood out for me was when we had to balance frisbees on our heads as we walked through something like an obstacle course. While doing this, I thought that if I walked fast, then there would be less time to complete it, therefore, less chances to fall. That was something that was completely wrong. Speeding through the course, I noticed that I kept on falling down, along with my frisbee. Though I didn't think of it at the time, while writing this, I realized something.

Life isn't something that you can speed through, nor is it something that you can speed through. I thought I could do it quickly, but that didn't work out whatsoever. When relating this to my life, I could say that, during many sad moments throughout my life, such as the death of my father, I thought that it would all work out simply. However, it doesn't always go as planned and that one would have to accept any obstacles that would happen. I thought that it would all go quickly, so that many of these sad moments wouldn't hurt me. However, life doesn't speed up for you, nor is it something which you can speed up yourself. After looking back on those kinds of moments, I learned that life is complex and you have to go through it slowly, facing any obstacles in the way.

Then, later, we went on Soaring Over California, a ride that's meant to mimic the feeling of flying, while images of California showed up on the screen. As I sat down, when we were lifted in the air, I felt as if I was weightless and free. After a while, as the images were displayed on the screen, the chairs began to move as if we were really soaring over California, over a vast landscape that seemed endless. As I reflect on that particular moment, I realized that Soaring Over California is also analogous to life. It is something where you can be free as you go through many places throughout your entire life. This was when I realized something that changed my views on life.

I realized that there are many obstacles in life. After all, life is complex. You would have to face obstacles eventually and you would eventually have to find a way to get past them. Despite all of that, I also realized that life is a vast landscape. Keeping that in mind, I learned that even though I would face many obstacles, life is endless and it is yours for the making. Of course, one would have to adapt in order to get through the obstacles, and that is something that I'm in the process of going through. Despite that, when the time comes where I would move on from all those undesirable feelings, I can finally move on and choose my path in life, because though life is extremely hard to navigate through, it is a blank canvas, free for you to paint all over.

Now, as I am writing this composition, I have come to learn that this trip had changed my life entirely. In the past, I was a person who always kept to himself, and as well, someone who thought that life is easy to navigate through, believing that everything would work in my favour, while at the same time, wanted to be a great leader. However, upon reflecting on the experiences that I had gone through in Disneyland, I have learned many things.

1. I learned just how complex life is and what obstacles I would have to face in order to live out my life.

2. I learned just how much I had changed, starting out as a shy eighth-grader who always kept to himself to a person who is starting to become more confident with his peers, someone who is breaking out of their shell.

3. I learned how to be a great leader too, learning from Walt Disney's example in order to learn just what it takes to be an effective leader, especially the ability to adapt.

I came to this trip to learn what it takes to be a good leader, but something else took place as well. I learned so many things that slowly changed my outlook on life. As all of these perceptions changed during those four days, I have come to realize just one more thing...

Disneyland truly is a magical place. I expected that by joining Student Council, I would only help out with the school, something that I enjoyed doing. However, after this trip, I became astounded at how my life changed in a way that I would never expect. I have learned so many things as a result of this trip and it will forever be an adventure I would cherish. Disneyland is not just the land of dreams or the happiest place on Earth. It is a place where people's lives change for the better.

The 4C's - by Jessica

Disneyland, its a place that proves that fun is ageless, that magic is a timeless concept, and that Walt Disney is one of the greatest Leaders of all time. The whole foundation of Disneyland is based of perseverance, Walt Disney was a man, who above all said yes to no.

The Disney YES Program was a hidden gem that I had not had any knowledge of. It taught me that a great Leader, listens, perseveres, and most importantly says Yes to No. That to be a great leader, you have to be creative, constant, curious confident and most importantly to be a great leader, you have to be aware of your core values. To have a clear mission of what your legacy will contain. The YES program has taught me that your impact can be small or large as long as you make one, you change the life of one or many that is when you know you are a great Leader.

Not only was this trip a leadership learning activity, it helped me to strengthen my bond with the other member of student council. I had known many of the member seeing them at meetings and in the halls but I realized I hadn't really known them. I got to interact with them on a deeper level, and I can proudly say after 5 amazing days with some of the best people ever, I have made 20 new friends. 

Now throughout this entire trip there was one continuous theme. Fun ageless timeless fun. Whether it was waiting to depart on a new adventure, singing Frozen songs in an Airport with 19 strangers to singing Frozen songs with 19 new friends from California Adventure all the way to the hotel. Sitting poolside in the nicest heat with 15 of my new friends to sitting scared on the Hollywood Tower of Terror, reaching new heights! One of the best ingredients to my 5 day in heaven was the fun I shared with 19 other adolescents.
Coming down from Cloud nine was one of the hardest things for me to do. Coming back to reality that was tough. I will leave you now with my most favorite Walt Disney Quotes, 

“Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”~Walt Disney. 

Disney enthusiasm - by Nicole

As writing this with Disney music playing in the background,( specifically the world of colour soundtrack), trying to bring back that sense of nostalgia-I've came to an realization that it is possible to change a person in just 5 days. It wasn't just about going to thrilling rides, and hanging with friends ; no, it was about facing fears you never knew was possible, creating inevitable bonds you didn't know you could make, and creating a leader that you’ve proudly become. To say that this experience changed my life would have been a part of it, as this journey had changed my outlook, as I’m Possible. To Beyoncé and Sharkishia inside jokes, near-death ride experiences, singing frozen and dancing under the captivating night lights of Disney, and to late night and morning singing sessions by the pool - I happily say that this experience has been one of the happiest moments of my life. I proudly thank Disney for providing a group of crazy Beyoncé obsessed leaders to their landmark, and the most thanks to Mrs.Becker for awarding us this amazing opportunity that has truly changed my life in the best way possible.  

When I first stepped onto Disney, I can just feel the magical aura that came along with it. Its as if all your problems went away, and all you could feel was the happiness fluttering inside your stomach. Lets be honest, nobody had really expected for the Disney leadership program to impact us as hard as it did. On our first day, I had learned to be flexible, to create your goal with the materials you've got. We had been taught of how Walt Disney came to succession, his struggles, and his game plan to over come them. After listening to his  moving endeavours,  I  realized that although I wasn't happy with my problems in my personal life - I knew I had the power to change my unhappiness and my mentality through the situation. Next, we had ridden on Space Mountain. At the time this ride was horrifying to me ( due to my excessive fear of roller-coasters), but as I rode this whilst gripping on Rashid’s arm, towards the end I felt proud that I overcame somewhat my fear. We also went to the Haunted mansion to test our ability to listen and care about our peers, which Rashid was my partner for. The purpose was to see if you can listen to your partner, while being distracted by objects around you. It was really funny because as we rode the ride, we were so competitive to  try to really success ourselves. Although it was challenging at times, we pulled it off. We also did some team building exercises, which was to prepare our trust and leader commands to our partner. One particular part I remembered was when there was objects all over the floor, and we were blindfolded so our partner can guide us to safety. As I was trying to listen to what my partner was commanding me, I heard his frantic voice at times through the course of the activity. At the end, I was told that our program facilitator was moving all the objects around as I was walking. The objection of her shuffling was that everything wasn't going to go our way sometimes, and we had to manoeuvre ourselves to get to our goal. Over the infinite selfies, and photo-bombing that day, new revelations were made and conquered. It was an incredible first day, to an amazing saga ! 

I think some might agree that the second day was the best out of all the five days. Maybe because it was the fears conquered or it was the endless laughter that came along, but this day was the highlight of the trip. Although we were accustomed to Disneyland since yesterday, it was still the same experience as you walked in. However, instead we walked to California adventure! From the name alone, it screamed the vibe of risk and dangerous experience. First, as were walking and discussing overcoming fears, we stopped in front of Hollywood tower of terror. I’m sure my face went white, and my stomach dropped. I though that I overcame my fear by going onto space mountain, but that soon vanished as I heard the screams of terror coming inside the dangerous building. For a second, I contemplated of going out, but then I came to an conclusion that I knew I would regret it if I didn't go in. I was pretty much shaking, and so I sat next to Pallvi and Rashid. I felt bad for Rashid yesterday, so I opted for Pallvi to grip onto. Honestly for me, it was one of the scariest rides. I can faintly remember the sound of terror as we were  going up, and I still shudder to this day. Although it was supposed to be the opposite effect, because of the ride it kind of put my morale down. I said to myself that if I cant even ride Hollywood tower of terror, I couldn't ride anything else. However, the leadership program went on and we discussed that I AM POSSIBLE, and how to achieve our career choice and goal in life. We also talked about what legacy we wanted to leave behind, and soon we rode Soarin over California. It was such an breath taking experience, and I truly felt we were flying. Sooner than I anticipated, the leadership program ended that day, and we were by ourselves. Our facilitator even had said that we were one of the most inspiring group of leaders she had worked with in a while, even saying that we inspired/taught her! (Shout out to Kimi!)
 The first thing everybody wanted to ride was California Screamin’, but first they wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel. It was Marco, Shiraz and I in one booth, and I was internally panicking on riding California Screamin’. I said that to both Shiraz and Marco, and they had told me they were also afraid also. One of them told me that if I did it, then they would. I then set myself to do it for them, as I didn’t want them to be robbed of the thrill of California Adventure. However, as we were walking from the fast pass lane to the ride, all thoughts blanked out. I kept telling myself, you cant do it- you’re too scared. I looked for my friend for his end of the bet, but I discovered he wasn’t going to do it. Thus, Janelle was my riding buddy. At that point, I told myself that because he’s not doing it (and a couple of other people) then I shouldn’t do it. As they were sitting and buckling their seat belts, I actually got out of the ride and almost walked out. However, I saw Maureen and Shiraz waiting in line for the next seats. At that moment, I had a sheer epiphany as I looked at them ; they had told me of their horrendous fears for this ride- and I thought that if they could do it, then so can I. I was seated next to Janelle, and went for the ride of my life. I couldn’t believe that one push of confidence could really conquer my fear. Ever since that ride, I became such an adrenaline junkie, and I anticipated for the big drop and fast rides. To be honest, to a point that ride had changed my outlook, and every ride was deemed boring in comparison. I had even rode Space mountain again, and it wasn’t even that scary!  At the end of the day, with my fears truly conquered- a new person was brought up ! 
At the end of the night, we had watched the World of Colour show. I had watched it with some of my homies( inside joke ), and it was such an experience. Later  when the show ended, whole student council(and a few teachers) sang and danced under the night sky and twinkling lights of night Disney - as we walked through the hustle and bustle of the after math. 
For the next day, we had done the scavenger hunt which was a blast! I loved it because we actually explored Disneyland, instead of going on every ride (which we did). I was paired with my lovely team Nadia, Janelle, and Shweta. We were the last ones that had entered Disneyland, and all we could see was everybody sprinting in all directions. Then all of a sudden, this man in a Disneyland vintage car approached us, and offered us a free trip to go to Fantasyland. We took a gamble and said yes. As were riding by, we saw a huge line for ship and dale (one of the scavenger hunt necessity), and a few groups waiting for them. As we rode by, we took a selfie with ship and dale, (they even waved at us!) and saw the look on Justins astonished face was priceless. When we arrived to fantasy land, we saw PETER PAN! We honestly could not believe our luck, as there was no line for the large attracted character. After encountering Peter, we were on cloud 9, and skipped all over fantasy land. However, we heard Mrs. Becker and Vanessa calling us- and they were almost in the front of the line to Anna and Elsa! Our luck just got bigger and bigger as we hugged and said “I love you” to our awesome chaperones. After being stars strucked by them, we were on a roll and we couldn't back down. We met Jasmine and Aladdin, explored every inch of Disneyland, took selfies with Storm troopers, and overall had such a fun time. Even though we hadn't won, it was okay because we honestly had the best time that morning. 

Disneyland was and will always be the best experience in my high school career. Although in this blog post I hadn't included the last day, and a thousand inside jokes, I figured this post was too much. To yelling Beyoncé and sharkishia on the rides to starting random applauses in large crowds, this trip was filled with my new found family, and memories that will last a lifetime. :) 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reflections on Disneyland - by Maureen

Three weeks ago, I was at Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth with some of my favourite people. I don’t know how it all went by so fast, a trip I’d anticipated for months is over now, and here I am writing this blog post with a cup of tea and a severe case of nostalgia as I reflect on some of the best days of my high school life.

The Walt Disney Company is one of the most iconic corporations in the world. With the success it’s had in the last century and continues to have today, it is nearly impossible to imagine a time where the company and Walt Disney himself weren’t quite so prosperous. Nevertheless, his perseverance was rewarded and his legacy is one that continues to inspire people, myself included.

Instead of trying to rack my brain in remembering and then regurgitating exactly what happened everyday we were there, I’m going to write about my favourite moments and why they hold the significance to me that they do. In chronological order of occurrence:

  1. Team building- On the first day, outside of space mountain we had an activity that required moving our teammates around various objects on the floor while the other person was blindfolded. My partner, Kartik, and I had a ton of communication issues- his life was my right, the size of a “step” was different for both of us and so on, but we worked through it and gradually began to trust each other more. The exercise was a model for teamwork and as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of group projects, I appreciated the need to problem solve and hope to apply the same skills into my future group work.
  1. Overcoming challenges- On day two, the focus was more on legacy and personal growth. Heights make me fairly uncomfortable, so when our program director for the day, Whitney, had us balance cones on our heads while walking across nets that were strung up high, I was more nervous than I let on. I kept clinging on the sides, feeling like I couldn’t move my legs and clinging on to sides of the net for dear life (I realize with hindsight that the structure was pretty safe but I didn’t in the moment). As the nets started sloping downwards, my heart beat even faster and one of my friends ahead of me decided it’d be funny to start jumping. Ignoring my shrieks of fear, he smiled and said “C’mon Maureen, people are going to mess with you in life” while others around me laughed and agreed. With no valid defense statement because he was right, I used it as motivation to keep going and finishing was accomplishing. This is somewhat cliché, but I loved how the activity was a metaphor for life.
  1. Screamin’ over California- This is the name of the huge rollercoaster at Disney’s California Adventure park. Known for its height and speed, it was the first “real” rollercoaster I’d ever been on and I got to experience it with one of the best friends I’ve made on student council, Shiraz. Even though he’s in Grade 8 and I’m in Grade 12, the friendships I’ve made this year know no age. It was his first major ride as well, and we spent so long debating if we should exit in the lineup. I’m so glad we didn’t, because it ended up being my favourite ride! I can’t think of anyone I’d want to share the experience with more. Also, after the ride another one of my younger friends told me that she was going to back out but when she saw me go on, she thought “[she] could do it too if Maureen could”. That still brings a smile to my face, I didn’t realize that I could make an impact like that and I hope to be a good role model, always. I’m so grateful for the relationships I’ve been able to build on student council this year.
  1. Photo Scavenger Hunt- I’m naturally competitive, and when I saw the teams for the scavenger hunt I was beyond excited. I remember looking at my teammates and pronouncing that losing was not an option. We won! I hope I keep this drive for the rest of my life, but also that I learn to accept losses too. Even if we’d lost, I won’t forget the amazing moments we had while searching for everything from a broom to a fish to Peter Pan
This trip was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’d just like to thank Ms. Becker, Mr. Neufeld, Vanessa, my parents, and the generous donations from admin for giving us this opportunity. And to my 20 incredible friends who went with me, thank you for the laughs, the sing-a-longs, and all of the unforgettable memories. <3

My Disney Experience - By Rashid

The trip to Anaheim and ultimately Disneyland was a truly amazing experience. I can confidently say it will be a highlight of my past, current, and future high school experiences. We learned so much about ourselves all while having fun at the same time. This trip taught me so much that I will remember it for the rest of my life. Throughout the workshops, we learned many valuable lessons.
On the first day in Disney Park, the workshop was about what it takes to be a leader. I learned that I have to be confident, respectable, a role model, and many other positive characteristics. This particular workshop reminded me that no matter how hard the challenges placed in front of me are, I AM POSSIBLE. That message really stuck to me because there are always tough challenges that I don’t feel confident I can conquer but I need to remember that there is always a way. Walt Disney is truly an inspirational man. He was able to conquer any challenge put in front of him. I find that very inspirational and to get me to keep on striving towards my goals.

Day two in Anaheim was at California Adventures.  We learned about leaving a legacy behind and establishing your own brand. Leaving a legacy behind is very important because people now and future generations will remember you as this type of person. This taught me that I need to aim to at least be kind to everyone because that’s the type of character I want to be associated as. I need to aim to do remarkable things and I’m sure all of us as leaders can do that. During the balancing cones on your head part of the workshop, the metaphor taught me to always stay positive. Even though there are plenty of flaws in me, I need to stay positive and remind myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.

The third day we had a scavenger hunt back in the Disney Park. Myself and my team mates (Nica, Pallvi and Anika) all learned how to co-operate and strategize. Even though that day was a mostly a free time day, our team was confident and worked together in sync. We put the leadership skills we learned to the test and it was a great experience.

This was my first time in Disneyland and it was an unbelievable experience. The trip was so amazing because we all grew a lot closer and had tons of fun. We got to meet many of our favourite Disney characters and go on plenty of rides. I got to meet two of my favorite Disney characters, Aladdin and Woody which was really great. Many of us finally conquered our fears of some rides and definitely enjoyed going on them. I’m sure everyone agrees that California Screamin’ was definitely a favorite. Lots of amazing food was eaten. I absolutely loved the Dole Whip; the lineups were worth it! The souvenirs I bought were definitely money well spent! Every time I look at my lightsaber and water-spraying fan, Disney will always pop back in my head. My first time in Disney was truly flawless and amazing and there aren’t enough words to describe how awesome it was! My only regret is that we didn’t get to spend more time in Disneyland! This trip was fantastic and I hope that I can go on more with the school in the future!