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Positive Impact Within Our Community

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Elsie Wang was the president of IYC during the 2018-2019 years and a student of Stanford University’s Class of 2023. As a studious student and a passionate volunteer, Elsie
spoke with podcast host, Kelvin, and talked about her thoughts on the impact IYC has made on
her life. Elsie also goes into detail regarding the overall benefits of IYC and her advice for all
members of our organization. Please view the below transcript from the IYC Podcast and learn
about the great positive impact IYC has on the community within itself.

Kelvin: Hello everybody! Welcome back to the IYC Podcast, I’m one of your hosts Kelvin, and
today we’re going to be doing something different. Recently, during our January IYC Meeting,
past IYC President Elsie joined a short Q&A session to talk about her experiences in IYC and the impact that IYC has made on her life. Even though the episode revolves around IYC, I want you to take the advice that Elsie has to say and try to apply it to other aspects in your life. Please enjoy this episode.

Elsie: And before I start, I forgot to thank you, Kelvin, for reaching out to me and coordinating this. Thanks for sending over all the questions and kind of going over that with me, that was helpful. And as a short intro, so I joined IYC as a freshman and I was the president at my senior year so that would be 2012-2019, and currently I am studying a major called Symbolic Systems at Stanford and, you may not have heard what it is and that’s totally normal because it is a degree program that is only offered at Stanford and, it’s basically a combo of behavioral and social sciences and mathematics and computations, so computer science in a certain sense and what I study in particular is the relationship between humans and computers. For example, something I would ask is how can we give computers or endow computers with human-like behavior or
intelligence and understanding, or how can we design software and applications that interfaces and works well with humans or users. So, that’s kind of what I’m studying and my background at IYC.

Kelvin: And talking about IYC, I kind of want to begin by starting at your beginning with IYC. Your perspective of IYC, and perhaps we can start with the events that were happening and perhaps the events that you started at IYC as well.


Elsie: So, while I was there for 4 years, all 4 years of my high school career but I really became involved in my junior and senior years and I at that time we were much smaller than you are today, but we were still growing so, in a sense it was a time of many new things and
changes. At the time we just started the health and environment committee and we were doing environment projects such as the stickers initiative and organizing trail cleanups with local nature reserves and doing monthly environmental pledges. So it’ll be like, this month I pledge to
keep my showers under 5 minutes and we were also expanding senior center operations, so that included contacting more senior centers and scheduling more performances. And then we were also planning for our big Vienna trip, where IYC members had their concert there. We also
started supermarket bagging events; this wasn’t started by me, this was started by our officers at the time. This is by no means a list of things I did but things that were happening while I was there. We were also spearheading some organizational reforms, to foster more leadership in
officers and not just the president and vice presidents. And, this was so we could provide more opportunities for growth and have more people take the initiative. And one of the things we did was we rolled out a how-to senior center performance guide that assists and encourages members
to contact and to organize their own senior center performances. And we also reformed the Officer’s system, officers must be in charge of their project’s initiative and I’ve seen this since then, you guys have really expanded that and are doing so many things that I can’t even imagine being a part of that while I was there. So that’s all super impressive and that was what was happening while I was there.


Kelvin: And that’s obviously a lot that was happening, even at that time, wrapping your head around so many different projects. Especially being the president of IYC at the time, being able to take the responsibility of watching everyone’s responsibilities being completed too. I kind of
wanted to ask, what was your mentality or thinking of volunteering at IYC at the time?


Elsie: Yeah so, it kind of changed. When I first joined as a freshman I really felt that I was really just going through the motions: so I showed up to the meeting, I participated in a few events and I responded to emails from executive members at the time when I needed to, but it wasn’t until
my junior year until I was really able to understand the impact we were making and I stepped up to take more initiatives and I became more inspired by the needs that I kind of saw in the community while I was doing some of the projects on behalf of IYC. And it was from that point on that my mentality kind of went from: oh, just doing what I needed to do and what I know what is good to do, like volunteering obviously is something that I thought I should do but that was only like a surface level mentality. But by the end, it kind of deepened to be defined by the
footprint that I left on the communities that I served, and kind of in a feedback loop it made me want to contribute even more and become more active in IYC.


Kelvin: Definitely, just kind of looking at everybody and seeing them as role models. And then once you begin to take on their perspectives as well, soon enough you become the role model for the people and then they also begin looking up to you as well. But, just one more question I
wanted to ask, what necessarily drove all this passion that you have for volunteering especially at IYC, to take the initiative and to step out of your comfort zone.


Elsie: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think for me, it was definitely the interaction I had with people in the communities we were serving. I have an example of this, there were about 20 or so seniors at a senior center that we were performing at for IYC. There were about 20 or so of
them, sitting on these black metal chairs and in front of a make-shift stage. It wasn’t even a real stage, just a bunch of chairs and a microphone kind of just put there by some staff members. And, the floor was uncarpeted so I could hear some seats scuffle a bit and it wasn’t even very formal. But as soon as the last piece was wrapped up and we were like: we were done, we were going to take our instruments and get out now, but then as we were kind of walking off, this elderly couple, I saw them in the corner of my eye, and they started walking towards us and flagging us down. So then we stopped and we were going to exchange niceties: “oh, thanks for having us here” or “thanks for enjoying our performance” but they just like cut us off and said “thanks for playing our song” and as in, the song that reminds them of their relationship they had
and the good times that they had. And for reference, our set included a rendition of a pretty old song, I’m sure you all know it: Fly Me To the Moon by Frank Sinatra, telling us about their story and how they met. And honestly it was such a beautiful story about love in the face of war and it was then I was like wow, I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that allows me to be that part of someone’s day, brighten someone’s day to this extent and let people who actually live in a vacuum where they only interact with the same set of people everyday bring them the chance to experience something different, unique and precious even if it meant as a replica of something in their past. I think it’s such as enriching experience and, yes my passion has really been defined by the impact that we bring into other people’s lives and especially to communities that are adjacent to us and closest geographically but far from us in an abstract sense: for example I’m an 80-year old and I’m not in high risk of COVID, at the same time they’re literally right next door and I think it’s being able to step into a completely different life with completely different
circumstances but that is actually living right beside us and I think it’s just super cool and that’s something that IYC does a lot too.


Kelvin: Definitely, for these events half of it is the physical aspect, like everything you need to set up, but half of it is the mental aspect too, like how you go into it and how you exactly carry it out, which is exactly what IYC embodies. Now I want to shift over into one of the more pressing topics that every wants to know about, IYC’s advantage in college applications. Even more middle school students, you might not realize it but you’re actually more than half way there to this point of college applications and for high school students, this is coming right up for you, sooner than you think. Elsie, do you want to talk about it?


Elsie: Yeah so, I think IYC is one of those organizations where you get as much out of it as much as you put in. And I think this is one of the best types of organizations to be a part of because there is no limit as to what you can get out of it and there is no limit as to what you can put into it and you can control your gains from it. And I think, the biggest advantage, in a holistic sense of IYC, is you can truly diversify your experience and perspectives and take advantage of the opportunities for self reflection and growth that it does give you. So, you’re interacting with a lot of people in different circumstances as I talked about earlier, and it’ll give you just so many chances to put yourself into other people’s shoes and really understand what a different live experience entails and in doing this you can really grow as a person, you can really mature well beyond the years of someone else who is applying to college and that will be reflected in your interviews, your application, your essay for sure, and in a sense by being a part of IYC and volunteering in a club that does so much, you become a three dimensional person in application reader’s eyes, so you’re not just defined by your SAT scores, your GPA, the classes you took, the competition you competed in, the music you play, the sports you play, you become someone who's defined by passions and aspirations of your life beyond college. So like bigger aspirations. Even someone who knows about morals more than just your own, and I think that that maturity is just valuable and even rare for high school seniors. So especially for you young people, this is such a chance for you to mature beyond your years and is something that application readers look for. And in terms of something that is a little bit more tangible, I think volunteering at IYC, chances are you will experience a few memorable and unique moments that are interesting enough to become stories to tell to the admissions office. For example, I wrote one of my Stanford supplements on the interaction I had during one of my volunteering projects, it was actually the story I shared earlier about the senior center, my performance at the senior center
and we had these sweet stories that can really give you a lot to talk about on your applications.

Kelvin: Yeah definitely, especially for applications and stuff, and in high school for extracurriculars, in every single high school there is always going to be one basketball team leader, there’s always going to be that one person who wins that sports or math competition, but how many people have called and contacted a senior center to organize a concert, how many people have organized a trip in Vienna to tour around the city and to even perform there as well. So definitely, I do agree with what you said about how much you put in is how much you get out. And especially it’s these stories, these touching moments, these small moments, not even the big event that really defines your experience in IYC and what you get out of it.

Elsie: On that note, I really encourage a healthy tip for all of you thinking about college and applications, when you go on these volunteer services trips and you are delivering food for high-risk seniors in your area, when you’re donating light bulbs or whatever good things you are doing these days, whenever you are on these trips, take note on the interactions that you have, like jot them down on your notes app or something because stories are everywhere and when you get to the point when you have to write 20 application essays for 15 different schools, it is so helpful to look back on your list and be like: this actually happened, I would have forgotten if I didn’t write it down and then you can like unpack and flesh out that story.

Kelvin: And now, kind of transitioning now to more of your current state, college life and the impacts IYC has had on it, do you want to start with how IYC impacted your academic life first?

Elsie: Yeah sure, so I think, all of you can relate it is so tough being in high school, juggling all the classes that you have, 5-7 different classes so you have to manage time between that and any music instruments you play, any sports that you do, any other extracurriculars that you do, and on top of that IYC, like for me when I was juggling all of that at once: all my responsibilities at IYC included have of course made me budget my time a lot. It got me into the habit of working smartly as opposed to a lot, so in other words quality over quantity in a sense and looking for ways to optimize my time and workflow where other people might not because they might not need to. And so, that means life in college is so much easier even though I participate in some organizations and intramural sports, I do intramural volleyball on top of my coursework, it is honestly such a breeze because I can just carry over those time budgeting, I guess know-how and mindset to my current college life. And also, I would say, IYC does give you the confidence to communicate with strangers and that’s super important in college because if you want to get a research position as a freshman, you’re going to have to call and email a lot of professors who are essentially strangers and you have to pitch your skills to them, pitch your ideas to them, and then basically try to get a position. And I think if you are in IYC and you are an officer, you definitely experienced this before, you have to reach to not just strangers but whole entire organizations and I think that really builds your confidence and doing this reaching out and that’s really going to, not just carry out into college life but also beyond.

Kelvin: And definitely, it’s all about taking the initiative and rather than waiting for opportunities to come to you, you need to learn to step up and take those opportunities for yourself and IYC provides a great platform, especially to try out that skill and to reach out through the many events that we have. Now I want to transition now, do you want to talk about how this impacts your personal life.

Elsie: Yeah, I thought about this when you sent over the questions and I would say that because I interact with so many people it has just gotten me a lot more comfortable talking to people I guess and becoming friends with them. I would say because you work with so many
that are just not your age but sometimes older or younger than you, you start to understand how people beyond your age group think, act, feel, do, and that can be super helpful when you’re in college and you’re hanging out with people one year older, two years older, three years employees and we have a great friendship. One of my teammates was a PhD student and even though they’re so much older we still text regularly as like friends and I think maybe that’s something that IYC instilled the courage for me to do.


Kelvin: And now, coming off the top of my head, I kind of have a three stage question, the first: what advice would you give to younger children in IYC who are still struggling to find their place in the entire system of our organization.

Elsie: I would say, honestly, reach out. Reach out to people, don’t be afraid to ask questions, no question is stupid, I know that sounds cliche but I would say reach out to current officers and maybe schedule 15 minute zoom chats and ask them what they’re doing, what projects you can
help on, what are some opportunities that are available that other people do not have the resources to pursue and you can expand that. The second thing is that you can maybe turn to your parents, maybe ask them because they know more than you do. And if you're kind of lost in that sense, definitely turn to student leadership that’s the first thing. And second is your parents.


Kelvin: And the second part I wanted to ask: what kind of advice would you give to the teens, the middle school aged students in IYC.

Elsie: Honestly I would give the same advice I would also say, don’t feel like you have time until you need to be a leader and take the initiative. There is no such thing as too early in IYC, well you have support so there is no such thing as too early, and I would say don’t discount your work just because you are younger. Just be courageous and come out with any new ideas and I know for a fact that I trust that IYC’s leadership team won’t completely dismiss it, and yeah just be courageous and be proactive in reaching out to people. And honestly I recommend if anyone comes out of this, maybe reach out to an officer that you’re interested in their project maybe, if you see a spot of improvement, you see something maybe they’re doing that could be even better if it implements something else. If there’s anything on your mind, even if it’s not a fleshed out idea if you just have one sentence you want to say to someone just do it. I’m sure they’ll all be super happy to hear from you.

Kelvin: And I don’t know if you have anything more to say but for the third part: to any high school students in IYC?

Elsie: Everything that I just said applies to you, but I would also say that, I hope that you don’t see IYC as just a resume booster, it’s just an hours collector, I hope you really dig deep and try to see the value that you are providing in people’s lives and reflect on them because at the end of
the day I think that the biggest thing that IYC can give you is personal growth and that’s really only accessible if you-and personal growth is not in a skills sense but in a holistic sense: understanding yourself as a person and understanding the world around you, and that’s going to be so important when you go to college, it’s understated how important that is. It might sound like some teachers tell students because they want them to be politically correct but honestly it is so important to grow even before you get to college and I think IYC is a great place to do that and I hope you take full advantage of it.


Kelvin: And that’s going to conclude it for today’s episode. If you would like to join IYC and experience these amazing, wonderful volunteering opportunities or you just want to come into our meetings and listen to these speeches in person the first link in this episode will be a link to join IYC. But don’t forget in that description there will also be linked to IYC’s social media as well. Thanks so much for listening and happy new year! It’s 2021. Thank you!

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