Life of a Fellow: Meet Tiasia

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Life of a Fellow: Meet Tiasia

We are so happy to share Tiasia's blog post this week!  Tiasia is a Philly native who comes to us by way of Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Sociology. We loved reading her reflections on transitioning from her previous job with Americorps to her position as a Fellow, and we hope you love it too!

As I near the end of my program, I think back to the ways in which my Fellow’s year has benefited me. More people should know about 12 PLUS and what it offers Fellows, as well as students. After doing a service year with Americorps, I wasn't sure if I was made the right decision by not returning. I was in search of an opportunity that would allow me to make a greater impact on the Philadelphia educational landscape than I had my previous year as a Junior High School Coach. After completing a long interview process, I had been offered a position to become a College Coach. As a College Coach, my caseload would increase tremendously, giving me an opportunity to touch point with many more students via phone and video calls. While preparing for my upcoming role, I reflected on what went well in my first year of service. What I enjoyed most about my role was working with students.

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I really enjoyed showing the Juniors how to build their first resumes and how to map out their college pathways. I even enjoyed facilitating writing labs. It was the one-on-one check-ins that allowed the relationships between my students and I to thrive. Then it hit me- it wasn't that I connected with as many students as I did that made me feel successful, but rather the way I connected with them. If I wanted to reach more people like me, it was best that I stick to the face-to-face interactions that I too preferred. I was not only interested in the outcomes of students in our program pursuing four-year universities, but for students interested in all pathways. That was the last sign I needed to rethink my decision to return. I turned down the position and began to explore opportunities that would give me a better perspective of what Philadelphia High School students in all grades were doing to prepare for their postsecondary goals. I’m not sure if I believe in fate, but that very same day, I was presented with an opportunity from 12 PLUS to be a Fellow and continue working within a high school every day, gaining direct access to students in every grade level.

 Tiasia and the KHSA team celebrate a successful freshmen RAISE workshop!

Tiasia and the KHSA team celebrate a successful freshmen RAISE workshop!

I appreciate 12 PLUS for its highly personal approach to learning. Working in the PLUS Center allows for the more frequent one-on-one check-ins that I wanted in my old position. If I can change a box in our spreadsheets from red to green, my day has been made. Green boxes in the tracker symbolize completed milestones such as completing the FAFSA or a program application. It’s about having empathy and support for every student, regardless of what direction they are headed. There are three staff members in the PLUS Center who come from a variety of different backgrounds. I believe this gives us an advantage in reaching every type of student that Kensington Health Sciences Academy has to offer. Almost any student can find solace in one of the three distinct personalities. This year I have learned that some of our most brilliant young leaders do not feel as though their greatest talents can be served in a college setting, so they seek other avenues to success. I love working with these students to explore the ways their interests translate into careers pathways because it is important that we continue to support all students and provide platforms for each of them to flourish.

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It has been rewarding to be able to help foster safe spaces where everyone who enters the room is just free to be. There is not a single doubt in my mind that I made the right decision by choosing to work for 12 PLUS. I learned different segments of the education and nonprofit sectors that will help me to best prepare for my next steps. From planning networking events to facilitating professional development trainings, this experience has given me the opportunity to think critically about my goals and strengths. The 12 PLUS fellows initiative is a rewarding opportunity because whether you are a student or a Fellow, 12 PLUS staff will go the distance to help you find your way.

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Life of a Fellow: Danielle

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Life of a Fellow: Danielle

Today we welcome back Danielle on the blog as she shares with us about her personal preferred presentation style. Danielle is a Fellow at Penn Treaty and continuously uses her light-hearted nature to cheer up students and staff on a daily basis. 

One of the most crucial lessons that I’ve learned through being a 12+ Fellow is to never underestimate the power of being silly. Whenever I’m up at the front of a room, presenting on very specific grammar rules from the SAT, I’m almost always panicking, trying to internally answer questions that haven’t even been asked yet in my head. It’s much more fun and gratifying to just be as dorky as possible and get a reaction, and when you’re talking about subordinating conjunctions and order of operations, any sense of a reaction is a win. Even if students are laughing at me instead of with me, at least they’re paying enough attention to what I’m saying to pick up on how ridiculous my mannerisms can be. Even if they’re scoffing at the corniness and how over the top some of the delivery is, they’re still receiving the content and getting the pertinent information. Even if some students roll their eyes whenever the Jeopardy “Think” music comes on, at least it centers the focus on the practice SAT questions that we’re giving them.

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Developing the repertoire of a cheesy Fellow happened almost accidentally because I’m a cheesy dork by nature. This reputation continues to grow as my fellow Penn Treaty 12+ staff and I progressively get wackier and wackier with the students and with each other. From this wackiness, learning and friendships have seemed to flourish. At this point, it’s fun to just run with it and have an irrevocable sense of pride in being corny. Honestly, the SAT is not thrilling. It’s daunting and long, but being able to throw some pizazz and puns in there has gotten students engaged. Additionally, and maybe selfishly, this has made the entire process far less terrifying for me. There’s a lot of pressure surrounding the SAT, and to alleviate some of that pressure associated with preparing for it by presenting it in a more casual and enjoyable way has seemed to have an overall positive impact on sentiments for studying and the SAT in general. Again, never underestimate the profound impact of a smile, even if it’s actually just a pity smile at your awful pun.

The most lovely part of this dynamic is when some of the more outgoing, wacky students give the over-the-top cheesiness right back to you, and it feels like I’m cracking ridiculous, senseless jokes with my friends instead of working. We joke about the Eagles, we joke about agriculture (for reference, this is done in a similar vein to saying “in this economy?”), and conversations with certain students during lunch time are completely comprised of sarcastic sassiness. Each new day at Penn Treaty makes me feel so grateful to have a job where I have the opportunity to work with students who radiate joy and laughter. Even on days where it feels like there are endless workshops to get through and that students are clearly tired, if I throw some silly at them, they’ll perk up and my day instantly gets brighter.

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Amazing results can grow from making somebody laugh, even if it’s just a student laughing to another student about how corny a joke was. “Miss, you’re corny” or “Miss, you guys are crazy” are two comments that light up my life instead of breaking me down. It’s been incredible to develop long-standing jokes and bits with students after being a Fellow at Penn Treaty for the last five months. The students of Penn Treaty have so much personality and spark, and it’s been beautiful to experience this in new, merry ways. Standing in front of a room and intentionally making a fool out of yourself is not an easy thing to do, but I’m thankful that we do it anyway. It’s made the hecticness of SAT workshop season be more of an enjoyment than a chore, and it has seemed to do the same for the students each week. If you can add an element of silly to the serious, it makes it all the more enjoyable. If you can make someone laugh, it can make even the most tedious tasks and difficult concepts feel like you’re having fun with your friends.

 

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Life of a Fellow: Meet Ingrid

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Life of a Fellow: Meet Ingrid

This week in our Life of a Fellow series, we are so happy to introduce Ingrid Molinares, one of our new Kensington Health Sciences Academy Fellows. She has a BA in Communications: West Chester University and will graduate this December with a Masters in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College. This week we hear her reflections on her own career path. 

I used to be haunted by one seemingly simple question: What do you do for a living?

 With no exaggeration, these seven little words caused me great anxiety. I never looked forward to meeting new people solely to avoid answering this often problematic question. To clarify, I was not embarrassed or ashamed by my answer—  “I work in early childhood education”. I was, however, bothered by the fact that I never felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

Last year I left my office job and comfort zone. I decided to take a leap and wholeheartedly follow my professional pursuits, which, if I am being honest, for a long time I was scared to embrace. I have always known that my heart lies in education equity. As a first generation college student, I understand the power of an education. I know it is one of the few things in life that cannot be taken away from an individual. But what if a student was never given the chance at an education in the first place? It is important for everyone to have the opportunity to achieve an education. 

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I have been unbelievably fortunate to be allowed the opportunity to work as a Fellow for 12 PLUS giving students access to post-secondary education. This position puts me right in the middle of a field I always wanted to be a part of and it has given me direct access to students. Recently in a conversation with a former Fellow I was reminded to take in every moment of this year because regardless of where my path leads me, I will never have an experience quite like this again. Admittedly I will say this conversation saddened me but it also helped put things into perspective. Every time one of my students asks me to help them with a college application or for assistance with a school project, I get to play a small part of a much larger picture. I have been trusted to help guide them, given a special invitation into their lives, to listen to their life stories. I am humbled to be apart of this entire process.

The question that once was the vain of my existence, the simple yet complex question about what I do for a living, does not haunt me anymore. I have the most phenomenal students to attribute that to. They have given me confidence. My hope is that I have been able to help them as much as they have helped me. I am exactly where I need to be.

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Life of a Fellow: Erin

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Life of a Fellow: Erin

This week in our continued Life of a Fellow series, we hear Erin's reflections on the wide variety of paths our students take. 

Each PLUS Center maintains a vast spreadsheet to track students’ goals. We record their hobbies and jobs, brainstorming process and GPA progress, their career goals and college plans. It is remarkable to see the variety of schools and plans that find themselves on our list. In my individual advising group of just under thirty students, I advise a future funeral director and dance studio owner, property managers, writers and sociologists, and more than a few future presidents - all of whom I am ready to vote for. For eighty seniors, we have well over a hundred  colleges and goals. I can't help but smile when thinking about the buoyant plans these students make. They will be the first to tell a willing ear about the stresses of their rigorous, dynamic high school experience. Yet, this hasn't molded them all into the same academic-focused form, or broken down dreams of a rigorous, dynamic college experience.

It is so important that our students understand that earning their degrees, completing their prerequisite courses, being placed in an apprenticeship, or completing a term with any number of work readiness or service year organizations are all equal accomplishments. I love being part of helping them achieve these goals. I love working with students to bring these goals to fruition without having them take on massive debt. Focusing not only on academic and personal, but also financial fit is one of the revolutionary things I get to do as a 2 PLUS Fellow. Valuing education equally, in all its varied forms, is one of the most exciting parts of planning students’ futures with them. That's why the breadth of the college goals represented on our spreadsheet delights me. We get to see in action not only the college-going culture we talk about creating, but also the development of a culture that prizes success based on individual goals and does not see competition as necessary to evaluating success.                  

   The colleges our students choose make me smile as well. As 12 PLUS, we work hard to elevate and advertise the Community College of Philadelphia and other regional community colleges, PASSHE (PA State System of Higher Education) Schools, and Penn State Branch campuses. These schools more often than not make it on to students’ goals lists.  We strive for these schools because we want to combat the idea that the best choice is always to go to the most competitive college to which you are admitted. This was the mentality at my high school, and it is how I wound up attending one of the most expensive universities in the country. I loved my education but I had to work three jobs to stay there. For students who need to hear that cautionary tale, I happily share it. But for most, it is enough to have a cheering section of caring people who are excited about any healthy plan they formulate - no matter which path it involves.

 

                                                                                                                                                        

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Life of a Fellow: Meet Danielle

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Life of a Fellow: Meet Danielle

Meet Danielle! A 2016 graduate of Rutger University with a communications degree now working as a Fellow at Penn Treaty High School, this New Jersey native has made Philadelphia her new home. We are so happy to work with her and see how much she has valued working with us. 

Everytime I try to brainstorm what I want to write about 12+ and my foundational moments as a Fellow, one word always flashes like a marquee: community. I was more than a little intimidated to start this job, as I’ve always felt like a very awkward person with peers, younger people, older people, and pretty much the entire universe. I moved here a few months ago, and for a while the loneliness of a new, big city was so tangible that it was almost suffocating. I feel endless gratitude for the open arms of Penn Treaty and 12+ who have made this city an actual home for me. Getting to work alongside people who have become important friends and students who continue to inspire me to do my best has made Philadelphia feel a little smaller and less intimidating. I’m far from a morning person, but waking up in the morning to walk the hallways of Penn Treaty and see dozens of smiling faces, wishing me a good morning and even throwing me a compliment about my outfit every now and again. In fact, I feel lucky to get up every morning and take my blissful walk to work, running into a few students on the way.

 Danielle celebrates students with over 95% attendance at Penn Treaty's Carni-fall party

Danielle celebrates students with over 95% attendance at Penn Treaty's Carni-fall party

I have a community in my neighborhood now, which is one of the biggest perks of working at Penn Treaty. It’s been comforting joy to see so many familiar, friendly faces around Fishtown. It warms my entire existence to see how much the teachers and administration at Penn Treaty genuinely care about this community, and reaffirms that this is where I belong and will thrive. The proof of the community that exists within Penn Treaty was exhibited one Saturday morning a few months ago during a community service event. It was the most wonderful day I’ve had in a long time and I had the opportunity to recruit my roommates to volunteer with painting murals at Penn Treaty through City Year. I was so excited to have them see the school, as well as all of the teachers, students, and community members come together on a Saturday morning to get covered in paint for the sake of this beautiful school.

I find myself thinking a lot about myself in high school, and how I wanted to keep to myself and be a stubborn, cranky teenager. It makes me the most blown away kind of happy when I see the stark contrast between my own behavior and how outgoing and invested these students are. My heart grows approximately three sizes each time a student pops into the PLUS Center simply to say hi, or I hear “Miss, I want to play YOU in chess today”, or a student wants to share their art with me. When this happens, I know that I am exactly where I need to be. I can’t wait to see how much our students can continue to help me to grow and learn (especially in chess, which they graciously and patiently teach and re-teach me on a regular basis). Everything that seems challenging that comes along with being a 12+ Fellow also comes along with a major positive too. I am overwhelmed by the compassion that Penn Treaty students show me every day. I am happy beyond articulation, I am lucky to know our Penn Treaty students, and I am thankful for 12+.

 Danielle and her fellow Fellow, Elise Lee.

Danielle and her fellow Fellow, Elise Lee.

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