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.
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.
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.
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.