Even now, the faces in the PLUS Center are constantly changing. Some students have dropped out, others have just transferred. Seniors who have figured out plans for next year rarely come by, while others now frantically search in the PLUS Center for opportunities after graduation. The humor and level of noise is always changing too. At 4th lunch, we have close to thirty freshmen and seniors in our room with kids spilling out into the hall. 7th and 8th period, we tend to have three or four kids, some typing silently on computers, others gossiping and giggling. Hour by hour, day by day, and season to season, the culture at 12 PLUS Penn Treaty transforms.
As the school year is slowly yet quickly coming to a close, students are asking the Fellows if we’ll be staying. Even though we’d mentioned many times that our Fellowship was for a year, there is still disappointment and sadness. It is perfectly right that they would feel so. The personalities, the different brands of humor that we all brought, the diverse ways in which we engaged everyone and related to them, has grown on our students. And amidst the craziness in the halls and the difficulties in the classroom, coming to 12+ and sitting on our couches, playing board games with staff and volunteers, and eating lunch side by side, makes the PLUS Center a home and our team a family for many of our students. Even with the changes within the center, there is stability. To know that many students will have difficulty with the massive transition into the next school year hurts me, but I am optimistic.
Current Fellows will leave, seniors will graduate, and 8th graders will rise up as freshmen, but something lingers at 12+. There will of course be something different about the incoming fellows and therefore, the programming, but I think there is something that is constant and powerful in this place, that doesn’t change year to year but instead grows. To call it a “legacy” or “culture” doesn’t completely touch on what this is, but I know that it affects all our students. It even affects the teachers and administration. I believe at times we aren’t just helping our students to achieve “post-secondary success.” We are quite literally fighting hopelessness. It is often shrouded in self-deprecating humor, narcissistic behavior, or complaints about the district and teachers, but I can feel it ooze out of many of our kids. This legacy or culture that 12+ is instilling in Penn Treaty is something that is slowly healing many students while giving them newfound strength. It fights this tremendous hopelessness even when we are not there. Julia’s jokes, Alex’s mentoring, Andrea’s encouragement, and all of the ways in which we gave to our students, will last here, and I cannot wait to see how this “something” that we brought to Penn Treaty will grow even more with next year’s Fellows.