For our second Meet the Fellows blog post, we introduce Elise Lee. Elise, a New Jersey native, graduated form Tufts University with a Psychology degree in 2017. Since then, she has moved to Philadelphia and spent her time advocating for students, discovering new music and movies, and honing in on her chess skills. 

 

Lunches at Penn Treaty are remarkably lively. Students who are eager for their only break in the day express their excitement by participating in a series of games and activities. My first week at Penn Treaty was colored by these forty minutes, in which I learned that I am a fantastic chess player—a brilliant, hard-edged competitor of one of the most challenging puzzles ever created.

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Or actually, I played against a couple of first-year boys who had just learned to play chess, and ended up beating them once or twice. Regardless, I developed a notorious identity worthy of competition, primarily with the freshman class. Truthfully, I had never thought that my hours of playing chess against a computer in the technology section of Costco would be useful. Yet, my days at Penn Treaty are filled with students coming to the PLUS Center to throw down the gauntlet. A common phrase is, “Miss! You versus me, today, at lunch!”

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Despite such confidence in demanding a match, nearly every student I have played against has accepted both victory and loss with extreme grace. Nearly every game has ended with a handshake and the conclusion that it was a “good game”--give or take a couple cheeky jabs at the opponent’s strategies. Such sportsmanship is indicative of the culture of community established at Penn Treaty. Students are motivated by the precedents set by invested staff members who work tirelessly to provide positive learning environments. At Penn Treaty, it is not uncommon for staff members to contribute personal resources for their students. Many teachers have been known to provide proper business attire for students to wear on job interviews; to take home students’ empty backpacks that are in need of a wash; or to call each parent directly on their cell phones to personally notify them of their student’s performance.

It has been an absolute privilege to walk alongside the Penn Treaty team, as a member of 12Plus, and to learn from the incredible individuals that work at this school. Similarly to the ideals of Penn Treaty, relationship building is also upheld as the cornerstone of 12Plus.  I have been so grateful to have the opportunity to surround myself with humans who are capable of compassion and selflessness in order to build new relationships, and maintain preexisting ones. As the busy season of college applications encroaches upon Team Penn Treaty, I am looking forward to continually being humbled by these experiences, and hopefully, to continue being a feared competitor of chess!

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