Over the course of the school year, I have seen the PLUS Center at Kensington Health Sciences Academy (KHSA) take on different meanings for different students, and different purposes at different times of the year. 

For most of the fall semester, the PLUS Center was a lively space, mainly filled with seniors hard at work on college applications, Senior Projects, and financial aid applications. As winter break neared, seniors began to reach the end of their college applications. As many seniors breathed sighs of relief, the PLUS Center itself had a calmer energy as well. After winter break, students returned to school not only with new haircuts but with new energy to bring to the center. This new energy was largely brought into the PLUS Center by freshman students, who are allowed to visit the PLUS Center after the first half of the school year at KHSA. These new faces rejuvenated my own energy for the work that I do with 12 Plus, and reminded me just how special, fun, and diverse a space the PLUS Center can be.

The PLUS Center is a place for freshmen to play board games and teach each other how to play chess; a place where sophomores and juniors can share their poetry or the latest science-fiction short story that they’ve been working on with us. It is a library from which students can take home an armful of books to read over the weekend. At times it is simply a quiet space for students to escape the bustle of the cafeteria to work on an English paper or their anatomy homework. It is a place for seniors to celebrate college acceptances and scholarship awards. It is also a place for seniors to digest those times when a letter from a college doesn’t bring good news, but then reflect on this news and set sights on the next possible steps in their postsecondary path.

I am excited to see the PLUS Center take on new meanings for more students as we move into the spring semester. Juniors will begin to increasingly shift their attention to postsecondary plans and explore college options through campus visits and college info sessions. Seniors will be making big decisions about which postsecondary path they will be pursuing after high school. Sophomores and freshmen will continue to explore their interests and build their strengths as high school students.  

Despite uncertainty about what the educational landscape will look like as we enter this new year, my work with 12 Plus and KHSA makes me optimistic. What has inspired me most while working as a Fellow is the resilience of the students and staff at Kensington Health Sciences Academy. A few weeks ago, a Fellow who is working at a different school asked how we would describe the students at KHSA. The first word that came to mind was “gritty.” Despite issues that might be affecting them at home, in their school, or in their community at large, our students continue to set ambitious goals for themselves, and many of them continue to visit the Plus Center every day to work towards these goals. I feel so proud that 12 Plus Fellows can provide guidance and a space for these students to work along the way, but it is the students who give the PLUS Center its diverse meanings and fill it with energy.  

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