This summer, 12+ welcomed six new talented individuals to the team through the 2014-2015 Fellows Initiative. These Fellows are commissioned to implement workshops, to provide academic assistance, and to serve our students in the PLUS Centers of our partner schools, Kensington Health Sciences Academy and Penn Treaty School. Here, we document their stories. 

Alex studied Communications, LGBTQ & Sexuality Studies, and Community Action & Social Change at the University of Michigan. He is passionate about racial, economic and queer/trans justice and sexual violence prevention and education, and he loves One Direction, going to concerts, and cooking. Alex brings these interests to Penn Treaty, where he inspires students to spread school-wide culture. In this post, Alex offers ten lessons to his students.

I humbly offer a list of lessons that I’ve picked up along the way to becoming a 12+ Fellow. These are the lessons that I hope to share with my students during my time with them as their educator, mentor, and friend. It’s the least I can do given that my students will never know how much they’ve taught me and continue to teach me every single day. Leaving them with this map is just a small token of my gratitude for allowing me into their lives and giving me the privilege of seeing them grow, push themselves, and succeed.

  1. You are the expert of your own life. Honor your story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. Know where your roots are so you can see where you’re growing.

  2. You cannot heal until you’ve admitted that you’re hurting. Be vulnerable when you can. It is easier to say “I hate you” than it is to say “You hurt me.” It is not a sign of weakness to have a soft heart in a harsh world.

  3. It is easier to say “I don’t want to do that” than it is to say “I’m scared I’ll fail.” Apathy is giving into your fears. Admitting your fears is bravery.

  4. Set goals. You cannot face something that you cannot name. Name your hopes and fears. Be intentional. Live life—don’t let it live you.

  5. You are not alone in your struggles. You are not the first person to have gone through what you’ve gone through and you won’t be the last. When we take the risk to open ourselves up and reach out, others will reach back.

  6. Take care of yourself. Drink lots of water and eat well when you can. It’s just as important to maintain your mental health as well. Stress, anxiety, depression—these are all very real. Admitting that we are affected by the demands of life does not make us weak. Taking the time to nurture ourselves does not make us selfish.

  7. You are strong and more resilient than you know. Don’t let anyone minimize how hard high school is. I see you fighting.

  8. The weight of your parent’s struggles and expectations are not your burden to carry. You cannot help others before you help yourself. Eventually, you’re going to have to put yourself first so that one day, you can truly give back to your family and your community in an impactful way.

  9. “Our most radical work is to love ourselves” — Kim Katrin Milan. No one teaches how to be loved or how to love. We must seek out what loving others, being loved, and loving ourselves means to us purposefully.

  10. You matter.

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