Intern's Final Reflection: Calvin

Calvin Kim currently attends The College of William & Mary. He is a sophomore pursuing majors in Sociology as well as in Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies. He first heard about 12+ as a student at Ivy Advantage Academy and since then desired to get involved in whatever way possible. We’re happy this summer provided that very opportunity!

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I was given several project goals for my internship. I knew that since I would be working over the summer, I wouldn’t have as many opportunities for direct service and that I’d be given more tasks having to do with planning for the upcoming school year. Overall, it was still very interesting seeing all the work that had to be completed before the first day of school. Not only did the staff have to interview and hire Fellows for next year, they also had to update the student centers, apply for grants, and prepare recently graduated seniors for post high school life. I played my part by developing two databases: one was a compilation of different grant and funding organizations 12+ could potentially apply to, and the other was full of various trade and vocational schools that students who weren’t pursuing the traditional 4 year college route could use as a helpful resource. I also helped paint and set up our new PLUS centers. But my final project of the summer was one of direct service. I was asked to assist a cohort of recently graduated seniors in planning and taking the appropriate steps toward their post secondary lives, whether it be helping them enroll in college, figuring out their financial aid, or hunting for apartments.

Of all my projects, working with my students was the most meaningful to me. When I started contacting everyone, there were some students who were less responsive than others. I had to learn how to redirect and focus my attention on the students who did reach back out to me. Those who did respond were all very excited to be starting college and thrilled that they had someone to help them out along the way. It was exciting. Together, we worked through various problems or obstacles that arose, and I helped prep most of my cohort for college before having to hand them over to another staff member at the end of my internship. I’m so proud I could help even one student going off to college. The comments of sincere gratitude and thanks I received from my students were bonuses to an already fulfilling summer.

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The more I worked with these students, the more I came to see how important 12+ was to these students and their families. Parents and family members know and believe in 12+ as an organization they can trust their kids with. They know that the staff here will do everything in their power to further the students’ opportunities for education and success. Being tasked with working with recently graduated seniors reaffirmed the fact that we are an organization constantly striving to serve our students, even after they graduate. 

This was made all the more clear as I heard from the Fellows and Site Directors who served this past year as well. I talked a lot with Ebony, Shay, and Devon, because they had directly worked with the Kensington Health Sciences Academy students I was assigned. It was eye-opening to learn from them about how roles that exist within the suburban schools I grew up attending don’t exist in many public city schools here in Philadelphia. For example, while the counselors at my high school were responsible for college prep and overall guidance on the direction of our lives, Devon explained to me that in many city schools, counselors were solely responsible for counseling. So, at schools where 12+ isn’t yet mentoring, there are students who might not have heard anything about college and how to be preparing for it. I also loved seeing how passionate these three were about supporting the students I was working with. They knew the skills, strengths, and weaknesses of every student I brought up and had fond memories of each of them. It was inspiring to see just how much the 12+ staff members invest their time into the lives of the students they work with.

If I had to share three things about my experience at 12+, the first thing I’d share is how much fun I had during my internship. 12+ embodies the saying “Work hard, play hard.” While everyone put in 110% effort in doing their jobs and making sure everything was prepared for the school year to come, we also knew that it was ok to have some fun every once in a while. We took advantage of all the free food we could get (Dress like a cow for free Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and free Slurpee’s on 7/11!!) and had some, what we like to call, “Funsies” planned for after the workday was over. Such “Funsies” looked like trips to the Franklin Institute and to Dave and Buster’s. The next thing I would share is the mission of 12+ and the importance of their work. They fight for education equity and believe in taking the steps to making it a universal practice. Everyone I met at 12+ acted with such conviction and passion in the work they were doing, and they’ve truly inspired me to follow their lead and give it my all in this fight for equity. Finally, I’d share how to donate to 12+, which you can do here ☛ www.12plus.org/donate! I realized this summer that the biggest obstacle hindering non-profits from unlocking their fullest potential is their lack of funding. It was crazy to see 12+ having to survive off of mostly grants and donations, which is not always the most secure, stable, and guaranteed way to be financially sustained.

If anyone on campus asks me about my time at 12+, I’ll talk their ears off about all the great things they do. This experience has helped me transition from being a merely conscientious citizen to one that has more confidence in acting upon my convictions. Seeing first-hand both the problems and causes of those problems in these Philadelphia neighborhoods has pushed me to make working with my community a priority. Education has definitely risen to the top of my personal list of societal problems and inequalities needing to be solved as soon as possible. I am grateful for my time with 12+ and look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the future.

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Life of a Fellow: Jenny

Jenny comes to us after graduating from Kenyon College. She’s been in Philly for a while now, working in multiple places across the city, including La Columbe coffee! We’re so excited to have her as part of our Penn Treaty team.

It’s that time of year that calls for list-making. We’re not far past the inevitably butter-stained schedule of when each dish goes into the oven on Thanksgiving day. There are advertisements everywhere telling you to make a holiday gift wish-list. Lists of New Year’s resolutions will soon be jotted down in diaries. At Penn Treaty High School, it is “To-Do List” time as well.

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I think I can speak for the whole Penn Treaty team when I say, we love lists. Around our workspace, you will find many things. Each of our three laptops will be open to the internet, with way too many tabs open to different college applications. Sometimes there are bags of microwave popcorn, popped as a pre-lunch snack, which students end up eating most of, each giving their two-cents about what level of butter or burnt they like their popcorn as they grab a handful. My beanie lays on the desk, the edges of it rolled up by one of our most fashionable students, who then placed it on my head just so, saying “Yeah, that’s the look.” But you will always find at least three lists, one for each team member. Sometimes our lists are in planners, or in a Google Doc. Sometimes they're just scribbled on a piece of scrap paper, just the right size to put in your back pocket to dash down to a classroom to check in with students about that one part of an application, or if they want to register to take the SAT again. They could contain reminders to seniors to finish their four-year college applications before Winter Break so that everyone can rest a little easier knowing one (huge) task is completed. Students are writing down reminders for themselves, as well, to bring in the information to complete their FAFSA. Sometimes, when we are cleaning up the Center at the end of the afternoon, I’ll collect a handful of finished To-Do lists and handwritten passes. The passes are twins of one another, all written in handwritten teacher-scrawl, each listing the name of a student who asked to come to the center, followed by “to 12+.” Sometimes, it isn’t until looking over these artifacts from the day that I can see, “Oh, that’s what we did today!” The day can feel like a blur, often. A fun, hectic, exciting, purposeful blur.

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There is something about these portable scrap paper to-do lists that feels emblematic of my time as a 12+ Fellow at Penn Treaty so far, and why I have loved it so much. As a team, Kat, Elise and I, are flexible, communicative, and check in often - both with one another, and with our students. I like that our to-do lists are in our pockets; that they tell us where in the school we need to go, and which students to reach out to. Fittingly, I see our little team as just a bit scrappy. We often work together to address challenges that arise, with the speed and quick communication of skilled soccer players moving a ball down the field. People talk a lot about teams, about the idea of “being a team,” but I think it is quite rare, and special, to actually feel like you are apart of one. At Penn Treaty, we are a team.

Recently, a junior who frequently stops by 12+  was chosen to be on the Student Advisory Board for the School District. She and one of our seniors were both nominated by our counselor to go to a meeting with many other district students to talk with the Superintendent, Dr. Hite about issues within their schools, and their perspectives on their own education. After the meeting, our student came by the Plus Center and told Kat, Elise, and I that she wanted to tell us all about it. Days passed where she only saw us in passing between classes, or just didn’t have time to tell us about her experience. Finally, she sat us all down, and told all three of us about how neat it was to meet other students; how smart and articulate the other students were; and how much she loves talking about issues and ideas and can’t wait for the next meeting.  After all of that, she said, “I wanted to tell all three of you when I had your undivided attention! It makes me happy how happy you guys are for me!”

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Attention - that’s it. When I’ve had a long day, and I can’t quite recall exactly what I did all day, that’s what I know I did. I gave people my attention. Most days are an accrual of small moments in this way. Listening to a student tell me about the latest chapter in the vampire book he is reading. Listening to someone’s new favorite song they play for me on YouTube, even when I have to crouch down to listen through the one earbud they are offering me. Listening to a student’s top three dream careers, and noticing when one career shifts in priority over the other that week.

This kind of attention has made my experience as a Fellow so gratifying. I think a huge part of my 12+ Penn Treaty site team’s success so far this year has come from how attentive we are to one another, how we can support one another, and how we can make each other laugh. Whether it be with my coworkers, or in any and all interactions with students, I have come to regard this kind of attention - kind, caring, open, thoughtful attention - as being one of the most valuable things we can give to one another.  

The Penn Treaty team celebrating the completion of College Week.

The Penn Treaty team celebrating the completion of College Week.

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Life of a Fellow: Kat

Kat has been a vital member of our Penn Treaty team this year! She came to us with a degree in Education and Public Policy from Pennsylvania State University, where she also minored in Sociology and Political Science. No stranger to the Philadelphia education system, having worked at YouthBuild while an undergraduate student, she has fit in perfectly to the Penn Treaty community. Welcome, Kat!

Kat color-coordinating with a student.

Kat color-coordinating with a student.

It is difficult to write this blog from my own perspective; without saying “we” instead of “I”. Nothing that has been accomplished at Penn Treaty so far this year has been because of me alone. It has been because of the work of our little Penn Treaty team, helpful school staff members, and, of course, the students.  I have been a part of many different teams in my life, but never one I’ve enjoyed as much as this.

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In October, we were able to test the effectiveness and creativity of our team by planning and carrying out College Week. What started as a lot of grand, abstract ideas was eventually streamlined into a week of events involving Penn Treaty staff, students, and other members of 12+. College Week consisted of events for all grades, but gave us an opportunity to work closely with seniors in particular. The senior class worked for over a week researching different colleges in preparation for the culminating event of College Week: the student-run college fair. On that Friday, the seniors set up their presentations throughout a designated hallway, and students from all grades came through to hear what the seniors had learned. Despite being drained from a full week of workshops and events, the energy of the senior class was infectious. They were fully invested in learning about their designated colleges, and even more willing to share that knowledge with their friends and peers at the fair.

During college week, Seniors were able to attend a panel where teachers answered questions about their college experiences.

During college week, Seniors were able to attend a panel where teachers answered questions about their college experiences.

Underclassmen crowd the hallway during the Senior-run college fair.

Underclassmen crowd the hallway during the Senior-run college fair.

I went into College Week with no expectations, hoping that students would enjoy it, but prepared to be ok if they weren’t super interested. I was pleased when students were engaged in our workshops, and were patient and kind in groups I was facilitating. However, I was not surprised. It would be unfair to say that I was impressed because these are all qualities I have seen in them all along. It is truly a beautiful thing when something you worked on is successful, especially when others find joy in it as well. Seeing the work of our team and of the students come to fruition over the course of the week solidified my belief in our Penn Treaty team, in the Penn Treaty students, and sparked a belief in myself that has sometimes faltered.

After the success of our College Week, I am motivated to plan and execute more events throughout the year, and I am confident in my ability to do so. I have to keep reminding myself that it is only November, and that there are so many more grand ideas to be had, and so much more joy to be shared.

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