Posts in Fellows 2014
New Chapters for Our Fellows

We recently celebrated the second outgoing Fellows cohort in true 12+ fashion – gathered in the living room of our CEO’s home, surrounded by food, flowers, and photos to remind us of the year. Congratulations to each of you Fellows for the completion of the Fellows Initiative! You have had countless conversations with students, shared innumerable stories, and filled many rooms with laughter. Whether you are moving on to opportunities near (as close as within 12+) or far (across the country), you will always have a home in Philly at 12+. 

Where will they be next? Read below for details, final reflections, and advice to future Fellows!

ALEX -- University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration

This experience also allowed me to re-affirm what my strengths are and not second guess them. I am a developer. I am a counselor and healer. I am an educator. These are the things I am taking away from this year and I will forever be proud of being a part of 12+.

JULIA -- Visit Center Coordinator in Communications and Marketing at Drexel University

It has been a roller coaster of a year and a great learning experience. I believe that this Fellowship has and will help me with any future career...Getting to know the students and seeing them grow and mature throughout the year has been a humbling and wonderful experience.

DUSTIN -- Harvard Graduate School of Education; Technology, Innovation and Education

12+ isn’t just at the frontlines fighting the disparity in public education. 12+ is in the homes and hearts of the Penn Treaty and Kensington Health Sciences community. Our names will be written onto the memories of our students...We are counselors, mentors, brothers, mothers to these students, invited to pool parties and introduced to baby siblings, whispered secrets.  

AELITA -- Staying with 12+!

You come in and you want to help, and sometimes it takes a moment of conflict to learn that to help is not to do, or to attempt to live a life that is not yours to live. You are just a visitor in our students’ lives, so listen and support, but do not presume to know. 

JAZZMIN -- Admissions Officer, Pomona College

Improvisation was a big part of supporting our students. Many situations we had puzzled even experts in things like financial aid or college access and it meant that we sometimes had to be creative and okay with ambiguity. Our students are complex, sometimes difficult, but always worth it, and I think this experience threw me into figuring out how to best help them overcome at least some of the obstacles on their way through high school and into a postsecondary track. 

CHRISTINE -- Staying with 12+!

Every point throughout the year can be a learning opportunity. If you let your pride get in the way, it often times leaves you discouraged and frustrated. But humility, grace, and perseverance helps you not only breakthrough perceived barriers, but also to build your own confidence as you make strides forward. As I look back on this year, although there are things I think I could’ve done better, the only things that stay at the forefront of my memories are the times of laughter, closeness, and victories that I experienced with my team and my students. It reminds me that at the end of the day it’s not about me, but the students we serve, and moving forward, I know that this year has only better prepared me for the year(s) to come.

The Life of a Fellow: Aelita

Advice from the Fearful

The seniors at Kensington are graduating in 5 weeks, and I have been thinking of what I can say to them; of what I can ask of them before they leave.

This is all that I am sure of, and from here I will make my request:

Vulnerability, honesty, and compassion make us human.


There are invisible walls that we build around ourselves, as protection, and as a remedy to fear; fear of dismissal, fear of failure, fear of genuine self-reflection. They separate us from realities that we do not want to face, and from all those who call into question the perfect image that we wish to project. Walls that are meant for protection however, will only end up isolating.

You will feel your flaws anyway. You will be afraid anyway. Not because you’re doing something wrong, not because you are not smart enough, or attractive enough, or eloquent enough, but because we live in a world of unknowns, and you will always have questions. You will be afraid, and in being afraid you will be amongst the 7.2 billion people worldwide: people who are afraid to go home, people who are afraid to leave home, people who are afraid of taking a step forward for fear that there won’t be any ground beneath them. This is a fact of life, and we do no good by pretending otherwise. Do not deny the reality you are living in, do not deny the people who hold up mirrors and ask you hard questions.

Build a fortress around yourself, and you will seem confident, powerful, but you will always feel a little bit weak, a little bit fearful.

Here vulnerability and honesty come in.

Admit that you are afraid, and you will learn that no person is impenetrable. No one who has ever sat in a classroom or stood in front of an audience has not at one time or another felt terrified and underprepared. You will learn that no one started out “smart” or “talented,” but instead gained skills through asking for help and failing over and over and over again, until they had tried every solution but the right one. Admit fear and you will learn that real confidence is standing unshielded and unapologetic.

And here compassion comes in.

You are not any more flawed than anyone else; you are not any less worthy of forgiveness. Be kind to yourself. 

So my request: Do not shut yourself away in a windowless room, do not inflict punishment upon yourself in repentance. 

Ask for support, admit that you are scared, and then take a step forward anyway.

The Life of a Fellow: Christine

“What is a PLUS Leader?”

Often I hear students ask this, wondering what exactly a “PLUS Leader” is and what is the process of becoming one. Well, according to our programming description, a PLUS Leader is someone who internalizes our core values of Believe, Act, and Inspire through workshops, college visits, and service projects. They join a community of leaders on campus to assist their peers in the pursuit of postsecondary education and help cultivate college-going culture within the school community. But honestly, it’s so much more than that.

I don’t think my words can fully illustrate the impact of the PLUS Leader program, or describe just how much I love watching my students grow as individuals and as leaders. So here are some words from some of my recently graduated PLUS Leaders:

 “The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a PLUS Leader would have to be: Never doubting what you feel. Never fearing who you are, and being content with the decisions you make. What being a PLUS Leader means to me would be that I know myself, I can create an impact on others and their decisions, keep them from being the wrong ones. It means having the courage, the heart, and confidence to know I can help whoever it is that needs a push forward. I can help others and I should do so with no shame. I want to pass on what it is I’ve learned from being a PLUS Leader to younger and fresher minds. I want to have the opportunity to let future PLUS Leaders know that they should embrace who they are and they have the potential to do so much more than they see around them. I want to be the person that brings out the best in them.”  - VO; 11th grade

 “The biggest lesson I have learned as a PLUS Leader is that anybody can be a leader. A leader is just a person that shows its best effort at something. Not only is it effort but willingness to try new things. To grow as a person and show a good example. To be a PLUS Leader is a challenging thing but a possible goal. As a PLUS Leader you see what really needs help and what is the most important weakness in someone. As a PLUS Leader I was able to know how I can help everyone because most people don’t let other people help them. A leader is not always an outstanding person but a person that never gives up. Also, someone that can get back on track when they fall off. As a PLUS Leader I was able to help myself grow as a leader in general… I want to show other people how to embrace their leadership. I want to show them what helped me to become a better leader. Also, I would tell all the next PLUS Leaders that 12+ is a perfect place to help you grow as a student and leader.” – JZ; 10th grade

As we get ready to interview and accept a new cohort for the Spring semester, I find that I can’t quite contain my excitement. As I look over this semester’s applicants I see determined and passionate students that want to make a difference in our community. I’ve seen some of them soar towards the top of their classes. I’ve seen some of them overcome academic obstacles. I see some of them with a drive to help others. There’s so much untapped potential within these students, they have yet to realize it, and throughout the semester, I have the opportunity to watch them grow through working with them in our workshops and personally, through building relationships. Over a period of a semester, we’ll explore topics such as personal narratives, leadership styles, social issues, and service. In our time together, the students will be challenged to consider what it means to take these things and use them to impact the community around them. Having seen how much my PLUS Leaders have grown over the past few months, I can’t wait to know this new cohort of PLUS Leaders and see how they’ll impact our community here at Kensington Health Sciences.